What Happens When We Stuff Our Feelings?
Our emotions can be intense, even scary. For highly sensitive people they can seem too much to handle. So, it’s common for HSPs and non-HSPs alike to stuff our feelings so we don’t need to feel them and certainly not let others see them or have to deal with them.
But what happens when we stuff our feelings? Nothing good. Oh, for the moment it can seem good…relief, diffusing a situation, not having to face something. Eventually, though, we can end up with…
~Stress induced illness and disease
~Decreased immune system function
~Inability to feel when we want to
~Out of control feelings/fear of unplanned release (feelings get stronger when repressed)
~Behaviors we regret
~Unhealthy coping strategies (substances, gambling, retreating, binge eating, self-harm)
~Losing touch with our authentic selves
~Not being able to feel positive emotions like joy, excitement, love, gratitude
~Lack of inspiration or motivation, depression
If you’ve shut down your feelings for a long time, it may seem impossible to reconnect with them. What do you feel? When was the last time you cried, or felt really happy? And it can feel scary to consider opening the floodgates on all of those emotions.
What to do with our feelings?
What are some steps we can take to start to honor, feel and express our emotions? How can we avoid the urge to stuff our feelings?
~Focus on calming the nervous system so it can manage the feelings. Meditate, practice mindfulness techniques, do yoga, go for walks in nature, do grounding exercises.
~Breathe in a focused way…slowly and deeply, to shift brainwave patterns, activate your rest and digest system and tell your body that you’re safe.
~Give yourself permission to feel what’s coming up, in a purposeful way. We’re not out of control if we acknowledge what we’re feeling, then give ourselves permission to feel it for a while instead of stuffing.
~Ask, ”Where is this feeling coming from (what am I telling myself about the situation)?” and “What can I do about it?”
~Journal, talk it out with someone who’s supportive, process what’s going on without judgment.
~Let yourself cry…crying is not weakness; it moves a lot of energy and helps you get unstuck. If you don’t feel like crying, watch or listen to something that you think might make you cry and let it out. It doesn’t matter what the trigger is…you’ll likely eventually come around to crying about the actual issue that led to the current feeling, and then you get to release it.
~Move! Body movement can help with release…from gentle things like yoga or a walk for emotions like sadness and hopelessness, to running or punching a pillow or throwing something (safely) for anger or irritation. The movement also might make it easier to cry.
~Try the EFT/Tapping technique on your own or with a guide (more on tapping here).
Whatever your feelings, they’re there for a reason…to let you know something’s off, you need something, an old (mind) story is being replayed. First, be aware, then allow and experience, then decide on a course for release and change.
You’ve got this!