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From Numbing to Processing: My Relationship With Emotion

I sometimes joke with my friends that the money I should have invested in therapy in my early 20s was spent instead on a potent combination of alcohol driven nights in European dance clubs and risky decision making in avalanche prone terrain in the French Alps. It’s been a long and winding journey since then, but I still get sad for that version of myself who so badly needed to live her life in a blur. It’s as though I was intent on looking at my daily life through the fogged up bus windows I often would rest my head against on my way home following another drunken night out.

I knew what road I wanted to take, but it was so much easier to let my Saboteurs drive the car. It was automatic: I feel so uncomfortable here. Takes a sip. I hate these kinds of nights. Takes another sip. Oh no, there’s the friend I really pissed off the other night. Finishes the drink. Why is this so hard? Why am I so pathetic? I hate myself. Buys shots. Blackout. Or: I don’t know if this is the best decision. It’s pretty sketchy but I don’t want to be the one to bring it up. What do I know? Agrees to duck the rope. I better make sure I keep up or I’ll be left behind. Speeds up to be at the front of the group. Haha, I’m faster than all of you… hopefully they’ll see that and let me come with tomorrow. But probably not. No one wants me here. Jumps a cliff to show off. Falls and hurts herself. On a daily basis, I ping-ponged between the excess of adrenaline and the numbing of alcohol all to avoid the reality of the present: that I had to feel things. That self-love was something to be fought for everyday and I had to duke it out with my Saboteurs to get there. And a lot of days I couldn’t. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’re all guilty of numbing in some way. We’re determined to ignore, belittle, or plan our ways out of the present because that’s where emotion lives and most of us can’t deal with how we feel in a self-loving way. Whenever we feel something coming up (even good feelings like joy and gratitude!), we try to hurry out of it or push it aside so we can move onto the next thing.

But don’t forget that emotion is E-MOTION so energy in motion. As such, unprocessed emotion can stay stuck, build up and take on a life of it’s own, metabolizing into stiffness, angst, depression, anger, isolation, disease, and even cancer. We all know the feeling of stifling a scream; the energy that is forced to stay strangled in our throats and emotions have the exact same force, consuming us from the inside. But what if we allowed ourselves to sit in that feeling? What if we allowed emotion to move through us, shedding light on something powerful, offering a glimpse of ourselves that’s real in that moment?

This is something I actively work on as a person and as a coach, I ask my clients to gently delve into processing whatever emotion may be stuck or un-lived or pent up. Together, we dive deeper into that moment through embodiment until a shift occurs, whether it’s a release of tension, a glimmer of new self-awareness, or a new reaction. As you continue through your day, what are the emotions that you’re welcoming within you? What are you repressing? What happens if you allow yourself to feel?

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