We all experience a range of emotions, from elation to depression and everything in between. Some emotions are viewed as more acceptable than others and which feelings are ‘allowed’ to be expressed can depend on our upbringing, culture and gender. Even if you are someone who is comfortable with the whole gamut of emotions, chances are you have found yourself in situations where opening up about your feelings is not appropriate.
When you experience an emotion but you aren’t allowed to fully express it, what happens to it?
The way I like to think about emotions is through the lens of energy. Each emotion is an energy in of itself that comes through us at certain times for certain reasons. When we allow ourselves to feel into that emotion, we can diffuse the energy and move forward. If, however, we cannot express the emotion, the energy that emotion carries becomes stuck in our bodies (think unresolved anger, sadness about an unmourned loss, or a shameful secret that someone might be carrying around). In fact, there has been a lot of research done about how our experiences and emotions impact us at a cellular level.
Stuck emotions have a way of building up and creating all sorts of problems for us, not to mention that they just feel terrible. It is okay to keep an emotion in when you have to (i.e. it may not be a good idea to let out all of your anger in your boss’s office) but in order to be healthy, we have to eventually let it out.
Letting out steam on a regular basis helps prevent the proverbial ‘pot’ from ‘boiling over’. There are many ways to let out a stuffed or stuck emotion, such as going for a walk, singing, talking to a supportive friend or therapist, and having a good cry. The key is finding what works best for you. Just watch out for less optimal ways of blowing off steam (like food, drugs and alcohol) since these might make you feel relief in the moment but actually perpetuate the negative energy suppression.
What are your favorite ways to release emotional energy?