One of the most important things you can do to live a meaningful and rewarding life filled with vitality is to reclaim your emotions. When you reclaim your emotions you rescue yourself from the numb and deadening state of “fine” and from the dependence on alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, and countless other addictions to feel more alive.
Most of us live in a culture cut off from emotions, especially ones like sadness, anger, fear, and joy. This can make it quite difficult to reclaim them. If you open up to someone who is cut off from or not comfortable with emotions, you’re likely to receive judgement, analysis, efforts to cheer you up, or advice, instead of support to simply be with your emotions, feel them, reclaim them as part of your wholeness, and uncover the needs to which they point.
Lately, I’ve been working with reclaiming anger and rage. These are difficult emotions for me to reclaim as they were not emotions that were expressed safely during my childhood. Moreover, though I have several empathy buddies I trust could support me with anger and rage, it’s not always easy to find the appropriate environment to explore those emotions. Therefore, sometimes I take my anger and rage to the trees.
I find that the forest is a wonderful container for anger and rage. In fact, I have yet to find an emotion that the forest was not able to receive. It’s very powerful for me to be physical and loud with my rage, so I find a place in a forest all to myself. Then, I find a very sturdy tree and push against it as hard as I want to as I say or yell all of the words and sounds I need to express. It’s like my inner child is finally getting freed from holding in so much emotional energy while still feeling supported and connected to life. Often, this leads to a grieving process, especially when I connect to my needs, and I then hug the tree as I weep away. I believe this process helps my inner child learn that there is a container big enough for all my emotions and needs.
Sometimes it’s over very quickly; sometimes there are several rounds of pushing with rage or anger, and hugging while weeping. I always feel energized and grateful afterward and love to find different ways to express my gratitude to the forest. Often, a new inspiration or creative idea follows me out of the forest.
This is not the only way to reclaim emotions; it’s just one way that I enjoy. If you feel inspired to try it, I recommend taking it in steps that feel right for you. You may want to push without any sound or words. Maybe you want to start with pushing with irritation or frustration. Or, you might want to try saying some things you never got to say but always wanted to. Maybe this is not at all the right way for you, and what feels good to you is to have a skilled therapist support you. Regardless of how you go about reclaiming emotions, it’s extremely important to do so in a way that feels right and safe for you and that is safe for everyone.
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Eric Bowers is a CNVC Certified Nonviolent Communication Trainer with extensive training in Interpersonal Neurobiology and Attachment Theory. For over ten years Eric has shared his passion for helping people create successful relationships through his experiential and playful workshops, retreats, courses, and speaking engagements. Eric combines Nonviolent Communication, Interpersonal Neurobiology and Attachment Theory in order to give comprehensive information and skills for building great relationships. Eric offers workshops and keynotes for organizations and conferences.
Find Eric’s blog–Where the Heart Meets the Road–and more about his work at roadtocompassion.com or facebook.com/RoadtoCompassionNVC.
Eric is the author of Meet Me in Hard-to-Love Places: The Heart and Science of Relationship Success.