I recently wrote in social media that you should let yourself feel all your emotions.
What if those emotions are intolerable? When you’re full of unbearable anxiety, and people around you can’t deal with all the emotions that you’re bursting with. Then someone tells you to just feel all the emotions. What a stupid advice!
Let me tell you what I mean with it.
Intolerable emotions are a complex issue
First of all, it’s ok if you can’t simply sit with all the emotions. It’s something that takes time and practice, and it doesn’t happen all at once.
When the emotions feel intolerable, too difficult and too big, it usually means that under the immediate emotion, there’s a bunch of unprocessed emotions and experiences, and your mind-body doesn’t know what to do with it all. It either shuts down or blows up.
You need to make space for the unprocessed emotions
One part of the problem is that there are many other emotions under anxiety and out-of-control emotions, that haven’t had a chance to be seen and heard. They are demanding space, to be felt. And it’s too much all at once.
Those emotions could be as far as from your childhood – not many of today’s adults have learned how to face and process their emotions when they were children. Only lately have emotional skills even been a topic for conversation, and only now children are being taught to actually recognize and name their emotions.
Also note that anxiety isn’t really an emotion by itself, it’s more like accumulated pain. It’s a symptom that something has been left unprocessed, and all that is now a jumbled mess inside you. When you start bringing the unfelt emotions into daylight piece by piece, eventually they aren’t that powerful anymore.
It takes practice to allow all the emotion in your body
It’s also important to understand, that when your emotional state becomes intolerable, you actually don’t have the physiological capacity in your body and your nervous system to be with all the emotion and sensation associated with whatever experience you’re having. Your body gets overstimulated.
This has to do with trauma. PTSD is one example, but also developmental trauma and even less severe experiences, where your emotion has been ignored and left unprocessed, will cause a gap between your emotional experience (which is also always a body sensation) and actually facing it.
Your capacity to face the emotions, anxiety and trauma stuck in your system will grow when you start learning nervous system regulation and body awareness.
Emotions aren’t really the problem
So the problem isn’t really that you have too many emotions or that they’re wrong. Actually such a thing as a wrong emotion doesn’t exist: they’re all important in their way, and it’s good to learn to listen to them. However, emotions can become problematic, if you don’t have the capacity and the means to face them.
Healing is possible
If you’re struggling with intolerable emotions, it’s good to remember:
- Anxiety usually hides important emotions and experiences that need your attention.
- It’s possible to reach the issues that affect you behind the scenes, and learn to face them in a regulated way without falling into pain and anxiousness. The goal is not to get rid of emotions, it’s to learn to be present with them.
- There is nothing wrong with you. Everything you’ve been through has affected the life you have now, and many things that are problematic right now, have originally been a way to survive in an unbearable situation. It’s not your fault. You’re not deficient or irreparably broken.
If you need help dealing with your anxiety or intolerable emotions, I recommend music therapy. In music therapy, I’ll help you get in touch with your emotions and build your capacity using creativity and music as a tool.