There’s a massive difference between ‘putting’ something behind us and ‘letting it go’. If we haven’t fully processed our emotions in relation to our experiences, then the more we try to ‘forget’ or ‘move on’ the more we find ourselves getting sucked back into past events. That’s because there’s a part of us locked into an emotional loop somewhere in our subconscious mind.
Holding On To The Past
“To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.” Jack Kornfield
Without us realising it, our subconscious mind stores all our experiences. While we may be aware of our feelings, as we experience them consciously, our emotions, however, can manifest consciously or subconsciously and they may well be keeping us locked into emotional loops of the past.
When it comes to letting go of the past many of us just ‘don’t want to go there’. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve ‘put it behind us’. But the big question is ‘have we let it go?’
Feelings Are Important
‘Never let what you feel make you forget what’s real. Facts over feelings. Don’t let your emotions overpower your intelligence.’ Anon
Feelings are what arise in the body as the brain interprets emotions. And, according to research scientist, Dr. Candice Pert, ‘all of this gets stored in the molecules of our being’. Emotions are powerful and can even be more powerful than our thoughts as they trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response system in the body, switching off our thinking brain, leaving us unable to think clearly or rationally and as a result, we lose sight of the facts.
Our brain doesn’t know the difference between past, present and future. Whatever we are thinking (consciously or not) changes our neuro-circuitry, biology, chemistry, hormones and genes. These changes happen automatically just by thought alone. As far as our brain’s concerned, we’re still ‘experiencing the event’ and as such we’re still pumping cortisol into our bloodstream days, weeks, months and even years after an event.
Acknowledge How We Feel
While many of us shy away from our emotions, we must acknowledge how we’re feeling. Sometimes, that’s all it takes is to recognise and acknowledge how we feel in order to process our emotions. Neuroscience tells us, we’re naturally designed to process our emotions. According to Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, neuroanatomist, ‘we process our emotions when we a) acknowledge how we feel, b) allow the feelings to surface, and c) watch them go away’. When we’re still experiencing emotions beyond an event, that means we’ve locked ourselves into an emotional loop.
The coronavirus has impacted hugely on humanity as a whole, triggering all sorts of fears and vulnerabilities. For some of us, this may be quite traumatic as many of us have learned to suppress our emotions as part of our cultural or generational upbringing, where strong emotions were not permitted and supported. This pandemic is hitting us right through to the core where everything we identify with seems to be collapsing and falling away. This collapse is on a global scale.
While it’s challenging to establish a new way of being while everything seems to be in a state of constant change, it’s important that we recognise and acknowledge the changes and challenges we face. This may prove difficult for some of us, as there seems to be so much uncertainty in the world right now. Especially so with so much contradictory and confusing advice being banded about in mainstream and social media.
We Interact With The World Around Us
‘In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them.‘ Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score
The one constant in life is change. Neuroscience tells us we’re resilient. We’re naturally designed to adapt to change in our environment; it’s hard-wired into us.
In order to change, we need to learn how our body interacts with the world around us; this means understanding how our internal environment interprets our external environment.
Recognising that it is normal to experience sensations in our body as we process our emotions allows us to feel safe in letting go. This enables us to naturally process our emotions as they arise, ensuring we can remain free from the emotions of the past and remain empowered in the present moment in time, this is the future we then create for ourselves.
Losses In Life
‘Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.‘ Mark Twain
As children, our first experience of loss can often be through the loss of our favourite toy or even the death of a family pet. As we go through life, we experience loss through the death of parents, friends and sadly, in some cases, our children.
Grief can be triggered in more ways than just through the death of a loved one. As we grow, we learn to identify with who we think we are. Suddenly change happens, and we find ourselves trying to deal with loss in so many ways. It can be loss of career, loss of finances, loss of purpose, loss of a friend, loss of a home and even in some cases loss of identity, as everything we’ve identified in life with collapses, leaving us feeling empty and bereft and grieving for an old way of being.
Simple Steps To Letting Go
‘Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care.‘ Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score
While it’s important that we don’t get locked into our emotions, it’s equally important that we give them a healthy release, as it takes a lot of energy to suppress them and they’re only likely to surface at a later date. The good news is that recent research suggests that emotions can be evoked and manipulated.
We are all unique, and as such, we have different ways of processing our feelings and emotions. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, we must find ways that work for us. Here are some simple techniques to try for yourself.
- Mindfulness helps us cultivate compassion and forgiveness, enabling us to move on from the past with greater ease. This can be very peaceful.
- Journaling is a great way of expressing how we truly feel, especially if we write uncensored. It helps us identify the pain and discomfort we’re experiencing by holding on to the past and can also offer us insights into what we’d gain by letting go. Journaling can be very insightful.
- Writing ‘release letters’ can be very cathartic. It’s a fantastic way of freeing up our mind, heart and core. Especially if we write openly and honestly, direct to the core of the issue, release letters can be one short sentence or an entire essay. It helps to burn the letter as a sort of ceremonious energy release. This can be very powerful.
- Talking things through with another person can help us gain greater clarity and understanding, helping us come to a decision or identifying a particular course of action. This can be very sobering.
- Making comparisons helps put things into perspective. As human’s, we are naturally resilient; it helps to look at how we’ve overcome adversity in the past. This can be very empowering.
- Developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ helps raise our energy frequency, allowing us to focus on the positives that life offers even in the most challenging of circumstances.
- Stepping out of the energy of our feelings and emotions and stepping into our inner light helps us become more unattached to the issue, making it far easier to process our emotions and let go. According to the Heartmath Institute in America, when we work through our heart centre, we bypass fear and logic. This can be very liberating. My online Udemy course, Stepping Into Your Light, covers this in great detail.
Feeling Safe Inside
‘Traumatised people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.‘ Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score
While most of us are finding ways of coping with this global crisis, some of us may be finding it more challenging to deal with than, say, our friends or family. Recent research indicates that people who’ve experienced trauma in the past are likely to be more susceptible to the effects of this pandemic. For some of us, our deeply suppressed memories, fears, and vulnerabilities may be surfacing as we try to navigate our way through these stormy waters.
It’s important that we find ways to process our feelings and emotions, and for some of us, that may mean seeking outside help. That help may come in the form of a trusted friend or partner, or it may come from seeking professional care and advice. Whatever route you choose to take remember ‘your emotional health matters’.
Image compliments of Chenspec/Pixabay