"Emotions are like mangoes. We have to learn to ripen them and then juice them. When emotions are juiced, they are deeply nourishing. Even sweet.” ~ Dr. Vasant Lad
What happens when we repress our emotions?
Our thoughts and emotions have a direct effect on our body and the way we feel. We cannot avoid painful experiences—they are part of life. The secret to healthy living is to process our emotions (let them ripe) and assimilate them (digest them) in a positive manner. Instead of feeling guilty about something we did or didn't do, it's better to ask ourselves:
What can we learn from this experience?
Why are we learning this at this time in our lives?
The American Psychological Association has stressed the importance of the mind-body connection. Our mental health and psychological well-being play a central role in our overall health. Taking care of our emotional health can prevent heart disease, reduce work and life stress, and accelerate our recovery time.
Repressed emotions can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues like anger, hostility, and antisocial behavior. Suppression of feelings and emotions is linked to lower social support, less closeness to others, and lower social satisfaction.
Ayurveda and the mind-body connection
Ayurveda supports the concept of mind-body connection. In the Ayurvedic tradition, Samana Vayu is the energy and digestive fire that allows us to digest and absorb nutrients from the food. It's also the energy of purification that helps us process our emotions and digest life experiences. It's considered a process of purification.
Every cell, organ, and process in our body is interconnected. When Samana Vayu is not working properly due to stress and other factors, it has a negative effect on our capacity to digest food as well as our capacity to process our feelings and emotions.
Healing emotional wounds
Every person processes emotions in a different way. Some people process their emotions by talking about them with someone, preferrably a professional therapist or qualified coach. Others believe that simply talking about their emotions will not help them heal.
By talking to a professional therapist about our emotions we are allowed to feel them, express them, process them, and get rid of them by identifying our negative self-talk, instead of sweeping them under the rug pretending that they don't exist.
Many people prefer to process their emotions internally. In fact, they feel that talking about their emotions with others makes the situation worst. It adds more fuel to the fire. They believe that constantly talking about past experiences, prevents them from being present. Instead, they practice self-reflection and self-awareness, processing emotions by purifying their mind and staying in the present moment. This is the method that most Yoginis and serious meditators use to process difficult emotions. It requires training, patience, and some professional guidance.
In any event, it is important to live in the present moment and, once we have identified and processed difficult emotions, let them go as part of the past, no longer giving them power in the present moment.
HEALING EMOTIONAL WOUNDS
Group counseling sessions are valuable for people with common struggles who benefit from receiving input from others with similar experiences and from listening rather than talking.
Indian-American physician, author, and proponent of alternative medicine, Deepak Chopra, has suggested seven steps for processing emotions that I found interesting:
1. Witness the emotion and name the feeling.
You may say, "I feel sad," "I am angry," or "I feel anxious."
2. Scan your body where you can locate the emotion.
Close your eyes and look for heaviness or tightness in your gut, chest, or shoulders. This is where you are storing your emotions.
3. Express the emotion.
Place your hand on the area of your body where you feel heaviness or tightness and acknowledge what you are feeling. This is the first step to release the tension in your body. You can also put it on paper and write about the emotion that you are experiencing.
4. Take responsibility for your feeling.
Acknowledging that no one has control over your feelings but you, puts the power back with you. Although your emotional pain is real and very valid, you always have the control over the way you respond. Many times, the way you feel may be a product of your thoughts and the way you are reacting to the situation. It is within your power the way you handle any experience. By not putting blame on others for the way you feel, you are getting ready to release painful emotions.
5. Release the emotion.
After bringing the scene back to your mind, locating the emotion in your body, expressing the emotion, and taking responsibility for it, you are ready to release it. Keeping your eyes closed, take a deep breath and a deep exhale, and intentionally release the emotion. With each exhalation, visualize the emotion leaving your body. Continue doing these breathing exercises until you feel less heaviness or tightness.
You can take one step further and use a ritual to release the emotion—releasing a balloon to the air, burning or shredding the paper where you wrote about the emotions, or meditating about letting go of that emotion.
6. Analyze the experience.
Ask yourself: What have I learned from this experience? How do I feel now after releasing the emotion? Is the heaviness in my mind and body gone?
7. Celebrate the process.
Give yourself a tap on the shoulder. Be humble about the experience, but celebrate yourself for turning a challenge into an opportunity for growth. Say a special prayer, dance to your favorite song, take a road trip, go for a walk in nature. Enjoy the beginning of a new journey!
Lad, V. (1985) Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing.
Hacker, K. (2017). Deepak Chopra's 7 Steps to Processing Emotions.
American Psychological Association.