I used to think that if I opened the floodgates to any painful emotion (fear, anger, sadness, etc.) that the pain would never stop gushing out. Because of this belief, I did my best to stuff the emotions down – to never feel them at all.
I remember a group therapy session I was in when I was 19. I had been having a really hard time coming to terms with being abused as a child, and I couldn’t imagine ever “going there” and allowing the feelings of betrayal and sadness and fear and anger and shame and yuck to come to the surface. I thought that if I just continued to smile and pretend like everything was okay, eventually it would be.
Except my body wasn’t cooperating. I was losing weight. My heart was constantly racing. I was having a hard time sleeping and eating. It felt like it was completely falling apart.
My therapist asked me to yell at the top of my lungs – scream at the man who had hurt me. Allow all of the pain that had been stuck inside my body for years to come out. He wanted me to throw a ball at the face that I drew of my abuser onto a cardboard box. He wanted me to get angry.
I quietly whispered that I was angry. I quietly said that it wasn’t okay what happened. I nervously laughed to the other group members and even posed for a candid picture of me smiling next to the image that I drew (below).
While I left that session feeling discouraged and wishing I had been able to free myself of these painful emotions, I did begin to let them come out years later. I bravely began to release the tight grip I had over this pain and slowly allowed it to come to the surface, be expressed, and leave my body for good.
What I realized during these extremely painful and absolutely exhausting moments of release was that the pain did eventually stop. It wasn’t the bottomless pit that I had feared. It wasn’t a constant gushing of yuck that never ended.
And knowing that helped me feel safer the next time another layer of pain wanted to surface. I felt much more willing to allow it to come out because I knew that I was going to be okay after it did. I knew that I was going to feel so much lighter and freer. I knew that I was going to be that much closer to my essence – the person that I had always been. The person that had been covered up by all of this pain.
And while my default setting is still to push my pain down, I will say that I’m getting more comfortable with making space for it to surface.
We all have experienced pain, sadness, and anger throughout our lives. We have all felt betrayed and wounded by another. And we have probably all feared on one level or another expressing these emotions and letting them out. Like me, you may have been concerned that they would never stop – that you would just be filled with a never-ending supply of sadness, anger, or pain. And because of this belief, you may have stuffed the emotions down and tried to forget about them.
But they’re still there. And unexpressed emotions will always find a way to be expressed – whether it’s through lashing out at someone or getting sick or feeling shame or suffering depression.
And what I would love all of us to take into our hearts is that being brave enough to release these painful emotions is the start of the healing process. It’s the beginning of coming back to your essence – of letting yourself know that you’re worthy of happiness. And while the process of letting the emotions surface is usually painful, it doesn’t last forever. It probably doesn’t even last as long as you fear it will. And one thing I know for sure is that you will feel so much better after releasing this pain from your body.
When I give myself permission to do it, I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life.
And that’s what I would love for you to feel, too.
Jodi Chapman is a bestselling author, an award-winning blogger, and a soulful community builder. She lives her life with love and faith in the driver’s seat, and she hopes to leave a trail of inspiration wherever she goes. She believes that we each have the ability to hear our soul’s whisper and create our best lives. She would love to connect with you!