I used to repress my feelings. I avoided my feelings like the plague. I hated them because they felt really overwhelming and hard to manage. I’ve stopped doing that.
Not by making myself sit in a bunch of overwhelming feelings. Nope. I did it by getting my mind under control. I allowed myself to feel the feelings without the story of the mind.
What does that mean?
When you get mad at somebody, where does your mind go? It immediately starts making up the story of what happened. It adds all kinds of blame in there, maybe it adds in some victimization for good measure.
Then what happens?
The anger gets stronger!
Why did it get stronger?
Not because of anything that was happening in your experience. It got stronger because your mind made the story worse. Your mind encouraged the feelings and made them stronger. Now suddenly, if you repress emotions like I used to, you block the feelings because they are too strong and you don’t want to deal with them anymore.
The cycle of repression is a strategy the mind uses to protect itself from the feelings it creates through the story it tells. No, your mind isn’t out to get you. This is a built-in strategy we all have probably used at one point or another. You need your mind. You just have to teach it some better strategies. That’s what I’m offering you here – strategies to deal with the mind and your emotions that don’t offer you more pain than your experience is already offering you.
Every feeling you have comes through the mind. The mind is the control center. It is generating emotions. The heart just pumps blood. It doesn’t think or have feelings. I know we like to separate our emotions from our mind, but the reality of how biology works is that the mind is creating the feelings and your heart has nothing to do with the process.
The only variable is whether the mind is creating the feelings through conscious thought or not.
Do you ever have a day where you’re grumpy and you have no idea why? Those are feelings generated by unconscious thought. The brain decided to be grumpy and didn’t tell you about it – that’s the unconscious part. It doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it though. You can do the work to figure out where the grumpies came from and then deal with the story the mind is telling.
The other option is where something happens in your experience that you have some emotional reaction to. Those thoughts become conscious after the fact. In the very second that thing happens, the emotional reaction is unconscious and automatic. You haven’t had a conscious thought yet and you already have the feelings.
Once the experience is over and you inevitably start replaying it in your mind, then the thoughts that created the feelings come to the surface. That’s your chance to get a proverbial grip.
No, you don’t have to deny the feelings. Just leave the feelings there. They are what they are. The feelings that came up unconsciously as part of the original experience are the only emotions you should be feeling. Don’t let the mind create more. You have to stop the mind from creating a problem that isn’t there. Don’t let the mind encourage itself.
There is a third option, which is the fight or flight response. It’s the thing that happens during a crisis. That’s a survival mechanism we need to keep. It is your mind doing what it is designed to do – try to keep your body alive. We don’t mess with this part. It’s just what it is and generally it’s a good thing.
One thing I want you to notice about what happens during a crisis though – the mind shuts down emotion. You don’t feel feelings during a crisis and if you’re injured and still in danger, you don’t feel pain either. That should tell you something about the mind – it knows what it’s doing. Emotions and pain can be debilitating. The mind will intentionally shut them off to allow you the opportunity to save yourself when needed.
Why does that matter?
It shows that the mind will protect itself in one of two ways. It either shuts down emotions so that they aren’t distracting you and you can get out of danger or it amps up the emotions so that you avoid similar experiences in the future. Those are the only 2 strategies the mind has when it comes to emotions – amp them up or shut them off.
Shutting them off to allow you to save yourself is not something we mess with. Shutting them off because we’ve amped the emotions up too far and now we can’t deal with them at all is something we deal with. We just teach the mind to stop encouraging additional emotions. That strategy isn’t helping you.
The short version of the story is that the mind tries to make everything into a crisis to get you to move to a crisis response so you’ll shut off the emotion. It does that to protect you so that you’ll try to avoid ever having that experience again. The strategy may be designed to protect you, but it’s not particularly helpful in day-to-day life.
This is your regularly scheduled reminder that the mind is not out to get you. It is in fact doing its job. It is doing what it knows. We’re simply learning to work with the mind by teaching it some new strategies that don’t cause us to sabotage ourselves so much. That’s all we’re doing.
When I started healing I was afraid of my emotions. I didn’t want to deal with them. I completely understand that fear because I’ve felt it myself. What I did was start healing mentally. I began to understand what the mind was up to, so that as I started understanding my past experience, I didn’t have to be overwhelmed by my emotions. I began to see that the mind was self-creating more emotion through the story it was telling than the experience itself had ever created. That was a game-changer!
The original emotion attached to the experience that I was working through, was relatively minor. It wasn’t a big deal! But my mind had made into this huge thing that I had to avoid. That was a self-protection mechanism. The mind moves to repression as a form of self-protection.
What you notice is that it’s overkill. You don’t need all that when you’re just mad because your partner didn’t do the dishes. But your mind will try to go there to get you to protect yourself from your partner not doing dishes. How do you protect yourself? You engage in that argument. How does that go over? Probably about as well as a lead balloon. Do you see how this plays out?
The mind uses the same strategies all the time, regardless of what the experience is. It doesn’t matter that’s it just dishes, in the mind it’s the same thing as a major life crisis. They both get treated the same way. That’s not helpful.
Our job is to teach the mind some new strategies. The mind in its valiant attempts to keep you safe only has two strategies – amp up the emotion or repress the emotion. The goal of amping up the emotion is to get you to repress the emotion because repression is the natural protection of the mind. The only way it gets you to do that is to make the emotion overwhelming to you. It relies on the fact that you’re not paying attention to what its doing.
What I keep shouting from the rooftops is that we have to pay attention to the mind so that we can teach it some new strategies that don’t make us sabotage ourselves consistently.
The feelings do not have to be overwhelming, but you have to control the mind to stop it from amping up the emotion through the story it tells. When you can learn to do that, you’ll be able to process pretty much every experience a whole lot faster. It’ll mean you won’t need a laundry pile of unprocessed experience. You won’t have that laundry pile anymore because you’ll be able to manage the mind and then actually deal with the emotion that came from the original experience instead of fighting through the emotional overwhelm that is all mentally self-created.
Love to all.
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