Your bottled emotions, the ones you try to ignore or stuff down, are the key to your success and ultimate joy.
That thought rocked my world a bit. It may have rocked yours. You may even have had a strong reaction against that statement.
The idea shook me up enough that I started researching the premise. What I learned is that when you don’t experience the entire wave of each emotion’s flow, the bottled-up emotion blocks you from experiencing all that life has to give you. You are missing out on the complete development of who you can be.
Additionally, when you avoid the full experience of each emotion, you are missing out on sharing all of yourself with the people in your life. You are missing being authentic and vulnerable. That vulnerability is part of what makes you credible.
Some emotions I have bottled up relate to being married to an alcoholic sex addict for thirteen years. There was so much emotional baggage brought on by that I had avoided processing the emotions. I’ve numbed that part of my memory — and my feelings. There’s also work to be done around a few other events in my life that are partially processed and can use more work. And as I’ve learned, the weight of that emotional baggage shows up negatively in my presence — on stage, in my coaching, and in relationships. That’s not what I want for myself — or for the people I’m with.
Pushing Feelings Away
I get it because I’ve been there: to avoid feeling those uncomfortable and unpleasant emotions, we distract ourselves (TV, working too much, shopping, drugs, games, etc). That begins the slow (but sure) increase in anxiety, vulnerability, bodily pain, and disempowerment that can go on for years, decades, or even the rest of your life, and that’s a miserable way to live in the long run!
Yet when we confront those uncomfortable emotions, they usually last for much less time than we fear. When we stay present and don’t distract our attention away from them, and actually allow ourselves to feel the full range of the emotional wave, we can complete the path to confidence, emotional strength, and the ability to live a fuller and more meaningful life.
To start feeling those uncomfortable emotions, find ways to let your “scars” have a voice. Let them tell you about their pains. Let those pains become part of you, making for a more complete you. If you truly allow yourself to be open to these emotions — and go through your scars one at a time: don’t try to cover everything all at once — you may be surprised to realize you were giving them too much power all along to control you. They just want to be heard, and then they (and you!) can let go.
If your pain is truly deep, such as PTSD or surviving sexual abuse, you might want to get help from a professional, especially at the start.
Vulnerability: Good or Bad?
Vulnerability is an emotion that you may put into the “uncomfortable and unpleasant” category. You may consider it a sign of weakness. But you probably haven’t considered that there are two kinds of vulnerability. One has to do with protection and survival. That sense of vulnerability keeps us safe “in the wild”, but in the absence of real danger, it becomes a subconscious awareness.
The other is one you can choose to lean into, like when you are serious about taking a risk in your personal, social, or professional life. When you take on this kind of conscious vulnerability, you are opening yourself up to being hurt in some fashion — embarrassment, being teased or ridiculed, and even helpless. Yet, it opens you to great opportunities for success.
My husband’s podcast covered this fairly recently (there’s also a transcript if you prefer reading), if you want to understand this better: The Key to Innovation.
You are at your greatest emotional strength when you choose to be vulnerable. You choose vulnerability when you have confidence in your ability to handle the uncomfortable feelings that can come up for you during the vulnerable event. That vulnerability, as mentioned above, is a significant aspect of your credibility. This kind of vulnerability is definitely good!
Applying That Lesson
And this is where the value of learning to ride your emotions through to the end comes in to help. Learning to allow yourself to feel the full extent of your emotions prepares you for anything and everything life has to throw at you. It makes you emotionally strong. When you avoid those challenging emotions, you lose your edge and your emotional strength and become ill-prepared for the game of life.
Humans are always seeking a freer, fuller, more expanded version of themselves. Life is always seeking its fuller expression through us. Learning how to build emotional strength is as much an emotional practice as a philosophy of living. It’s how life can express itself fully in you.
When you aren’t fully emotionally expressed, you aren’t capable of being fully present. That detracts from your human connections and that sense of authenticity that is valuable in building success in your personal, social, and professional life. That lack of connection leads to a lack of trust, detracting from your interactions and relationships.
This last point is where the concept of how bottled-up emotions have been impacting my full success. When I started in the coaching program to become a storytelling speaker, I didn’t realize I was starting on a path of self-revelation and growth. I’ve made great progress, and am buckling down to process some of the hurts from my life that I know are holding me back.
What do you need to dig up from your emotional graveyard so you can be more fully you, connected, and living your full life?
If you need help with that, consider coaching or, if the situations are severe, therapy.