How to Release From Emotional Blocks

The Mind

Our mind is constantly working. It has three basic functions of thinking, feeling, and desiring. We then respond consciously or unconsciously depending on how aware we are of our thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Many patients share stories claiming they don’t think. When I inquiry deeper, they discover they do think but deliberately distract themselves from paying attention.

The pain of their thoughts is too great to face. They rationalize, “if I’m not aware of my thoughts; they don’t occur.” It’s the old adage, “if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”

Suppressed Emotions

It is not uncommon for a child to be conditioned to suppress their emotions. Cultural views or mishandling of a child’s natural reaction to pain, hurt, or not getting what they desire teaches the child not to show feelings.

Suppressing our emotions doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it makes it more difficult to manage imminent life distresses. Research shows when we deny our thoughts, feelings, and desires they become stronger.

The Body

Our emotions don’t go away, they build-up in the body. Neglected emotions cause inflammation in the body, which then increases stress on the body. Risk for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety rises.

Unreleased emotions causes the immune system to weaken and then bones begin to fracture easily, joints become stiff, and illnesses become more frequent.

Relationships

The effect of suppressing emotions continues to not only have detrimental effects on our mind, body, and overall health but also on our relationships.

Relationships start to deteriorate due to unfamiliarity of social cues and gestures propelled. Frequent misunderstandings cause resentment, anger, hurt, and sadness. As communication skills decline, consequently relationships begin to fail.

The Brain and Trauma

During a traumatic event such as an assault, a robbery, or a car accident our thinking part of the brain naturally shuts down to protect us. Our brain is then able to fully focus its attention on surviving. Our body responds immediately ready to fight, flight, or freeze.

The similar way our pain receptors block us from feeling intense pain at the time of physical harm, the mind functions to suppress intense, negative emotions during times of crisis to defend us.

The brains’ response to trauma protects us. However, when we consciously disconnect from our emotions during normal life’s tribulations such as a fight with our spouse, death of a family member, anxiety from work, or from the loss of a job; our mind, body, and relationships suffers.

Common signs of stored emotional pain:

  • You overly distract yourself to maintain self-control.
  • You keep yourself extremely busy and moving to avoid negative thoughts.
  • You avoid talking about the incident because you don’t want to feel undesirable emotions.
  • You avoid people, places, or objects that remind you of the incident or that bring up adverse emotions.
  • You numb emotional or physical pain with alcohol or drugs.

It takes deep reflection, awareness, and efforts to uncover denied emotions let alone release them. Many of us, have a hard time even putting words to the sensations felt.

Nevertheless, it is important to find time to express your emotions in a healthy way.

Modified from Deepak Chopra teachings, here is a beneficial method to release emotions.

  1. Think of a specific event and write what happened. In your narrative, explain how you felt using feeling words such as:
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Blame
  • Hostility
  • Rage
  • Sadness
  • Grief
  • Sorrow
  • Envy
  • Jealousy
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Worry
  • Apprehension

As you are experiencing these emotions, feel them in your body. It may be a physical sensation of stiffness, discomfort, tightness, or pain in the stomach or around the heart. A headache or a tightening of the throat is also common.

  1. Next write what other people did and how you reacted afterward.
  2. Write another narrative but this time from the point of view of the person who hurt you. Pretend that you are that person. Write down what they are feeling, why they acted as they did, and how they responded afterward.
  3. Finally write a narrative using the same event but from the perspective of a reporter. In the third person, write how an objective observer would tell readers about the incident. Be as objective and even-handedly as you can.
  4. Share your experience. Tell your experience to a good friend, loving family member or a therapist. Keep from relaying your three stories to the person who hurt you. They will most likely not understand or be supportive. It is crucial to tell your tale to someone sympathetic and has your best interests at heart.
  5. Create a ritual to set free your three stories. Burn them, flush them down the toilet, make paper airplanes and release them to the wind. As you release your stories, visualize all your pain; sorrow, and frustration leave your body.
  6. Take yourself on a date. Go out to dinner, get a massage, buy yourself something nice. Choose an activity to cherish the work you did and the emotional release.
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Meditation + Yoga = Stress Relief

Meditation and yoga are the perfect additions to our fast-paced modern lives. These ancient practices come with huge rewards for the mind, body and spirit. Incorporating meditation into your daily life has profound benefits including reducing stress, improving concentration, boosting the immune system, increasing happiness, and slowing the aging process. In addition to calming and anxiety-reducing benefits, when you practice yoga, you build muscle strength, improve your posture, prevent cartilage and joint breakdown, improve bone health, prevent digestive problems, and set yourself up for a better night’s sleep. Nourish your entire being, balance your soul, and enhance your life when you practice yoga and meditation.

Alzheimer’s Disease is at epidemic levels. Here’s what you can do now.

boost brain function with exercise

I had the fortunate opportunity to witness Rudolph Tanzi PhD present at the March 2017 Mind, Consciousness, and Cultivation of Well-being Conference at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Tanzi asked the question, “What can Alzheimer’s teach us about the brain, mind and self?”

Tanzi has diligently utilized funding from private and government sectors to discover many facets of the brain that cause the onsite of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). His research is imperative because contrary to heart disease that is finally on a 14 percent decline, AD is on an 89 percent rise.

Tanzi and his team discovered AD begins fifteen to twenty years prior to symptoms even appear. Recent research indicates, AD affects 5.4 million patients in the United States and 50 million worldwide. Tanzi noted that women consist of two-thirds of AD patients due to females being more susceptible to inflammation in the brain than men.

Such astonishing figures shows the disease is at an epidemic level.   Thus Tanzi’s research is fundamental for the large aging Baby Boomer population and subsequent generations. This article addresses some of Tanzi’s research results and recommendations for maintaining a healthy brain, mind, and self.

Read the full article here.

 

 

Perfection

“For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”

~ Lev Grossman

What happens to the brain while in love?

Have you ever drifted into a dreamy thought of someone you recently met? You can’t explain why, but they just pop into your head. You feel a surge of joy, a slight queasiness in your stomach, and your face lights up with each playful thought of your new mate. A rush of neurochemicals stimulates this euphoric behavior.

Is this stage of love fleeting or can long-term committed relationships uphold blissful adoration?

The Stages of Modern Relationships

Whether you identify yourself as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual, there are various stages to each relationship. According to research, during the initial meeting, it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you want to move to dating and/or sex and not always in that particular order. During this lustful stage, testosterone and estrogen drive your behavior.

As your attraction deepens and you decide to become sexually exclusive or not, your stress response stimulates the release of the neurotransmitters; adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, and serotonin.

Throughout this stage, your stress response is activated. Blood levels increase with adrenaline and cortisol, hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. The secretion of adrenaline and cortisol provide that rush of energy, increase in heart rate, sweaty palms, and dry mouth when you suddenly think of or startlingly bump into your new attraction.

Dopamine

The neurotransmitter, dopamine is increased with ‘love struck’ mates. Dopamine stimulates an intense rush of pleasure, triggering desire and reward. A brain on cocaine has the same effect.

“couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” ~ Helen Fisher

Serotonin

Serotonin plays a key role in this early stage of love. Low levels of serotonin explain those constant thoughts of your lover. According to Dr. Marazziti from the University of Pisa, blood samples of couples that claimed to be madly in love for less than six months were comparable to the blood samples of patients who have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Furthermore, newly love-struck couples often idealize their partner, magnify their assets and overlook flaws.

“It’s very common to think they have a relationship that is closer and more special than anyone else’s.” ~ Ellen Berscheid

Oxytocin

Next, a couple decides upon exclusivity, engagement, living together or marrying. The attachment of the twosome instigates the powerful hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is released during childbirth and creates the bond between a mother and her child. The chemical is also secreted by both of the sexes during cuddling, hugging, and sex.

Oxytocin is important because couples that exhibit high doses of oxytocin have a strong bond and attachment that can withstand the ups and downs of life. For the release of oxytocin, it takes between 19 and 23 seconds. Thus to ensure your couplehood survives the test of time; hug, cuddle and have sex regularly.

Vasopressin

Finally, vasopressin sets the stage for long-term committed couples. The hormone is released after sex and like oxytocin creates stable bonding with your partner. Vasopressin also creates the actions of devotion and protection.

The stages of a relationship change as do the release of chemicals in the brain. The surge of dopamine in the initial lustful state creates a rush of pleasure that stimulates, even more, desire and reward. Adrenaline causes the physical reaction of sweaty palms, racing heart, and dry-mouth.

Serotonin creates those compulsive, idealizing thoughts of your partner and oxytocin makes for strong bonds. Finally, vasopressin deepens the connection and generates long-lasting love.

Therefore it is possible to love and to be in love with your partner ‘til death to us part.’ Give your loved one a 30-second hug every day to ensure your love lasts.

If your bond is broken, your trust shattered, or your connection lost, couples counseling can help to mend bonds, build trust and connection again. Call (424) 258-5416 or email april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s get started.

How to Manage the Angry Brain

The fourth communication taboo to avoid is uncontrolled anger.  Anger can range from mild irritation to out of control rage.

When anger is managed well, it can provide a healthy release, a motivator for change, or a self-empowering strategy.  Anger also is a protectant from underlying feelings of pain, fear, guilt, or shame.  It is a normal, human response and an indicator of pain and promoter of change.

When anger reaches an elevated state, the pre-frontal cortex, the thinking part of the brain is hijacked by the amygdala, the emotional, instinctual part of the brain that induces the fight, flight, or freeze response.  New information can no longer be received and defenses rise, demands persist, criticism overtakes, or vented venom leads to violence. It is at times when anger reaches an uncontrolled state of mind that a deliberate plan of action must take place.

What is uncontrolled anger?

Uncontrolled anger is an unrestrained fuel of fire with raised voices, yells of derogatory names, and can lead to physical violence; i.e. throwing dishes, shaking of your partner viciously, pushing, and beating.  If an interaction has reached this point, stop, take a deep breath, walk away, and reconvene when you have calmed down.  It’s important for the mutual interest of a committed relationship to talk in a normal tone all the while staying away from criticizing, demanding, and defensiveness.

What happens when the brain is angry?

An angry brain is overtaken by the limbic system.  The limbic system located in the lower part of the brain ignites the amygdala, a small structure that stores all emotional memories. The amygdala decides if the new information coming in warrants the fight-flight-freeze response or should continue on to the pre-frontal cortex. The depending factor is whether the new data triggers enough of an emotional charge or not.

When the pre-frontal cortex is hijacked by the amygdala, the stress hormone cortisol is released.  The process can last several minutes to several days but on average continues for  20 minutes.

When too much cortisol is freed, cells in the hippocampus short-circuit.  The misfiring of neurons stops new information from being received and makes it difficult to organize and obtain the full memory of the triggered event.

Emotional and physical responses also occur during anger.  The heart beats faster, the lungs hyperventilate, blood pressure rises, and nerve endings on the skin spring into action causing sweating and the hair on your body to stand tall.  Since the pre-frontal cortex is overridden by the amygdala, all thinking, assessing, or problem-solving skills come to a halt. Thus it is important to learn techniques to manage extreme anger.

Seven tips to cope with anger:

1.    Take a time-out and signal your need for a break to your partner
2.    Get physical — go for a walk, take several deep breaths, find an activity that gets your body moving.  Bodily activities release soothing endorphins to help calm the brain
3.    Notice and observe your thoughts – name your anger, externalize it and reframe your negative story with positive narratives
4. Expand your awareness to bodily sensations while paying attention to where anger resides in your body
5.   Learn acceptance tools — you are not your anger and this feeling is temporary.  This too shall pass.
6.    When you are calm, share your insights and experience of the event that triggered your anger.  Social support is essential for calming and letting go of anger
7.  Seek a professional if you are having difficulty managing anger on your own

While expressing your anger peacefully, use “I” statements and remember to stay within the confines of the rules of no criticizing, no demanding, no defending, and no vented anger.

If your communication is falling into the trap of uncontrolled anger, call me at (424) 258-5416 or email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s build a personal plan to manage your anger and build trust and intimacy again.

The Four Traps of Communication – Rule Number 3 – No Defending

Rule #3 – No Defending

Child saying noTalking effectively about feelings is an exercise that will strengthen trust and intimacy in a relationship. While talking is important, listening is just as crucial. Talking about and listening to certain events and issues must be presented in a comfortable environment that is committed to certain communication rules and understandings.

The role of the talker is to describe what emotions you are feeling; such as frustrated, angry, hurt, fearful, etc. Attach the emotion to a person, event, and how this affects how you feel about the relationship and about how you feel about yourself. An example is, “I feel hurt when you don’t listen. It makes me feel like you don’t care about my thoughts, opinions, or about me. It makes me feel like I’m invisible, I don’t’ matter, and I’m small.”

Next, explore what this might remind you of from earlier times in your life or previous relationships. For instance, “It reminds me when my father yelled at me as a child and continued to ask me to explain myself. I grew so scared while he yelled that I couldn’t think; my mind went blank. He continued to yell and I continued to retreat.”

Subsequently, explain what you need to help make you feel comfortable. This enables your partner to understand, empathize, and attune to your needs. With continued support from your partner, a loving connection and safe reliance grow.

The role of the listener is to put your feelings and perceptions aside, be fully present, engaged, and attentive. The listener is curious, asks questions, provides reflective statements and acknowledges your spouse’s perception of the event or issue. Another role of the listener is to ensure the four taboos of communication are avoided. They include:

1. Criticism
2. Demanding
3. Defensiveness
4. Angry outburst

I discussed rule number one, criticism and rule number two, no demands. Criticism and making a demand is a self-interested act that is demeaning and leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The third rule is to avoid defensiveness.

What is Defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a reaction to justify your behavior and serves to protect. It is a function to make yourself feel better and make your partner wrong. Defensiveness usually results in blaming, criticizing, or counterattacking. The defense protects against pain, shame, guilt and fear.

The solution is to share your feelings about your inner world that was triggered during the event. Express how it makes you feel about yourself, the relationship, and what sensitive area from your past was ignited. At this point, it is the responsibility of the listener to keep in line with your role and put your feelings and perception aside. With practice, the process will become easier and your relationship will strengthen.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, domination, defensiveness, and uncontrolled anger, call me at (424) 258-5416, email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com, or complete the contact form below and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and intimacy again.