Somebody once told me, “a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” I’ve never forgotten this and I’m reminded of it often.
One of the most loving ways to realign with yourself is to surround yourself with kindred spirits who are able to remind you of who you are. Staying close to the people who value the real, authentic you, who really get you, love, value and appreciate you, and who understand your desire to live authentically, is nourishing for the soul and helps us to grow into ourselves.
Living authentically requires us to be brave enough to be vulnerable. To let ourselves be fully seen by the world for who we truly are and exposing our true thoughts and feelings. This is not always easy – it’s a practice that’s cultivated with a degree of effort and consistency, just like anything else.
For me, as someone who has overcome the daily, debilitating pain of rheumatoid arthritis, this has meant opening up and sharing my emotional scars with others, free of fear, judgment, or shame. Although I was once afraid to expose my story, I knew in the depth of my being that the scars were living proof of how far I’d come.
What happens when we stop striving for perfection and let our emotions show? In the combined words of Leonard Cohen and Ernest Hemingway, “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” None of us escapes pain in life that cause emotional fractures. We all experience set backs and losses that can make us question ourselves and our judgment.
The trouble is that very often we don’t let the light in. We cover and patch up the places that are fractured and try to move on as though they don’t exist. And by doing that, we prevent the light of life from reaching our hearts and minds. We prevent ourselves from becoming stronger at the broken places, which weakens us and sets us up for choices that further injure us, whether physically or emotionally.
“Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything). That’s how the light gets in. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
We are emotional creatures, and we were born to express emotions freely and openly. Somewhere along the way, however, many of us learned to repress emotions in order to “fit in.” I learned to bury these emotions deep inside, feeling ashamed and unable to ask for what I needed. I built walls, put on masks, and carried on. For better or worse.
It is known that unresolved emotions get trapped in the body where they build and fester, draining our energy, leading to burnout, emotional imbalance, and eventually disease. When we chronically repress our emotions, we create toxicity in our body, mind, and heart. This unprocessed emotional energy is stored in our organs, muscles, and tissues. It leads to inflammation and chronic health problems, and it undermines our overall wellbeing.
The opposite of repression is expression. In order to process our emotional dis-ease and move it through and out of our body (so it doesn’t get stuck there), we need to learn to express our emotions in a healthy way, in the body and mind. Knowing how to release emotional energy is key to letting go, moving on, becoming free, lighter, and healed. This will gift you in return by supporting you in maintaining a healthy physical body.
Here are 3 steps that have helped me learn how to let go and process emotional energy:
Step 1: Recognition (self-awareness)
The challenge is to recognise the emotion and feel it in your body. This is where mindfulness comes in. The goal is to notice what is happening within your body, moment by moment. To feel it fully and to accept it, without judgement.
Acceptance is liberating, and mindfulness teaches us to accept our moment-to-moment experience instead of running from it. It teaches us to face difficulty head on, with self-compassion and loving-kindness, with the understanding that “this too shall pass.” We have to feel it to heal it – we have to fully experience the emotion in order to process and integrate it into our experience.
Practicing mindfulness helps us to get better at recognising our feelings and observing the bodily sensations connected to those feelings, as they come and go throughout the day. We need to offer ourselves self-compassion as we go through more difficult emotions.
Take your seat and be still for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Listen to your body and become curious.
What does your body feel like right now? Is there any pressure or tingling? Where? Do you feel heavy, hot, warm, or cold? What is the texture, weight, and shape of the sensations you notice in your body? What emotions are these connected to? Can you breathe into the parts that call your attention? What do those parts want to tell you?
Step 2: Respond (self-expression)
Emotions need to be expressed to be processed. The goal is to move the energy of emotion through and out of the body so you can let it go. Remember, true healing occurs when body and mind integrate, so express the emotions felt in the body, the ‘felt sense’ first and foremost.
Still sitting, ask yourself: what does this emotion you just connected with need from you? What feels right in this moment? What do you need?
Maybe you feel the need to cry, go for a walk, do some tapping, yoga, or simply breathe deeply – whatever feels cathartic in the moment – do it.
Follow this step with one of the best forms of emotional healing – journalling. Writing can be a very therapeutic experience of self-discovery, reconnecting with our true self, and processing our deepest feelings and emotions. When we write, we give our internal world a voice. We process and make sense of what is happening within us and around us. And we gain perspective. By writing about our fears and hurts we can view them from a distance, detach ourselves from them, and eventually let them go. That is when true healing happens.
Practice journalling every day to get better at expressing and processing your feelings. It’s a practice. Don’t censor or judge yourself; let it all out, completely unfiltered. Over time, your journal will become a safe space for you to free yourself, get unstuck, and move forward. We don’t always have the time and space to process emotions in the moment, so give yourself the space to feel the emotions you’ve had throughout the day and journal about it at the end of each day.
What is happening in your life right now that you wish you could change? What is the biggest source of frustration? As you write, don’t forget to notice the sensations in your body. What are they trying to tell you? Listen. Observe. What needs healing, attention, or change?
Step 3: Reset (self-care)
If we’ve habitually neglected our bodies and ignored our emotions, we need to re-dedicate ourselves to body-mind self-care, and indulge in healing habits that will bring in the feeling of wellbeing.
The goal is to realign back with your authentic self, reset back to a relaxed and open state, and come back into wellness and balance.
Take time to slow down and be alone, get out into nature, make art, listen to music while you cook your favourite dinner, meditate to cleanse your mind and relax your body, take a warm bath or a nap to restore. Take good care of yourself to awaken to life’s joy and simple pleasures that will nourish your body, mind, and soul.
For all of us, no matter what our life circumstance, there are always places where we hide who we are, what we need, what we don’t want from others in order to feel we belong.
The truth is that trapped emotions get in our way. They sabotage our efforts to create the life we want, making us miserable, even sick, along the way. Freeing this emotional energy stuck in our bodies can shift our lives in a positive way. It’s healing and liberating.
Think about the places in your life where, if you allowed your own beautiful light to shine through the cracks, people would see something wonderful. Remember, also, that it is through those same cracks that loves get in. Give yourself all the care and compassion you would give to a friend doing this hard work and sing the song back to her when she forgets the words.
“May we be alchemists; may we transform any pain, damage, or wound, into glorious light, lessons, strength, and even higher purpose” – Lalah Delia