Learning how to use emotions constructively is key to chronic pain relief.
In my work as a chronic pain recovery therapist, one of the most pervasive themes I see is emotional suppression. And it’s no wonder: Many of us grew up in emotion-negative environments where we were taught that only certain emotions were okay to express, but others — like anger, sadness, grief, fear — should be banished, punished, ignored, or suppressed.
Emotional suppression is an internalized response to authoritarian cultural norms. Suppressing our emotions makes us compliant with authority. It squelches activism.
When we suppress our emotions, it’s like we’re jamming down the lid on a tank of precious energy — energy that could be used to assert our needs, boundaries, and values. The energy that could be used for activism — in the public sphere or in our personal lives. Energy that could fuel ⛽️ positive transformation in our homes, communities, and world 🌎.
When we suppress our emotions, we block that emotional fuel ⛽️ from being used for intentional action. Instead, the fuel festers inside of us, causing emotional and physical tension, discomfort, and symptoms — like pain.
If you’re interested in unlearning the habit of emotional suppression so that you can use your emotional energy productively, here is an experiment you could try:
Pick an emotion that you have trouble expressing. Now, with pen and paper ✍️, ask the question:
“Dear emotion, what are you feeling? What would you like me to know? What changes in my life are you advocating for?”
And see what flows onto the page 📄.
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