Many of us have a hard time feeling our feelings. So we dismiss them. We stuff them down. We pretend they don’t exist. We disconnect from our feelings, and we disconnect from ourselves. Or we analyze and analyze and analyze our feelings without ever really feeling them. Which isn’t helpful, of course. But it’s hard to undo what you’ve done for years.
And yet slowly, gradually you can start to feel your emotions.
Below, Sherianna Boyle, author of the new book Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Toxicity and Energize Joy, shares her insights on emotions, from why we have such a hard time feeling our feelings to how we can start processing our emotions in a healthy way.
Q: Why do we have a hard time with feeling our emotions?
A: We have a hard time with feeling our emotions because most of the time what we are calling an emotion is actually a reaction. We know it is a reaction because it is attached to stories and narratives we are running in our heads. These reactions can be upsetting and at times painful so we learn to equate emotions with pain. Over time we begin to believe “these emotions are causing me pain” when in fact it is the opposite. Emotions don’t cause tension and turmoil; resisting ourselves from feeling our emotions does.
Q: What emotions are especially difficult for people to process?
A: Ha, I would say all of them. After writing Emotional Detox, I have come to see the more negative, heavy emotions such as guilt, shame, and hatred as reactions not emotions. I have also seen people react to lighter emotions such as compassion and love. Emotional Detox taught me that I didn’t really know how to process fear or love. You see the emotion of love has a bit of vulnerability to it. It feels raw, open and some people find that uncomfortable and scary. So I say all of them, at least in the beginning.
Q: Why is it so important to process our emotions?
A: Emotions when experienced wholly as they are (in the absence of reactivity) have incredibly nourishing energy. Your raw emotions are designed to heal, connect and strengthen. When processed fully the energy of your emotions gives you clarity, insight, and wisdom. As clarity increases so do your higher abilities. Things you never thought were possible suddenly are. For example, you might be able to forgive something or someone you never thought you could.
Q: How do most people navigate their emotions which isn’t helpful?
A: They think and talk about their emotions as a way to cope with their discomfort. Many people develop habits such as chronic worrying, analyzing or explaining what they are feeling. This only makes things worse and as a result, their self-esteem gets compromised. They want to understand their emotions however, most of the time they are reactions so this makes things feel confusing and complicated.
Emotions are not meant to be understood. That is a reaction. We want to understand so we can control (make sense) of what is happening. The challenge is making sense of our emotions is something that requires more brain activity and less feeling (which happens in your body).
Q: How can readers start to process their emotions in healthy ways?
A: Learn how to listen to your body rather than go to your brain. If I were to ask your readers right now what it feels like to be in their body right now, they would likely go to their brain for that answer. Notice how quick and rote that response is. Most of us are trained to think about it. Instead of answering the question with words (which is typically a guess), I encourage your readers to take three full breaths and refrain from answering the question at all. Just let your body move energy.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about emotions?
A: I want them to know emotions don’t just disappear, they hang out until they are honored. Shoving away, ignoring, or over-processing your emotions (e.g., talking about them too much) can come at cost. With that said, there is a time when it is valuable to share your feelings but preferably after you CLEANSE.
This is why I came up with the CLEANSE formula in Emotional Detox. Once you detox the reactivity, you will feel better and as a result the conversation changes. Instead of it being one-sided or focused on the past or future, you know you are in the absence of reactivity when you can speak to the present moment. The reality is, your body is always in the moment so you really don’t have to revisit the past in order to heal, however, you do need to honor it.