It is imperative to recognize our emotions when we experience them and allow ourselves to feel them. There is a reason we are feeling them and if we suppress them, we will not learn about deeper feelings that we have also suppressed. This is called an emotional “train” in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
When we suppress our emotions, we do not address our thoughts about the behaviors or events that led up to the emotions. People who have been in abusive relationships (e.g. sexual, physical, mental, emotional, etc.), emotionless relationships (e.g. parent/child), or been victim to parental alcohol or drug abuse, learn how to live life based on reacting to the consequences of these abuses. We become codependent and we get lost.
As time goes by, rather quickly I might add, all of the thoughts and feelings associated with abuse repeatedly get suppressed and we lose sight of the “past” issues, live our life day to day thinking that we have already dealt with our past issues, and keep adding to the problem by making decisions without realizing that we are not healthy enough to make them.
One way to address the emotional train is to start at the beginning and go through the events in our life that we have suppressed or to work backward by allowing our mind to meditate on current emotions and digging deeper and deeper. The following activity is one way to help you identify thoughts and feelings from early childhood experiences. Please do not explore this activity if you cannot handle your emotional responses without support of professional help.
- Dim the lights and lay in a comfortable position on a bed or couch in a room by yourself without any outside distraction (noise, people talking, etc.).
- Close your eyes and think of your earliest memories. As you go through bits of your life, you want to try to identify the events that have been painful. Try to relive the memory as if you were there. When you are able to identify your emotions and thoughts about the event, write them down and describe them in detail (2 pages if you can).
You can repeat this activity whenever you are comfortable and able to do so. Each time recognizing the next event that was painful and so on. As you dig in deep to your emotional train and journal, you will begin to see a pattern, which will help you see more clearly why you made certain decisions in your life. More importantly, you will be able to make better decisions that reflect your transformed emotional state.