Processing Emotions

One of the earliest challenges for me was dealing with all the leftover mess in my cells from the life I had lived. I weighed 207 lbs (94 Kg), and there was a lot of stuff in them that needed to go. Now I am down to 145 lbs (66 Kg) and I feel much more capable of processing emotions. They go through me.

Here are some datapoints to start the discussion:

My meditation teacher asked me about my family of origin cultural heritage, which I told him was English/Scottish and German. He replied with a short monologue which ran something like this:

“So, you are in fact clueless about handling emotions. Generally, you ignore them because you were taught to ignore them. But every once in a while a big emotion comes along and gets your attention, and at some level it occurs to you ‘Wow, a powerful feeling! I am going to save that!’; and you re-live that emotion until it is totally stuck in you. The other emotions are really all still in your cells too, but the Big One is the only one you are conscious of.”

That was hard to hear, and even more difficult to integrate into my alivestyle. But I am learning.

It did resonate instantly, and floods of memories of situations where I stifled emotions came back at that instant, and many times since then, even to this day (that was in 2007). So several passages, from books, about learning to process emotions instantly come to mind, which I will share.

The first is a quote from Michel Odent’s book, “Birth Reborn – What Childbirth Should Be.” First written during the 1980’s, Odent has kept it updated with a new edition in each subsequent decade. Here is a short excerpt of a woman’s childbirth experience written up in the book (bold italics mine)

«A Mother from Paris
When I was alone in my room, I had tried to “control the pain” by means of deep-breathing exercises. The nurse’s comforting presence brought a noticeable change: I no longer tried to control myself. I screamed at each contraction. My cries didn’t stop until an hour and fifteen minutes later, when the baby was born.
These cries amazed me. With my first child, I hadn’t felt any desire to scream or cry. Now I had the impression that I was rousing the entire hospital. Never in my life had I wailed like that before. It was as if the cries didn’t belong to me. When my husband arrived, just before delivery, I reassured him: “Don’t worry, I can’t help it, it feels good to scream, sit down.” At one point I heard myself crying out in a different way: long, trembling howls, like the cries of a baby. I realize now that these cries protected me, not from the pain, but from a traumatic inscription of this pain on my psyche. It was kind of catharsis, by screaming. I let the pain leave my body.

Near the end of my labour, I began to curse. I can’t remember what I said: I had lost control of my senses. That experience has outlived the actual moment of birth. To think that I could act like this in front of other people! Yet it was as if, after losing my own voice for so many years, I had finally found it again.”»

…and this passage from C. S. Lewis’ “That Hideous Strength”

«[Ransom] You . . .”

He stopped, shocked at what was happening. The huge man [Merlin, brought back to life] had risen from his chair, and stood towering over him. From his horribly opened mouth there came a yell that seemed to Ransom utterly bestial, though it was in fact only the yell of primitive Celtic lamentation. It was horrifying to see that withered and bearded face all blubbered with undisguised tears like a child’s. All the Roman surface in Merlinus had been scraped off. He had become a shameless, archaic monstrosity, babbling out entreaties in a mixture of what sounded like Welsh and what sounded like Spanish.

“Silence!” shouted Ransom. “Sit down. You put us both to shame.”

As suddenly as it had begun the frenzy ended. Merlin resumed his chair. To a modern it seemed strange that, having recovered his self-control, he did not show the slightest embarrassment at his temporary loss of it. The whole character of the two-sided society in which this man must have lived became clearer to Ransom than pages of history could have made it.»

I can remember being told as a child to stop crying, to stop emoting. I cannot remember one instance when someone said, “Go ahead, cry it out. Get it out of your system.” I didn’t teach my children this, either, simply because I didn’t know how important it is.

Let’s talk about this – now it seems quintessential to me to remain physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. How do we get to where it is Ok to express emotions and move them through? How do we (re)process old emotions which are stuck?