The Effect of Repressed Emotions on Your Body

Updated: Feb 11



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?


Have you ever had a headache after a difficult confrontation with someone or something? If yes, you were probably dealing with difficult 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 our selves: what lesson 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 and can prevent medical illness like heart disease, reduce work and life stress, and speed our recovery time.


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.


Scientific studies on repressed emotions.


Repressed emotions can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues like anger, hostility, and antisocial behavior.


Clinical psychologists at the University of California in Los Angeles, have conducted studies supporting the connection between the body and emotions, such as anxiety and depression.


Other studies suggest that suppression of emotions is linked to lower social support, less closeness to others, and lower social satisfaction.


How to process our emotions?


Every person processes emotions in a different way. Nevertheless, there are several methods that experts use to help people process their emotions. For purposes of brevity and practicality, I will not list all of the available techniques here.


Some people process emotions by talking about them with someone else (talking to a professional therapist is best), while others prefer a process of self-study and introspection. Others believe that simply talking about our emotions will not help us heal; instead, they believe that the most important aspect is to get rid of what is causing the negative emotion- often caused by our negative self-talk.


However, it is by talking about our emotions that 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 are not there.


Although group counseling is not for everyone, group sessions have been proven to be valuable for people with common struggles who benefit from receiving input from others with similar experiences and from listening rather than dong must of the talking.


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.

Remember that no one can make you feel the way you are feeling. The way you feel is more 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 taking the second step towards releasing a negative emotion.


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 the heaviness or tightness subsides.


You can take one step further and use a ritual to release the emotion, for example, releasing a balloon to the air, burning 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?


7. Celebrate the process.

Be humble about the experience while at the same time celebrating yourself for turning a challenge into an opportunity for growth. Dance to your favorite music, take a road trip, go for a walk in nature. Enjoy the beginning of a new you.


Sources:

- Lad, V. (1985) Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing.

- Hacker, K. (2017). Deepak Chopra's 7 Steps to Processing Emotions.

- American Psychological Association.


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