When I begin working with new clients, I often look for indications of whether they are more comfortable feeling powerful or vulnerable. I listen for areas in their lives where they describe themselves as powerful “givers” (or rescuers) and areas in their lives where they appear to feel overwhelmed, and vulnerable.
When clients come to me with the goal of reducing their stress levels, I teach them tools that increase the BALANCE in their lives. This balance includes offering each client a clearer understanding of how they relate to and express their POWER and their VULNERABILITY.
Feelings: Important Messengers
When we are stressed by the demands of life, it’s easy to look for ways to distract (and numb) ourselves from the feelings that are stirring within us. Here are a few common culprits that can lead to bigger problems with our health as well as our relationships:
- Excessive drinking of alcohol
- Overeating sugary (or salty) high fat foods
- Excessive pot smoking
As I share in my book Stress Reduction Journal, instead of seeing our feelings as allies that have important messages for us, many of us see them as enemies to avoid. That is when we go into a flight mode away from our feelings.
For some people, the avoidance of feelings works for a while. However, for most of us, the feelings eventually begin to leak out—and it isn’t always pretty. The unconscious leakage of feelings can manifest through our behaviors, our bodily symptoms, and other people’s behaviors.
Imagine we are driving through our lives in psychological cars. Let’s say that we don’t know how to deal directly with our angry feelings, so we hide them in the trunks of our cars. After a while, the intensity of those feelings begins to build. As a result of the pressure, our cars’ trunks pop open uncontrollably on a regular basis and we spew anger. In these times, we may find ourselves forgetting important commitments and arguing with others. We may explode over little things that aren’t at all related to what we’re really angry about. As a result:
may unconsciously EXPRESS
the feelings we do not address.
Our Bodily Symptoms
After years of depositing angry feelings into our trunks, can you imagine how heavy the back ends of our cars would become? Eventually, the front wheels would lift up off the ground—we could call this motion an anger wheelie! And, think about how stressful that overloaded trunk’s weight would be on the back tires. Not releasing the pressure could easily blow out one or both tires at any time.
Heart disease, high blood pressure, and ulcers can all occur as a result of stuffed angry feelings.
Other People’s Behaviors
Did you know that if we are suppressing strong emotions, then someone else in our household may end up expressing our buried feelings. Yep, our partner, kids, or pets may unconsciously act out our suppressed emotions.
For example, Angie* came to me seeking tools for weight loss. Shortly into our work it became apparent that Angie followed the unconscious conditioning from her family and from societal influences—not to express anger. In childhood, she remembered hearing her parents say, “Girls should be seen and not heard.”
From our work together, Angie discovered that unaddressed hostility and sadness were weighing down the trunk of her psychological car. These painful feelings had been accumulating since she was a little girl. As a result, many people in Angie’s life were unconsciously working overtime when it came to anger expression—they were expressing some of her suppressed anger in addition to their own anger.
Painful dynamics in relationships were a common occurrence for Angie. Fortunately, she learned healthy ways to deal with her own anger after she got assertiveness skills (yep, she found her voice) and learned some cognitive behavioral techniques to prevent her emotions from going into an overwhelming spiral.
Once Angie quit reaching for food to soothe herself, her high blood pressure began to drop (along with her weight) and her relationships began to stabilize. She also found herself attracted to new friends who were less controlling.
Keep in mind that what we suppress, others may express is reversible. It can become—what others suppress, we may express. The distortion of feelings can happen in either direction.
For example, my client Tom* had a controlling father who sadly experienced a violent upbringing. According to Tom, his father was a “powerful” businessman who overworked, drank like a fish (especially before going into social situations), and forced Tom into competitive sports when he was a kid.
Meanwhile, Tom began experiencing a lot of vulnerability, including phobias and depression as a child, which continued throughout his teen years. Because his father was numbing his vulnerable emotions related to a violent upbringing, Tom was likely expressing what dad was suppressing.
The good news is, in his late twenties, Tom reached out for personal growth tools (including working with me) and identified his role in a family riddled with ancestral trauma. Tom addressed his phobias/vulnerabilities and courageously tapped into his POWER by standing up for himself, his values, and his life choices.
Now can you see how BALANCE increases when we honor our minds, bodies, and emotions?
That’s a GIFT of awareness
from the inside out:
~ OWNING ~
our power &
at a time.
* Names and client details changed to protect confidentiality.