Have you ever had a feeling stick with you for days? It just keeps lingering in your body, you keep thinking about it, and it just won’t let go. There’s actually a logical explanation as to why this feeling sticks around and does not budge no matter how hard you try.
It is not uncommon to get into a negative spiral where you think thoughts that cause negative, uncomfortable emotions, that then in turn cause you to overthink and obsess and create even more negative emotions. This is how we keep fuelling our own discomfort for days on end.
The reason you can’t let go of this emotion in your body is that you’re trying to solve it using your brain.
You’re trying to think your way out of feeling what you are feeling. Come up with satisfying answers, make the unknown more known, and become certain in a world of uncertainty. Because then and only then will you be able to not feel what you are currently feeling.
This feels productive and like the only way out, but what you’re really doing is resisting the emotion in your body. By trying to think your way out of it and find answers that will make you not feel this way anymore, you’re basically saying “NOPE. I will not feel this feeling. I refuse. I need to find all the smart thoughts that will help me get rid of it.”
Resistance intensifies the negative emotion.
Resisting an emotion is the best way to drag it out, make it last longer, and often increase in intensity the more you resist. Kind of like holding an inflatable ball underwater. You have to keep pushing and pushing because as soon as you let go it’ll come flying up into the sky.
When I ask my clients if they’ve felt their feelings and they tell me they felt the feeling for hours and hours, I know for sure that they have been resisting the feeling for hours and hours. No feeling that is felt in the body lasts for more than a couple of minutes.
So what can you do instead?
Feeling is done in the body
As intellectual beings, we often think that the solution to all our problems is using our brains. But when it comes to feeling your feelings and releasing them, that is always done in the body. So to stop resisting your emotion and therefore prolonging it, you need to locate it in your body.
Once you start observing how this feeling feels and you only focus on the physical sensations of it, that’s when it starts to move.
Emotions consist of vibrations or energy in our bodies. Energy wants to move. Resistance prevents the energy from moving. But when you start holding space for your emotion and you simply observe what it does without fear, then it’ll start vibrating and going through its “lifespan.”
Scary but not dangerous
This process can feel very scary and most of us never feel our emotions all the way through without reacting to them or “quitting” when it starts getting uncomfortable.
When I ask my clients to describe the full lifespan of their scary, uncomfortable emotions, they always tell me that they quit and give in when they climb to the peak of discomfort. They don’t know what happens after that peak… Spoiler alert: It starts dissipating and letting go.
Feeling negative, uncomfortable, painful emotions in your body can be scary but it’s not dangerous. No feeling can harm you ever. The only way a feeling can harm you is if you decide to act on it or if you use an external method of buffering (avoiding) the emotion, like drugs, alcohol, or sex.
The feeling itself is just energy vibrating through your body and it’s completely harmless as long as you are willing to feel it and not resist it, react to it, or avoid it.
Stop trying to make it go away
In order to let go of an emotion that won’t let go of you, you have to stop trying to make it go away. Trying to make your feelings go away by reasoning with them, changing your thoughts right away, or trying to come up with answers that will make you feel better is just resistance.
Once you pause, stop trying to make it go away and allow it to be there, it will start its journey through your body and eventually let go of you.
This doesn’t mean that it will never come back. Feelings can come in waves and that is completely normal. But if you allow them to come and go and you’re willing to process them in your body, those waves will become less intense and less frequent with time.
So if you are trying to get rid of a feeling that just won’t go away, you have to make the first move and drop the rope. You have to stop fighting it, stop resisting it, and welcome it into your body. Commit to experiencing the vibration of this feeling from start to finish, no matter how long it might take.
I know your brain thinks it needs to be involved for anything useful or productive to happen. But when it comes to feeling your feelings, your brain literally just gets in the way. Once you have processed your emotions, you can think about the situation and adjust your thoughts as you please. But thought swapping is not a replacement for emotional processing.