How To Actually Process An Emotion

alignment intuition podcast May 05, 2024

When you search for "how to process an emotion" online, the results often echo similar advice: write down your feelings, expand your emotional vocabulary, focus on positivity, seek calmness, and more. But what about actually feeling and processing an emotion, not just acknowledging its existence? In this blog, we uncover the essence of emotional processing beyond conventional advice.

Why popular suggestions like journaling and seeking positivity may fall short in truly processing emotions

There’s a lot of popular advice about emotional healing online that focuses on positivity, gratitude and seeking calmness. But when approached this way, as something to get rid of, fix or make different, we repress our emotions and keep them “trapped” in the body, setting off a chain reaction of suffering.

The emotion continues to come up, we continue to react in the same old ways and we continue to stay stuck. And after enough repression, these neglected emotions tend to manifest as physical ailments and disease in the body.

Feeling your feelings doesn’t mean…

  • Thinking about how you feel
  • Acknowledging how you feel
  • Talking about how you feel
  • Pinpointing why you feel this way
  • Labeling how you feel
  • Analyzing how you feel
  • Visualizing how you feel

It means actually feeling and experiencing the direct sensations in the body.

How to directly experience and fully feel an emotion until it naturally dissolves

  • Awareness:

Authentic emotional healing begins with awareness. Once you know an emotion is present, you have the ability to work with it. 

You’re not wrong for feeling how you do. Telling yourself you shouldn’t feel this way or trying to convince yourself it’s “fine” or “not that bad” or “others have it way worse” doesn’t do anything. Once a feeling is up, the only way to the other side is through. No amount of wishing it away or knowing you “shouldn’t” be upset will make it go away.

As best you can, don’t make yourself wrong for having an emotion. Instead, it can be helpful to tell the mind “of course you feel this way”. But the key is to not stop there. After you’re aware of its presence, it needs to be felt.

  • Feel it directly until it dissolves:

Feel the sensations in the body directly as they are as best you can. Welcome how you feel fully, as best you can.

Keep redirecting your awareness/attention away from thinking and into the sensations in the body. Where is it? What does it feel like? FEEL it versus think about it.

If you ran your hand under hot water, you could obviously FEEL that it was hot. You also would be able to THINK about how hot the water was. We are going for the direct FEELING and experience of the sensations present in the body. 

Keep staying with any discomfort as best you can, while breathing and allowing the body to move in any ways that feel natural. If the body wants to shake, cry or scream, let the body lead the way.

The key is to keep feeling, even when the mind starts chiming in that doing nothing won’t work or that the feeling will last forever. If you stay with it, you’ll reach a turning point. Keep going until it feels completely dissolved.

“Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it - don't let the feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of "the one who observes," the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens.” 

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

How you’ll know when an emotion has been fully processed

You’ll know it’s complete when it no longer has a “grip” on you and your mind and body feel settled/neutral/calm.

The sensations will have dissolved. You will feel neutral on the “issue” your mind was previously worried about. The body will feel lighter and your mind will feel more clear. It will feel complete or neutralized.

For more on how to know if you’ve actually processed an emotion, I share 7 Signs You've Actually Processed An Emotion (& 8 Signs You Haven't) in this blog.

Ways to get support processing emotions

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