The process of realignment after experiencing trauma, emotional, physical, mental or sexual is not an easy one but is critically important for healing and for not carrying emotional baggage into other aspects of your life. So far, I’ve covered two processes, reflection and reevaluation. Reflection allows you the opportunity to express your feelings and thoughts about how you got to where you are today. In the process of reevaluation, you assign value to the things, activities and people in your life that you spend time, money or energy on and decide whether any shifts need to be made in order to bring your values into alignment with where you really want to spend your time, money or energy.
The third step in the realignment process and which is the subject of this blog post is releasing. While this is certainly easier said than done, it is one of the most freeing steps in the realignment process. In this process you begin releasing the unresolved emotional baggage keeping you in your current unsupportive situation or life state.
What you’ll need:
Safe & quiet space
This is a two part process; identification, followed by releasing.
Naming a thing can be very powerful and cathartic and key for the releasing process. In my experience, trauma sufferers have a hard time recognizing and naming their true feelings and the consequence of this is that these feelings are expressed in hurtful and unsupportive behaviors, either through self-harm or in harming others.
Much of the emotional baggage we carry is either learned or created as defensive mechanisms to protect us. For example, one of my learned defense mechanisms is to not trust people. I had many lessons where I was disappointed by people especially those close to me whom I trusted to protect both my physical and emotional wellbeing. This mistrust continually showed up in my intimate relationships. I had such a strong distrust in my partners that over time, the relationship would deteriorate due to my pulling away, shutting down and wanting to control them.
Your emotional state, whether you’re carrying mistrust, resentment, guilt, shame, anger or unworthiness, is the filter through which you operate in the world and determines how people interact with you. Whether you know it or not, these unconscious states are always working against you, despite your best intentions.
For example, you may want to get fit but unconsciously resent society’s expectations of you and so act out by eating unhealthily. Likewise, you may want to be a healthy relationship but you feel unworthy of love and therefore attract abusive partners. Similarly, you may want to be wealthy but you may not feel deserving of keeping money and so spend money unwisely.
Now that you have some examples of unsupportive emotional states, take some time to write in your journal about how you’ve been operating in the world, what you’ve been allowing or been in denial about and why. Write about the role you’ve played in your current situation. Write about where you learned this behavior from, either from watching your caretakers operate in the world or perhaps behaviors learned as defensive mechanisms.
The good news is that if you took the time to identify your unsupportive emotional states, you’ve already begun the releasing process. Developing awareness is one of the biggest things you can do to let go of your baggage.
This next step I find very helpful in letting go and that is to question the usefulness of remaining where you are. It’s sometimes difficult to let go of a belief or behavior we’ve become acclimated to for so long and begin to feel like this is how life is always going to be for us. What’s needed is a shift in perspective and one of the ways to start this process is ask “how useful is this for me?” How useful is this strategy, behavior, attitude, belief or emotion? Answer this question in your journal.
Here are some other ways to shift your perspective:
Try something new — for example, if the first thing you do when you get home is look for something to get angry with your spouse/partner/children about, perhaps smile and ask them how their day was.
Find a role model who embodies the behavior you would like to embody, whether or not they are known to you and copy their behavior.
Seek the perspective, advice or guidance from someone you trust and are willing to be vulnerable with.
Identify the lesson in the event that created the emotional state you now live in. For example, using my mistrust of people, the lesson was learning how to discern trustworthy from untrustworthy people and easing into relationships rather than diving head first, expecting someone else to take responsibility for my wellbeing and happiness.
The above actions, identifying your unsupportive emotional states as well as where they come from and shifting your perspective, are two powerful methods of diffusing your unresolved issues making room for expanded awareness, growth and change in the direction that is more aligned with your true essence.