- in Self-Care
Your emotions are incredibly valuable.
They deserve your compassion, your attention, and your patience.
They deserve to be expressed.
By “expression” I do not mean talking on and on about your emotions. I’m sure you have analyzed yourself so much that by now you could write an autobiographical self-help book!
It feels safer to talk about our emotions — why we are sad, who we are angry at, why we have a right to be angry — than to experience them. However, you leverage your Expectation Hangover on the emotional level by giving yourself full permission to experience your feelings in a safe and loving way.
There are two things to consider as you journey through the emotional treatment plan for your Expectation Hangover.
First, don’t compare your life experience to anyone else’s.
You may think it’s silly to cry over being laid off when you know someone who just lost a child to cancer.
It is not: your experience is your experience.
Understandably, hearing about other people’s struggles puts our lives in perspective and cultivates gratitude, but that happens in our left brain, our rational mind.
Feelings come from your right brain, the emotional side. Minimizing your emotions in light of someone else’s journey is a form of suppression. For now, honor your personal Expectation Hangover and give yourself full permission to feel all your feelings about it.
Second, expect that the symptoms triggered by your Expectation Hangover will be tied to feelings you stuffed away in your past.
Expectation Hangovers catalyze feelings that you have been unwilling or unable to face before. Your treatment plan on the emotional level gives you the opportunity to work through them so there is more room for the feelings that feel good!
Working on the emotional level was a very important part of treating my own Expectation Hangovers.
At eleven years old I was diagnosed with depression and put on Prozac. For twenty years I took a variety of antidepressants, which numbed feelings of sadness and anger that I never really processed.
Every Expectation Hangover I experienced reactivated suppressed feelings, and because I didn’t know how to move through them, my avoidance strategies kicked in.
I distracted myself through work, numbed my feelings with food and television, or changed my prescription to a higher dose or different brand. It wasn’t until my late twenties, when I learned how to process my emotions, that I was able to stop taking medication. (I am not asserting that antidepressants are not helpful or necessary; this is just my personal experience.)
You too have the courage to let go of your avoidance and suppression tactics, whatever they may be.
It may feel scary, but I’ll walk you through the process.
I assure you that you will get through the darkness to the light — and it will be well worth it!
“As a natural life force, emotions are intended to flow freely through our bodymind, then dissipate once we have fully experienced them and assimilated their valuable message.”
— Tim Brieske
How We Suppress Emotions
Growing up, we learn how to add and subtract, read and write. Our parents teach us life skills like how to tie our shoes and drive a car. But how many of us are taught how to deal with our emotions effectively? We are told to “shake it off,” “be a good girl/boy,” “stop crying,” that “it’s not such a big deal,” or that we are “overly sensitive.”
Because of the dismissive responses we receive and come to anticipate in others when strong emotions come up, our natural emotional responses feel wrong, shameful, or inappropriate.
People in your life, especially your parents, while attempting to make you feel better or just being uncomfortable with strong emotions, taught you how to not fully experience emotions.
Perhaps they jumped in to soothe you so you never learned how to fully feel a feeling. Or maybe they distracted you from the negative feeling by diverting your attention with a positive distraction such as candy or video games (hint: this is how addiction as a way to avoid and soothe emotions begins).
Even if you had very loving parents, they may have interrupted the full expression of your feelings.
This isn’t about blaming anyone.
Everyone has always been doing the best they could with the tools they had. Chances are, your parents were not taught how to process emotions either. But it’s up to you now to reverse the trend of suppression.
Exercise: Exploring Your Emotions
The first step in treating your Expectation Hangover on the emotional level is to become aware of how and when you began suppressing your feelings.
This exercise will help you access a deeper understanding of your emotions.
As you move through the following steps, answer each question in your journal.
Begin writing (by hand) immediately after you read the question — don’t stop to think about your answer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember a lot of specifics. Write anything that comes to mind; don’t edit, analyze, or judge.
1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit where you won’t be interrupted.
Close your eyes for a moment and take yourself back to a time in your childhood when you were really angry. Go with the first memory that comes to mind; you can work through this process again as other memories surface.
After you have a memory, answer these questions:
a. What was the reaction of the people around you, such as your parents, siblings, peers, teachers, or coaches when you got angry?
b. What were you told about being angry?
c. What beliefs do you think you formed about expressing anger?
2. Repeat step 1 for each of the following feelings: sadness, fear, embarrassment, and excitement.
3. How did you see people in your family express their emotions?
4. What do you do today when you feel a big feeling (like anger, sadness, shame, fear, guilt, or excitement)? What do you tell yourself?
5. What avoidance strategies do you use to suppress your feelings?
Acknowledge yourself for having the courage to do this exercise. You have now increased your awareness of how and when you began suppressing your emotions. Take some time to reflect on this process in your journal.
Emotions need a way to get out.
If you do not express them, they will find another exit!
For instance, through over a decade of working with people as a coach and spiritual counselor, I have noticed that unprocessed sadness creates lethargy and even depression.
Unexpressed anger can manifest in irritability and anxiety.
If you find yourself doing things like snapping at a waiter, road raging, crying over things that you don’t think should upset you so much, constantly feeling “blah” and passionless, consistently looking for external things to make you feel happy or peaceful, or using any of the common quick-fix avoidance strategies, it is time to really face your feelings.
I understand it seems challenging, but suppressing and avoiding emotions is even harder work!
The long-term drain on your energy from suppressing and avoiding your emotions is far greater than the short-term pain of acknowledging, feeling, and dealing with them.
Keeping your feelings inside is like attempting to hold an inflated beach ball under water.
You can wrestle with it for a while; but sooner or later you lose your grasp on it, and it pops up, creating a huge splash and knocking you right in the face.
If you have ever had a big feeling come up in a way that felt almost out of control, you know what I am talking about.
During an Expectation Hangover it’s common to have a disproportionate emotional reaction to a situation. You also may experience feelings that seem inappropriate or out of context.
I remember being irritable and quite rude to my family when I was going through an Expectation Hangover regarding my career in my twenties (which makes sense because one of the symptoms of repressed anger is irritability). Although I recognized and didn’t like that I was acting that way, I did not know how to change it until I learned how to process emotion.
Lynne met a man on a dating site and was excited about the potential she felt from their email and phone exchanges; but the morning of the date, he canceled.
She was extremely disappointed, crying all the time, even though she didn’t know this guy from Adam.
She was questioning why this particular event upset her so much.
What Lynne realized from her inflated emotional reaction to this dating experience was the following:
“Feeling like no man wanted me goes back to feeling like my mother did not want me. It brought up all my childhood fears and sadness about not being good enough for my mom.”
At fifty-seven Lynne finally grieved the relationship she always longed for but never had with her mom.
Since then, her life has turned around 180 degrees.
Her business is flourishing, and she is experiencing causeless joy.
“It is such a gift and a blessing to know that I can take care of myself emotionally. I don’t need a man to take care of me anymore, and I do not get upset if I do not hear back from someone romantically. Now when a beloved comes into my life, I can share my life with him instead of needing his caretaking."
Transformational Truth: Creativity is a Channel
During an Expectation Hangover many of us get creatively constipated.
Negative emotions seem to sever the connection to our creative muse. But the muse is still there, and it is a healthy outlet for the painful feelings that come with disappointment.
Think of some of your favorite songs, films, or pieces of art. Many were probably inspired by an Expectation Hangover; the artists channeled the rawness and realness of their pain into creating lyrics, stories, and images that touch our hearts.
Creative self-expression is important because it is one of the ways we can channel and release emotions.
Use your anger or sadness to create something. Channel it into writing, painting, singing, or dancing. It doesn’t matter if you are good at it or not.
I notice that people get depressed when they suppress their creativity.
This is especially true for individuals who are highly right-brain oriented (inclined toward creativity) but grew up in very left-brain-oriented (logic-focused) environments. Since their creativity was often misunderstood and discouraged, they had to suppress it.
To get your creativity flowing, make time for it by putting it on your calendar.
And just like you’d set the mood for a romantic evening, create an atmosphere for your creative process, using things like music, candles, and sacred objects.
Create with enthusiasm, curiosity, and joy, but without attachment to the end product.
Allow your emotions to come up and inspire you as you create. I have heard from many artists that there are teardrops in their paintings.
Do not judge yourself or attempt to edit your expression while you are creating it. Doing so will only interrupt your process and shift you away from the emotional part of your brain to the analytical part (and don’t you spend enough time there anyway?).
After you create something, acknowledge yourself for it!
Celebrating — not evaluating — is key to honoring your self-expression.
Excerpted from the book Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love and Life. Copyright © 2016 by Christine Hassler. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com.
About the author
Christine Hassler left her successful job as a Hollywood agent at 25 to pursue a life she could be passionate about . . . but it did not come easily. After being inspired by her own unexpected challenges and experiences, she realized her journey was indeed her destination. In 2005, she wrote the first guidebook written exclusively for young women, entitled 20 Something 20 Everything. Christine’s second book, The 20 Something Manifesto written for men and women stems from her experience coaching twenty-something’s. Her newest book Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love and Life is the guidebook for how to treat disappointment on the emotional, mental, behavioral and spiritual levels.
To know more about Christine, visit www.christinehassler.com.