Throughout conducting research and writing articles on various topics from psychology and counseling, this is by far the most loaded of topics. Most people, when they hear “Let’s talk about feelings,” cringe or internally curl into a ball. Why is it so difficult to discuss our feelings and emotions? Why, as a society, have we just put everything aside and tried to ignore their existence? Let’s explore this together.

Exploring, processing, and organizing our thoughts and feelings is by far one of the most complicated things we do daily, mainly because most people are not taught how to do this or why it is so important. I like to use the metaphor of food rotting in the fridge when I conduct counseling sessions. Our emotions that we push down and ignore are just sitting inside of us, rotting, and they have various side effects as they decay. Are you experiencing anxiety, depression, insomnia, acid reflux, nightmares, anxiety attacks, random tearfulness, etc? The list goes on. A lot of these symptoms can be tied back to our repressed feelings! Of course, there can be other underlying concerns linked to the symptoms, but often as you begin to work through your experiences, you can reduce the severity of these symptoms.

So where do we start? The first step is always admitting what you are experiencing. It is hard to admit that you’re holding on to something for one reason or another. Oftentimes people will ignore their experiences and feelings so much that they will forget what they went through. This is where therapy, especially EMDR therapy, comes into play. Recognizing the symptoms currently and working to tie those back to past experiences is a great way to get to the root concern. Why doesn’t everyone do this? Well, it is hard work. There is a reason you put that memory and experience aside, but remember that there will be short-term pain for long-term gain. Going back through your experiences and memories is the best way to get to the root of the symptoms.

The next step is finding support. Trying to navigate all of this can be scary and confusing. Finding help from a counselor or therapist will be the past course of action. There are other tools you can use while you are seeking support. Tools for processing emotions are noticing what you are experiencing and feeling, then allowing yourself to feel it. This is where most people give up because allowing yourself to feel is not always promoted in our lives. Allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling is the best tool for processing. It is okay to feel your feelings! It is okay to be mad, sad, angry, or frustrated! Your feelings are valid; if you are feeling them, there is a reason for it, and it is valid! Too often, people feel guilty or embarrassed for what they are feeling, those are also valid ways to feel, but it is okay to be mad; it is okay to cry!

After you allow yourself to really start to feel what you are feeling and sit in those feelings for a while, the next step is to explore. This is by far my favorite. I love to explore the why behind things. Why are you sad? Why are you angry? When you get triggered, why does your throat start to feel tight? Why, when you are sad, do you get angry and yell? Only you know; only you can explore those feelings and link them back to past experiences. Of course, a counselor can help with the exploration, but you know your experiences.

Finally, validate your feelings. I am here to tell you right now that your feelings have validity. Feel free to feel how you feel but get those feelings out. The longer they sit there, the more they will rot and cause ongoing symptoms.