Dramatic, isn’t it? Reality can be dramatic; it also can be slow and painful. We need to start being proactive when it comes to our emotions. I am not speaking about being emotional. Many of us are that. Being emotional and understanding our emotions are VERY different things.
Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be taught, but it takes time, effort and work. It can be and is challenging. If we were not taught how to identify, accept and healthily express those emotions very early in our lives, then we will struggle to do it as adults.
Repressed emotion has been shown to have an epigenetic component, passed down through the generations as intergenerational trauma. Chronic illnesses, autoimmune diseases, genetic diseases, addictions, self-harm, mental illness and numerous disorders are no joke; the medical proof is out there. Neuroscience proves it. There are medical papers outlining it as far back as 1997 that I have found, but they are not easily accessible to the public. The following article from 2019 cites many others. I suggest you give it a read.
My Mom…bless her…outwardly, laughed her way through life, yet, that was not what she should have been doing, for her own mental and physical wellness. She had many traumatic events happen in her childhood, making her life a difficult one. Those things should have been talked about and cried about in a safe environment which would have meant she healthily processed them. She should have been held and loved through them by a community supporting and lifting her. That was not her story, though. Instead, she followed the previous generation’s lead and suffered in silence, pretending the traumatic events never happened, pushed the emotional pain down, took all of the stress into her body. In order to survive and regulate, she made jokes and she laughed. She put out humour, and deflected her pain with teasing. The result being her body was poisoned because of it.
My sharing isn’t about wanting my mother to feel more pain; she already felt that pain and did it alone her entire life. I am also not attempting to shame her or anyone for not knowing another path. How can we know when we have never been shown? It is like expecting someone to know their way to a specific destination without giving them directions. It is impossible.
This is an entry in a journal my mother wrote in the years leading up to her death. She lived 5 years longer than her father. She had lifelong lung issues, she never smoked. She wasn’t simply ‘unlucky’. her father, a man, a husband, a parent to 8 living children, 6 boys, 2 girls and buried a total of 8 children and she recalled very little about him as a person and knew nothing of his past.
As we can appreciate, her mother had a very difficult life and was not what I could call “warm” or “open” with affection. Yes, the times for people experiencing poverty in the 30s and 40’s were tragic. My mother and her siblings (only 3 are still living) had the epigenetic imprint continue to make their lives difficult.
As a species, though, we were not biologically wired to live our lives the way we have been for the generations I have been speaking of. Our modern society has created roadblocks and detours where they do not belong. When the skills of connection and love were put aside for survival and guidance was traded in for punishment, we lost the plot and physically, we’ve suffered for it. Our bodies need us to process all these emotions and traumas to remain healthy.
Please read this brilliant article about how we were intended to process our emotions. This speaks in the language of trauma however it is linked to what I am saying because, excessive repressed emotion over time causes trauma to our brains, which in turn finds its way to our body.
The expression is “the good die young”. The reality of that expression is, “That kind person held all their sadness, anger, frustration, shame, guilt, blame, fear and any other perceived negative emotion in for the peace of those around them. Either because they did not want to be a ‘bother’, or they did not feel they were worthy of the space it would take up, or they didn’t know HOW to express it in a healthy way.” In other words, they never shared their pain with anyone with the tools to help them. They could not let go of their sadness, fears or anger. They died too soon, certainly.
We must understand those are natural and human emotions we all deserve to feel. There are perfectly good ways to express those emotions that are not hurtful or toxic. Many of us aren’t aware anger isn’t a primary emotion. It’s secondary; we have a myriad of signals that occur in our brain and body before anger erupts that we may ignore because we were taught to shove those down, not trust them.
Our caregivers didn’t always do this on purpose or out of malice. Sometimes, it was out of love…thinking they were protecting us. Now that we understand the neuroscience behind behaviour, we can see it took our ability to feel our emotions in a healthy way – away.
Another popular societal falsehood is, it is too late to learn new tools and strategies, especially emotional intelligence. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only have to be willing to grow and be vulnerable.
Due to underlying trauma, I was *emotional* AF, about things that didn’t matter. All while repressing other important emotions, ending up with a chronic autoimmune disease that nearly killed me. I accepted the condition was my life. Then, I began connecting to my brain/body, understanding my sensory needs, and finally being kind to myself. IThis was a process and in that process of mindful kindness, I started understanding my emotions and how deeply they ran.
Understanding anger is always born from something else first and what I had been exposed to growing up was not a healthy representation of anger. De-conditioning and Re-conditioning can happen at any age too, as long as we are willing.
When we cannot identify our emotions – we will repress them. When we cannot express our emotions in a healthy way, we WILL repress them. This will have a detrimental effect on our brains and our bodies. When this has happened in previous generations, the cycles repeat.
For the record, emotional regulation, nervous system regulation, speaking kindly to myself – with regular mindfulness, my preferred breathing method, my meditation, trauma-informed exercise, the RIGHT therapist (it took many to find the right one) and a shit-load of reading about anatomy – my *chronic* illness symptoms are gone. The ADHD/autism traits that had gotten out of control are now manageable, with my meds 1/3rd of what they were last year. My oestrogen levels have returned to normal. My lymphedema, which made my pain level an 8/10 daily, has settled into more than tolerable. No migraines for the first time in 3 decades. The depression/bipolar/anxiety that I lived with, oh, you know, my whole life…I have weaned off the medication I have been on for the last three decades. This does not mean I do not FEEL the bad stuff because we know bad stuff happens; this is life. In fact, painful stuff fuckin hurts…but I know how to feel through it now, and it doesn’t grip me the same way. I didn’t have the right tools before. It was like using a plumber’s tool to fix a car engine – it was simply ineffective. Now, I feel it, and I feel lighter and energized afterwards. I can move on with my day. I know self-care isn’t just a bath and chocolate. It’s a state of mind and loving who I am and what I deserve. It is self-compassion which allows me to have compassion for others.
I see now what being an advocate for mental health indeed should be. One for wellness because focusing on the illness – kept me there. That is not healthy; it was never healthy. We have created an industry that focuses on keeping us in it, and that has become predatory. If society cannot see that, at this junction, two of the main messages being sent to us are “It’s ok not to be ok.” and telling us positivity is toxic. Rather we should know yes, you are supposed to feel those emotions; however, we are not supposed to stay there because our brain only has the information we give it. The industry is keeping people sick because it makes money that way.
The neuro-informed information is out there, and has been out there for decades. Doctors have had the information, therapists, holisticians, pharmacists and nearly every industry you can imagine, have it but…so many don’t want you to have it, they don’t want you to believe in it. Do you know why? Because the very minute you believe in it, you have the ability to change your life entirely, all on your own.