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What Is An Emotional Release?

An emotional release is, simply, allowing emotions to come out, without judging yourself, or the emotion, or someone nearby who might have triggered the release.

What kind of emotions? Grief is very common, and crying for ‘no reason’ or crying ‘at the drop of a hat’ or crying ‘at every sad song’ is an example of an emotional release, though it can also happen with anger, too.

The point of an emotional release is that in the course of our lives, from when we were very young indeed, right up until this morning, there may have been times in our lives that (for very good reason) we could not express the emotions we felt. It might involve a Trauma (accidents, abuse, neglect, battle), or it might involve a trauma (not getting the love and support we needed when we needed it, in the way we needed it, even though no one was being criminally neglectful or abusive), and honestly, both count perfectly well to get to our point: what painful emotions we don’t express, we save up for later. (Besel VanDerKolk has a great, if gruesome, book about this, The Body Keeps The Score.) 

So, consider that for a moment. Every time the world failed you but you soldiered on, every time you held it in, every time you kept a stiff upper lip, every time you compartmentalized, every time you felt pain – physical or emotional – but had no outlet for it, none of that is gone. And it’s not just in a big spreadsheet in the sky. It is, as the theory goes, literally trapped inside your body.

So when you cry for ‘no reason’, or ‘at the drop of a hat’, or you are suddenly rageful at a minor annoyance – that’s an emotional release. And you’re long overdue.

So what do you do about that?

Step one: be safe. 

Step two: be non-judgmental.

Step three: release.

First, make sure you can have your emotional releases either in private, or amongst people who will be kind and understanding and realize what is going on and not take your emotions personally. For grief, that last would mean that it’s not their responsibility to make you happy again, and they didn’t cause your sadness. For anger, that last would mean that even if they triggered the rage, it’s not them you’re angry at, and they bear no responsibility for your anger, or making it go away.

Second, don’t join the madding crowd and get down on yourself for being weepy or ragey. You’ve got some very good reasons to cry and it doesn’t matter if you don’t realize which ones prompted these tears! Likewise, you’ve got plenty of reasons to be angry, but since this level of rage probably wasn’t sponsored by your housemate leaving their shoes in the wrong place, just acknowledge that you’re really angry about something else, you don’t know what it is yet, and that’s okay! 

Third, breathe through the pain. Nice, deep, diaphragmatic breaths, moving your belly out when you inhale and back in when you exhale. Cry all the tears you need to. Scream into pillows if the anger gets too much (or if you’re like me, go put on gloves and hit the punching bag). Express your emotion in a way that is safe and kind to yourself, and when it finishes running its course, just breathe and let it go.

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