I have a bad habit of holding on to painful emotions as a way to punish myself for not doing things the "right" way or well enough, for not knowing better or being naive. Thankfully, I've been doing a lot of work around managing emotions in a healthy way. I'm busting through that old way of being. This is how:
1. Acknowledge and Accept
When I am sense intense emotion, I first acknowledge and accept it. I no longer make myself wrong for feeling anger, frustration, or disappointment. I notice the feeling, then I feel it without judgement or blame to the best of my ability; this is a powerful practice in itself. Remember, it's ok to feel however you feel whenever you feel it.
2. Express Authentically and Appropriately
Sometimes I laugh.
Sometimes I cry.
Sometimes my face turns so red it appears as though my head might pop.
I remind myself I am safe to express in a loving way, and I create space for that. I don't make myself wrong for shedding tears, turning red, or struggling through a nervous laugh. I express myself in whatever way is most authentic, and I decide what's appropriate. Sometimes I'm awesome at this authentic expression thing. Others, not so much...
2. Let Go
Once I've allowed those feelings to come up and out, I am left with two choices: continue feeling the painful emotion, or let it go. Humans tend to become "attached" to their feelings to our own detriment, nonetheless. We continue to think the thoughts that inevitably conjure the negative feelings associated with the overwhelming experience. We tell ourselves stories (colored by limiting subconscious beliefs) about those thoughts by judging, poking and prodding them. These "stories" go something like this, "I don't matter, I don't deserve better, I am not good enough." We react to those stories instead of actual circumstances, which perpetuates the negative emotional response. The better option is to let go.
3. Practice Presence
Once I decide I'm ready to release an emotion, I begin focusing on the present moment. This is a choice! When we keep our minds and energy in the now, we cannot possibly ruminate over the past, nor can we project into the future. Staying present is a VERY effective way to let go of anxiety, as such a practice quickly and clearly demonstrates that 99% of the time, we are safe in the present moment; thus, there is nothing to worry about. Practice presence!!
4. Focus on Solutions
Once I'm effectively refocused in the here and now, I begin reaching for better feeling thoughts. I imagine positive outcomes and solutions, even though it is my natural inclination to crawl around in "Why did this happen to me?" or "Why did so-and-so do this to me?" (AKA assume victim role) I've come to realize that people don't do things to me; they make choices based on their feelings about a desired outcome.
Our choices impact others, and unfortunately, not everyone is sensitive to the truth of this. Sometimes people make choices that don't live up to MY expectations or standards. Sometimes they choose to lie; they betray my trust, and this is disappointing. In the end, those are THEIR choices... I get to choose how to respond. And I'm learning that letting go is often the best choice for me. Once I let go of the hurt, I can begin moving forward.
Remember, holding on holds us in place, practice letting go instead.