Imagine your life without being able to feel joy, happiness, or even excitement. We would never know how it felt to love or be loved. We would live a life of ritual without any passion to what we are living for. As Dr. Bradley Nelson states so well, ‘our emotions are what gives us color to our lives.” These positive emotions are what gives us goals, determinitation and even a place of feeling grounded within ourselves. Its what makes us crave more out of what life has to offer and allows us to push forward in our lives with a sense of hope and purposeful intention. Think about how it feels when your spouse lets you know how attractive you look, or when your boss gives you praise for working so hard on the most recent project. It builds your confidence, makes you feel alive within yourself, but mostly it gives you a sense of purpose to strive to be even better. So if positive emotions allow us to thrive in our lives and promote extensive well-being, what effects do negative emotions have on us?
Unfortunately our lives are not always filled with emotions that make us feel good. As I see it, in order for us to appreciate and be grateful for those times of positive emotion, we must also go through periods of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, resentmet…the list could go on, but it comes down to that each of us have had to face darker times in our lives. Despite that these times have created negative experiences for us, we tend to be able to remember these times much easier than we do of the postive ones. This is because these emotions can be so profound and impactful in our lives as they are occuring, that they resonate deep within us and as a result…. deep within our body. In general when we have emotions, they should be felt, processed by the mind and body and then let go. Sometimes we are not able to fully process emotions. In cases such as these we often don’t allow ourselves to fully experience what we are feeling. We push it away, we try to move on too soon, whatever it may be. When this occurs, the emotion can become “trapped” within the physical body and start to present itself as physical symtpoms.
THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION
Without even knowing it our emotional state is in constant contact with our body. Take for example if you were to see a snake and you began to feel fear... Your nervous system would automatically increases oxygen to your muscles and raise your heart rate so you could deal with the threat. Its an automated response. Our emotions trigger our physical system without us even having to think about it. Its not until we have the nagging back ache or ongoing stomach problems that it starts to bring our attention forward. However when this happens we most always address our physical symptoms through physical remediation. We take ibuprofen for our nagging knee pain or antacids for our stomach issues and we suppress the issue. But what if we chose to find out what the root cause of our physical symptoms were?
HOW EMOTIONS GET TRAPPED IN THE BODY
As noted above, any emotion that we don’t fully process and allow ourselves to experience can get trapped in the body.
Talking ourselves out of it. Emotions need a voice in order to be released. Often times we tell ourselves ‘everthing is fine” or‘its not worth gettng upset over’. These are situations were we burry what we feel and thus these emotions have a tendancy to become trapped in our body.
Being alone at the time of the event. Its human nature to want to share our emotions with others. If we don’t have the supports surrounding us then we often don’t get the opportunity to express what we are feeling. We then don’t know what to do with the emotion and so we suppress and thus they become trapped within us.
The first time. This often occurs if we have never experienced a situation similar to what we are facing. This is when we don’t have the coping skills to deal with the emotion and so it feels foreign and scary to us.. As a result we disasociate and become ‘frozen’ within our emotional being.
HOW TO AVOID TRAPPED EMOTIONS
Feel it. Whatever you are going through, understand where it is coming from and allow yourself to feel it. Don’t put a time limit on it, just let it move through you.
Release it. Write it down and burn it, journal it, exercise, punch a pillow…however you need to release it, do it. But while you are doing it, it is important to bring the emotion to the surface and go in with the intention of letting it go.
Fill it with something positive. After you let of an emotion, you’ll instinctively try to bring it back in. Instead fill that space with doing something that makes you feel grounded in who you are, something that makes you happy. Fill that empty space with something positive!