#88 Why you need to feel all of your emotions 

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When I was newly out of breast cancer treatment, don’t think I was even sure about what I was feeling or how to process everything that had changed, so I just got angry. 

 Angry is a great defense. You can justify it, get others to support your belief that you’ve been wronged and then you never have to be vulnerable. You never have to sit in the gut-wrenching emotions that are trying to bubble up and be a catalyst for self-examination, personal growth and change. 

The problem is that they won’t go away either. Your emotions want to be felt, that’s why they’re there. They’re gut reactions that want to be elevated into thoughts. Into things you’ll look at and think about and work on. 

That’s the only way to release them. 

In this show we’ll explore why we resist feeling all of our emotions and why we should reconsider that. 

I’ll give you some simple tips to get you started on that path…the path to feeling better. 

Resources:
Emotion Suppression and Mortality Risk Over a 12-Year Follow-up

Turning Negative Emotions Into Positive Motivation,

Read Full Transcript Below:

Hello and welcome

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So I gotta tell you that this quarantine and the extra me time that it’s brought into my life especially during a time when I was taking a group of women through my coaching program has been a really great and eye opening experience. 

 

I’ve had more time to spend studying with my teachers and mentors and more time for self reflection and I’ve loved it.

 

The beginning of this week was a  contemplative one for me because May 19 is the anniversary date of my brother’s death and even though its been 27 years since he left this world,and even though I still think of hm daily,  every year as that date comes around, the emotions and the memories become amplified, as I’m sure many of you who have been through the loss of a loved caan appreciate.

 

So as i journaled on the anniversary date of his death and as i wrote a social media post in tribute to him, tears streamed down my face as they do from time to time when I think about him but instead of telling myself to knock it off I really sat to think about why I was crying and why i felt so sad and then I thought. . well because it is sad, and it will always be sad to think about his loss just as it will always make my heart happy to think about the fun I had with him growing up and how much he meant to  me

 

But the important thing is that I gave myself permission to feel sad, I didn’t feel the need to beerate myself for being emotional or force myself to stop crying by telling myself to put on my big girl panties or anything like that. I just allowed myself to experience the sadness that still exists around that loss.

 

And that got me thinking about you. I started thinking about all the guilt and the self shaming I hear from other survivors when it comes to experiencing any emotion other than being strong, grateful or positive and I thought we should talk about that.

 

For most of us, the emotions we believe we’re allowed to feel or to display publicly without shame are decided for us at a very young age.

When we get hurt physically or emotionally as children and we react with tears, we’re usually told to stop crying right?

 

Parents may tolerate some tears... and I’m just as guilty of this as any but when we feel like an appropriate amount of crying time for the situation has passed,  we shut it down… we’ll say ok that ‘s enough, stop crying. Or stop acting shy or don’t sit there looking sad, get up and go have some fun.

 

But did your parents ever tell you stop being strong, stop feeling proud of yourself, stop looking so happy, stop being so friendly… I hope not. 

 

When did we decide that it wasn’t ok to feel certain things? We learned that as kids, just as our parents, and their parents did and.

 

Then we spend the rest of damn adult lives struggling with shaming ourselves for feeling the way we feel. 

 

How crazy is that?

 

How many times have you felt emotional about something….anything and when the tears begin to flow you immediately apologize to whoever is with you..”im sorry Im getting emotional.” 

 

Why do that instead of saying I’m feeling very emotional because, I’m scared. I’m hurt, I feel betrayed, I miss my loved one...you fill in the blank. 

 

There’s nothing wrong with experiencing your full range of emotions. In fact people spend a lot of money all the time to work with therapists who guide them into experiencing the emotions they’ve been suppressing for much of their lives.

 

Jonathan Adler, A psychologist at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Was quoted in a 2013 article in scientific american as saying, “...one of the primary reasons we have emotions in the first place is to help us evaluate our experiences,”

 

In that same article psychologist Shannon Sauer-Zavala said, “It is impossible to avoid negative emotions altogether because to live is to experience setbacks and conflicts”

 

That could not be more true could it?

 

How many people do you know who have had to overcome adversity of some kind in their lives...probably more than those who haven’t.

 

Whether it’s loss, disease, financial issues, emotional health, crappy childhoods...everyone has a story.

 

Even people who you look at and think of as having it easy because they’re beautiful, or wealthy or whatever...they have their own story, because we all suffer at our own levels especially if we haven’t trained our minds to think in healthy ways.

 

And healthy ways does not mean 24/7 sunshine and rainbows. Would you view me as healthy if I weren’t saddened by the loss of my loved one... or would that seem weird to you...it would be an inappropriate reaction right? 

 

Even If I had a positive belief system around death and I truly believe and am comfortable saying I believe my loved one is happy or at peace or in a better place...I can still be sad because knowing someone else is okay is great but I still lost something and that still hurts.

 

The key here is to be aware of the sadness...I’m trying hard not to use the term negative emotions because that label in itself indicates you “shouldn’t” feel it. 

 

And I ask you are sadness, anger, envy, fear, disgust...are they truly bad or have you learned more about yourself and grown more in your life as a result of those emotions than anything else?

 

If you were happy all the time would you ever sit down do some self examination and say you know this happy all the time is just not working for me. I need to start shaking things up and making some changes….no, you would never do that because feeling good, feels good.

 

But when you’re in pain, fearful, sad and any of the other transformational emotions...that's a phrase I like better...that’s when you begin to examine your life, your decisions, your capacity for good judgement.

 

 Those painful times are the ones you look back on and you can see how you grew.

 

You can look at past employment or past relationships and you can say, I was a different person then, and you’d be correct. 

 

But what positive experiences could you say that about?

 

So if these changes have such a significant impact on your life...don’t you think it would be a great idea to experience them fully and instead of suppressing them, investigate them, ask yourself why am I feeling this way? So that you can create awareness and then take steps to move yourself into a healthier state of being.

 

In fact when you see someone who you  know is in a very unhappy situation, maybe a job that makes them miserable, or a relationship that’s sucking the life out of them, and they’re not trying to transform...they're not taking steps to get themselves out of pain, we think that’s unhealthy..

 

 I mean that’s what we say, you’re in an unhealthy relationship, you’re in an unhealthy place with your job. 

 

So I think we confuse the transformational emotion as the bad thing when it's actually the inability to face, understand and work through the transformational emotion that is the unhealthy thing.

 

I think of these emotions as I would a smoke alarm. Is the smoke alarm in your home a negative thing.. NO it’s an annoying warning that something is wrong and you need to take action. Even if that’s just to change it’s battery so it stops the incessant beeping!

 

So how does this apply to you and your experience with breast cancer? Aren’t you supposed to think positive and have a great attitude?

 

Well of course, but it has to be authentic. If you feel transformational emotions bubbling up like fear, confusion, a fogginess like everything has changed for you and you’re not sure what you want anymore. That’s awesome!

 

Stay there...keep experiencing that, writing about it, keep working through it one step at a time until each step becomes a little more clear. When you move through that emotional pain you emerge with authentic happiness on the other side. 

But when you just keep telling yourself you shouldn't feel sad, you shouldn’t be angry, you should just be grateful, you don’t have any right to feel what you’re feeling and you suppress those transformational emotions, you literally make yourself sick.

 

And I mean that. 

 

A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic research in 2013 followed 729 people over a12 year period to assess their level of emotional suppression and evaluate the impact it had on their health. What they found was that those individuals suppressed their emotions the most had a 35% increased risk of death from all causes and a 70% increase in their risk of dying from cancer. A difference of a little more than 5.5 years of life expectancy.

 

Talk about making yourself sick. 

 

Ugh! Nothing good comes from that.

 

So what can you do? 

 

You’ve got to let the transformative emotions bubble up. But you can’t let them control you. You let them bubble up with awareness meaning you can say to yourself. 

 

This is just an emotion,  it’s uncomfortable right now but coming up and I’m going to allow myself to experience it with awareness and inquisitiveness rather than blame and resistance.

 

Writing what you feel and what you’re thinking when you feel it is so important even if you can’t clearly identify it. For example….you find yourself in tears and feeling anxious and you’re asking yourself why am i crying, what is coming up write now and maybe you can't name it but you can write, i'm not clear on what's coming up but i feel alone, i feel scared, i feel lost...this is how you move toward clarity. But if you feel something come up and you say, this is silly, i have nothing to be crying about,  or even i don’t know why im crying, you just shut yourself down. Once you stop asking yourself questions to keep taking you to the next step then you limit yourself.

 

Even the statement I don’t know what I feel like this...it's a closed ended statement..there's where you can go with it. 

 

Instead, you could say to yourself I'm working on understanding why this emotion is coming up for me...it’s not clear yet but I’m going to let it keep coming so I can figure it out.

 

Give yourself permission to be open to feeling it all and considering it all. You’ll likely feel some resistance come up when you start trying this but that’s ok because that’s a starting point, you can ask yourself why you’re resisting. 

 

When you’re trying to dig into your mindset and train your mind to serve you it’s all about asking the right questions… and that question isn’t why did this happen to me...It feels right at first and you might think you ask yourself because you want to arrive at a solution or a safeguard to protect you from ever going through this again. But we all know there’s no such safeguard...right.

 

You can tell yourself all day long that you did all the right things, this wasn’t supposed to happen, you were too young, there’s no breast cancer in their family...I said all of those things too but the fact is it did happen.

 

But in the words of Byron Katie, the well known author, and spiritual teacher...you know how you can tell something was supposed to happen that way...because it did. 

 So can you make peace with what happened to you and now give yourself permission to experience all of the emotions that it brings up. With judgment, self limiting thoughts and definitely without beating yourself up.

 

Bret steenbarger in his article Turning Negative Emotions Into Positive Motivation, where he discussed the benefits and the power behind all of our emotions, not just the positive ones said this so beautifully, “All of us have a dark side. Cover it over and it merely becomes darker. Or we can recognize that the darkness is only possible in the absence of light. Who we are at our worst is simply the shadow of our best selves.”

 

So i encourage you to experience your whole self to become your best self. 

 

Thanks again for listening to the BCRC podcast….BCRG...revivify wait list… find me on Facebook 



Resources:
Emotion Suppression and Mortality Risk Over a 12-Year Follow-up

Turning Negative Emotions Into Positive Motivation,

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