We hear a lot about mental health these days, but little about emotional health. Are you a woman who struggles to acknowledge their negative emotions? Instead, you suppress them and soldier on. You may not recognise you’re doing this or what the consequences are. My everyday business is helping professional and academic women to reduce and release their work stress and life stress. Processing negative emotions is a big part of this!
You’re probably a busy woman, so you’re thinking: “Well of course I push them down. I don’t have time to worry about my emotions. I just need to cope right now. Have you seen my To-Do List!?”. Responding this way may be a necessary coping mechanism in the moment. However it can become the way you are all the time. And you’re unwittingly building a significant backlog of unresolved emotions. This backlog then increasingly shapes your everyday behaviours in an unhelpful way. Is it time to be more truthful and kind to yourself?
Negative Emotions – Are You Paying Attention?
It’s not uncommon to have little compassion for your own emotions and want to ignore them. They can they feel embarrassing, too complex to deal with, or too overwhelming to experience. To the outside world you may seem like the person who’s always calm in a crisis, the one who always holds it together. But you know that inside you, your emotions are simmering away or festering as a churning stomach, tense neck, tight chest, or other manifestations. And as these build perhaps you can’t settle to sleep so you’re experiencing frequent insomnia or starting to notice other unsettled responses such as IBS.
Some women even knowingly or unknowingly turn themselves into, or become known as, a “toughie” who rarely or never gets outwardly upset. Shutting down emotion is a way to stop feeling overwhelmed or weak, especially in front of people who might notice or comment.
Sooner or later women who’ve learned to be like this often blow up, burn out, or turn negative emotions increasingly inwards. Unless you can feel into your emotions with a technique like EFT Tapping and process them, they don’t just disappear. They sit in your body still waiting to be resolved. That can contribute to minor aches and mysterious ailments in the short-term, or serious illness in the longer-term.
But How Do You Really Feel?
Most of my clients are professional and academic women who are burnt out or who want help to get unstuck and make a major life change. They often find it mind-opening when we spend time to acknowledge how they feel about what’s happening in their life. In fact, very standard phrases that we use in EFT Tapping include “I accept these feelings”, or “I’m trying to accept how I feel, even though I don’t like it right now!”.
Acknowledging and processing how you feel about your actual feelings is another piece of work that is freeing for both mind and body. I have clients who have come to EFT because nothing else has worked for them. (We’re very used to that, it’s something EFT is well known for!). So they can be particularly surprised when I ask how they feel about something. They will say “No-one else has ever asked me that before or helped me process my feelings in my body and my mind together”.
It can be really liberating to even have that realisation that you have been hiding or not accepting the “feeling part” of yourself. In fact, in sessions it’s not uncommon for the client to try and rationalise away the problem she actually wants to clear. She might say something like “It’s not really that bad, I should get over it. I shouldn’t worry so much!”, and I say “But that’s your intellect and ego talking. How do you really feel about it deeper down?”.
Why Am I Like This?
You might wonder, where does shutting off my emotions come from? Childhood and/or earlier life experiences are often the cause, or one or more traumatic experiences. For example, you may have grown up around adults who themselves didn’t know how to process their emotions appropriately. So it’s no wonder they couldn’t teach you or model it.
Strong emotions may feel dangerous to you if you grew up in a family where you experienced emotional or physical neglect or abuse. But even without this, one or both of your parents or your main caregiver may have been emotionally unavailable to you because of their own earlier life experiences, or current busyness – perhaps dealing with others in the family. Maybe they were under stress and had no time or patience for you. If you showed negativity or strong emotions you didn’t get comfort or understanding but instead got told off, shouted at, smacked, ignored, or received an uncomfortable glare.
A US study found that parents who suppress their feelings can pass on that response to their children, and parents who suppress emotion are less warm and engaged with their children. (If this is you, know that it is definitely possible to change, because EFT Tapping rewires your nervous system and emotional responses for the better).
Childhood Strategies That No Longer Work
As a child, your intelligent strategy was to control your strong or negative feelings, fight the feelings, or keep them inside. You might even have hated yourself (or still hate yourself) for not being able to control how you feel about something or someone. Or you might have really disliked not being able to stop yourself feeling a certain way, for example feeling anxious or angry. (You might like to read my earlier post about women and girls showing anger). Suppressing your emotions from then on was a good coping strategy for a child; but maybe it’s not working so well any more now you’re an adult.
The Role of Past Trauma
Alternatively, many women have experienced some kind of trauma, perhaps even multiple traumas at different times. Trauma can set up a pattern where you automatically respond to certain situations with a stress response of fighting, fleeing, flopping, or freezing – where your emotions go completely numb and you don’t feel anything. Later on, an obviously similar situation, or a situation that feels similar to your subconscious and body sets off that stress response again (even if your intellect doesn’t recognise it) and you cannot connect to how you feel about it.
Luckily, with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT Tapping) we have ways to gently process the unresolved negative emotions in these traumas so that they don’t ever affect you again – like an Emotional Debrief. (EFT is now being successfully used to treat PTSD and other less extreme trauma memories; the US Veterans’ Stress Project is a good example of this).
Emotions As Your Barometer
So, negative emotions are a barometer, your internal smoke alarm of when something doesn’t feel right or safe. A “get over it” and “toughen up Princess” attitude may be useful at certain times when things need to get done, but avoiding how you feel about the situation isn’t good for you in the longer term. It can lead to heavy emotions that drain your energy and spirit such as regret, resentment, guilt, hatred, unforgiveness. Oh is that where my energy has been going!
In an EFT Tapping session, some women feel scared at the thought of going to a particular feeling, for fear of what they might unleash. They might feel angry or scared about feeling angry or scared, or anxious about feeling anxious. And that’s OK. We have tapping techniques that will gently and slowly help you release and adjust that so your thinking mind and emotional mind can work better together in future. And your body can also release the pent up tension! You are then in a better space to start learning to be kinder to yourself, and more truthful with yourself about how you really feel. This can also increase your desire to do more self-care.
Acknowledging How You Feel
In a private session, workshop or retreat, I guide women to say “This is how I feel right now”, “I’m acknowledging how I feel”, “I’m giving voice to my feelings on this”. Some of them find it really alien to do this, but they usually comment that it feels so good to make some space and do this in a way that notices and acknowledges! Not fighting the feeling any more, just feeling it, sitting with it, and recognising that it’s there. And if you don’t even know how you feel, or you feel out of touch with your emotions or your body, that’s also OK. EFT has processes to gently help you soften that too.
Here’s how Claire felt after her sessions with me:
Thank you so much for your amazing work/therapy, it really has been brilliant and what a change from 6 months ago…. Being able to tune into my body, listen and respond accordingly just wouldn’t have been possible before our sessions. I’d also forgotten that I get to choose what I want in life and that I can direct that to a large degree. So a massive THANK YOU!.
EFT tapping’s full name isn’t Emotional Freedom Techniques for nothing! Like Claire, you’ll realise this when you experience the feeling of it giving you that emotional freedom to release the negative emotions holding you back so you can get clearer on how you want to live your life from now on! You’ll start to become less and less a slave to your emotions. How good is that?!
If you know how to tap for self-care, you could reduce the intensity of how strongly you feel about your feelings and open space to feel slightly more compassion for yourself. Ask yourself “How do I really feel about my negative emotions?”. Am I annoyed, frustrated, angry, irritated, sad, disappointed, that I have these feelings….? You might even develop an emotional hygiene routine before bed, say 10-15 minutes where you declutter the day so that negative emotions don’t build up so much.
If you don’t know how to tap, or you’d like guidance to get unstuck, recover from burnout, start being kinder to yourself, or really start changing your life like Claire did, get on a Clarity Call with me or book a private session and let’s discuss how I can help. I look forward to talking with you soon!
Dr Lareen Newman PhD helps busy and high-achieving Professional and Academic Women who are struggling with work-stress, life-stress or burnout to find more clarity and open up to emotional freedom. This enables them to start feeling more joy, peace and love! Lareen can work with you online in private sessions wherever you are in the world via Zoom, or locally at her cosy and calming private studio in Adelaide, Australia. Lareen left the high-pressure university world to live her passion of seeing more women every week transformed through reducing and clearing their negative emotions and subconscious blocks to feeling calmer and happier in work and life!