• jess

Settling up Emotions - how to deal with how you feel

So, an intro to dealing with feelings


Fuckers, I need to tell you that when I started writing this Emotional series, I was in a pretty challenging place. You know, dealing with big feelings and personal fears, on top of the rest of my material stressors. Nothing new.


And, uh, since then... things have gotten much worse. The universe has been throwing me some fun ones, and my internal chemical factory has responded. My brain and body have been a bit frayed recently, to say the least. In short, it has been A TIME lately.


I tell you this not because I’m looking for sympathy or I need any help, but… because if you’re wondering if any of my Emotional advice is actually effective, I hope that my continuing to show up and do my duties with a relatively steady and bright outlook despite this rough period in my life is evidence.


You see, at nearly any other point in my life, my feelings were enough to put me in the ground. Have a bad day? Get ready for a bad month or three. Once that negative pathway was lighting up in my brain, there was no turning it off. With one negative emotion came a stream of negative thoughts… and before I knew it, everything was so “woe is me” and perpetually painful in a terrifying way that I couldn’t claw my way back out of it.


Honestly, there were times when I don’t think I wanted to. I would let my emotional avoidance and deep wallowing fluctuate while my shitty ruminatory thoughts tortured me day in and day out. I didn’t feel like I was in control of it, but of course, I know now that I absolutely was steering that ship. I just didn’t want to acknowledge it or feel strong enough to do the hard work to turn that bad boy back towards the calm open ocean.


This is just to say… your emotions might be huge, powerful, and unexpected. You might struggle to have or understand them. I get it. But, seriously, if you can come to terms with the fact that feelings are feelings - they don’t actually mean anything about you, or your value, or the world or your role in it - you can survive even a horrific barrage of emotional shittery without missing more than a few steps. Trip, stumble, but don’t fall down and get stuck like a bug on its back.


I’m about to relay the ways that I recommend dealing with feelings. And, again, I’m not a psychologist or mental health professional, so no worries if you disregard my advice. No hard feelings on my part. But this is what I’ve been able to do in my own life to keep myself afloat, even on the days when something stirring deep in my belly along with the excruciating void in my chest is threatening to suck me under.


I can’t promise that there are any easy emotional hacks, but I can tell you that it’s possible to have feelings and continue to exist without digging your own grave, too. And I hope that information helps someone else.





So, last time we talked about what emotions actually are, how they evolved, and how our thinking and emotions are intertwined with each other, and our families of origin.


Yes, they’re events that take place inside of organisms, which always means there’s some sort of energetic chemical change taking place. It already sort of helps to keep this in mind the next time it feels like someone is ripping your intestines out of your body... but at the same time, that’s not really a satisfying-enough explanation for something invisible and intimate that has the ability to hurt so bad you’d rather be dead, at least, in my opinion.


Call me a reductive junkie, but it actually brings me great comfort to think about emotions in the context of their intended purpose - like everything in this Trauma talk - it’s to keep you alive.


For a brief recap, let’s just say that your emotions can be attributed, at least in part, to our earliest ancestors. Trace your lineage allllll the way back to the first living critters on earth and extrapolate from there.


Do tiny fish experience what we consider “emotion?” Well, it’s fucking impossible to say, but we like to pretend that they do not. “No scaly douchebag can understand the depths of my love for my ex, or the tortuous heartbreak that followed our relationship destruction,” we pronounce as the self-assigned kings of the world.


At the basis of ALL our emotions, though, are the most primitive drives; fear and pleasure, for the function of survival.


Do tiny fish experience fear? Yeah, something keeps them alert and alive for some amount of time before a River Monster takes them down, right? They flee from your shadow when you step in front of the sun the wrong way, yeah? There’s some internal influence that tells them how to respond to various circumstances, even if we don’t believe that they understand unrequited love, for instance.


The point is, even these simple, primitive species have something that eventually developed into the wide range of complex emotions we experience as non-psychopathic humans. That thing is fear. Fear emerged in animals to keep them safe, based on species history and personal experience.


Similarly, our primate ancestors and early human prototypes were learning or dying in the wild, and their attempts at survival were encoded in the DNA that they jettisoned into some hot neanderthal lady. (oh yeah)


These learned lessons helped to ensure the survival of their offspring, and the offspring of their offspring… so the signal had to be transmitted, somehow. Can’t trust language - it didn’t exist for most of the history we believe in. So, instead, there was an internal guide installed in all of us. These inner messages are emotions. On the most basic level, they exist to deter you from making idiotic choices which threaten your production potential, and to persuade you to make better decisions that lead to baby-makin.


So, survival is the elemental function of emotions. Great.


Already kind of a cool thing to think about, right? Now, if you’re really interested, go dig into the Father of ABA, B.F. Skinner, and learn about all the complicated emotions that he easily traced back to having one of two purposes - telling you yes, go do it - or no fucking way, that’s a goddamn mistake.


I have to say, that thought, alone, takes a lot of pressure off my self-judgemental shoulders when I consider all the ways that my brain has probably taken good intentions for survival and fucking skewed them into funhouse reflections based on my ridiculous past experiences and the shaping from my family of origin.


It gives me the following reassurances:


“I’m not full of rage for no reason or because I’m a terrible, miserable person! (sidenote: I might be) I’m pissed off and aggressive because this feeling is a derivation of a fear response and my ancestors wanted me to live! The problem is, everything in this world seems like it’s been trying to kill me for 30 years and it’s not socially kosher to carry out my instinctual thrashings.”


Or, “I’m not horrifically sad to the point of wishing I could end it all for no goddamn reason! I’m suicidally inclined today because my innate drive to be part of a safe, supportive social circle never happens, and my brain wants me to realize that this is not the best choice for staying alive! I’m deeply unsettled and uncomfortable so that I’ll hopefully stop being a self-isolating hermit!” Huzzah.


Or, “I’m not emotionally stunted because I’m inherently broken in the head! I have too many or too few emotions on any given day because my survival brain wants certain activities to take place, my learning brain is terrified of those actions based on my prior experiences, and my family said that I was wrong for feeling anything at all!” Yay.

Ah yeah, it feels fucking good.


Anyways, that’s enough of a refresher to catch you up.


Today, we’re really talking about how to DEAL with these emotions. At least, as far as I can tell.



How


One of the most common questions I get is the ole “Trauma-How.” How do you stop hating yourself? How do you get started with something that scares you? How do you deal with days when you can’t make heads or tails of your thoughts and feelings? How do you let yourself feel without getting pulled into a tar pit?


And all of these things come back to one central point. Emotions. You gotta learn how to deal with them.


No, not “deal with them” as in squash them down as hard as you can and pretend they aren’t going to come back up to ruin you - mark my words, they fucking will. “Deal with them,” as in notice them, name them, and let them happen... without letting them pull you under or turning to self-destructive spirals.


So, here we go. Here’s my best attempt at explaining how one Traumatized Motherfucker has learned to come to terms with emotions in a timely and productive way... after a lifetime of doing everything possible to pretend they didn’t exist as they choked her to death.




Step Negative One: Notice you have emotions


Uh, so this one might sound insulting, actually. But that’s why I labeled it in the negatives. Clearly, to let your emotions happen without self-destructing, you first have to notice that you have emotions at all. Annnnnd that’s not exactly our number one strength.


I think most of us agree, after decades of feeling too much (or, specifically, too much negativity), we learned to just cut that shit out. We’re amazing dissociators, and that includes, if not exemplifies, emotions.


For me, my numbing became a tried and true defense mechanism because my emotions were too overwhelming to experience alongside doing normal human things every day. I’ve always had a hustle-or-die lifestyle running parallel to my tumultuous homelife, so it was too difficult to keep all my irons in the fire while also having enormous sadness, fear, betrayal, and resentment in my body. Instead, I just clipped the wires that transmitted the messages between my brain and body, so I could go to my college class, go to high school, go to my side job, and go stand at a cash register all in one day without bothering anyone with my tears or frustration. Don’t want to taint anyone else’s day.


After learning this cool wiring trick, my body tried it’s darndest to re-establish the connection. Buuttttt sometimes there were months or years in between the messages coming through. All those missed calls didn’t just disappear into the ether, though. They got backed up, stored away in a spam folder, and came flooding in whenever I got reception again. And lord, the notifications were overwhelming when they all came in at once.


To this day, I have a hard time with the noticing emotions part of the equation. I’m still very good at involuntarily dissociating and failing to acknowledge that it’s happened. It takes focus to recognize that something is going on in this meat husk and an iron will to give it any attention at all. As we discussed in the prior episode - it takes energy to process your emotions, it turns out. Not a priority at this point in our human evolutionary story.

To this day, I have a hard time with the noticing emotions part of the equation. I’m still very good at involuntarily dissociating and failing to acknowledge that it’s happened. It takes focus to recognize that something is going on in this meat husk and an iron will to give it any attention at all. As we discussed in the prior episode - it takes energy to process your emotions, it turns out. Not a priority at this point in our human evolutionary story.


But, here are the tips I can offer, in case you find yourself a similar body-brain disconnected mess.


Some indications that you’ve dissociated again without realizing it:

You’ve been very stressed out lately.

You’ve been working too hard.

Your brain is blank... besides ruminations about the anxiety, obligation, and tension.

You’ve been nonstop “on task” for work, school, or other necessities.

You’ve been unable to do a single thing.

Your body has been hiding in layers of clothing.

You’ve been binging.

Your muscles are stiff.

You’ve been inside most of the time.

You’ve been getting terrible sleep.

You can’t remember the last time you exercised.

You don’t recall basic experiential information, like where you set your keys.

You have the sense of being trapped in a dream.


These are some of the factors that are related to my dissociation… This list definitely isn’t all-inclusive, it’s just the way I tend to experience dissociation. I’m not sure if these variables are causative or effective, to be honest. There’s just some correlation there; these behaviors seem to perpetuate and persevere with my dissociation concurrently.


Movin on.


Next, now that you’re aware you weren’t in your body… you need to get back in your human protein suit.


Here are my recommendations for ending the dissociative spell (note, it might take a few days or weeks to make a breakthrough):


Go for long walks, hikes, and jogs.

Take at least 2 hours and wear yourself out. Feel your muscles finally move, feel your feet touch the ground, feel some goddamn blisters forming. See something new. Smell something new. Notice the way your body moves in space and play with using different muscles through gait and posture changes. Feel your spine realign, change your line of vision, breath into your stomach like it’s a pregnant belly, and try to find new muscles in your legs. Give your brain a chance to unwind and remember that there are arms and legs attached down there.


Touch some shit outside.

Seriously, get tactile and appreciate it. Aim for grass, bark, leaves, and - my favorite - moss. Finger some pinecones, twigs, and rocks. Stick your arms in the dirt, let it run through your fingers. Smell it, feel it, just give it the time of day for once. Notice something outside of yourself. See it as being important, realize there are trillions of tiny worlds contained in the environments we barely even notice, touch it and feel connected.


Take a long, hot, environmentally irresponsible shower

For real, treat yourself. Put on something you like to sing to, a podcast you love, or some trippy transcendental tunes. Light some candles. Have a nice, steamy, solitary time by yourself and get selfish about it. Enjoy the hot ass water on your back and take your time going through the motions. Breathe for awhile and let your bod relax for once. Bonus points for adding extra hygiene activities or changing up the order of how you normally bathe for novelty’s sake.


Fast, at least from your crutches

Don’t keep shovelling food and drinks into your face without giving it a second thought. Instead, go without, and see how your body feels. Try to fast on a 16 hour off / 8 hour on schedule, for starters. If you can’t fathom the break from calories because of blood sugar issues, just cut out the things you routinely eat each day without thinking. Will it feel terrible if you’re accustomed to jamming your face full of sugar without any direct intention? Yep. But at least you’re noticing that. Plus, when you make the choice to allow yourself to have something again, you can actually appreciate how that feels, in comparison. Make sure it’s not something ultra shitty to make up for the lost time.


Try to feel the bottoms of your feet

This is a weird one, but it’s one that lives near and dear to my heart. If you lay down with your back firmly rooted into the floor - and I mean, let your back melt into the firm floor - and concentrate really hard…. Can you feel the bottoms of your feet? If it helps, you can bend your knees so your feet are planted on the ground. Now, how do they feel? Concentrate on it. Give it a moment.


I don’t know what it is about this one, but it sends energy through my entire body like a lightning bolt. Everything starts tingling. I notice my feet, my legs, my stomach, my chest, and my arms all at once. This was the behavior that brought me back into my body for the first time after dissociating for years thanks to the discomfort of my autoimmune illnesses. This “Oh my god, I can feel my feet” moment brought me to tears as I realized that, uh, I hadn’t in quite some time. I’ve used it to my advantage ever since. Maybe I’m just insane. Try it and find out.


So, assuming any of my tricks worked, let’s say you’re in your body again? Fucking great.


Next up:





Step Zero: How to notice that you’re having feelings that need to be dealt with


Separate from realizing that you’ve dissociated is realizing that you have some buried feelings to deal with. I consider this to be a different process, because there have been many times that I haven’t felt entirely dissociated from my body or physical experience, but I have been sneakily silencing one or several emotions.


I can be doing well, generally taking care of myself, and recognizing the stimuli in and around my bod… but at the same time I can be shoving feelings of disappointment, sadness, regret, guilt, or fear into a corner and pretending they won’t ever come into the light. It’s a special skill that imminently results in a poorly-timed breakdown, what can I say.


I can be doing well, generally taking care of myself, and recognizing the stimuli in and around my bod… but at the same time I can be shoving feelings of disappointment, sadness, regret, guilt, or fear into a corner and pretending they won’t ever come into the light. It’s a special skill that imminently results in a poorly-timed breakdown, what can I say.

So, to avoid that breakdown happening when you’re not at all prepared to deal with it, I recommend getting good at spotting the signs that you’ve been compartmentalizing, avoiding, and ignoring some real shit going on inside of you. Emotions are so much sneakier than we were ever taught with the smiley mouth to pointy eyebrow spectrum in school.


Tips to notice you have sneak-ret emotions under the surface:

You feel strangely tightly wound, even though nothing is really happening.

You wake up in a bad place… and it persists.

You have trouble concentrating.

You’re overloaded by social demands.

You’re exhausted all the time.

You’re frustrated or agitated in every circumstance.

You have too many thoughts in your head...

You don’t have a single relevant thought in your head.

You can’t describe your condition when asked, “how are you?”

You’re having difficulty connecting with other people.

You find normal tasks overwhelming or near-impossible.

You’re eating like an asshole.

You’re anxious to drink, smoke, or otherwise dull your senses.

You don’t feel inclined to do anything, even fun activities.


Whew, I could go on. Fun question to myself - “does this sound a lot like the life I lived during my Trauma States?” Yes, it does. I think my emotional denials were wearing me down as much as the old memories and unmanaged mental illness. They’re as much of a function of my Trauma experiences as the major hallmarks of CPTSD, I realize now, for the first time.


Okay, so if it sounds like I’m reading off your personal memoir right now, consider that you very possibly have some old remnants of unreckoned emotional shit jangling around inside of you. You may have been avoiding it for decades, and it’s probably exacerbated by whatever the fuck your toxic coworkers or shithead boyfriend have been up to lately… not to mention, you know, being trapped inside with a global pandemic and potential authoritarian leader.


Okay, so if it sounds like I’m reading off your personal memoir right now, consider that you very possibly have some old remnants of unreckoned emotional shit jangling around inside of you. You may have been avoiding it for decades, and it’s probably exacerbated by whatever the fuck your toxic coworkers or shithead boyfriend have been up to lately… not to mention, you know, being trapped inside with a global pandemic and potential authoritarian leader.

So, problem; identified. Let’s deal with those pesky Fuckers.


This is where I stop to state that emotions can be dangerous if you haven’t gone through some degree of professionally-directed Trauma healing yet. If you’re just starting to examine what you’ve been through… do not follow the advice I’m about to give. I do not want everything flooding back at once and drowning you. You need a Trauma-Informed Specialist on your side to work one on one with you to get through the backlog of highly risky memories, alright? Don’t fuck around, this is how I got that autoimmune sickness in the first place.


Okay, disclaimer over. Thanks for bearing with.





Step One: Lean the fuck IN


Alright, we’ve acknowledged that there’s something going on inside of you. You feel like a bag of snakes or a chunk of coal under the pressure of the earth’s core. Maybe you feel so much that you feel nothing but a painful, twisting, absence in your stomach.


First instinct?


Run away. Pick up your phone, press the home button to see if there’s anything going on to distract you. Turn on the TV, turn it up loud, and go back to looking at your palm-screen. Scurry to the pantry, grab the saltiest, sugariest, snappiest snacks you can find and go back to bed. Open your computer and start working on something that’s due 4 weeks from now. Pour a drink, make it a double. Get on social media and stare at people who are doing much better than you.


Just. Don’t. Let. The. Feeling. In.


Wrong! You must do the opposite. The worst thing you could do, according to common sense. You must wallow, Motherfucker. You must let it in. Let it enfold you (yes, that’s a high school Senses Fail reference).


My favorite way to let feelings happen?


Do nothing.


The hardest thing to do in a moment of discomfort is, nothing. To stop distracting your brain, to stop shifting the focus, to stop putting bandaids on the gaping wound, feels like dooming yourself to the depths of hell. But… that’s really the key to it. You need to be immersed in those shit feelings. Let them wash over you. Allow the signal from your brain to be actualized and passed through your stubborn body. Give it time, allow it to take some energy, and apply your brain to the sensation.


The hardest thing to do in a moment of discomfort is, nothing. To stop distracting your brain, to stop shifting the focus, to stop putting bandaids on the gaping wound, feels like dooming yourself to the depths of hell. But… that’s really the key to it. You need to be immersed in those shit feelings. Let them wash over you. Allow the signal from your brain to be actualized and passed through your stubborn body. Give it time, allow it to take some energy, and apply your brain to the sensation.

And this is why you need to do not a single fucking thing. When you’re having an emotionally-dense day, as I often refer to them, or experiencing a sharp edge that you keep dulling with external escapism, the only thing you can do is forfeit to them. You can try to lock them away with busy days and bad habits, but they’ll burst forth someday with more piss and vinegar than before.


So, sit down, or better yet, lay down. Give yourself a nice, comfortable, quiet, private space to work with. No TVs, no computers, no screaming kids. Close yourself in your favorite room, bring all the supplies you might need for a while, get comfortable, get your phone FAR away from your body or put it on airplane mode… and that’s it. Just exist there for a few hours.


And in the meantime, let your mind wander. Clear space for your thoughts to naturally emerge and evolve. Close your eyes and appreciate the comfy surfaces you’re sitting on. Feel that body - bonus, again, try to feel your feet. Relax and give yourself permission to just be there for a while. Not accomplishing, not hiding, not helping anyone overtly.


See what fucking comes up that you had never noticed was clinging inside your ribcage with inch-long claws until this exact moment.


See what fucking comes up that you had never noticed was clinging inside your ribcage with inch-long claws until this exact moment.

Another tip. If you’re too uncomfortable from the get-go to let any of these emotional epiphanies swell, try to soften the atmosphere with a podcast or fairly “zen” playlist. Give your brain something to follow, so the jitters and nerves don’t bore you into quitting, but also allow your thoughts to wander and transform with time. It can be a gentle descent into exploring your inner world, you don’t need to free fall down in absolute silence.


So, a note on actually following through with this, because I fucking KNOW it’s easier to give it 3 minutes, feel your guts itching, and say you tried as you go back to eating a block of cheese.


Believe me, I realize that this feels like the worst option ever. Letting something in after all the days or years you’ve pushed it away isn’t easy. It can feel huge, powerful, and capable of crushing you… it can be like touching a live wire that’s ready to zap your heart into oblivion… it can seem dark, viscous, and ready to suck you into quicksand…


Believe me, I realize that this feels like the worst option ever. Letting something in after all the days or years you’ve pushed it away isn’t easy. It can feel huge, powerful, and capable of crushing you… it can be like touching a live wire that’s ready to zap your heart into oblivion… it can seem dark, viscous, and ready to suck you into quicksand…

Dude, I promise, if you're not in a victimization mindset, it will not. You won’t suffocate, shit yourself, or be perpetually stuck in a negative state of existence. In fact, trying to avoid all of those potential events is a surefire way to doom yourself in exaaaaactly the ways you’re hoping not to.


Trust me? Eh, consider it.





Step Two: Get exploratory


Okay, so maybe right now you have some clue about what’s been going on inside, unbeknownst to you. But… maybe it’s not super clarifying, so much as you’ve invited a swirling pool of discomfort into your body. You might have some intrusive, repetitive thoughts entering your brain and refusing to leave. You are not very happy with me right now for telling you this was a good plan.


Cool, we’re on our way! Hate me, Fuckers, it’s a good sign.


The next move is to take a better look around this chaotic scenery in your chest and try to understand this shitshow instead of half-assedly streaming it into your living room while you turn your head the other way.


The next move is to take a better look around this chaotic scenery in your chest and try to understand this shitshow instead of half-assedly streaming it into your living room while you turn your head the other way.

Here are my favorite ways to start naming and processing those mysterious energy disturbances we call feelings, because, uh, like we talked about last time, we Traumatized folks were never taught what, why, or how.



Journaling

I know, people FUCKING HATE THIS RECOMMENDATION (I type in all caps, shaking my damn head and pounding on the keyboard). What is wrong with everyone that they refuse this advice no matter how many thousands of people say it? Alright, anyways.


Try journaling. No, that doesn’t mean anything in particular.


No one is asking you to write a research paper or a book report on your inner frustrations. You don’t have to create an autobiography or dive into decades of recently unfettered Trauma. You don’t need to write about your day, you don’t ever have to read this entry again, and you surely don’t need to worry about another person ever discovering it.


When I say journal, I just want you to sit down with a blank page, a nice pen, and let loose.


Start with one thought, and no, it truly doesn’t need to be deep or profound. Half the time my inner work is carried out on a page by me writing “What the fuck is wrong today, Jess?” Trust me, my brain is always ready to chase an invitation to be pissy and disgruntled following that unconventional probe.


Nobody ever honestly asks you, “Okay, tell me all your worst inner experiences” and sticks around for the answer. So, do it yourself.


Get rolling on one sentiment, “What’s wrong today, you angry bitch?” And let it come out. “Well, I was really pissed off when Taylor threw me under the bus again last week at work, and I never got the chance to even speak my side of it.” Establish a baseline, surface level reason to be a bit perturbed. And then, take a few steps backwards. Stream-of-conscious that shit. Let the connections come up. It’s a safe place to go ham.


“You know why it really pissed me off, though? Because this is the same old shit that always happens. No one ever communicates or has a plan around this fucking place and somehow it’s always my fault at the end of the day when no one even bothered to speak to me about it.” Yeah, girl, rant! Let it snowball! Don’t worry about seeming dramatic or “overly sensitive” (one of my new least favorite terms). Let go of any judgements you might have about yourself. No one is here to tell you to look on the bright side. Keep writing.


“Actually, now that I think about it, it really really pissed me off because this seems like the same pattern I deal with at every job I’ve ever had. There are always some douchebags controlling the entire workplace while the bosses look the other way. It seems like I’m always the first person to be blamed and the last person to be acknowledged for cleaning up all the messes.” Hell yeah, let out the deep inner musings! Feel those feelings! Let the outrage flow, let your frustration bubble up, and don’t let yourself believe that any of it is a moot point. Keep writing. Dig further down.


“ACTUALLY ACTUALLY, you fucking know WHAT?! This all super pisses me off because it also sounds a lot like how things were growing up. Nothing was ever anyone else’s fault. Everything was always my fault. No one ever listened to me. I was just supposed to quietly exist and make other people’s lives easier. If any attention was turned my way, it was because someone was pointing a finger. I never felt acknowledged, heard, or valued there, either!”


Annnnd there you have it. My new favorite term, stolen from my buddy Beinstahellyea in Australia - you’ve done some “Trauma Archeology.”


You’ve traced an itching, burning feeling in your gut back to a recent event, acknowledged that it happened, given yourself permission to feel it, and even grounded it in an indisputably legitimate set of circumstances that you may or may not have ever considered in the past (checks calendar) lifetime. You probably even learned a thing or two about yourself by realizing this pattern in your life. Best of all, I bet you aren’t feeling quite as lowkey pent-up-pissed-off as before.


I mean, you can still be pissed about that asstwat Taylor, and you have every right to… but that’s the point. You’ve identified the disturbance and explored the reasoning, the familiarity, and the pre-established conditions that underlie the anger. All by sitting around void of distractions, putting a pen on paper, and asking yourself some leading questions. Plus, the act of writing does something to seal the information into your brain and invite your mind to probe further. This isn’t going to be a fleeting thought that you rapidly lose track of.


Journaling isn’t so fucking bad, alright, Fuckers? Can we please get over ourselves and give it a shot? If you still don’t believe me, check out the site and find several examples of the crazy-person rants I journal to myself. Nothing to fear here, folks.


Okay, next one.



Exercise - preferably, in nature

What’s the next trite recommendation that anyone could probably guess?


Get outside into nature and move your ass with a present purpose? Oh yeah, that’s it.


Well too fucking bad, because that shit WORKS. You know, I think I was writing about the critical importance of getting myself outdoors every day for several hours and several miles of hiking juuust before I started this podcast, but rest assured that it works like magic in my world.


Nothing is more effective for getting those partially-formed emotions and ruminations dragged out of my aching chest cavity and into the open. Nothing helps me to form new connections and process information more efficiently. I don’t know what else I can say about it. Hiking, alone, in a secluded and beautiful place, does something special for me that can’t be recreated elsewhere.


I’ve heard before that the bilateral movement of your feet does something similar to EMDR in your brain box, which accelerates your thought processing and integration. But, you know my ‘spiel, “not a professional psycho-anything.” Don’t listen to me, don’t attempt your own home-EMDR, but consider giving your feet a good workout and see if you notice a difference too.


I can’t tell you anything with confidence other than how powerful this routine is in my life. If you’re having a hard time, feeling flooded with too many emotions, or struggling to unravel the dense black hole has been comprising your gut… I can’t recommend setting aside some dedicated, lone, totally-selfish time out in nature moving your hair back and forth.


It might not fix you in one trial, or two lone days out there in the wilderness… but give it a few solid efforts in a row, and prepare to be amazed by how INCREDIBLE and INSIGHTFUL you feel at the end of a 2-hour trek. Plus, it gives you a chance to release your pent up frustration that normally comes along with unresolved emotions. Wear yourself the fuck out. At least you’ll sleep better, if nothing else.


(Side-rant: How do you think I’ve done any of the healing, connection forming, and experience-processing that brings us together right now? How did I start sleeping well for the first time in my life? How did I begin setting routines for myself and structuring my life to be less of an emotionally destroyed natural disaster? Hint: it was the woods.)


Something about the (pardon my gayness) serenity and peace of nature really does matter in this battle against constant anxiety, brain disorganization, and chaotic lives. I can’t recommend it more intensely, and so I won’t. Do it or don’t, Fuckers. You do you.


Next!




Talking out loud

You know something embarrassing I do? (Ha! Trick question. You know SO MANY embarrassing things I do.) Here’s another one.


Talking out loud.


To my damn self.


As if I’m talking to you guys.


Yeah, sometimes when I’m out on a morning walk and feeling a bit off-kilter, as previously described… I try to figure it out by talking to myself as if I’m making a podcast episode WHILE I’m moving my ass in nature. Double Whammy.


So, similar to physically writing things pen on paper, I feel like a different part of the brain is engaged (obviously, we all know that) when you’re speaking out loud versus thinking to yourself. I realize, of course, that there are different processes and areas of the brain responsible, but on a processing level there are also different mechanisms at work.


For some reason, these processes mean I gain so much more clarity from talking out loud versus silently stewing in the same thoughts.


Just speaking the words, themselves - not receiving feedback from a listener - has so much potential to change my energy. It has nothing to do with outside reinforcements or external feedback. It’s an inherent process.


When I talk out loud I quickly find myself drawing such deep, novel connections, managing my perspective, and integrating information much more effectively when I’m using my mouth, not only my brain.


So… Yep… Sometimes I go out, plug in my headphones, and just talk like I’m recording a podcast episode. Report on my recent activities to an outside party. Put the experiences into words instead of fragmented, floating pictures in my head. Examine, re-frame, and reason through my feelings.


And everything seems… different. Like, I can feel silly coming to my own conclusions and wondering why I was too stupid to see it all sooner. I can easily identify the fallacies in my thinking, imagining that there’s an audience. I get out of my head and see the situation from a third party point of view.


Everything falls into place a lot easier after that. The frivolous or baseless emotions melt like buttah. The stubborn ones have a new sense of weight or ridiculousness to them, depending on if they still seem reasonable or totally over-reactionary. I can see the landscape more clearly, identifying the real obstacles before me and the ones that I just dreamed up for myself.


Give it a shot.


Do you have to record yourself? Absolutely not. Every single person hates the sound of their voice, based on what I hear from you guys when you write in. Uh, I get it.


But I think it keeps your brain on track if you do. Just speaking out loud will probably be a short lived activity if you’re as self-critical and dickish as I am. Putting it into a narrative for “someone else to hear” keeps you on task and makes you ride the waves until the end.


You’ll know when the process is complete - you’ll feel massively relieved, clear-headed, and full of personal insight or determination. If you still haven’t reached that level, go back and try some of the aforementioned activities again. Rinse and repeat. Day after day. You probably have some backlogged problems to deal with before getting to the top-level issues.


You’ll know when the process is complete - you’ll feel massively relieved, clear-headed, and full of personal insight or determination. If you still haven’t reached that level, go back and try some of the aforementioned activities again. Rinse and repeat. Day after day. You probably have some backlogged problems to deal with before getting to the top-level issues.

It might take a few weeks to work through years of ignored emotional bullshit; just don’t give up on the daily effort. Figure out what you hate the least out of the resistance-filled things I described... and just fucking do it. On repeat. As if your life depends on it. Because, Fuckers, functionally, it kinda does.


If NONE of it is working… my only other suggestion is…




Talking out loud, to someone else

I didn’t even want to include this one, because, honestly, I think it’s a codependency trap. Speaking from personal experience, not from judgement.


The times in my life that I’ve leaned on other people to understand myself… uh… I wasn’t really doing myself any favors. I felt a lot better after I ranted and raved to my friends or significant others about the bullshit in my life and in my chest. I sometimes felt a release of tension and got new clarity based on what they said. But it sets up you for a dangerous game; always needing to call on someone when you’re feeling like shit.


That seems simple enough, though, right? Is that really a bad thing? We all need support.


Surely, your closest loved ones understand and don’t want you to feel like a human trash fire if they can help you out. I love supporting people through their garbage - I bet they feel the same!


Nah. At this point in my life, I have to say that it’s not that easy.


Take it from someone who had all her best friends and support systems dip out without warning at the worst possible point… you want to be self-reliant. You do not want to count on anyone else for emotional matters, even if it seems like the safest, most loving, most mutually-gotcherback relationship you’ve ever experienced. You never know when other people are going to have their own shit come up. When they’ll fall off the grid or get overloaded or just decide that they can’t be a part of your dynamic duo anymore.


Not to give you that “other shoe” sensation, but you know, your social ties are generally pretty fluid. There’s an ebb and a flow. Sometimes, an unexpected drought.


So, please learn to count on yourself. Find ways to deal with your own shit. And don’t plan on anyone else being in the picture. It’s more empowering that way, it sets up healthy boundaries, and it creates better relationships in the future.


If you HAVE to speak to someone else about your complicated emotional state (totally get that, too, sometimes my weeks of independent study still don’t fully release the issue), make sure it is someone you fully trust to set good emotional boundaries and provide the right advice. Your therapist would be preferable. Or just someone who won’t let you leverage them for your own emotional healing. Know anyone with healthy boundaries? Consult them. You don’t? Yeah, me either, really.


That’s why I lone-wolf it.





Step three: Forgive yourdamnself


You know what’s hard to do when you have big emotions that can't be easily reasoned away with bright eyes and time? Not telling yourself that you’re an emotional hurricane who doesn’t deserve to impart their destruction on other humans ever again.


Yep, avoiding the shame spiral - a new terrible emotion - in response to your other terrible emotions isn’t the easiest chore on the honey-do list. We’re good at hating ourselves for everything, so why wouldn’t we find a way to start the despise engines after finally recognizing and settling up with some other uncomfortable feelings?


Yep, avoiding the shame spiral - a new terrible emotion - in response to your other terrible emotions isn’t the easiest chore on the honey-do list. We’re good at hating ourselves for everything, so why wouldn’t we find a way to start the despise engines after finally recognizing and settling up with some other uncomfortable feeling?

Spoilers: We wouldn’t!


So, step three is figuring out how to let it all go. The self-judgement for feeling things must die. You need to move on to feel another day without putting yourself in the grave.


Here are the things I like to do. The RRRs of letting myself off the hook:


1. Remembering all the other times that I felt shitty in the past.


You know who feels like shit so much of the time, at least, during the periods when I feel anything at all? Me! How many times have I gotten so low that I thought it was preferable to die? I couldn’t tell ya. How many days have I been such a ball of unfettered emotions that I couldn’t even see straight? No idea!


And, did I survive those terrible times? (looks like it, or else this is officially the coolest paranormal podcast ever)


There have been SO MANY hard days in my past - honestly, MUCH harder than anything I experience now - and I made it through those experiences alive. Despite my body’s best attempts to torture me with feelings that I didn’t want, I’m still standing. Even though I’ve had days and weeks where I literally felt like I was dying on the inside… clearly I didn’t.


So, why wouldn’t I allow myself to have these feelings of frustration, sadness, and suffering now? Why can’t I respect those sensations as if they matter just as much as happiness and optimism do? If I’m not subscribing to the societal shame that surrounds negative affect (and I’m not), there’s no reason to even judge these feelings as “bad.” They aren’t inherently anything other than energetic changes being detected by biological receptors.


You’ve gone through it before and you’ll go through it again. Don’t freak out, don’t expect the emotion police to come break down your door, and don’t hate yourself. It’s safe to feel. It’s healthy to feel. It’s necessary to feel.


Go to town.



2. Respecting my experience like I’m anyone else on earth


You know what I would never say to a friend who told me they were having negative emotions? “Don’t.”


If someone came to me and revealed that they were struggling, I would want to dig deeper with them. I would invite them to tell me about the experience. I would try to help them understand where it’s coming from and why it’s bothering them. If they didn’t want to talk at all, I would try to be supportive by letting them have the peace and distance to work through it on their own.


So, why the fuck don’t we feel the same way about ourselves? It’s so hard for us to treat ourselves with the basic level of respect that we offer to any other living thing.


We can objectively realize that we aren’t in control of our emotional states - they’re often subconscious experiences that are provoked and half-processed without our direct attention. We can comfort other folks when they’re having a hard time with negative affects. We let them know it’s okay, it’s always been okay, and it’s going to be okay, even if they feel like the world is burning inside of them.


But when we confront our own feelings, we… are judgmental assholes. The shame of our early experiences - likely with families who were emotionally neglectful or downright dismissive - sticks with us.


So I try to treat myself like I’m anybody else on this planet. I strongly believe that 7.5 billion other people are allowed to feel things - aren’t I?


You aren’t the only one with uncomfortable internal sensations. You aren’t the only one who sometimes hates them. You aren’t even the only one who’s experiencing this conversation in your head at this exact moment.


Go ahead, be a global citizen. Believe that you have the right to whatever emotions you’re going through. No one healthy can tell you it’s wrong.




3. Reminding myself of what feelings are - an internal survival mechanism


Lastly, I love this new evolutionary perspective that I have on emotions. You know, I love an evolutionary perspective for everything.


Realizing that my brain box is always just trying to keep me standing safely enough to survive and make more messy little humans helps me to place a lot of my mysterious thoughts, actions, and emotions. Giving a little credit to the low-level survival brain that’s secretly calling more shots than we advanced primates like to acknowledge is pretty freeing. Recognizing that there’s another operating system which has just as much clout - if not more - than my reasonable brain explains a lot about my existence.


Knowing that I have internal experiences to encourage and discourage certain activities thanks to our entire phylogenic history is pretty fucking cool. Maybe it’s a touch disempowering to think that I’m not entirely in control… but in a way, that’s also such a relief. Why do I feel out of control sometimes? Because the part of my brain that I consider “me” is out of control sometimes. (Hey, refer to that Anti-self episode for more words on this)


Everything isn’t my fault. A lot of my experiences and behaviors are involuntary. My emotions aren’t based in my personal critical thinking. They’re born from ancestral survival experiences.


And, again, when we’re talking about Trauma - those survival experiences feel more relevant to our daily lives than they probably are.


I need to respect the way my brain has evolved. I need to listen to my great (times a thousand) grandma’s instincts. I need to allow my lizard brain to run through its paces before I can get back to my adult human thoughts.


Which brings us to my final step of the emotional reckoning.




Step four: Acknowledge yourfuckingself and move on


Just a quick point here. If you’ve gone through all the effort and discomfort of allowing yourself to notice, name, and process your feelings… you deserve a goddamn medal. It really, truly, is not easy. It feels counterintuitive to everything we’ve been taught. It’s frightening enough to forfeit and head for the hills (and by “hills,” I mean your sheets, as you shut down and avoid the world).


The last thing you need to do, is to give yourself even the tiniest fucking acknowledgement you can muster for being brave, insightful, and aware enough to let yourself feel. It’s much easier in the short term not to. It’s taking a big step into long term functionality to practice these skills that no one ever mentioned before in public school.


The last thing you need to do, is to give yourself even the tiniest fucking acknowledgement you can muster for being brave, insightful, and aware enough to let yourself feel. It’s much easier in the short term not to. It’s taking a big step into long term functionality to practice these skills that no one ever mentioned before in public school.

After you do some emotional work, make sure to notice yourself. Give yourself a moment of self-appreciation, if that’s a thing you feel capable of. Let some pride and accomplishment wash over you. Treat yourself to a moment of inner-critic silence.


And then, move on. Redirect your energy away from all the emotional work you just did. Let that project be complete for the day. Let your system settle into its lower energy state and appreciate the calm, clean environment that you’ve developed inside. Use the extra space you created and the newfound brainpower that you unlocked to work on something else.


It’s all part of training yourself to effectively have the emotions inside of you without letting yourself get pre-occupied with them. Practice redirecting your brain to a new topic. It will teach you to maintain focus down the road, under a variety of trauma circumstances.


Alternatively, if you’re too exhausted from the whole emotional experience, then fuck, listen to that feeling. It’s totally relevant. This feeling shit is hard work. Respect it. Trust that you did something difficult and you deserve to let yourself come back to a peaceful homeostasis. Give yourself a timeout from life. Lie in bed, draw a hot bath, read a good book. You’re still moving on, just in a different way.


Alternatively, if you’re too exhausted from the whole emotional experience, then fuck, listen to that feeling. It’s totally relevant. This feeling shit is hard work. Respect it. Trust that you did something difficult and you deserve to let yourself come back to a peaceful homeostasis. Give yourself a timeout from life. Lie in bed, draw a hot bath, read a good book. You’re still moving on, just in a different way.

And as long as you’re feeling a sense of internal calm and clarity, you can do anything. Remember that you can come back to this state in the future, and do so on-demand. You don’t have to be afraid of your inner world ever again. You won’t get trapped there.


You’re in control… you know, as much as you believe that our evolutionary and historical programming allows.





Wrap up


OOOOOkay, Fuckers. That’s it. That’s emotions for you.


What do you think? Helpful, or am I now thinking too much about the things that I’ve thought so little about for most of my life?


If you ask me, settling up emotions has been one of the biggest, hardest, most rewarding parts of my Trauma recovery. It’s been akin to learning a foreign language, but, similarly, I’ve also received the benefits of having a new method of talking with myself and relating to the world.


Again, I still have my emotionally-dense days, as I call them. But I also don’t get stuck in those places or let them determine my daily activities at this point (outside of, you know, acting in ways that unravel the shit feelings, that is). I don’t feel ridiculous for feeling anymore. I’m not self-shaming for having my shame responses.


Getting emotionally educated and realizing that I’m an open vessel where energies flow has been enormous in the past few years. Embracing my tumultuous chemical factory has been a game changer. It makes me feel more powerful, well-adapted, and prepared for whatever is coming at me next in this wild ride. Plus, it lets me move forward, rather than trying to live in a personal Chernobyl.


How do you feel about how you feel? What do you do to manage your emotional states? When did you stop fighting every feeling?


Hit me up at traumatizedmotherfxckers@gmail.com and let me know what your emotional insights have been.


Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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