From the first inkling of a cry from a baby we often rush to find out what is wrong and how to stop them crying as quickly as possible. When our toddler or child falls over and scrapes their knee, we often hurry to stop them crying saying “It’s OK, you’re fine, stop crying” and often distract them from expressing their hurt feelings and shock. As our teenagers experience their first heartaches, friend dramas and disappointments at school or sports results and we often dish out advice, tell them they have it easy and totally discredit their experience in order to show them some “perspective” on life. As adults, I often see people in my office trying to “stuff down” their feelings as they come up when talking about their painful experiences. These adults are a result of all that conditioning to suppress and not express fully the emotions we feel naturally as humans.
What is the result of suppressing our feelings?
People are often misguided into thinking that if we busy ourselves, distract ourselves, force ourselves to think nice thoughts that the negative feelings go away. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. Neurologically when we have an emotion we can see it not only in the brain but also the energy or electric charge through the body.
Example: If you think about someone you love and picture them in your mind and then notice how your body feels as your focus on that love and person. Now think of someone you don’t like, someone who makes you mad or annoyed and notice how your body reacts to it. It feels physically different!
Feelings or Emotions are just energy in motion and they affect every part of the body. Chinese Eastern medicine has recognised this for over 5000 years. Every acupressure/puncture point has an emotion associated with it. Supressing our negative feelings results in storing that emotion in our bodies only to make us sick later. Even the American Centre of Disease Control recognises that much of our illness and disease is “Stress related” (meaning negative emotions that have built up and up and up without release). Emotionally when we suppress, we become toxic parents and people to be around. When we want to parent peacefully and our children “misbehave” our minds latch onto our supressed negative emotions (from our past) and out it all comes at the poor unsuspecting child. We’ve all done it, gone over the top in our reactions to our children’s actions (that we didn’t like). That’s your stored up emotion being triggered off.
There is also a chicken and egg situation here. The more negative emotions you experience, the more you put your body into survival mode and utilise the nervous system that would help us deal with our survival needs (fight, flight or freeze). When that survival nervous system is in use, the normal nervous system that is in charge of healthy body functions and growth is diminished because it’s not as important to grow than it is to survive. So long terms periods of stress, anxiety, anger and so forth mean that our health is impacted… our digestion is compromised, our hormones are not regulated, we’re more prone to viruses and bacteria because our immune system is not prioritised and all those other physical functions that keep us healthy. So we start getting digestive issues, fungal problems, viruses, bacteria issues, thyroid and auto immune problems and the list goes on. There is a way to restore a healthy body and mind, but the road is paved with both physical and mental work.
The good thing is that in children we can help them recover quickly with a diet of “emotions are OK”, simple techniques like EFT to help release old patterns and healthy diet to restore the body!
Why do we fear our negative feelings?
We don’t fear all emotions… just the negative feelings… the ones that make us feel vulnerable. Brene Brown, an amazing researcher on shame and vulnerability tells us that these emotions were biologically necessary in order to ensure we didn’t endanger the tribe. When we did something wrong, the tribe’s reaction and our negative feeling associated with that kept us conforming to the rules and kept the tribe safe from extinction. Since we no longer are in such desperate need of the tribe in order to survive, many of our negative feelings are not relevant and yet we still have them. They feel horrible when they come up. We naturally want to get back to the state of at least not feeling them, so we will do anything not to experience them or numb them out. Though, some people are addicted to negative emotions. It’s become a normal feeling, so much so that their mind fears not having the feelings of depression or anxiety or seeing the world as a horrible place. People who don’t have these negative feeling addictions often avoid those that do because they fear it will be infectious! So we never really help them other than to throw medication at them.
The other reasons why we try and hide our emotions besides worrying that we will be perceived weak (aka vulnerable) is that we fear that we will lose control of our emotions, that these feelings will overwhelm us and we will be stuck in that state and embarrass ourselves even more than we already are. Unfortunately this idea that we will lose control is also false and born out of the fact that we hardly ever get to express our emotions fully so we simply don’t know what that feels like! In addition to this fear, when we witness someone else’s emotional tsunami we feel out of control to bring them down, believing it’s our role to help and rescue them from their pain. Emotions are just waves of energy and when we allow the wave to actually reach it’s peak instead of interrupting it, often the recede just like a wave does. All we need to do is learn to breath through it and allow it to roll on up and then back. This goes for every emotion and we do this naturally for our happy moments. Happiness doesn’t overwhelm us does it? Neither does any other emotion.
So it’s time to stop suppressing and also time to stop reacting to other people’s emotions, let them express it, empathize with them but don’t offer any platitudes, solutions, advice or comparisons to your own experience. Just acknowledge their feelings and ask them what would help them to safely express their emotion (great for kids and their anger). Let them find an appropriate way to let it out and feel better (literally!!)
My Own Journey through Emotional Freedom
For years I was told by body and energy workers that I had too much anger and fear in my body and I had the physical issues associated with it. I was totally perplexed because I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t get in touch with any anger or fear. It was hard to hear and believe it when you can’t feel it. I was a product of emotional suppression. The result was mega stress, back and neck pain, digestive issues, loads of colds and viruses and a seemingly never ending cycle of doctor visits. Once I began doing body and energy work to shift it (Yoga, Meridian tapping, BodyTalk, Reiki, Sacral Cranial Therapy, Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Kinesilogy) and of course facing my emotions and clearing my past traumas, all of that dropped away.
The biggest example that showed up in my life was having chronic back pain so bad the neurosurgeon recommended surgery (with no guarantee of relief). I refused, realising that I needed to face my emotions. I had to quit my job because I couldn’t sit or stand. I could barely walk and driving was a major effort that I couldn’t avoid because I was the only driver in the house during the week days and we live on a rural property. I was in so much pain I even resorted to strong pain and anti-inflammatory medication which is something that I don’t do (at that point, I was all medication free for years). I tried conventional and unconventional treatment between April and September. Finally I picked up a book by Dr John E. Sarno who is Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and attending physician at the Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Medical Center who is now in his 80’s. He’s seen every kind of injury known to the back and body and having observed that there were some people who had the physical results of a degenerating back such as protruding discs, trapped nerves and fused discs who had absolutely no pain what so ever, he concluded that the pain was being created by the unconscious mind. On further research and working with the psychological field, he surmised that all pain in the body is a result of suppressed emotions of anger and fear. He recommended a radical approach of being firm with the unconscious mind and telling it that it couldn’t divert your attention away from painful emotions and getting on with life. So if you were a runner, get out and run again, even with the pain. He said the result is that the unconscious mind will increase the pain a bit to test your resolve but then give up and the pain would stop.
Well Dr Sarno doesn’t know about EFT (a meridian tapping technique aimed to release suppressed emotional energy), so I forgive him for such drastic advice. I chose to use both his advice and intensive EFT sessions (just two of them) and 3 days later the pain was completely gone… and I mean completely gone. I did indeed get worse, got put into hospital and then sent home with more medication but refuse to take it and 2 days later I got up and moved and went to the toilet and then realised I didn’t have any pain. Yay!
So the moral of this story? We need to stop suppressing our emotions and especially those of our children. It’s OK to cry! It’s OK to feel angry, sad, frustrated, scared and all the other negative emotions we often try and avoid. If we allow the emotions to run their course they will eventually play out and move out naturally in our body. Acknowledge your children’s emotions, empathise with them but don’t try and shut them down. Just let them get it out. They will be well adjusted and even better, empathetic adults because they will be able to recognise other people’s emotions and support them as you did for them.
Lastly – your physical recovery from years of suppressed feelings
Did you know that 50-60 years ago that if you went to a psychologist with feelings of depression and anxiety (rare in those days) that they would ask you what you’d been eating? They would put you on a mind nourishing diet! That just doesn’t happen anymore!
If you’re looking for a way to turn your health symptoms around or help your children with any trapped emotions, not only do you need to deal with the emotion, you need to recover your health… reset your body… get it working and optimised again. Unfortunately from my own experience, and my whole family’s experience, that is not by following the government recommended guidelines. You will need to do some research but my best success so far is Maria Emmerich – a nutritionist and author of many books that are back by science (which seems to be ignored by the government and the food industry which is slowly poisoning us). What I like about Maria is her no nonsense approach and the fact that she feeds the whole family in the same way. Her two little boys don’t miss out on good food, they get great food that nourishes their bodies and mind.
Learn how to help yourself and your children express their emotions by joining us online for the Online Parenting Program starting in Feb 2014.