How to release repressed emotions and overcome feeling numb

release repressed emotions
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Have you ever heard the saying, “fake it till you make it?” That means pretending things are already the way you wish they could be. The belief here is that reality will catch up if you keep your mindset right.

But refusing to release repressed emotions can wreak havoc on your system. Neglecting to tell the truth about negative circumstances has been proven to heighten anxiety and increase the chance of developing a disease.

Contrary to popular opinion, we can’t think ourselves into a better situation by ignoring the way we feel. Denying reality causes cognitive dissonance. Our bodies know the truth even while our minds are singing ‘la-la-la’.

If you’ve had a lifelong habit of repressed emotions, it will take some work to release them. Here are 5 ways to stop feeling numb and start feeling authentically.

Struggling with self-sabotage? Download Chapter 1 of It’s Not Your Fault free.

1. Acknowledge repressed emotions.

When unpleasant feelings come up, notice them rather than pushing them away. Resist the urge to judge whatever you’re feeling and simply pay attention to the feeling itself.

See if you can name the feeling. For those of us used to avoiding emotions, naming how we feel can be challenging. Are you sad, angry, irritated, confused?

Noticing rather than judging or feeling shame over your feelings helps you see yourself as separate from them. You are not your feelings; you have feelings.

2. Listen to what they’re telling you.

Emotions are not inconvenient obstacles for us to dodge and run away from. Our feelings carry important information that can help us change our lives for the better.

Our feelings carry important information that can help us change our lives for the better. Click To Tweet

If you’re wondering why your quality of life never improves, it’s possible you’re struggling with repressed emotions. Anger and sadness can feel intense, but that’s because they’re working to get our attention.

Anger can tell us what needs to change in our lives. Have you considered that PMS symptoms might carry signals about what’s not working in your life?

Sadness can offer us much-needed time alone to reflect on our inner world. To go deep inside and see what we need to nurture ourselves.

3. Respond positively to repressed emotions.

release repressed emotions

We’re used to pushing our feelings aside to get on with things. Rather than listening to their messages, we treat them like intrusions on our real lives.

Try responding to those repressed emotions by checking in with yourself. What is the underlying need this emotion is bringing to your attention?

What is the underlying need this emotion is bringing to your attention? Click To Tweet

Is it self care in the form of some time alone? This could be a simple retreat to a quiet space for some deep breathing. Or it might be asking for a few days away.

Check in with your body and what it needs right now. Wrap yourself in a hug or take a warm bath. Make a nice cup of tea, or journal your frustrations in a notebook. The possibilities are endless and simple.

4. Go for a walk.

More than the obvious benefits of exercise, walking can help release repressed emotions. The forward stride and side-to-side eye movements when we walk have healing effects.

Some PTSD treatments incorporate moving the eyes from side to side. Going for a walk can emulate this treatment and bring calming relief.

That’s why returning from a walk can feel like you’ve untangled a mess in your head. The emotions have moved from overwhelming to manageable.

5. Watch a sad movie to release repressed emotions.

Have you ever felt like you wanted a good cry but couldn’t get the tears to come out? As someone who used to suffer with repressed emotions, I put my hand up for this one.

To help process my sadness and get the tears out where they belonged, I’d watch a moving film. A quick Google search should bring up a list of qualified choices.

Sometimes, we’ve been dealing with repressed emotions for a lifetime. It makes sense if we need a little help to get those feelings out. Sometimes that help comes in the form of characters in a sentimental storyline.

Why change is hard and how to embrace change for a better life

change
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Change is hard and, most of the time, getting outside our comfort zones takes courage. It’s easier to stay where we are even when we’re unhappy.

Why do we resist change, preferring to stay in situations that are terrible for us? Here are 5 reasons, followed by how to embrace change.

1. Sunk cost fallacy

Whether it’s a career or relationship, you think of how much time you’ve already put in. You’ve invested money and energy into something that’s not working. You feel it would be a waste to let that all go.

Even though you’re desperately unhappy, you tell yourself it’s not worth it to start over. You fool yourself into believing things aren’t so bad, or that it would be foolish to abandon a sure thing.

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2. Fear of what others think

How many of us have avoided a change because we think it’ll make us appear weird? If you want to zig while all your friends zag, that can look like a lonely road ahead.

Your parents have expressed their desire for you to follow a certain path and you don’t want to disappoint them. Or your church preaches against divorce and you can’t bear to be cast out.

3. Fear of the unknown

This one’s obvious. Of course, we’d rather know what to expect in life. That’s why we trade our precious time doing something we don’t love for a predictable paycheck.

Things have to become pretty painful before we’ll venture outside our comfort zones and into the realm of uncertainty.

Things have to become pretty painful before we'll venture outside our comfort zones and into the realm of uncertainty. Click To Tweet

Often, change comes only after circumstances drive us to illness and we feel like we might die if we stay where we are.

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

-Zora Neale Hurston

4. Perfectionism prevents change

If you can’t get it right the first time, you won’t do it at all. We give ourselves draconian deadlines, like six months to make a new business profitable. Then go back to the same old place when that impossible target is not reached.

We forget that failure is the first step in any successful endeavor. That’s how we grow and learn how to do things better the next time.

5. We try to do it alone

Instead of asking for help or sharing our plans, we keep things secret until we’re sure of success. But that’s how we create our own failure.

We need the expertise of others to help us navigate new territory. And we thrive on the human connection of sharing our fears and hopes with other people who understand.

How to embrace change

change

Develop a growth mindset. Understand that though change is scary, it’s worth the short-term discomfort for the long-term bliss of a more satisfying life.

You don’t have to know everything right now. You will develop new skills and habits as you embark on your new adventure. And those will help you tackle the next step and then the next until you’ve achieved mastery.

You don't have to know everything right now. You will develop new skills and habits as you embark on your new adventure. Click To Tweet

Give yourself grace. Rather than quitting your job and putting all that stress on yourself to make a new business successful, take baby steps. Be kind to yourself rather than a mean task master.

Keep your job or go part-time while you learn the ropes at a new profession. Give yourself the time you need to grow and improve your new income. That’s setting yourself up for success.

Enlist help. Learn from others who have walked this road before you. If you’re going through a divorce, join a support group. Conquering an addiction? There’s a 12-step program for you.

And if you’re seeking a change in your professional life, seek out a mentor. Or emulate those who have done the same work well. Success leave clues, they say. All you have to do is follow them.

Signs and causes of women who love too much

women who love too much
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Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood took the world by storm in 1985. It told countless stories of women who stood by men whose love fell far out of reach.

In an interview, Gary Thomas who wrote When to Walk Away, said there are plenty of women who love too much but he’s never heard of a man who loved too much.

Women who love too much share the trait of self-abandonment. Instead of asking for what they want, they twist themselves to fit into what someone else wants or needs.

Women who love too much share the trait of self-abandonment. Click To Tweet

Here are 5 signs you are a woman who loves too much. But there are more, including using sex to get or keep his attention.

1. Women who love too much are drawn to unavailable men.

These men are either physically or emotionally unavailable for a meaningful relationship. They could be married or have an addiction they prioritize over you.

They might be narcissistic, afraid of intimacy, or uninterested in a deeper relationship with you. And they may have unresolved issues from childhood that make them unable to form attachments.

2. Nice men are boring to you.

You find it impossible to be attracted to men who are nice and treat you well. You find a way to sabotage any chance of relationship with these men because they are not creating the chaos you crave.

Struggling with self-sabotage? Download Chapter 1 of It’s Not Your Fault free.

Although painful, you need the internal turmoil provoked by an unavailable man. You mistake the insecurity and poor treatment for passion. Love to you has always been hard and hurtful, and a kind man will not feel like “home”.

3. Women who love too much compromise values.

women who love too much

In an effort to win the man’s love, you keep moving your boundaries, if you had any to begin with. You make excuses for poor behavior and take up with an addict, for instance, even though you said you never would.

4. You think if you try hard enough, you’ll win them over.

To you red flags are not a sign of danger but something to overcome. You think with enough love and understanding you’ll coax this man into a relationship. Even when he has a pattern of evading commitment in the past.

You cling to a fantasy that you’re the one who will get through to him. If you need less and give more, he’ll become your knight in shining armor and fulfill the empty space inside.

5. You’re obsessed with thoughts of the person.

When you’re with friends, he’s all you ever talk about. You’re constantly checking your phone to see if he’s texted or called. You suffer the constant pain of insecurity due to the power imbalance of him not caring as much as you do.

What creates women who love too much?

Women who love too much seek the love they never received as children. Your father or mother’s affection felt out of reach. So, you reenact that childhood drama by yearning for, and never receiving, love from a man.

Women who love too much seek the love they never received as children. Click To Tweet

Instead of learning from experience and leaving one-sided relationships, you double down. Either with the same man or another unavailable partner, you keep pursuing people who will never return your love.

As in childhood, you assume the problem lies with you. If only you were more understanding, prettier, more perfect, you’d win his love. It’s a trick now as it was then, and keeps you from ever having your needs met.

Although your mind tells you otherwise, you do not want a real relationship. You pursue these hopeless cases because they protect you from your deep fear of intimacy.

If your parents never gave you the love you needed, you will feel unworthy of love. Even if subconscious, this self-belief plays out in these artificial relationships.

It’s a fear of being seen and known because you might be unclear of who you really are. Or harbor a deep-seated fear that there is something wrong with you. If anyone really knew you, they wouldn’t like you.

So, you get involved with men who have no interest in knowing you and that keeps you safe. At the same time, you tell yourself that making this person fall in love with you will solve all your problems.

Not only will this never happen, another person is not the answer to anyone’s emptiness inside. We need to get to the root of our self-loathing and self-sabotage. This means resolving our past and understanding who we are and what we really need.

How to stop feeling ashamed of the choices you’ve made

choices
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There’s a school of thought that loves to berate us for the choices we’ve made. Your life is the sum of your choices, it reminds us, with the wag of a self-righteous finger.

The problem with this viewpoint is that, though we have free will, choices aren’t always freely made. Sometimes they’re a matter of survival, or doing the best we can with the information we have at the time.

When are choices not really choices?

1. Childhood trauma

Those of us raised with emotional or physical abuse or neglect, have our brains rewired in ways that make them work against us. We learned to base our decisions on survival rather than what might be best for us.

If our needs went unmet in childhood, we felt unsafe and alone. We began to operate out of a fight or flight mentality, making decisions we perceived would keep us out of immediate danger.

Our brains worked overtime to protect us from harm. But, our coping mechanisms became maladaptive and hurt us rather than helping us in the long run.

As an example, my grade school teacher selected a few students to represent our region in a public speaking competition. To her obvious surprise, I declined the invitation because it was scary and uncomfortable.

Without praise or encouragement at home or the feeling that anyone was on my side, I avoided facing the challenges that help you advance in life and career.

Without familial supports in place to teach me to take risks that lead to personal growth, I protected myself the only way I knew how. That meant staying small. Click To Tweet

Such self-sabotage looks like a choice. But, without familial supports in place to teach me to take risks that lead to personal growth, I protected myself the only way I knew how. That meant staying small and invisible and keeping my talents under wraps.

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2. Cultural norms alter choices

Nowadays, depending where you live, having children is considered a choice. Especially in urban areas, no one will judge you if you decide not to become a mother. The choice whether or not to have children is carefully weighed against many other lifestyle factors.

But in previous generations, parenthood felt inevitable. Not wanting children made you a curiosity at best and a social pariah at worst.

Having children was in the natural order of things. Many of us never considered whether we wanted them or not. It’s simply what you did.

This has led to a recent phenomenon of mothers confessing they regret making the “choice” to have children. Likely, these women never felt as though they had exercised a choice, but a social obligation.

life choices

Cultural norms also influence the types of careers we pursue. Many creative types settle for 9 to 5 jobs that suck their souls.

The cost of going against the grain feels too high. Sure, this is a “choice” but one made under duress due to fear of rejection and social exclusion.

3. Socio-economic status

Like many people, I grew up poor, with money a constant concern. The first in my family to attend university, I noticed the kids from wealthier families never worried about money.

They had internalized the reverse of the poor family’s mantra “money doesn’t grow on trees”. From what I could tell, they seemed to believe it did!

They had internalized the reverse of the poor family's mantra "money doesn't grow on trees". From what I could tell, they seemed to believe it did! Click To Tweet

This lack of concern over where their next meal came from, or how they would pay rent, gave them freedom to choose vocations according to their desires and long-term ambitions. Not what would pay the house and grocery bills today.

My need to find gainful employment that would take care of my financial needs right now eliminated my freedom of choice. Those unpaid internships that lead to lucrative future positions were not a feasible choice for kids like me.

In addition to financial constraints, there’s the residue from #1 on our list. Adverse childhood experiences leave us feeling like we only have ourselves to lean on. Taking a job might not feel like a choice, but a desperate way to avoid perishing.

Final thoughts

So, there you have it. Three major ways our choices are out of our hands. The next time you hear someone say we only have ourselves to blame for the choices we’ve made, remember these.

Forgive yourself for doing the best you could with the information and circumstances you had. Thank yourself for protecting you the only way you knew how.

Forgive yourself for doing the best you could with the information and circumstances you had. Thank yourself for protecting you the only way you knew how. Click To Tweet

You may have survived some impossible circumstances and you’re still here. You deserve credit for that.

Now that you know better you’ll make more conscious choices. And the quality of your life will rise in accordance with them.

What would you add to this list?

Why forgiveness is hard and how to forgive authentically

forgiveness
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If you’ve been wronged, you know how hard forgiveness can be. Even, or especially, when the wrongdoing came from a close friend or family member.

We come up with all kinds of reasons why we can’t forgive, even when we know it’s the right thing to do. Knowing in our heads we need to forgive, doesn’t make it easier for our hearts to do so.

People find forgiveness difficult for many different and personal reasons. Here are 4 common ones:

1. Conflict avoidance

If you’re someone who tends to avoid conflict, you’ll sidestep difficult situations. Rather than acknowledge another person’s transgression, you’ll carry on as if it never happened.

Or, you may cut the person out of your life so you don’t have to deal with them at all. But out of sight does not mean out of mind. Without forgiveness, that person and what they did will continue to eat away at you.

Out of sight does not mean out of mind. Without forgiveness, that person and what they did will continue to eat away at you. Click To Tweet

2. Self preservation

You refuse forgiveness because you believe it gives the offender license to hurt you again. Unless the person is toxic or a narcissist, however, forgiveness is not the same as permission to re-offend.

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3. Desire to even the score

Lack of forgiveness breeds resentment and a desire for revenge. You feel you’d be letting this person off the hook if you forgave them.

Our egos have a hard time with such one-sided acts. It’s humbling to feel as though we’re giving much more than we’re getting in return.

4. Lack of remorse

The person has never offered you an apology. Or, they’ve apologized and expect that should be the end of the discussion.

But a truly remorseful person will seek to make amends. They will demonstrate their willingness to change before they expect to regain your trust.

Forgiveness is necessary even in the face of such audacity. Forgiveness and trust are not at all the same thing. Neither are forgiveness and relationship. You can stay away from someone and still forgive them.

How to extend forgiveness when it’s hard

forgiveness

Remember we forgive for ourselves not the other person. We’re letting ourselves off the hook when we forgive. The other person may not know (or care) that they’ve been forgiven.

Knowing forgiveness lowers anxiety, stress, and blood pressure, helps you see its importance. It boosts your immune system and increases self esteem while improving relationships, both present and future.

Forgiveness lowers anxiety, stress, and blood pressure. It boosts your immune system and increases self esteem. Click To Tweet

Remember times you required forgiveness or had to forgive yourself for wrongdoing. Give that same grace to your perpetrator.

Consider what’s happened to the person to make them behave the way they do. As an example, my emotionally abusive mother grew up with abuse and neglect herself.

Forgiveness does not erase what the person did to you or the consequences of their actions on your life. But you still need to process your emotions, especially anger, and grieve over what happened to you.

Grieving does not need to be complete for you to forgive. But it is necessary so you can move forward authentically, without stuffing down unprocessed emotions.