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Over time, we have been conditioned to repress our emotions. As we were going through our development years, we were often told things like ‘don’t behave like that in public’ or ‘bite your tongue’. Our parents would continuously scold us, saying ‘stop that crying right now, or else…’, ‘that’s enough whining, young lady’ or ‘I’ve had it with you, who do you think you are?

You can imagine that the ‘don’t’ list can take up this whole page.

By repressing our emotions, we have buried them deeply in that greater part of our unconscious mind. We have pushed them so far down that we wouldn’t dare allow them to pop their head up.

That’s the reason we suffer so very much from our emotions.

We resist.

We don’t allow them to have a voice. We don’t allow these particular emotions to be heard. Consequently, they build up. Then, just like an innocent child who wants to be heard, we will have an out-of-control, emotional burst because we are constantly pushing them away from us.

You are as sick as your secrets

Supressing our emotions creates blockages in our physiology. Our body stores our unresolved emotions, to the point where they can cause physical pain. For those that would like to really deep dive into this topic, there is a great book by Evette Rose called Metaphysical Anatomy, which speaks about the connection between mind and body.

We now know the damage we can create by hanging on to our emotions from a physical standpoint. Nevertheless, when we hold on to our suppressed trauma, it can also ‘freeze’ our personality.

Any significant emotional event can keep us ‘stuck’ in time warp. When this emotion gets triggered, we bring that memory into the ‘now’. With our present eyes, state and emotion, we add to that memory. In turn, it becomes our personality.

Now, I am not saying to tell everyone your secrets. What I am sharing with you is that if we do not deal with any traumatic experience, it will respond exactly as if we are going through PTSD over and over again.

Therefore, it is critical to resolve what you need to resolve today. You have to stop repressing the memory in order to reveal these repeating patterns that have an impact on how you show up.

The pursuit of illness for secondary gain

Memories are social and contextual – they are shaped by your experiences. What you keep isolated is precisely what keeps you stuck. Your identity changes and continues to grow, but you are trapped as a child in some aspects of your personality. You see this in adults all the time. You find yourself scratching your head, wondering how this leader can react or respond in such a childish manner. Well, my friend, they are frozen in time.

Some like to be frozen in time. I know this one individual who wanted to be a highly successful entrepreneur and she had all the skills, talents and know-how to become a very famous person.

However, after working with her for some months, it was very clear that she had a secondary gain. She wasn’t prepared to heal herself from some trauma where she was getting a regular pay cheque because of such trauma.

Once we really unpacked the secondary gain as hanging on to this trauma, she was able to release it. She let go of that regular fortnightly cheque so to go on and create a rocking business that paid her ten times more than before.

And it all started with labelling.

‘What’ versus ‘why’

Awareness is key for us to make a considerable change to what emotions we hold within ourselves. You can only do this by performing an internal investigation, by probing the deeper part of your mind without judgement. You will be amazed with the results, as a mini-investigation will reveal a recurring story or a theme.

Some thought-provoking questions you can ask yourself in the process are:

  • What are the most consistent emotions that present on a regular basis?
  • What can I learn from those emotions?
  • What are my emotions trying to tell me?
  • What do I look like when I resist my emotions?

Have you noticed that all the questions start with a ‘what’? I purposely stuck with that format because the ‘what’ creates curiosity and probes the brain to come up with a constructive answer that uncovers the motivation of your emotions.

A ‘what’ question will help you get a rational response, whereas a ‘why’ question evokes an emotional response. With a ‘why’ question, you can find yourself building a new blockbuster drama movie. Just think about when someone asks you ‘why did you do it this way?’ Your automatic response is defensive.

The ‘why’ question is connected to the limbic part of your brain, which is the emotional or ‘heart’ centre. Don’t get me wrong, it has a purpose. For example, if you want to get to the heart of a decision, a ‘why’ question will reveal the thought process. On the other hand, a ‘what’ question acts as a quick way of diffusing an emotional response or reaction.

Accept, realise, surrender

Overall, it is essential that you never make a permanent decision from your temporary emotions.

Instead, you must turn towards your emotions with acceptance. You must accept that they are there, identify and label them to take back the power they hold over you.

By labelling your emotion, you are pulling it out of your unconscious mind. Thus, you are allowing that leadership part of your brain – your pre-frontal cortex – to change the meaning and loosen the boundaries of your emotions.

It’s super easy:

  1. Label your emotion: I am feeling _________________.
  2. Probe: What does my emotion want? What’s getting in my way?
  3. Find three alternative meanings to your emotion in order to get unstuck.

Even more importantly, you must realise the impermanence of your emotions. Although you may feel overwhelmed, you have to remember that this too shall pass.

The final piece is to let go of the need to control your emotions. You have to work with them and allow them to unfold, be heard and have a say.

Then you can heal.