I recently had the pleasure of getting to ask alternative health expert Deepak Chopra a one-on-one question at a Q & A and group meditation event hosted in New York’s Union Square. I was interested in learning about his strategies for processing painful emotions, since research has shown that suppressing emotions can actually have serious consequences on our mental and physical health.
When I asked Deepak about this issue, he explained that releasing emotion is not as difficult as we make it out to be. First, he suggests finding a quiet, comfortable area where you won’t feel disturbed. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Using your memory, bring up an event that created an emotional upset. Think about the event and try to picture it as vividly as you can. Put yourself back into the scene and pay attention to which emotions come up.
- Witness the emotion and name the feeling: You may say, “I feel sad,” “I am angry,” or “I experience anxiety.”
- Locate the emotion in your body: Give your body a scan. Do you feel heaviness your chest or tightness in your gut or shoulders? This is where you are storing this specific emotion.
- Express the emotion: Place your hand on the area of the physical sensation and say, “It hurts here,” “It is tight here,” or “I feel pain here.” By acknowledging the feeling, you are taking the first step to release the tension. Next take out a pen and paper and express your emotion on paper. Do this in three ways: first from your experience, then from a second person’s account and then from a third person’s perspective.
- Take responsibility for your feeling: Realize that this is your emotion. No one made you feel angry, anxious or sad. By doing this, you no longer blame anyone for your pain and you also realize that you do not need anyone else or an alternative substance to make the pain or emotion go away.
- Release the emotion: This is the most essential step. Bring the scene back in front of your mind’s eye and experience the feeling in your body. Breathe deeply, and with every exhale, work on releases the emotion. Try visualizing the anger moving out of your body, or express yourself verbally with a tone that resonates with that part of the body. Continue releasing the emotion with each exhale until the sensation in your body subsides and a feeling of ease sets in. To further process, release it with a ritual. If you have, for example, written your emotions on paper, you could safely burn the paper and then release its ashes into the wind.
- Share your experience: Ask yourself: What have I learned from the experience? If you could speak to the person involved, what would you say to her now? You can do that in person or journal a possible dialog.
- Celebrate the process: Congratulate yourself on turning a challenging situation into an opportunity for growth. Turn up the music, go for a walk, take yourself on a date, and celebrate!