by Joanna Lambert
The only negative emotion is the one that goes unexpressed; but given my line of work, you might say I’m biased. As a counselor, I’m no stranger to emotions—toxic or otherwise. Five years ago, a crushing diagnosis thrust me into my own repository of repressed emotion. I was not giving voice to my deepest pain, so my body started to do it for me.
Emotions are meant to flow, not stagnate. They are designed to be temporary, lived experiences, fully felt in the present moment in order to inform our next move. In addition, emotions are meant to be witnessed. We humans are social creatures. Our deepest wounds happen in relationships, and it is also through relationships that we meet with our most profound healing.
In our modern society, we have lost our capacity for allowing the healthy flow of emotion, as well as the safe container meant to hold our pain with us: community. The proverbial village, not just the stuff of legend, was once a living, breathing network for facilitating the flow and release of emotional pain for each of its members. What was hardship for one was once hardship for all. But in today’s highlight-reel culture, the range of acceptable human emotion has become very limited. Anything other than blinding happiness is now forced into hiding. We have all become living storerooms of unprocessed emotion. Without the proper channels for release, feelings go underground, siphoning precious life-force energy, creating toxicity.
As Freud once cautioned, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” Avoiding pain of every kind is a natural tendency linked to survival. But chronic avoidance of emotional discomfort can become pathological. In his book The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael Singer speaks of our tendency to close around pain, to resist and deny it, the very act of which locks it inside. He states, “If you want to be free, simply view inner pain as a temporary shift in your energy flow.”
Freedom from the tyranny of toxic emotions entails surrendering to what is, as is. Instead of refusing to close around difficult feelings, judging them or wishing them away, choose to open to your emotional truth, breathing into it and letting it wash over you like crashing tides. Perhaps inviting another to the shoreline to help bolster you in the torrent, either a trusted friend or a trained professional. Simply giving voice to our pain has the power to calm even the most destructive tempest. The waves may keep coming. You may feel they will knock you over, but in time the tide always recedes.
Joanna Lambert is a licensed professional counselor and certified Radical Living Coach. She employs a mind-body approach in her counseling practice, based out of Energetic Wellness, located at 2851 W. Edmond Rd., in Edmond. For more information, call 405-359-1245.