Processing Emotion

Ever hear the phrase “It’s a process, not an event”, or maybe “It’s a journey, not a destination”?

For many years, I thought life was about “getting there”. It was all a mad scramble for some vague place in the future where I had “made it.” Now I am an age where I vaguely expected to have arrived at the station of Made It – and suddenly I realize I’m not quite there yet or maybe never will be. But much like a journey, the turns I took along the way were many and varied – and of course, that is what brought me to the station of Where I Am Today.

Like a journey, life takes you through different neighborhoods and scenery – but all that you must carry forward with you are memories.

The Journey of Life

We all have baggage we set out with in life and for most of us, the process of the journey adds to that baggage along the way. The twists and turns of life are situations you experienced in the past. They may seem good or bad at the time, but looking back, it’s clear how the situations you faced -and turns you took because of them- led you directly where you are Right Now.

On the face of it, you might say: “Wait! Maybe life IS a destination!” And oh, wouldn’t that be sweet? We could turn our faces right to our target and sprint there without missing the mark. Life doesn’t work like that. It is a longer journey and it’s impossible to see all the pitfalls between us and our journey’s end. The situations of life are not always in our control. Sometimes the path we take seems like the only one way to go.

Often we take bits of our lives with us, consciously or subconsciously. We add these – like souvenirs – to the baggage we set out with in life. But only memories must be carried forward, we can leave our baggage behind! The choice is yours, but it doesn’t happen instantly. No one can do it for you, although caring people can certainly help you.

Dropping Emotional Baggage

Dropping Emotional Baggage from your life is very freeing. In order to leave the baggage behind, we must first pay the price of dropping it, by processing the emotions tied to the baggage. Once the past emotions are processed, you can move forward in life with what you learned from the experience – your ‘memories’ – but without the strain of carrying and tending to the responsibilities of keeping the baggage.

Processing emotions is something that needs to become a habit if you are intent on dropping your emotional baggage. It can be uncomfortable at first, but avoiding discomfort is what has gotten us loaded with baggage in the first place.

Facing the Overwhelm

Trauma survivors hide from their feelings and emotions because of how overwhelming it can be to experience an emotion related to a difficult time in our lives. However uncomfortable it may be at first, it will be well worth the relief and liberation you feel once you have stopped trying to drag a lifetime’s worth of emotions behind you every day.

Processing emotions is not really something mysterious. It is something we all do every day in normal situations. In traumatic situations, everything about this very normal process can become so overwhelming that emotional trauma victims block themselves from processing the emotions at the time of the trauma. Because of the intense discomfort that negative emotions bring, we continue to run from experiencing the emotion attached to the trauma.

The problem with avoiding feeling your emotions (and the processing that comes from that) is that the experience HAS happened. There is no changing that. Emotions do not go away until you feel them through to the end. By stopping that process, you become emotionally “clogged up” and gradually begin to feel more and more disconnected from feeling all of the emotions of life – not just the negative emotion you are avoiding.

Want some ideas on how to get processing?
Check out this post on Tiny Buddha.

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As the daughter of a highly toxic mother, Nova joined the SwanWaters team early on. With her own brand of sarcasm, Nova gladly shares the recovery insights she has gained through her own experiences.

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One comment:

  1. Profile photo of scapechi

    June 22, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    This is an interesting article for me as it confirms what my counsellor has been saying…
    You are allowed to feel the emotions, you just have to know when to put them back in the filing cabinet for review at another time.

    Just by accepting that you have emotions and are actually allowed to feel them is a huge step…


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