Updated: Jan 16
Has anyone ever told you to, “get a grip!?” It’s seriously annoying, right? Our culture doesn’t look too highly on extreme emotion except in specific circumstances such as church, concerts, or reality TV. Most other times you are expected to be “under control” so as not to make a scene. The problem with this attitude is that emotions are a natural reaction to upsetting situations (I’m not talking about emotional outbursts designed to get attention) and expressing those emotions physically is your body’s way of discharging that excess emotional energy. If you can’t express your emotions, that energy can’t dissipate and it remains in your body. This often means that your emotions go underground. They can turn in a conscious or subconscious thought loop that plays over and over again in your brain, holding you hostage to that emotion that can’t be released.
We’ve all had experiences with this. Think of times when you’ve gotten stuck in a loop at home, saying things such as, “These kids are driving me crazy,” or, “It would be nice if he/she would help out once in a while,” or maybe even, “I’m so sick of this, I can’t wait to get away!”
Consider work as well. “If I have to help ______ one more time, I’m just going to lose it!” “I’m so sick of having to fix all the messes they make.” “I hate working here.”
Your internal world also has loops. “I’m never good enough for _____.” “I’ll never be able to get through this.” “No matter how hard I try, I always end up back where I started.”
All areas of our life have loops that play over and over in our brains. Each one is rooted in some emotion that was never fully realized, felt, or released. Whenever frustration, anger, disappointment, embarrassment, unworthiness, fear, etc. can’t find an outlet, it can be channeled into one of these loops. They aren’t productive, they don’t resolve the emotion, and they can be damaging in the long run.
So if “getting a grip” on an emotion sends it under the radar into a loop that plays in your head, then losing your grip should release the loop and let the emotion dissipate.
Now, I’m not telling you to go flying off the handle and release all your pent-up frustrations on your family and colleagues. There are more socially acceptable ways to resolve the emotional blocks. There are in fact, many ways to do this, including smashing coconuts (highly recommended by author Tosha Silver), throwing rocks in a lake while yelling, journaling, performing rituals, and more. Today I want to share two techniques with you that can be done simply and without any advance preparation (like trying to find a coconut).
Step away from the emotion
The first technique takes your emotion, makes it less personal, and lets you step away from it so it can dissipate. You start by noticing a loop going through your brain. Once you notice the loop, then you identify the emotion behind it. The next step is to make the emotion less personal by talking about it as separate from yourself. Once you get some distance from the emotion, you can view it in third-person which makes it easier to let it go.
Here is an example: First, identify the loop. One might be “I can’t believe what a jerk _____ is being.” Every little annoying thing your partner/friend/colleague does pulls you back into this loop. Second, identify the emotion behind the loop. In this example, there is clearly some underlying anger that needs to be dealt with. The next step is to make this anger less personal so you can step away from it a little. Instead of saying, “I’m so angry,” or “my anger,” or even, “the anger I feel,” you might start to think about “the anger,” or “that anger.” This starts to release your ownership of the anger and allows you to see it from a new perspective. Now when your loop starts to play, instead of being caught up in it, you step aside and view it from a third-person perspective saying things such as, “something triggered this anger, what was it?” “Is that anger valid?” “Is the anger that showed up something I want to keep?” Before long, the emotion is moving away from you as the power of the loop to drag you down is removed.
This technique works because you start to look at your situation from the outside in, rather than from inside the stuck emotion. From the outside, you can see other ways of thinking and problem solving that aren’t available from the inside. In this way, you lose your grip on the emotion (or perhaps it loses its grip on you) and you can let it naturally dissipate.
Step into the emotion
The second technique is, in a way, the opposite of the one above. Instead of stepping away from the emotion, you lean into it and allow yourself to feel it completely in order to release it. This is based on Mary Mrozowski’s Welcoming Prayer technique introduced to me via Cynthia Bourgeault. After using the Welcoming Prayer for a bit, I found that it wasn’t quite working for me. Some simple changes in language felt better and that is what I want to share with you here.
In this technique, when you feel yourself entering the loop, you stop and identify the emotion behind it. You then take time to completely feel that emotion in your body while at the same time saying, “I accept you (name the emotion).” Usually you repeat this phrase multiple times as you fully feel that emotion in your body. It often builds to a crescendo and then starts to dissipate. Once you feel that ebb in the emotional energy, you say, “I release my desire to control this” and you let it go.
The two statements you say are important to understand. First, “I accept you (emotion)” does NOT mean you like it, you agree with it, you want it, or anything else. You are simply accepting that the emotion is there. It exists. You are going to stop ignoring it and acknowledge it. For emotions that have been pushed underground in our effort to “get a grip,” this is the beginning of catharsis. The second statement is “I release my desire to control it.” This refers to both the emotion and the situation that created it. It is likely that you don’t like either and you really want both to change. It is also likely that you don’t have control over either. Situations can’t always be resolved. Emotions are naturally unruly. That’s the way it is. What you can do is release your desire to control what happened and your negative reaction to it. So releasing your desire to control it doesn’t deny the situation or your feelings, it just acknowledges that you holding on to it is not helping anything.
This is my favorite technique at the moment and I’ve been using it quite a bit lately! Some of you know that I’ve been living with family for the past 15 months. It wasn’t completely my choice and it certainly hasn’t been my plan to be here this long (my thought was to spend a year traveling but, well, Corona changed that). My family isn’t the problem, I just really like living alone and miss it desperately. The past few months I’ve had a lot of negative loops running through my head. Variations of “I can’t deal with this any more” and “I’m going to go nuts if this doesn’t change,” were going through my head on a daily basis. About a month ago I learned this technique and decided to give it a try. One underlying emotion fueling my loop was frustration. Following the technique, I started repeating, “I accept you frustration.” The buildup of energy as I opened myself to the full feeling of that emotion in my body was almost unbearable. Then, as the energy finally started to ease up, I said, “I release my desire to control this,” which allowed it to completely dissipate within minutes. Over the next few days I had to redo it several times as more layers of emotion rose to the surface, but ever since I have felt a blessed freedom from the emotions and loops. In allowing myself to fully feel the emotions and release control of the situation, I moved through it to a place of peace where I know I can deal with this if it doesn’t change. I still hope it does and I’m doing what I can to make it change, but the frustration and disappointment at not being able to control a situation that is out of my control is now gone.
These are two completely different techniques, but they are both powerful ways to release yourself from the energy of emotions and their associated loops. Try them both and see what feels right to you. Once you get the hang of them, they are both extremely easy to use at a moment’s notice and don’t require hunting for coconuts. The hardest part is noticing the loops when they start playing and wanting to let them go (some people actually like their loops!). If you are willing to do the work, you can find a place where emotions are acknowledged, accepted, and released in a balanced and healthy way.
Release your control today and feel the peace that comes when the emotions lose their grip on you!