How to Fully Process a Feeling

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Do you know how to fully process your emotions?

I sure didn’t, for most of my life.  I grew up in a family where emotions were never talked about. (I now know it’s called Childhood Emotional Neglect.) Sometimes people were angry or sad (hardly anything else), but I never saw anyone work through any of it, not even when something really tragic happened. I got the sense that feelings were a great inconvenience to other people. So I just stuffed them.

Making things worse, for me, was that I was born with the trait of High Sensitivity Processing, shared by 15-20% of the population. One of the four main aspects of the trait is “emotional responsiveness.” As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I was literally wired to be emotional. Yet it was a language that wasn’t spoken. No wonder I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere!

It wasn’t until I met April, in my twenties, that I got a clue that emotions might actually be useful. April was the first truly emotionally healthy person I had ever met up to that point. 

I got to know April really well from being in a small group at my church with her and her husband Bob, among others, for many years. She would regularly ask, “How do you feel about that?” or “How are you really?” And you knew she really cared, so you opened up to her. No surprise that she went on to become a licensed social worker, and a very successful therapist.

I recently saw April, and she spoke openly about what it’s been like to grieve the loss of her wonderful husband, Bob, with whom she had been in love since they were both 13. Bob was very special to my husband and me, as well.

Talking to April again, seeing how thoroughly she was processing her grief, reminded me how important it is to know how to feel and work through emotions so that they are fully processed. I hope what follows will help you in your own healing work.

Something key to keep in mind is that feelings are actually experienced physically. Emotions reside in our bodies. E-motion is energy-in-motion, so if we do not process them and release them, that energy gets trapped in our bodies. If we accumulate enough of these trapped emotions, we can get physically sick. That is why the ACE (Adverse Childhood Events) study showed that the more ACEs a person experienced, the more likely they are to suffer from a major disease or illness later in life.

To develop resilience, that wonderful ability that I saw in April to quickly return to joy and peace no matter what life throws at us, we need to learn how to process emotions.

(This is doubly true for Highly Sensitive People, because HSPs not only take more in than less sensitive people, but they also take things in at a deeper level. So everything also needs to be processed thoroughly, on a deep level. Many HSPs are also empaths who take on other people’s energy into their bodies–again, it’s crucial to be able to discharge negative emotional energy.)

Following are some simple steps to help you fully process your emotions.

If you do Healing Codes, try Steps 1-5 as suggested below first. Rate your feeling before and after these steps. Then, you can do your Healing Code either as Step 6, or after that step, working on the “story” that accompanied the feeling and replacing it with truth.

Step 1. An unpleasant feeling arises. Needed action: Allow yourself to become aware of it. Some of us have learned how to shut it off almost before we feel it. If you grew up with messages of, “Crying is for sissies,” or, “just get over it,” or “you’re being too sensitive,” you may have learned to shut down “negative feelings” that were deemed unacceptable in your family.

Step 2. What often happens next, if you let yourself become aware of the feeling, is that your mind launches into whatever inner program or “story” is attached to that feeling. Examples: “I’m not good enough, I can’t do it, I don’t deserve it, I’m a failure, I can’t handle it,” etc. etc.

Needed action: STOP! You are in your “emotional brain” where you are thinking your feelings. What you need to do is feel your feelings.

How?

Step 3. Redirect your mind away from these thoughts into the sensations in your body. Mentally name them, or tell someone what you’re feeling. (“My throat has a lump in it. My chest is tight. There is a heaviness in my belly. My shoulders feel tense.” Etc.) Putting words to feelings gets you out of the “emotional brain” and into your “cognitive brain,” where you can continue to work through the feelings rather than stay stuck in them.

Step 4: Breathe into the feeling/sensation and allow it. Let your body do what it wants to do (cry, shake, moan, etc. Best not to do this in public!).

Step 5: When your mind tries to go back into thought-story-program mode–which is very likely to happen–redirect your awareness back into your body.

Step 6. Keep taking deep breaths, keep feeling into your body. Allow the feeling to exist and trust that it will leave. Observe what happens, without any judgment or thought. Watch it move. Notice that you have survived.

Optional but recommended Step 7. Do a Healing Code on that “story” and any memories that were attached to the feeling. That way you’ll go “all the way down” and heal the subconscious programs and memories attached to it.

Try to keep current with your feelings on a daily basis, going through this process for current feelings and healing any past memories that are attached to them.

Added bonus: If you can do this sort of thing with a trusted friend or partner, the healing benefits multiply exponentially. A good book that teaches couples how to do this is How We Love, Expanded Edition: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. They teach how to do a “Comfort Circle” together and it’s very rich. You can take their Love Styles quiz here.

And if you would like help with identifying and processing emotions, feel free to check out my coaching at https://HealingCodesCoaching.com.

 

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Lucija
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Lucija

Thank you Diane, this is really useful. Perhaps I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat again – your free content is better than many people’s know-how for sale.

Elise Kennedy
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Thank you again for writing, Diane. It helps me every time I read one of your posts! One thing I would live to hear more about is how to cope as an empath, if you have any suggestions. My husband, daughter and I are all empaths and while we have found ways to cleanse ourselves after going in public and being around other people in various settings, we are a bit stuck when it comes to ‘picking up’ the feelings and physical symptoms of our neighbours. If you know of any resources that can truly help with that, I<d be… Read more »

Janice
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Janice

I found this article very enlightening where the average person can understand the concept of letting go of unwanted emotions. Diane Eble’s 6 steps are easily understood and put into practice.

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