Most of us become accustomed to holding back our emotions. We get really good at hiding them, avoiding them, or just pushing them away completely. But, this isn’t such a great idea. In this article, I’ll tell you why.
When the Teton Dam Broke
I was born in 1976… the year that the Teton Dam broke in Idaho. My dad and my mom were living in Seattle at the time. The dam burst on June 5th. My Grandma and Grandfather were visiting for my baby blessing, when the damn broke. But, my Great Grandma Lyman was living in the heart of Rexburg, Idaho. It was the area of Idaho that received extensive damage, as millions of cubic feet barreled down the basin at a rate of 2 million cubic feet per second.
I remember stories of my Great Grandma Lyman telling me how her basement had 2 feet of mud that collected in it. Whenever we would take picture on the porch on the front of her home, I was reminded of The Flood. The concrete stairs were a little warped from the force of the water. And instead of being square, they were rounded.
Before the damn burst, workers had noticed that there was a small trickle that had started to form in a couple of areas. And then, a bigger wet area. And 11:55, the dam failed and the entire pressure of the water was finally realeased.
The Bonneville Dam
Now days dams are built a little differently. Though I didn’t grow up in Idaho, frequently my family and I would make the drive to and from Seattle to visit family in Idaho. We would often pass the Bonneville Dam along the way, in Oregon. Most of the time, it looked like a water show as we passed. It was built to let a little bit of water pass through at a time. I believe this helps create electricity. And I’m no engineer, but it seems to me the releasing a little water at a time, also helps to the strength of the entire dam.
There is a dam like this in Boise, too. That is where I live now. And during the spring, as the snow starts to melt from the mountains and trickles down to lakes and streams, the dam has the ability to let a little bit through at a time. And all depending on the amount of water that is coming from upstream, and the amount of water that can be handled downstream.
Stop Holding Back Emotions
Sometimes I think we bottle up our emotions. Especially the ones we don’t like. But, when we do this… the pressure starts to build and build. This is what I call resisting our emotions. It is not usually fun to feel sad, or anxious, or frustrated… so we just push those feelings away and start holding back our emotions. Sort of like we are holding up a dam… but the old-school kind. The kind that doesn’t allow any water through at all.
But, what if… after we have a thought and that emotion had the ability to just move through out our body. What if we allowed it to run its course, all the way from the top of the mountain, through the dam and we let it end up in a pond somewhere in the valley?
This is what we call Allowing our emotions. And it IS possible. Not only is it possible… but, it is necessary.
The first step is accepting the feeling, understanding that it is not good or bad. So many times I’ve heard my clients label their emotions. I hear them say, “Well, I don’t want to feel ______ (fill in the blank)…. jealous, judgmental, angry, etc.
But, what I tell them is that they are resisting the flow of emotion. Holding back our emotions is like trying to hold back the dam. Instead, I encourage them to process the emotion through.
The next step is naming the feeling. After this, the next step is we getting out of our heads and into our body. What does jealousy, judgement, or anger actually feel like in your body? Open up to it! Let the emotion move through.
You might be worried to try processing emotion. You might think that if you open the flood gates even just a little bit, that you might get buried with a whirlpool of muddy, difficult emotion.
But, here’s what I want to offer you: The opposite is true. It is the holding up of the dam, the resistance of emotion that causes mental exhaustion and causes the pressure to build and build… until it finally bursts through the dam.
Let Them Process Through
Heavenly Father actually made our bodies to process emotion, because he knew here on this earth… that we would experience A TON of them. So, letting them process through… truly, only makes you stronger. You’ll even start to notice that emotions actually aren’t that bad at all. You’ll show your brain that you can process ANY emotion. And once you are willing to feel any emotion, there is really nothing that can stop you.
So, practice letting emotions run through you… knowing all the while that they are caused by your thoughts. (Read all about that here. ) Process them as they come up, so that you won’t be buried with a wall of water later.