Swallow hard. Clench your jaw. Hold back the tears.
Breathe in deep. Inhale…exhale…hold it all in.
Silence. Throat tightened. Bite your tongue.
Just a few of the ways you may be stuffing your emotions, saving them away for another day. There's no harm in a momentary pause in emotion in order to process it in an appropriate time. The problem for most of us is that time never comes, and emotions get stacked like sardines in the back of our minds and the memories imprinted on our bodies like a record to be replayed again and again.
Later, maybe a day or a week or a few months, perhaps a few years even, something happens to recreate the feeling you had before, the time you stuffed it to take care of another day or hoping it would just go away. But it didn't. It just got stored in your body, waiting for its turn to come out and play. Except an emotion that's been in a closet doesn't play nice anymore, especially since it's been ruminating around with all of the other emotions it found hidden away.
These emotions start to swap stories. They have ways of organizing themselves with their narratives, each telling more embellished than the last. Sometimes they try to one up each other, there in the recesses of your subconscious mind, replaying over and over and over again their moments of pain and sorrow, fear and regret, shame and guilt…vying for their place in line at the closet door.
Finally, that closet door has so much pressure behind it….all of these emotions vying for their place in line, pushing and shoving, getting louder and louder, more boisterous…more angry.
Until something small happens in your day. It could be you got cut off in traffic. Or perhaps someone was short with you and said something unkind. Maybe your kids left their shoes out one too many times or your husband forgot the most important item on the grocery list.
Those emotions, they have been waiting. It's getting hot in that closet and they are tired of being silenced. Plus, there simply is no more room.
You go to stuff that emotion away only to find a rush of feelings flooding your body, and you react…or, rather, you over react to that situation that just happened. In your mind, you begin to justify and maybe even blame someone current…"Well if you would have only…if they wouldn't have done…if there had only been…" as you struggle to get those uncomfortable feelings under control and back in the closet and hope no one has noticed the mess that just spilled out.
Has this ever happened to you?
Depending on your mode of operating, after an episode like this you may then add another layer of locks on that closet door, locks like guilt and shame or anger and rage. You want to protect that door at whatever cost because you do not want to ever feel that way again.
The problem is, you will.
You have effectively just told your body to store them for another day because they are just too much or too hard or too painful or too….well, you know, messy. Emotions are messy.
Yes, yes, they are. But emotions stuffed are way messier and more toxic to you, your body, your spirit, and your loved ones than you can imagine. And also easier to process than you've been led to believe.
Next….Emotions. Can they make you sick?