In a fast-paced world where we rarely have time to stop and smell the flowers, aspects of health and mental wellness can quickly fall to the wayside. When was the last time you sat down and thought about what you were feeling? When is the last time you took a moment to sit in silence and breathe? Emotions are energy. If we don’t acknowledge, process, and release those emotions, they become ticking time bombs that can cause serious damage in the future. Yes, right now, it might seem fine, but what happens to those bottled up emotions in the long run? Think about the concept of pressure in an airplane. The mechanical system has to account for the change in pressure as the plane takes off, flies at 30,000 feet, and then descends. If the plane didn’t account for the change in pressure at each of these stages, humans wouldn’t survive the experience. Increased oxygen must be pumped into the cabin to regulate cabin pressure Think about our bodies in the same way. Every time we have an emotional exchange—good, bad or ugly—our cabin pressure changes. And if we don’t learn how to regulate the oxygen–our emotional response–we risk danger.
Begin by Acknowledgment
Feeling our feelings is hard. We know when we are experiencing anger or sadness or confusion, but what does it mean to really feel those emotions? How do we feel to process instead of reacting or repressing? Processing means sitting with those feelings. It doesn’t mean stewing in our hatred or depression. It means taking time to understand why those feelings have appeared and where they came from. To get to that root means we must have an honest conversation with ourselves. To begin, ask yourself why you feel the way you do? Was there an event or an interaction that caused you to feel this way? If not, can you pinpoint the root cause? What inside of you feels this way? Sometimes it can go back to our childhood. Other times, it can be something we repressed weeks, even months before. Sit, breath and think for a moment. Let your mind go to its origin. More often than not, we know the cause; we simply don’t want to face it. This can feel scary but remember: if you can find the cause, your suffering can end once and for all. It will no longer be hiding in the depths of your mind or heart. It will be right there, out in the open, for you to accept and process. When we do this, we give our body the tools it needs to stabilize the cabin pressure. Try looking at it this way. Let’s say Gabe wakes up every Sunday and watches football with his friends. This week, he chooses to stay home. He doesn’t feel like it. That same week, he chooses to sit alone at lunch because he doesn’t feel like talking to his friends. He keeps telling himself he “just doesn’t feel like it,” but clearly there is something else going on. Eventually, Gabe’s friends confront him, and Gabe blows up, but in the midst of his anger, the truth comes out. Gabe tells his friends he’s mad because they all played paintball without him a few weeks ago. He was mad because he wasn’t invited, but Gabe never processed those feelings. It’s almost as if he had forgotten about the initial reason for being mad. And instead of sharing his feelings with his friends, he let the pressure build, forgetting to regulate his metaphorical oxygen.
That word, acceptance. We’ve all heard it, but accepting things, especially unpleasant things, doesn’t feel easy or even possible when something bad happens to us. Acceptance is the key to releasing negative energy and experiences. It’s the final step in processing our emotions. Sometimes we hold onto our feelings and experiences so tightly that we begin to strangle ourselves. But when we take this final step, we release the emotion once and for all. The cabin pressure equalizes. Gabe is allowed to be upset with his friends. He can and should feel the negative emotions surrounding being left out. But if he doesn’t accept what happens, he is slowly suffocating himself in the plane. Come to find out, his friends went as part of the baseball team’s team bonding after an away game. Gabe didn’t know this. He just saw someone’s snapchat story and assumed. But say his friends did choose to go without him, that the circumstances were different. If Gabe could have processed his feelings, explained them to his friends, then he could have decided to remain friends with them or choose to move on. In both scenarios, Gabe has the ability to stay in his power without losing his head and make a conscious decision based off the facts and his feelings. This may sound easier said than done, but here is the simple truth about acceptance. Accepting something does not mean you agree with it, like it, or are even okay with it. Acceptance simply means acknowledging a situation or feeling for what it is and choosing not to let it bother us any longer.
Leaning to assess our emotional state isn’t easy. It can lead to substance abuse and self-harm to mask the pain. If you or an adolescent you know is struggling with alcohol or drug use, or is harming themselves because they can’t cope, call Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center today for help. Our staff will ensure you feel supported through the process of getting healthy and get your emotional cabin pressure stabilized with a team of licensed professionals. Call now: (662) 478-9463