How to release trapped emotions?

In my twenties I remember going through the process to release trapped emotions inside my body. The emotions first felt like a painful ball in my chest. Maybe it sounds crazy to you? How can emotions feel like an object and manifest in such a way?

Working in psychiatric nursing, I meet patients who are going through very similar experiences. They became emotionally hurt in their life and never managed to process the painful emotions.

Getting bullied or abuse from others are common causes. Bereavement and relationship breakdown can also cause trapped emotions.

The emotions trapped inside can manifest with physical symptoms like inner pain and anxiety, some of my patients describe the sensations as pain in their chest, a knot in their stomach or lump in their throat.

(I know the pain can feel unbearable at times and recovering can feel impossible. But wait… I want you to know that you can do this. Getting through the pain might be one of the hardest things you have to do in your life but you will grow and be stronger afterwards)

Releasing trapped emotions

There’s no easy fix to overcome trapped emotions and you just got to start with small steps and working on yourself. On the next part of this post I will talk about some of the things that helped me. I recommend you read on and if it clicks with you then consider buying the books I recommend at the bottom.

The three steps to work through for releasing trapped emotions are Awareness, reconnecting and acceptance.

Awareness of emotional pain

Become aware that the trapped emotions exist. It might feel like a dull ache, numbness, sickness, anxiety or deep pain. Psychiatric drugs can blunt your emotions and block the emotional pain out.

Antidepressants, for example, don’t treat the cause and you are unlikely to recover with medication only. What the medication does is make the sometimes overwhelming feelings manageable. Dull out the pain and anxiety enough to make it possible to work with.

You will find focusing on the trapped emotions will cause much anxiety and pain, for this reason I meet many people who avoid dealing with the trauma and live their life pushing the pain to the back of their minds. This is okay in the short term, but it does worry me that later on in their life the inner pain will come back with avengence. And I’ve met older people where this has happened and completely floored them.

Reconnecting with the missing emotional part of yourself.

Talking to the hurt part of yourself can help you open up to the experience. Maybe not speaking aloud or people will think you lost the plot. But either in your mind or quietly and when you’re alone. Eg. “How are you feeling today Adam?”, “you will be okay Adam”.

You can take it one step further and imagine your speaking to a child version of yourself and offer comfort. Eg. “I know you were hurt in the past but now your older and I will not let you get hurt again”, “I am here for you now”.

Reconnecting with your inner child. When you were younger you shut down part of yourself to protect feeling intense emotional pain from trauma and abuse. Healing this part of yourself means you must befriend the child who went through the traumatic experiences. Innerchild work is used in therapy and many scholars attribute Carl Jung as the creator.

Meditation can help you focus on the pain and at the same time create distance between yourself and the blocked emotions to not get caught up in the painful feelings.

Sessions with a qualified therapist or psychologist will help you carefully navigate through the trapped emotions. Counselling, EFT, EMDR (I used a counsellor to help me navigate through my mind and emotions)

Yoga stances and yoga breathing exercises are beneficial to helping you work through this time and help you cope with feeling out of control.

Talk to friends or family about your experiences and what you’re going through. I can’t emphasize enough with sharing your struggles with others is going to also help you.

If you’re worried about putting your pain on to others. Then ask yourself this, if your loved ones were going through a similar experience, would you want them bottling up and not telling you?

Accepting and forgiving yourself

After reconnecting with the emotional pain you will find the pain will transform and change as it’s released. You might feel relief, like a weight lifted off your shoulders, lighter and more joyful. You could feel angry and want to confront the person/people who hurt you.

The best option for you now is letting the emotions flood through you and accepting whatever comes. If there’s any blame for holding on to all those pain and not connecting with the trapped emotions. Forgive yourself, because blocking out the bad experiences was your way of surviving and coping at the time it happened. It’s not your fault

The dangers

Reconnecting and releasing trapped emotions can also be dangerous. You are opening up a can of worms that might not go back in again. It can send people over the edge. Maybe you remember a horrific event that your mind blocked out for many years and the pain is overwhelming. It is possible to become suicidal or unable to look after yourself. Always consult a professional if you feel out of control.

Book recommendations

Focusing by Eugene Gendlin
Towards a psychology of awakening by Jon Welwood