This is probably one of the most important articles I have written for awhile.
It was inspired by another book I recently read (no surprises there) from Dr Sarno.
The book is called ‘The Divided Mind‘.
It delves into the relationship between the mind, body, emotions and their inter-relationship.
There was also a recent session with a client where I was showing on a whiteboard the consequences – in day-to-day living – if we have too much junk in the trunk.
Or what I am collectively calling suppressed and repressed emotions.
I won’t be writing too deeply into the psychological aspects, but we will go deep enough to make this practical for you.
However I feel I ought prefix that this is REALLY important stuff to know.
What you do with this knowing is then up to you.
As I am sure you can all agree with me, life can be pretty challenging, and our emotional expression can be a bit of a roller coaster.
Also we generally make better decisions when we are calm.
And generally life is more challenging, and our decisions are less useful, if we have emotions stirring within us like a tsunami.
During our younger years, we also didn’t have the same level of emotional maturity, or access to appropriate emotional resources, or life skills in general, to calmly navigate our childhoods.
Often, as children, we had stuff happen which overwhelmed us emotionally, and we never new how to let the emotional ‘steam’ escape from our bodies.
This means a lot of us (most of us) in our later years, have a bunch of unprocessed and unresolved emotional stuff in the trunk.
Added to that, if we were never taught, or never learned an effective way to process our emotions, our default method of emotional management might have been to suppress or repress our “UGLY” emotions.
Those ugly emotions are the ones that are not socially acceptable.
Like ‘rage’ for example.
We have probably all felt it at times, and maybe from very (socially) ‘inappropriate’ triggers.
For example; we may have to care for a family member or friend who is sick, which totally messes with your own life plans, is a total inconvenience, and in addition triggers a whole bunch of GUILT at yourself for even having the thought of being angry.
Suppress these emotions for long enough and there can be a whole bunch of rage bubbling below the surface…
…just waiting to come out (i.e. explode) at an inappropriate time.
What I have learned
As I was with a client the other day, I was talking about the importance of doing the inner work to resolve deeper emotions, which have never really been processed.
When I got to the “WHY” we need to do this uncomfortable emotional work, I started drawing pictures on my whiteboard (which I have created into the graphic below).
My observation was essentially this:
The MORE gunk we have in the trunk (unprocessed emotions), the LESS emotional bandwidth we have to deal with everyday life.
Essentially, if we have 100% emotional bandwidth in life and 70% is used up by repressed and suppressed emotions, we only have 30% left to deal with life, its curveballs and daily emotional challenges.
This may show up as an inability, or reduced ability, to cope with life’s major challenges like someone’s death, divorce, job loss, financial loss, health scare, and the likes.
Which unfortunately are very real possibilities for all of us.
It can be expressed as over-reactivity, over dependance on distractions (from TV to drugs), unmanageable anxiety, health issues, and a whole bunch of other stuff we would rather do without.
And just like a pressure cooker on the stove, if the steam is not let out in a controlled fashion, it can eventually lead to the cooker ‘blowing its top’.
And if you choose to read the book – The Divided Mind – you will also see what Dr Sarno and his associates found over decades of treating body pain with their patients.
Many cases of body pain (neck, back, hip, etc.), were real pain, but with psychosomatic origins, related to an overload of repressed or suppressed emotions.
Working through the junk in the trunk is a smart move, in order to experience a more joyful life, and be more resilient to challenges.
What to do
Just like having more junk in the trunk gives us less emotional bandwidth in life, if you do the inner work of processing emotions, it reduces the junk in the trunk and gives you greater emotional bandwidth to play the game of life, plus an ability to better absorb or roll with, the major life challenges we may face.
I call myself a strategic expert.
So here is what the strategic part of me says.
Reduce the junk in your trunk when you are not in crisis, so if a crisis does come along, you are better able to deal with it.
What are practical ways we can deal with inner emotions that are repressed or suppressed?
- Exercise. It releases certain chemicals in our body, but also brings us into a closer relationship and awareness of our physical body (especially practices like yoga, tai chi, qigong, martial arts, and even some of the mixed martial arts).
- Meditation. At a very basic level it can create a safe space for emotions to bubble up and dissipate into the ether (like that pressure cooker).
- Work with a good Therapist (especially if you have had any trauma in your childhood).
- Try Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping. This is a technique used to explore past or present emotionally unsettling events, without triggering the amygdala and firing off the stress response. Watch a video of me explaining EFT here.
- Spend time in Nature, free of distractions, in a slow conscious way, and preferably with some physical skin-on-skin contact with the ground.
- Getting to Know Yourself. Understand what triggers you; your coping mechanisms; what environments are supportive or not; what people are supportive or not; what foods support you or not; what environments support you or not; what topics you can’t talk about; what conversations make you tear up; what memories are categorized as ‘negative’; etc..
- Undertake activities which Relax you. For example: massage, surfing, walking the dog, and pretty much any activity that gets you out of thinking about the past and future, and holds your attention in the present moment. And provide space for you to feel into the present moment.
Don’t leave doing the inner work until you hit a crisis, or your capacity and bandwidth to handle it, will be compromised.
My key message
The MORE gunk in your trunk, the LESS emotional bandwidth you have in day-to-day life.
The LESS gunk in your trunk, the MORE able you will be to handle even the biggest challenges in life.
This work is also so important, it is worth getting quality help, to support you letting steam out of that metaphoric pressure cooker, in a way that is not socially unacceptable, and does not disrupt life around you.
And finally our ‘personalities’ are not fixed, they are mostly created by our thinking, feeling and behaving.
They can be changed.
And as Dr Joe Dispenza would say: If you change your personality, you change your personal reality.
My Parting words
I realise that doing the inner emotional work is not necessarily fun.
Okay, it is definitely not fun. 😉
And a lot of time we cope with life pretty well as it is.
My thing is I like to help people to become more resilient, in order to handle life’s curve balls.
The last few years has shown us that regardless of how well we set ourselves up, there are always things that can come barreling out of left field.
And can really throw our emotional centre off-track (and also disrupt our sense of safely and security).
So as unfun as it is, it might be time, energy and money, well spent.
If you need a hand drop me a line.
Have a joyful day and a self-aware week.
See you next week.