"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." -Buddha
Last week, I talked a little bit about stopping the negativity bashing and shaming.
(Missed it? Click here)
When we allow ourselves to process our emotions, they often pass much faster.
We are able to sift through what we need to notice and possibly change, setting us up to take action and create a shift. This takes us out of victimhood and leads us to feeling happier.
Plastering fake positivity and happiness on top of our darker emotions is akin to building a beautiful house on top of quicksand. I say, let’s get some dynamite and blast those emotions out, so we have a deep and solid foundation for positivity and happiness.
Processing the full range of our emotions from light to dark is a form of self-love and self-compassion; it’s accepting all of ourselves, instead of placing unrealistic, Stepford-like, perfectionistic parameters around ourselves.
After last week’s blog, I had quite a few responses asking about the "how to" of processing our emotions, so let’s cut the chit-chat and get to it, shall we?
5 Ways to Process Your Emotions
1. Write that sh*t out. By hand.
Grab some paper and a pen, and write it all out. Stream of consciousness style. Without judging or editing, dump it all out on the page.
This isn’t about being a great writer, so throw concern for structure, grammar, spelling, and even complete sentences out the window. Let the words spill.
When you’re finished, don’t review it. Put it away, or for extra catharsis, rip it up, crumple it up, stomp on it, or burn it (safely, please).
2. Write a letter.
This is a twist on number one and specifically helpful when the emotions you need to process involve another person.
Write a letter to the other person involved.
This is a letter they will never see, so follow the guidelines from number one. Let it all out on the page and don’t hold back.
You can take it one step further and write yourself a response as if you are the other person. In the response, you can write all the things you need to hear.
Often times we can’t get true closure and hold onto old wounds and emotions. Writing a letter and response allows you to process and take care of yourself by providing the closure you need to hear.
Feel free to rip or burn these letters when you’re finished as a symbol of letting it go.
3. Noting. (This idea comes from Eric Barker’s last article.)
Ever get sad or angry and experience your brain spiraling out of control, taking the emotion and exacerbating it?
This isn’t processing, it’s obsessing, and it doesn’t allow the emotion to flow through and out of us.
Noting comes from the world of meditation and mindfulness.
When you begin to feel a dark emotion, try labeling it... “Anger”, “Sadness”, “Guilt”...
This allows us to accept our emotion. It also lights up a different portion of the brain, which lessens the intensity of the emotion.
Noting isn't ignoring your emotion. It’s bringing a mindfulness or awareness to how you feel, and in doing so, some of the emotion is released.
4. Talk it out.
Find someone you trust and talk it out. Ask them to simply listen and refrain from giving advice.
Try verbalizing the emotion you feel: "I feel angry"; "I feel sad"; "I feel hurt".
There is power in owning our emotion instead of shrinking away from it, burying it, blaming, or excusing it away.
By declaring how you feel, you're taking responsibility for the emotion. This takes you out of victimhood and allows you to accept and process through the emotion.
5. Dance it out.
Put some music on and have a dancing temper tantrum.
Pick a good, moody song. Blast it, and really get your body and emotions into it. Pump your arms and legs (bonus workout?), and flail about. Get some bonus points in and say what you’re angry, sad, or hurt about out loud.
I love Regena Thomashaur’s take on this approach. She takes it one step further and suggests getting a garbage bag (a clean one), cutting out arm holes and a hole for your head and wearing it while stomping it out. Ya know, because we feel like garbage and might as well own it.
Some of these might sound a little out there, but they give you permission to feel. They take away the shame and bring an element of lightness to the dark.
When we process our emotions in this way it allows us to take ownership of how we feel. It takes us off of the emotional merry-go-round, where we keep revisiting the same emotions over and over again in a perpetual loop. By embracing and processing the dark, we can allow the light to shine through.