When was the last time you experienced grief, anxiety, guilt, or anger? What did you do in those moments? Did you try to bury your feelings, numb them, or act out in a manner that you later regretted? Did the emotions go away or did they intensify?
Emotions are not the cause of your suffering. Your thoughts behind the emotions are what cause the uncomfortable and often painful feelings. Your emotions are the result of your beliefs about those thoughts. What if you could release difficult emotions simply by bringing awareness to them and by having acceptance of them?
One method that I find particularly helpful when struggling with difficult emotions is called The Sedona Method. It's a powerful and quick process of questioning that leads to freedom from distressing thoughts and feelings. The Sedona Method requires becoming aware of the feelings, identifying and accepting the feelings, relaxing into the feelings, then finally releasing the feelings.
Although there are several variations of this technique, this is how I use it. First, get into a comfortable position - preferably in a quiet place where you can close your eyes and be uninterrupted for a few minutes. Take a few deep belly breaths to center yourself. Now, think of a situation that you are currently struggling with. What emotions are surfacing? Let yourself fully feel the emotions that arise. As uncomfortable and as unnatural as this may seem, know that it will only last a few minutes. Then, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Can I let this go?
This is powerful because it reminds you that holding onto a feeling is a choice you are making. An example that is often given is to think of your emotions like a pencil you are grasping in your hand.
After a while, the pencil you are holding onto creates tension and discomfort in your hand. Certain emotions that we hold onto also create tension and discomfort.
Now, hold out your hand flat and let the pencil roll around. You notice that the pencil is not attached to your hand and that you could easily let go of it if you wanted to. Think of the pencil as an unpleasant emotion and turn your hand over, letting the pencil drop. Notice the feeling of freedom in letting it go.
2. Will I let it go?
You, and you alone, have control of holding onto or releasing negative emotions. You may have heard the saying, "What you resist persists." Resisting or suppressing emotions causes further rumination, magnifying unwanted feelings.
Emotions, by themselves, are basically neutral and transient. Negative emotions are usually caused by thoughts that have certain expectations or desires attached to them. When you let go of the want, the expectation, the fear, the stress, the anxiety, and just let whatever you're feeling be okay…the turbulent emotions naturally dissipate. There's no longer energy attached to the emotions once you stop resisting them.
3. When Will I Let Go?
Now that you've walked through the process and answered the hardest questions, the final question involves timing of the release. If the answer isn't "yes" or "now," let that be okay. The idea of "letting go" has already been planted in your subconscious mind, which houses 95-99% of your resources that can act on this command. Repeat the exercise at a later time when you are able to release the emotions.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to welcome negative emotions, it actually increases your resiliency. By allowing yourself to experience the full spectrum of emotions, you are better able to handle life's many challenges and transitions. The beauty in life is that nothing is permanent, including your emotions. Realizing that your thoughts and feelings are fleeting and that suffering is optional creates space to focus on thoughts and feelings that can better serve you and enhance your life.