Let me craft a setting for you. It’s the end of a long day, you just arrived home and closed the door behind you. You begin feeling the wave of safety which comes from being home. It was a rough day; things went sideways in more ways than you can count and it took all you had to make it through without breaking down. Now that you’re safely home the emotions you bottled up throughout the day are longing to express themselves. You feel that something wants to come out. But how do you allow it to?
This article will show you how to release negative emotions.
The key word here is “release.” Human beings today, especially men, have been unconsciously conditioned to believe that repressing our emotions is a hallmark of strength. The archaic image of the steadfast warrior who barely flinches in the face of adversity comes to mind. Most of us unconsciously believe that repressing emotions allows us to come off as masters of our domain.
While repressing emotions allows us to handle difficult situations when we encounter them, keeping those emotions repressed comes with a heavy cost. We experience emotions for a reason, bottling them up without feeling and expressing them means that we will be carrying them around inside of us unconsciously. From there, these emotions will direct our choices in subtle ways and cause us to make harmful choices which reflect the nature of the emotions themselves.
How To Make New Choices
In other words, until we clear out our stagnant, repressed emotions, they will keep showing up in our lives; we will repeat behavioral patterns over and over again, until we learn the lesson they’re here to teach. For instance, people who carry repressed anger will unconsciously replicate situations in their lives which activate their anger. That’s why anger management courses exist; to help people release their repressed anger so they can make new choices.
The rule is: if we want to make new choices we need to clear out our old emotions.
This article will provide you with scientifically proven methods to clear out your emotions safely and effectively. I use these methods regularly and have radically upgraded my choices thanks to them. I hope they will benefit you, as well.
The Benefits Of Releasing Negative Emotions
I must make clear that while I’m using the word “negative” to describe emotions, that doesn’t make them bad. We experience our emotions for a reason; they are our guides. They tell us where our work resides.
Like I wrote in the introduction, repressing our emotions leads to them unconsciously directing our choices in ways which compliment them. Repressed emotions can be likened to what Eckhart Tolle calls “the pain body” in his book “The Power Of Now.”
All our choices emanate from our emotions. This is true for both conscious and unconscious choices. Most of our choices our unconscious, meaning that we aren’t aware of making them.
Repressed emotions are like a living being with their own energy and intention. Like any other living being, repressed emotions will seek to stay alive by causing us to make choices which “feed” them. This is why people who experienced trauma as infants keep making choices which recreate their childhood traumas as adults.
When we allow ourselves to feel and express our repressed emotions we clear them out and make way for new emotions to take their place. These new emotions then enable us to make new choices!
Naturally, the expression of repressed emotions can take any form, but it’s always ugly; we hurt ourselves and others.
While these techniques to release emotions are proven to be safe and gentle, humans come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. This means someone could experience powerful catharses when engaging in these exercises. They might discover things about themselves they never knew about and that could precipitate powerful encounters with shadows of the past. If this happens, please seek professional counseling.
Nothing in this blog should be taken as medical advice.
Release 1: Journaling
Journaling is the practice of expressive writing. When we journal, we express our life experience in written language. A journal is a safe space, a place where we can put our experience into words without worry of being judged. It’s a sacred space which opens the door to our fullest self-expression.
Journaling as a way of releasing stagnant, negative emotions has been rising in popularity over the last decade as an effective, safe and accessible form of self-therapy. While the practice dates back centuries, it is only recently that modern science has taken to studying the effects of journaling on human beings’ mental and physical health.
I believe the discoveries made are astounding.
- A study performed at UCLA concluded that journaling improved cognitive function and reduced anxiety. Participants were shown images of angry faces before and after journaling. The activity in their amygdalas (the brain’s fear center) was tracked throughout the process. Interestingly, the amygdala’s showed decreased activity when the participants viewed the angry faces after journaling. This suggests journaling allows us to better regulate our emotions.
- Another study performed at Michigan State University on chronic worriers showed that journaling before performing a “flanker task” reduced the cognitive load experienced by the participants. By having the participants write about their “deepest thoughts and feelings” before the task they were able to perform it while using “fewer brain resources.” This suggests journaling can be used to reduce worry and anxiety.
- Finally, a study done at the University of Texas at Austin determined that journaling reduced symptoms of depression immediately after the intervention. Patients who engaged in journaling presented lowered symptoms of depression when compared to a control group which didn’t journal. Furthermore, this effect persisted during follow-up.
For an excellent and compassionate guide on how to journal please read this excellent article by Dr. William G. DeFoore.
Release 2: Dance
The mind, body and spirit are interconnected. Science is demonstrating that our posture and movement directly influences our internal state. If you’re interested, please watch this amazing TED talk by Amy Cuddy to learn about how our body language shapes how we perceive ourselves for better or worse.
Humans were moving long before we had spoken language. Movement is our first language. Human beings communicate more by moving our bodies than we do through oral or written language. For example, the facial expressions of sadness, anger, happiness, surprise and disgust are constants across continents and cultures.
The same applies for body posture. We know when someone is feeling sad just by looking at them, without the need of conscious thought. Their body language communicates their internal state, without the involvement our linguistic centers. Compared with movement, language is a recent arrival in the brain, but movement and posture have been with us since the beginning of life. They are our primal language.
Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that dance therapy is a modality of healing which is gaining widespread clinical approval to promote mental, emotional and physical well-being. Dancing frees our emotions so we can embody who we truly are.
Dance therapy emerged in the 1940s when experienced dancers realized that dance and movement could be used as a form of psychotherapy. When the body changes the mind changes and vice versa. Through guided movement we can communicate things which we can’t through words. And by communicating them we can release them (like when we feel better after talking with a friend).
While working with a qualified dance therapist can promote great emotional release, it is not absolutely required. We can dance on our own to music which draws out the emotions we want to express.
Release 3: Meditate
Regular readers of my blog will be unsurprised by the inclusion of meditation in this list. For an overview of what meditation is and how to do it read this article.
Meditation can be called the non-judgmental observation of our inner experience. When we meditate, aspects of our emotional past can emerge from their slumber. By being present and non-judgmentally observing ourselves when this happens we become capable of releasing these emotions and allow them to finally pass by.
Research is showing that meditation has positive effects on our emotional health:
- This study concluded that participants who engaged in meditation showed decreased activity in their amygdalas when presented with sad images when compared to participants who didn’t meditate.
- This study showed that meditation can improve emotional regulation which can help for addiction prevention and treatment. Smokers and non-smokers were trained in meditation and both groups showed increased emotional regulation and impulse control after training.
For once, I am going to write that while meditation is an effective way of clearing out emotions, I believe writing and dancing are more accessible forms of self-therapy at least for people who are beginning meditators. This means that if you are new to meditation and want to release stagnant emotions, journaling or dancing are a “better” bet to start with.
This is because it takes time to develop the meditative skill to allow emotions to emerge so we can observe them. Rather, meditation allows us to develop the Presence we need so we can be aware of when we are experiencing/repressing emotions so we can choose a better way of expressing them.
How These Techniques Affected My Life
All the techniques I’ve written about in this article are skills. This means it takes consistent practice to develop them to the point where we can use them reliably to clear out our emotions. Results vary. For example, some people might find that they are better able to express their emotions through writing than through dancing.
And the better we get at observing and writing about what we’re feeling, the more effective our journaling becomes. The same goes with dancing, the more refined our inner awareness is the more honestly we can express ourselves.
What follows is how and when these techniques have helped me in my life.
Writing Helped Heal My Heartbreak
When I was heartbroken in 2017, I relied on writing to express the deep hurts I was feeling at the time. By putting my experience down in writing I felt the emotions; I honored them and gave them the space they needed to teach me what they were there to teach me.
Read this article for more on that.
Dancing Helped Heal My Guilt
Then, in 2019 I attended a dance therapy workshop at a music festival. The leader of the workshop created a judgment-free atmosphere and then guided the participants with music and narration. Her name was Carolyn Carey. She encouraged us to fearlessly express our feelings as we danced around the room in whatever way we felt comfortable. People were jumping, rolling and shaking their bodies.
At the end of the hour-long session, the leader played touching music and instructed us to forgive ourselves and let go of any guilt we were experiencing. I cried as I forgave myself and released a knot of guilt I didn’t even know I had.
This experience was made even more powerful by the fact that I had danced in a group setting and had unabashedly expressed my feelings as I danced. I danced however I wanted, jumping and shaking whenever I felt like it!
By dancing I had reached into my depths and allowed the feeling of guilt to express itself. I was left with a sparkling feeling of gratitude for what I had lived.
Meditation Helped Release More Guilt
Meditation has also allowed me to release feelings of guilt.
I was volunteering at a ten-day meditation retreat a few years ago. During one of the meditation sessions I experienced a profound feeling of gratitude bubble up from my depths.
For most of my adult life I had held on to the belief that I was a lazy good-for-nothing. I had developed this belief because I had never found a work activity which resonated with me. I had recently quit a PhD program in chemistry and was feeling like there was nothing I could do well with my life.
But while I volunteered at the meditation retreat a side of me emerged which I hadn’t seen before; I was focused and committed to doing the best I could while volunteering for ten days. I did my work well and happily. I learned that I wasn’t a lazy good-for-nothing! And my work at the meditation retreat showed that!
During my meditation I realized that I was capable of doing good work as long as I believed in the cause I was working for. I felt the guilt I held loosen and a flood of gratitude burst forth. Tears fell from my eyes as I realized that I did have something to contribute to the world.
This is the first and only time this has happened to me. I meditate to develop my Presence, not to release emotions.
How You Can Integrate These Practices Into Your Life
The emotional release brought on by these practices can never be predicted. Some days it happens, other days it doesn’t. The key is to be consistent. That way you can begin to identify when doing one of the activities will be the most effective. The better we know ourselves the better choices we can make.
For example, I’ve noticed that some days I feel more doubtful about my choices than others. When this feeling of doubt creeps into my consciousness I can choose to either allow it to stew, repress it so it comes out in hurtful ways, or express it in writing.
Naturally, the best option is taking the time to write out these feelings; what I believe their causes are and to forgive myself for feeling them. For example, sometimes I experience envy over what other people have and I don’t. When that happens, writing about my emotions allows me to let them go, rather than allowing them to fester within me.
It takes Presence to be able to identify what I’m feeling so that I can make the choice to write about it (this is where meditation is helpful).
If we aren’t aware of what we’re feeling, how can we make the choice to write about it? This is why being Present to our experience allows us to make better choices!
On the days I am able to identify there’s something I need to write about, I can effectively clear out my emotions by doing so. This allows me to relax and allow the flow of life to continue without the compulsive ruminating and overthinking so many of us ceaselessly engage in.
Conclusion: Clearing Out Our Emotions Leads Us To Success!
We are where we are because of choices. And all of our choices emanate from our emotions. When we take the time to clear out the old, stagnant, hurtful emotions such as anger, disappointment, resentment, and all the rest, we actually make way for new emotions which allow us to make new choices.
And making new choices means living new experiences. If we want to experience something we haven’t experienced in the past, we need to make new choices. Isn’t that logical?
Clearing out our stagnant emotions is the best way to guarantee that we begin to make choices which lead us in the direction of health, wealth and happiness.
So if there’s something that has been weighing on you, why not write about it in a journal?
Or if you feel sad/angry, why not play music which complements your emotional state and engage your body to dance it out?
Or why not begin a meditation practice so you can cultivate the Presence required to identify when you’re feeling certain emotions so you can choose to express them?
We all have tremendous options accessible to us. This website is about showing readers the options they have so they can choose to make better choices for themselves. Change is in our hands. We have the power within ourselves to improve our lives!
So will you take the time to work through your emotions?
To our wealth and success.