Let It Out! Emotional Healing 101
I want to start this piece by letting you know that whatever is going on for you in life right now, whatever you might be dealing with, good or bad, big or small, your feelings are valid. All of them! There’s no need to justify them, or apologise for them. Your experience is real. Your feelings are real. Your emotional reaction to your life’s events is natural and normal, even if it seems different to someone else’s emotional reaction to the same event. We all react differently to whatever is thrown at us in life. No problem is smaller or less real or less important than someone else’s – just different. And no reaction is less valid.
I spent a very large chunk of my life pushing my feelings and emotions down, hiding them, trying to close the door on them forever. But I’ve learnt from this personal experience that trying to ignore feelings and not deal with them can cripple you emotionally, and inevitably it comes back to bite you at some point. I now consider other cultures, where women scream and throw themselves on the ground in reaction to losing a loved one, have a much better handle on how to deal with their feelings - to let all those feelings out. Of course we might need to consider how and when we express our emotions. (Venting on Facebook, for example, may not be the most appropriate!) But I now believe that allowing yourself to process feelings that arise, and go through the ride they take you on, is infinitely more healthy than pushing them aside.
Western society has long perpetuated the idea that we need to control our emotions and shut our feelings down, to just ‘suck it up’ and get on with things. This is certainly the way I was brought up. To ‘stop crying’ and ‘put on a brave face’ and ‘be strong’. After losing my mother at a very young age and having no outlet to express my feelings about this (I wasn’t even allowed to go her funeral – this was apparently to protect me) I became adept at locking my feelings away. Sharing feelings was not something my family was good at, probably a reflection of the times - not within the family, and certainly not outside the family. The belief was that we should deal with our own problems and work things out ourselves. Even better, just bury our heads in the sand and ignore them altogether.
The other side of a culture that hasn’t allowed true emotional expression and healing is that others often have no idea how to help someone who is struggling with their feelings, or going through a rough time emotionally. They don’t know what to say. Even if they want to offer support, they’re at a loss as to the best way to do this. And if they open that can of worms, what will happen? Could they make things worse? Might it trigger feelings of their own that they don’t want to deal with? My experience has been that people are more likely to ask you how you are feeling if you’re physically sick, than if you’re emotionally troubled. When were we ever taught how to deal with our own feelings, let alone someone else’s?
Thank goodness there’s now an increasing awareness of mental health issues, a growing pool of helpful resources, and the recognition of the importance of seeking help and support in some form. I hope this is being reflected in the education system and that children are being given the tools to they need to cope with all areas of their life, including the emotional. Ignoring feelings or trying to shut them down is not healthy for anyone. Still, many of us continue to do this, and I totally get why. Especially with the big scary emotional issues, but also just the little stuff.
Sometimes we’re afraid to deal with our feelings, or put them out there, because we think it might show weakness, or make us vulnerable, or lead to rejection. It might reveal to others that our life is less than Facebook perfect. That we’re not, in fact, superwomen! After all, everyone else seems to be coping and getting on with it. And aren’t women supposed to be the peacemakers, keeping everything in balance, and putting everyone else’s feelings ahead of our own? We don’t want to upset anybody else, or bother anyone else with our stuff. If we just keep quiet and soldier on, those uneasy, scary, unwanted feelings will surely just go away. And we’ve got a billion things to do, so who’s got the time anyway, right? We put our feelings to one side and roll on with the routine. We push things down and down, or let things build up and up - to that angry point where we just explode; to the point of feeling so low or anxious that we’re barely coping; until we actually become physically unwell; or all of the above.
Maybe it’s time to rate your emotional crap higher. Push it up to the top of your priority list. I can guarantee it’s not going to just disappear if you ignore it. Most women spend far too much time worrying about their physical selves (guilty – although nowhere near as much as I used to), and trying to make what we see as ‘improvements’. But what have you done in the last week to improve your emotional state? (In my mind just then, I was imagining answers like meditation, mindfulness, getting out into nature, connecting with friends, doing fun stuff…fantastic if this is the case, but if not, maybe next week lol.) What have you done that makes you feel good? Have you given yourself time to truly feel what’s happening for you right now? To let your feelings surface and flow through you? To process them and understand them, so you can truly heal and let those issues go. It might seem scary, it might be confronting, but you are important, and you deserve to be happy and healthy in every way.
You’ve got this, beautiful!
Need some help to process your feelings and release old emotional burdens? Counselling is excellent for emotional self-care and provides a safe, supportive place for you to express your feelings. I'm available for face-to-face sessions in person or via Skype. You can find contact details and more information here.