5 Steps to Unpacking Emotions

I finished my book recently and sent it out to a few people to get feedback. The results were interesting because as much as the book captivates its audience (which I take as a huge compliment), some family members were concerned with the idea that I am somewhat wallowing in the aftermath of the traumas. I can see why they think this because the book was part of my processing so it goes through all the events and how they affected many of my relationships, literally telling my story over the last 18 months. The thing is that I finished the book and I’m not there anymore but this whole situation brings about a very valuable point – what is the difference between wallowing and unpacking a negative emotion?

I feel like the Western society actually encourages wallowing and even pushes people to create an identity out of their ‘condition’. Firstly the awkward responses when you tell someone about what you’re going through, then the whole ‘something must be wrong with me‘ feeling, off you trot to the Doctors and before you know it, you’ve got a whole new condition to claim and feed your ego with – and trust me, the ego loves this. Be it PTSD, depression, or something else, it’s a whole new identity to live through and get attention for ‘how bad’ you are. The thing is I’ve been there, I was living this identity for the year after the attack and 6 months after my Dad passed away. Allowing myself to get carried away with emotions then pulling out the ‘you have no idea what I’ve been through’ card. That changed in January of this year when I boarded a plane to Asia, because I made the decision to choose happiness and not wallow in the negativity of these traumas. That said, I’ve realised that in order to be truly happy I’ve had to go into my inner depth and unpack these emotions, attachments and traumas before getting to the ‘I’m getting through it’ stage. It’s really important to make this distinction and I feel like this is where some people get a little confused.

So firstly, let me clear this up – if years after these events I am moping around all day in negativity, getting angry, suffering in silence because things are too difficult to talk about or blaming others for not treating me right (pulling out that ‘you have no idea what I’ve been through’) card. Generally, spiralling around in negative patterns that I keep creating without truly moving forward in my life, then this is wallowing.

If on the other hand I become aware of an emotion as it comes up and I stop, sit with it and ask myself why has this upset me/made me angry/why am I negative today? Then this is the start of unpacking it. I’ve written about this in my emotional intelligence post but let’s truly explore this.

I’m going to be brutal about this: Most negative emotions that are experienced come from traumatic events that haven’t been unpacked fully. If it had been unpacked fully then there wouldn’t be any negative emotion around it because it would have been accepted and dealt with already. What about people who don’t feel like they’ve been through a ‘traumatic’ situation but experience a lot of negative emotions I hear you ask? Well, hardly anyone is trauma free. The majority of us would have experienced minor traumas in our childhood that we haven’t addressed which later manifest in our psyche (such as self-limiting beliefs, depression, anxiety etc) and sometimes in our physical body (Dr Jenn’s PhD was all about this, and so is Louise Hays book: You Can Heal Your Life). I’m sorry if this is the first time you’ve heard that you’re probably traumatised in some way, but hey, you’re reading this post and I’m going to share with you some great info to help you unpack these traumas!

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite powers of our light” – Brené Brown

So here’s my advice, from someone who has been there. From someone who has read around various subjects. From someone who has received some amazing support from psychologists, counsellors, acupuncturists, NLP practitioners and a variety of other therapists in the whole spectrum in mind body and spirit therapy:

1. Meditate. Neurologically speaking, meditation connects the emotional and logical parts of your brain, so rather than getting carried away with your emotions you actually become an observer of them. So instead of spiralling into depression you can literally stop yourself and say ‘hmm, I have some sadness today’

2. Explore inwards. When an emotion comes up, acknowledge it, accept it and explore it to find out why it’s coming up and where it’s from. It could even be from a seemingly insignificant even in your childhood that you didn’t realise bothered you, or a recent event that wasn’t fully dealt with.

3. Help yourself. Work to unpack every trigger, every self-limiting belief and seek the help you feel is right for you. If that’s acupuncture then go get it. Beating up a pillow in your room? Do it. Counselling? Book it. Everyone needs help now and then, whether it’s to talk something through with a friend or booking to see a professional, don’t stop yourself from getting what you need because of societies stigmas.

4. Be compassionate to yourself. Like me, you’re probably a human too and having emotions is perfectly normal – especially negative ones (no matter how much Instagram might try and convince you otherwise)! Even if you have really difficult emotions like guilt and shame come up for how you acted in a certain situation, show yourself compassion and acknowledge that you acted in the best way you could with the tools you had then. Let the emotion come up, then release it with compassion.

5. Listen to yourself. You’re the best guide for you, so tap into your feelings and let them steer you on your path. Even with these 5 steps, if they don’t feel right for you, don’t do them, just explore what does work for you right now and deal with what you can when you’re ready. And if you’re not ready that’s ok too, just listen to your body and follow what feels good for now (even if it’s avoidance through smoking/drinking, that might be your body’s way of distracting you until you are ready, but by meditating daily you can at least acknowledge this for what it is and stop it if it spirals out of control).
Like most things in life, unpacking emotions takes work. It can be uncomfortable at times and it can require persistence to get through the sticky parts but the rewards are worth it, trust me.

Like Brené Brown says:
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite powers of our light”
Now with this knowledge wouldn’t you choose happiness too?

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

 

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What Do You Need Right Now?

I remember as a kid, how my Dad would sometimes have a tear in his eye when talking about a situation at work. The difficulty of having to tell someone they’ve got cancer, listening to a patient’s last wish when they knew they were near the end, or speaking to the parents of a recently deceased child. That one was always the worst.

To experience the death of your child, before you rather than the other way around. I can’t Read More »

Stop Before You Shame!

Only Smiles Here

I really love TED talks, in fact, I probably have a little bit of an obsession with them but of all the addictions to have it’s actually quite a beneficial one. So, as I sit in my airport hotel, feeling pretty lonely whilst trying to work out the best way to promote my blog I’ve started flicking through some talks and I came across this one by Jon Ronson: When Online Shaming Spirals Out of Control.

Read More »

A Little Compassion Please

Dr Jenn and I have now parted ways. She’s on her way back to the UK and I’ve headed down to Penang, a small island on the coast of Malaysia. I’ve done this route once before on my own. In fact, I’m going to cross over much of the same path that I did two years ago when I was exploring South East Asia, but this time, it feels different. Obviously, a lot can change in two years and indeed, some of the places have, but the biggest difference of all, is me.

There are some great aspects of travelling alone – meeting new like minded people, having the flexibility to do what you want and generally being selfish with all your decisions. However, all that comes at a price, because you’ve got to fend for yourself in all the tricky situations you get yourself into. Last time I was here I was completely carefree (some might also say a little bit reckless), which I guess is one of the things that left me vulnerable to being attacked in the first place. These days not only am I more conscientious but my awareness and instinct are super tuned into everything around me. There’s also a much deeper sense of compassion and empathy that I carry around with me too.

The journey down from Surat Thani (mainland Thailand) to Penang wasn’t the most comfortable of rides. A 12-hour journey in a small mini bus squeezed full of passengers and backpacks stuffed into every square inch. When we arrived at the border, everyone had to vacate the bus to pass through security with their bags, to then hop back into their new Tetris style position on the other side. While we took the opportunity to stretch our legs on the Malaysian side, a young Western woman in her late 20’s approached. She asked if we were headed to Penang and if so, could she get a lift? This woman had got out of her bus at the border under the impression that she could get her Thai visa renewed, then hop on another bus going back into Thailand. It wasn’t until she was stranded on her own that she realised that not only was this not possible but that transport in general around the border is pretty scarce. She was still another 2 hours drive from Penang which is where she needed to go for the visa and it was getting dark. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no room in our bus and, however much our driver might have wanted to cash in on this opportunity, she would’ve literally had to sit on top of bags in the gang way which wasn’t going to be safe or legal (not that these bus journeys are legit anyway, as we found out later when we got stopped by the Malay police). We had to turn this poor woman away and I instantly felt for her. It was dark, she was somewhere unfamiliar and she’d made a couple of misjudgments that had caused her to be in a vulnerable situation.

Two years ago this could have quite easily have been me and being as brazen as I was back then, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, brushing it off with “I’m Shereen, I’ll manage”. This time though, all I could think was, What if something bad happens to her?…What if she gets raped?

I spoke to her for a little while about what she was going to do and she said that she’d just get a hotel for the night and work it out in the morning. She didn’t look too panicked about her situation and clearly trusted in her ability to work it out. So we left her, completing the last 2 hours of our journey, while she was left to walk on the side of the highway, in the dark, alone. That night I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman and I just hoped that she was safe, wherever she’d ended up.

The following day I had to take the ferry across to the mainland and I was astonished and delighted to see her walking out of the ferry port. I literally screamed “Hey, you’re the girl from the other night! You’re ok!” as I held back on the “Thank god you didn’t get killed/raped” line that was on the tip of my tongue. I stopped to have a chat with her and we exchanged numbers, initially she was quite surprised at my level of concern but seemed grateful when I explained what had happened to me, which had led to my concern. For me, I physically couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes and feel scared, alone and with that ‘I’ve messed up’ kind of feeling. So when I saw her I was instantly relieved, naturally I became compassionate because these feelings inside me had been triggered.

Then I got thinking about compassion. What it is, why it’s important and how much of it is about these days. I was pondering this subject as I sat in an open-air Indian ‘restaurant’ (it was more of a street cafe) in Little India waiting for my food to arrive. As I sat there on my own I watched all the other people in the restaurant. The Malaysian, the Indian, the Chinese and the scattering of foreigners, all sitting together peacefully regardless of race, religion or beliefs. This harmony among people is what I love most about Malaysia, each sect unquestionably respects the other and there doesn’t seem to be a judgment of each other’s choice of beliefs. Everyone just gets on with their life and they seem to treat every person like the human being that they are. At least, I thought so… check out the Little India/Mosque/Chinese Lantern pic below.

IMG_0972

As I people watched in the restaurant, I saw a middle-aged Indian man shuffle through the tables, stopping at each one to beg for money. He put his hand out at every table and stared at each person, one by one with his glaring eyes while he loudly asked for money in some language I didn’t understand. This man had erratic body language which was verging on aggressive, he leaned into every table, sometimes towering over people and then slammed his hand out. On rejection, he would jerk it back into his body and loudly slur some words out before moving to the next table to try the same tactic. To me it looked like he was quite emotionally driven and could have had some mental disability, he was most likely poor and quite obviously shunned by society. Hardly anyone gave this guy any money, most people acted like he didn’t even exist and a few gave him such a look of disgust that I felt embarrassed as a human to see them do it. By the time my food came he had resided to the alley way beside the restaurant and was screaming to an imaginary figure. He would viciously move his arms about like he was fending off an attacker and occasionally point up to the sky; I wondered if he was blaming someone up there for his situation.

Earlier that day I’d eaten in a similar street style cafe, in China town with the same diverse mix of culture. There was also a beggar at this cafe but the difference was that in this instance almost every single person gave her money. This woman was of a similar age, she looked Chinese and she subtly moved from table to table, going around completely unnoticed until she appeared at a person’s table. She carried a small bowl that she would quietly present as she made eye contact and smiled at every person she was asking from. Her body language wasn’t intrusive at all and she had warm feeling about her with a look of hope in her eyes. She smiled at every person regardless of whether or not she was given to, or even acknowledged. She gave every single person a smile and in return most handed over a small denomination of money.

I gave money to both of these beggars, of the same amount of too. If I hadn’t had the money on me I would have apologised but acknowledged that they’d asked rather than completely blank them like I’d seen that evening. The reason I gave to them was because firstly, I can afford to. Especially when I’m luckily enough to have a bank account in a currency as valuable as the GB pound. What seems insignificant to me can make quite a difference to someone else. Secondly, I decided that regardless of my judgement of their situation I figured that if they’re asking for money things must be pretty bad for them right now. They must have both felt a variety of challenging feelings which I’ve never had to even consider, so who am I to judge whether or not they deserve my pocket change? Third of all, they weren’t stealing money, they were asking. They were giving people the choice to decide if they wanted to give or not. Obviously one persons strategy was judged as more worthy than the others by the cafe patrons of Penang, probably resulting in more money. However, both of them had made a conscious choice to ask for money rather than take it through force and I respected that.

So regardless of that persons situation and what led them there, surely as human beings don’t each of them deserve the same amount of compassion? I mean wouldn’t you want someone to show you compassion if you were caught out in an unfortunate life situation? Wouldn’t the World just generally be a better place if we were more compassionate to each other?

I’m leaving this message with a video link called ‘Not just homeless’, it’s about homeless people in the UK which talks about the situation from perspectives that aren’t often heard. It’s a cause that is very dear to a friend of mine and I think it’s a good message to carry throughout life in general.

I hope I’ve inspired you to be more compassionate today.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x