Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More on Repressed Emotions

Here are some things that I didn't find space for in my last post on repressed emotions.

Writing From The Body by John Lee and Ceci Miller-Kritsberg is ostensibly about becoming more creative, but also covers the freeing of repressed emotions, since this also frees one up to be more creative. This is a wonderful book that deserves to be much better known than it is.

Here is my favorite exercise from the book (in my own words, since I gave my copy away and haven't bought a new one yet). Choose a memory from your childhood that you want to write about. Sit and think about it for ten or fifteen minutes. Come up with a short sentence, the shorter the better, that sums up how you feel about this event. Scream the short sentence. If you live in an apartment or otherwise don't want to make too much noise, scream into a pillow. Sit with the release of emotions that follow. Finally, write about the event.

I came up with a modified version of this exercise to use when you don't have a memory in mind. Instead of starting with a memory, start with whatever symptom you have. As I mentioned in the first post on repressed emotions, a repressed emotion can manifest as a physical symptom like headache or back pain. What you can do is focus on the symptom for a while, and then ask that part of your body if it can give you a few words or a short sentence related to the feeling. It can take a few tries before you get an answer, especially if you're not accustomed to communicating with your body. It helps to get into a meditative, relaxed state. It also helps to suspend disbelief, because your body can come up with stuff that sounds weird and illogical to your mind. Resist the urge to dismiss; instead, take the words you're given and scream them. The rest of the exercise is the same.

Screaming can be helpful for releasing repressed emotions. Just ask the Primal Therapy people. What I appreciate about this exercise is the way that it works in verbalisation. Sometimes you feel something and you don't know why. Finding words can clarify what is going on.

Finally, I have a suggestion for people with chronic muscle tension. If you're one of those people, you can spend an inordinate amount of time stretching your ridiculously tight muscles out in an attempt to feel like a human being. It helps for a little while, then everything bounces back. Or you have a massage, which is not cheap, and everything bounces back. So the next time you stretch, try making some noise: a sigh, groan or even a scream if you feel like it. If the tension is connected to repressed emotion, making noise will release some of that emotion and loosen you up better than stretching alone. Try it next time you stretch. I'd like to say, try it next time you get a massage, but I find that massage therapists are not always up to speed on the repressed emotions thing and sometimes they will freak if you start crying on the table. I don't know why; they should know better. I imagine the reaction would be even worse if you screamed. You might end up like Jerry Seinfeld, unable to get another massage appointment.

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