What Does Processing Your Emotions Even Mean?
“How do you process emotions?” I get asked this question at least once or twice every week so I thought I’d write this blog so I can share it with all of you.
Side note: People have adopted the phrase “process emotions” when the correct term is actually just “feeling emotions”. Processing emotions denotes more of an intellectual activity or cognitive process of the emotion by analyzing it. Although this is a common expression, for the purpose of this blog I will use the term “feel emotions” since words are powerful. When we use the correct word for something, it gives it more substance and carries the right energy behind it. This way, we can connect more with our intention which, in this blog, is to feel emotions.
I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: emotions are the language of the Soul. Emotions are how we experience life. Feeling emotions is how your Soul learns life lessons and evolves on a mental, emotional and spiritual level. When you don’t feel your feelings, in other words process your emotional pain, you will remain stuck repeating negative life patterns and unable to really grow in life.
Suppressing your negative emotions will also eventually affect your physical health. This is another way you can know what negative emotions you’re in denial of because by the time the energy of that emotion reaches an organ or system in your body that’s making you sick, there is a LOT of denial there.
So how do you properly process emotions? Well, you can’t feel emotions in your mind, meaning by simply trying to understand the emotion intellectually through analyzing it. This is known as intellectualizing emotions and it’s where most people get stuck when it comes to their emotional healing process.
You process emotions by FEELING them.
As a side note, I wholeheartedly believe that mental health issues is the result of not processing your negative feelings or painful emotional experiences (including any traumatic childhood experiences). Emotional Processing work is THE only way in my humble opinion to positively impact not only your physical health but your mental health too.
Let’s face it difficult emotions and unpleasant feelings are uncomfortable and the truth is that most people don’t want to feel these emotions. They resist, deny, suppress or try to control their emotions by using all sorts of physical, emotional and spiritual addictions. Some classics are smoking, drinking and taking drugs, another more spiritual way which is very common now is meditation and the latest trend on the new age healing path is self-soothing techniques.
For example, you get angry or emotionally triggered because someone disrespects you, but instead of feeling the anger you do a meditation to “calm yourself down”. Now that you’re calm, you then intellectually analyze why you got so angry, perhaps you justify your reasons for the anger, psychologically theorize on your life lessons and then carry on with your life because now you don’t feel so angry anymore. When in fact, what you’ve just done is suppressed the anger, you’ve dissociated from the anger and gone into your mind through first the meditation and then intellectualization. You have disconnected from the anger that still resides inside your body but if you don’t feel it you won’t release it.
Listen, I’m not saying meditation is bad. I think meditation is an amazing tool to have and practice in your daily life, however it’s not for feeling emotions – at least not in the new-age spirituality way that I’ve seen it be taught. What I’ve seen with a lot of clients who come to me feeling stuck is that they will practice meditation to get away from feeling any intense emotions. This is a problem because then months later, when the same situation repeats and the same emotions come up, they wonder why they are still stuck in the same pattern when in their minds “they have already processed it”.
I’ve been noticing the same pattern with self-soothing techniques as well as ways to calm your vagus nerve. I understand that feeling emotions in the moment may not always be possible, or perhaps you’re just learning to feel safe feeling emotions. However, understand that calming yourself down from feeling emotions will not heal you.
The above are all ways you’re avoiding your emotions. Sadly, by doing this you’re only keeping yourself stuck in negative patterns and will not heal. You will likely keep searching for more tools and techniques as you will keep needing more and more of these to keep those emotions suppressed and “under control”. In reality, the more you suppress your emotions, the more your emotions will control your thinking patterns, your behaviour, your health, your relationship dynamics, your choices and every decision you make, including your power of attraction (which is why you keep attracting toxic people for example or repeating the same negative patterns).
When you suppress emotions, they control you and this is how emotions affect your decision making and why sometimes you just “can’t help it”. It is only when you process your emotions that they will no longer have control over you or your decisions because you would’ve released it.
The thing is, a lot of people think they are processing their emotions because they sometimes feel angry and “get over it,” or feel sad and cry. Or perhaps they remember an incident from childhood that upset them but don’t feel anything now. However, they are still experiencing the same emotions such as anger, anxiety or shame in relation to the same negative patterns that keep coming up. They get emotionally triggered by the same situations and people and nothing is changing – meaning the negative patterns and emotions keep coming up again and again. This is a clear sign that they are NOT processing their emotions, they are LIVING in them.
Just because you are emotional or experience emotions daily (and calm yourself down from them) doesn’t mean you’re “processing” emotions.
Emotional processing, in particular at the causal level, your power of attraction will change immediately. You will feel a relief while you’re truly processing the emotion – and because it’s such a relief to be feeling them as opposed to be trying to control them by resisting and suppressing them, you’ll feel so good just being present with the emotion, giving it space to simply be there, to be expressed, experienced viscerally and be felt. You will feel emotionally and energetically lighter after you’ve processed emotions. You will also start getting insights and new awareness coming into your conscious mind, things you’ve perhaps never thought of before. You will start to perceive the situation differently and be able to connect the dots. You may even start remembering events and having memories from childhood of where you felt this same way, memories you had suppressed and never thought of since it happened. You will truly understand the emotion and where it came from and have a knowing of this, which is completely different to simply understanding the emotion intellectually – it’s an emotional knowing, not an intellectual understanding or assumption that you read in some psychology article.
In fact, more often than not, at least from my experience, the lesson you thought the emotion was teaching you before you processed it, will be totally different once you actually feel your emotions.
Here are 7 tips to help you process your emotions:
1. Desire to feel ALL your negative emotions & difficult feelings
This is not an intellectual desire, it’s an emotional one. This desire has to come from your heart. This is so important I wrote a whole blog about it, you can read more about this here.
What I’ve found over the years is that a lot of people have the intellectual desire but not an emotional one which then leaves them frustrated when they keep trying all kinds of mind techniques to overcome emotional pain when it doesn’t work. There is a big difference between the two and it’s only a heartfelt sincere emotional desire that will allow you to fully feel your emotions and carry you throughout your emotional healing process.
You can clear your chakras and drink all the Ayahuasca you want, but unless you have a sincere desire and willingness to feel your emotions, you will be at war with yourself using all kinds of new-age tools and techniques and you won’t heal.
Desire is the true power of your Soul. Eventually, this is the only “tool” you’ll need on your healing and soul journey. This will take some practice so be patient with yourself and see it as a new muscle you’ll need to strengthen over time.
When you learn to work with your Soul’s desire muscle you’ll be learning how to truly heal from within and this, I believe, is true empowerment.
2. Allow yourself to get emotionally overwhelmed
It’s just an emotion.
The amount of people who are afraid to simply be overwhelmed, desperately trying to control their emotions is astounding. This will actually give you anxiety and panic attacks, no joke. When you do this you’re actually resisting your emotional healing process and only making the situation worse for yourself. As a matter of fact you’re reinforcing the negative pattern every time you try to control the overwhelm. You’ll also start getting headaches, muscle aches and pains and all sorts of symptoms including feeling emotionally drained. These are all signs you’re not processing your emotions.
The irony is that processing emotions is overwhelming so if you’re unwilling to feel emotionally overwhelmed you’re not going to heal or be able to breakthrough any negative pattern.
When you’re in a state of overwhelm you’re actually on the edge of a breakthrough. All you have to do is lean into the overwhelm and surrender to the emotions that are coming up for you to feel.
If you want to heal and grow fast on your spiritual journey, you’ll need to get used to feeling overwhelmed. Know that it’s safe to feel overwhelmed. Nothing is going to happen to you. The emotion will pass. It’s only when you resist and try to control the overwhelm that you start living in the emotion.
See overwhelm as a good thing, it means your Soul wants to grow. Embrace it and you’ll see how much easier it will be for you to face challenges and previously perceived stressful situations in your life.
3. Don’t judge the emotion
If you’re judging the emotion you’re already resisting it and will most certainly not be able to process it.
We often carry judgments of certain emotions from childhood or by what is acceptable in society. For example, if you had an angry mother who would get into a rage over any little thing, it’s likely you don’t want to be like your mother and will judge that emotion within you. Or perhaps your mother was allowed to be angry but any time you expressed anger you may have been punished, shamed or belittled for having anger or some other specific emotion. This ends up becoming a self-judgment later in life when these same emotions come up.
Another common negative belief for men is that “big boys don’t cry” which is why a lot of men struggle with processing grief as it’s unconsciously been ingrained and seen as a sign of weakness.
You’ll need to work through the judgment of the emotion first before you’re able to process the emotion.
4. Don’t analyze the emotion
If you analyze the emotion too much, you will talk yourself out of feeling the emotion. I’ve seen this happen all the time so just stop it! It’s just your way to avoid emotional pain. As soon as you start feeling an emotion come up, that’s when you need to simply get present (more on this below). Just observe the emotion inside your body, allow yourself to experience the feeling of it rather than go into the analysis of it.
I wrote a whole blog about intellectualizing emotions if you find yourself doing this. I would encourage you to have a read so you can start to become aware of when you do this and catch yourself in the moment and then apply some of the other tips on here.
5. Stay present in your body
This is really key.
When you’re intellectualizing emotions, feeling overwhelmed or afraid of feeling intense emotions, you take your awareness outside of your body, more often than not into your mind. Why? Because your suppressed and repressed emotions reside inside your body and you don’t want to feel them. To be present in your body means you’ll start to feel your emotions which is why most people are not present in their bodies at all. They “check out” by watching trash TV, dissociate into fantasy land romantacizing their toxic ex in their minds, find distractions such as social media or drama, and basically disconnect from their bodies through all sorts of things – whatever you want to call it, they are consciously or unconsciously choosing not to be here.. fully present, embodied on earth facing reality.
Yes you may get thoughts and out of habit want to check out and distract yourself, but keep bringing your awareness back into your body. This will take practice so be patient with yourself.
Somatic exercises and somatic trauma release therapy are a great place to start here.
You will find that the more you feel your emotions, the more connected and grounded you will feel in your body. The more “present” you become because you are integrating those wounded parts of you and essentially becoming more ‘whole’ the more you process your emotional wounds.
Remember the journey is not to “check out” through meditations etc but to become fully present inside your body so that you can feel and experience everything viscerally as soon as it comes up. This is when you will feel ALIVE and that you’re actually living your life.
6. Deep breathing
This will support you in staying present in your body so anchor yourself with your breath.
Your breath is directly linked to your nervous system. Deep slow breathing signals to the parasympathetic nervous system that you’re relaxed, safe and to calm down.
When you’re feeling upset, angry or stressed, your breath may become shallow and fast, which can make it harder to think clearly and manage your emotions. By slowing down the pace of your breathing, you can reduce stress levels and bring yourself back into a state where you feel more relaxed which then allows you to be present in your body and process difficult emotions coming up.
You don’t need to learn an elaborate sequence of deep-breathing exercises; in fact, doing so could even stress you even more. Instead, try just taking some slow breaths as you lie on the floor or sit comfortably in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Let each inhale last four to five seconds (counting silently), then exhaling slowly over another five to six seconds (again counting silently). Repeat this for a few minutes — you’ll likely find that after several rounds of slow breathing practice, it becomes easier to calm yourself down emotionally and start simply feeling your emotions even if it’s overwhelming – remember it’s just an emotion.
7. Accept the truth
If you just want the “results” then you don’t really understand what healing is all about.
Healing is about truth.
How fast you heal and process emotional pain is equivalent to how much truth you can accept emotionally in your heart (not in your head).
Emotional healing is not about a technique or a tool – you actually don’t need any tools, you just need a sincere emotional desire to fully accept the truth. You accept the truth by being present with and feeling your emotions. When you resist, deny or suppress an emotion, you’re essentially saying “I don’t accept this truth” or “I deny this reality” and this is crazy-making and you’re going to suffer a lot if you do. The consequences of not accepting the truth are what people tend to believe is their issue such as depression, anxiety, toxic relationship patterns, self sabotage etc.
If you’d like to go deeper into processing emotions, check out my Healing Emotional Wounds Course.
All techniques and information I share are considered coaching, self-help or complementary therapies. I am not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or medical doctor, I have a degree in Health Sciences in Holists & Complementary Therapies. Everything I write and talk about comes mainly from my own experience in healing myself and the tools, techniques, and resources I learned throughout my own inner journey.
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