When you think about emotions, what comes to mind? What are the breadth of the emotions you experience? If we scratched a bit deeper, how many of those do you allow yourself to express and label? The ways you will answer these questions will depend on many factors and influences depending on your background, experience and upbringing.
One perspective is the way emotions are viewed. There are some more ‘socially and culturally’ accepted emotions such as happy, stoic and strong, for example. But some emotions like sad, anxious, despair, anger and disappointment are given bad press; that these are not allowed to be expressed in public, though they might be felt deep down, or even on the surface. How many times have you heard or have been told to ‘be strong’ when a family member or friend passes away? Or when you receive disappointing news or a rejection from an interview, to ‘not let it affect you, because to do so means you are weak and can’t handle stress?’ It is actually very normal to feel grief, sadness and anguish when we go through difficult times, but often we feel or think that we are not allowed to feel these things, so we bury them. It doesn’t mean they have gone or that you don’t experience them; it’s just that they have been buried, not welcomed or tolerated.
Emotions are intrinsically part of what it is to be human, an indicator of how we are feeling from what we are experiencing. If allowed to be expressed, then they will pass; that is the normal course. However, when we stop them, bury them, or distract them by various means such as watching television, eating, drinking, over working or other means, it will have an effect on us, sooner or later. Like a volcano building up with lava, one day all those buried emotions will erupt, but we are left feeling confused or even ‘crazy’ because we’ve always thought ‘we handled our emotions well’ and don’t understand when deep feelings of sadness or anxiety seem to take on a life of their own.
One of my passions as a Therapist is to help people understand how emotions ‘work’ so that people can gain self awareness for themselves and live much richer and fuller lives. Instead of seeing emotions as the enemy, my approach is to help you to understand and engage with them, to see them as a friend. If you have been burying, hiding, avoiding, ignoring or unaware of your emotions, I completely understand that it can be terrifying to start allowing yourself to talk about anything emotionally related. You may feel that you will ‘lose control’ if you start giving yourself permission to label and even express how you are feeling. Let me assure that that this is completely normal, and it’s also probably the anxiety trying to convince you to believe the catastrophic consequences imagined in your mind, because you have lived so long burying your emotions.
I liken understanding, labelling and expressing your emotions to learning a new language, because in many ways, that is what it is. Expressing your feelings is completely alien to you. So we will take it one step at a time, at your pace, engaging with the here and now. And when you are more comfortable with the basics of this ‘new language’, we can advance more to giving you the space to process the deeper buried things, which you may not have given yourself permission to engage with, but they are very much there, lurking like a bad smell. When you become more proficient in this ‘new language’, you will gain much self awareness and self compassion, but also more awareness and compassion for others. You will understand that when you are experiencing a difficulty in life, the emotions you are feeling are not crazy or mad, or that you are ‘not strong enough’; but you will have learnt to understand, express and regulate your emotions, rather than hiding them or burying them so much that the volcano erupts.
Learning a ‘new language’ does take time, there are no quick fixes but I will journey with you every step of the way. I am greatly passionate about supporting people to gain their emotional understanding and I look forward to helping you do this.