Emotional freedom. For most of us, that translates to the “Holy Grail” because each one of us would like to live in a state of emotional freedom. We’d like to become unstuck from that uncomfortable place where we retire to when we struggle with our emotions.
I grew up in a conventional middle-class family. I was told to be realistic about my dreams. I don’t think it was intentional, but it caused some rebellion—a lot of resentment. Emotional blackmail was a way of life. My folks were experts at saying No. to most things I wanted to do. Go out with friends for a movie, take up a job offer, enroll for a course. Nope. Rather than accept the way things were, I rebelled and came out of it. But the bottled-up emotional pain keeps coming back to haunt me. It never goes away, you know. I always had my mother’s support, but living in a joint family, both of us went through the same pain until we broke away.
This emotional turbulence often holds us back from reaching our full potential. We hold on to the anger. We feel lonely. We dwell in the past. And we spiral down, back to that dark place. Sure we get on with our day to day routine, but you know what I mean!
The good news, as always, is that we can become unstuck from emotional pain. We can wake up, and walk that path to emotional freedom, as I am discovering. We can release the locked-up pain gradually and achieve peace with these seven steps.
7 steps to emotional freedom
1. Recall an uncomfortable emotion
Close your eyes. Think of an emotional experience that really hurts. Recall everything about it in detail. Maybe you were embarrassed. Maybe it was rejection. Maybe it resulted in a feeling of loss or failure. Be specific about this emotional trigger. If it makes you miserable, open your eyes, take deep breaths. Calm down. Then close your eyes again and recall.
2. Identify where it hurts
When we go through emotional pain, it often hurts physically. Tightness in the throat, chest or tummy, feelings of discomfort, feeling choked, a headache. Where does it hurt? Locate it. If you feel nothing, relax and tune into your body. Sometimes recalling a painful emotion may not cause the same pain. But as you relive it, the physical pain—or a memory of it—appears. Emotions are usually connected to a physical sensation.
3. Name it
Give your emotion a name. The thing is, we usually go with “feeling bad” “feeling low”, “bad day” and so on. So give your emotion a name. Fear, sadness, rage, hostility, grief, envy, worry, shame, anger, resentment. When you are specific, you can focus on this emotional baggage you want to let go of.
4. Express it in writing
This is the tough part and perhaps the longest step. Take a sheet of paper and write down what happened in detail. What did people do? How did you react? When done, take another sheet of paper. Pretend to be the other person and recount what happened from their point of view. Yes, tough. But do it. How did they feel? Why did they do what they did? How did they respond later? This is very important.
Then, take a third sheet of paper. Pretend to be a journalist. Report the incident in third person. Be detailed but be objective.
Now, this may sound strange to you—but when you’re finished with the third sheet of paper, you’ll actually feel a little free. It’s because you’ve looked at the emotional pain from a different perspective. You feel slightly detached. You’re on the path to freedom!
Read out what you’ve written on the three sheets of paper—all three versions—to someone—a trusted friend or family member. Someone who cares about you.
6. Time to release
You are now ready to release your pain. Create a ritual if you like with the three sheets of paper. You can burn them and throw the ashes into water or let them fly in the wind. Or tear the paper into tiny bits and bury them. Or just tear and flush down the potty. Do what feels best to you.
This is crucial as you are separating who you are from who you were in the past. When you express your emotional pain in detail, it feels great to let go of it. Sometimes you can’t release it all and that’s okay. Let go of what you are able to today. You can repeat the same exercise to completely release the pain.
What? You deserve the reward. When you’ve released your old story, celebrate that feeling of liberation by yourself or with someone. Appreciate yourself. It is a big deal. Emotions can be painful traps but they also set you free and bring positive change in your life.
Every time you feel trapped by a painful emotion, repeat this powerful seven-step exercise and eventually, you will set yourself free and enjoy emotional freedom.
Have you felt tied by hurtful emotions from the past?
What do you do to come out of it?