When I was in middle school, we had a special class that was labeled “Gifted and Talented”. Yes. That was the name. We had to test-in to be able to participate in this class and be counted among the “Gifted and Talented” group. I was in the 5th grade and clearly remember walking across the playing field to take the test. I felt so proud in that moment. Then, the day came when my teacher told me I needed to re-test. But all of my best friends did not. They were in. I distinctly remember feeling sad, embarrassed, and insecure in that moment. I felt “stupid.” I cannot tell you how many times that memory has haunted me and the number of times I’ve felt the very same emotions overcome me, as if I was back in that classroom 40 years ago.
Why does this happen? Why are past negative experiences so deeply ingrained in us? Have you ever been going about your day and then, suddenly, out of nowhere something triggers a terrible memory and you’re overwhelmed with negative emotions (worry / anxiety, stress, anger, etc)? I have been thinking about this idea and working on it for years and I find it fascinating how powerfully our brains can influence our state of being and how difficult it is to not allow these skeletons from our pasts to control our emotions.
But we don’t have to allow these triggers and overwhelming negative thoughts define us. When we learn to release these emotional attachments through a process of reflection, we can truly move on.
The Importance of Reflection to Release
Reflection can bring up a multitude of emotions. Often, in moments of despair, people—who are trying to be helpful—tell us to “forget and move on.” But have you ever tried to just “forget and move on?” Most of the time it doesn’t work. And 3 months later, the same memories and emotional attachments come bubbling back up to the surface again. If only it were this simple, huh? Well, the problem here is that we aren’t fully releasing and letting go in these moments.
Figuring out how to release negative emotions and truly move on is a process. When you start to reflect and a moment from the past triggers an emotion deep within, here are some steps to take:
- Welcome the emotion – Write it down
- Give gratitude for the experience – Write it down
- Say goodbye to the emotion – Write it down
- Release it like a balloon filled with helium or a bottle thrown into the sea… create your own celebration! Write it down and give gratitude for having had that experience.
Every time I have used this ritual for my experiences that I needed to release, I have found my life taking paths that I never thought possible. If you had asked me 15 years ago if I would be doing what I am doing today… my answer would have been “never!” My journey and my life are beautiful. And it all started with reflective healing and releasing.
How I Woke up One Day and No Longer Wanted a Diet Coke!
Starting when I was in junior high (7th grade!), every day I would have at least 3 soft drinks (Diet Dr. Pepper, Tab, or Diet Coke). Every day, I would have a craving for one! And every day I would drink several. Fast-forward 30 years. One morning, I woke up and I no longer wanted a soft drink. For this particular story, I cannot tell you the exact releasing moment, but there was one. I do recall reading an article on the negative health effects of drinking too many soft drinks. I was also journaling a lot and planning new life goals during this time. As I wrote out my new lifestyle plan, I recall writing down no more soft drinks. So, I believe the act of writing it down and thinking about living into my new lifestyle helped me release the craving for soft drinks. I seriously have never had a craving for a soft drink again.
I share this story because it is an easy one! There are likely many stories that come with a lot of baggage and are not as easy to unload as my craving for Diet Coke. So, I can’t promise the same results for you. You may have to welcome some negative emotions multiple times and throw them several release parties before you can truly release the central layer. Though the memory may recur several times, you will likely find that with each recurrence, the emotions feel differently than before. The negativity fades and these memories carry less of a sting as you practice letting go.
If you are working on releasing something, here is my recommendation: take your Conscious Strong™ journal with you, as much as you can, wherever you go. Especially if this a new practice for you. Also, try not to get discouraged if it this practice does not give you immediate relief. As with anything, it takes time to release years of stored baggage.
Unsure of where to start? Read this blog about how to get comfortable with reflective writing!
Avoidance of Inner Awareness Can Cause More Problems
We have all at one time or another tried to sweep emotions and our awareness of them under the rug. We wear a happy face like a mask and try to pretend that nothing is wrong. But whenever we do this, we shove those feelings deeper inside of our heads. The more you pile on, the more damage you are doing. This approach to “coping” will cause you to lose your sense of self-awareness, because we end up turning to the external for validation and answers.
In addition, you will find that there is a deep connection between avoidance of awareness and fear-based thinking. Fear-based thinking only leads to greater suffering. Here is a great article from Psychology Today about overcoming the fear of flying. What is especially interesting here is that studies show that those who maintain awareness of their bodies are better able to adapt positively to stress and anxiety.
Again, this is a lifelong journey. The more present and aware you are, the more beautiful life will be. You will receive the gift of pathways you never dreamt possible. The next time your thoughts trigger stress and anxiety, instead of running from it, invite it in and celebrate it. You are a stronger and more gifted person for having that experience. Just try it.
Here’s an exercise:
- Allow yourself 20 or 30 minutes
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie back
- Have your Conscious Strong™ journal and pen with you
- Have a timer of some kind close by
Set your timer for 5 minutes, close your eyes, and welcome the stress and anxiety by simply allowing yourself to feel what is there. As you feel these emotions wash over your body, give yourself permission to release them. After you have welcomed the stress and anxiety and feel as though you have released them, pause for a moment and do this simple body scan: (don’t overthink it).
Immediately when you finish the body scan, take out your journal, set the timer for 5 minutes and begin to write everything that comes to mind. EVERYTHING. Don’t overthink it. Just write. Keep your awareness on your body.
When you are finished with your writing, I recommend moving your body. You can take the time to complete the FREE Conscious Strong™ Daily Planner Guide and then go for a 10-minute walk around the block. Movement will help to stimulate the body and sustain the release of the emotions.
Contact Us here and keep us posted as to how this exercise works for you!
A Little Science to Back this Up
The human brain is very complex. In fact, what we understand about the brain barely scratches the surface of what our brains are truly capable of. What we do know is that in the frontal lobe of the brain, we have two amygdalae, one on each side. The amygdala is the center of emotion and emotional behavior. As Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk calls it, in his book The Body Keeps the Score, the amygdala is like the brain’s “smoke detector.” This is because “when we perceive a threat, the amygdala sounds an alarm, releasing a cascade of chemicals in the body.” When our amygdalae are stimulated, we experience stress, anxiety, and fear.
This is where mindfulness exercises like the one mentioned above can help. Skillful mindfulness calms down the amygdala and allows us to stay present and focused without feeling disoriented from stress and anxiety. This is how we find the coping skills to manage when those moments of overwhelming experience hit us. We can prepare ourselves to release in these moments through practice.
The Conscious Strong™ Foundation program and How it Can Help with Building Self Awareness
In the course, you’ll discover the power of balancing physical strength with mental clarity and emotional resilience. Your journey to strength and vitality begins with a willingness to try and an investment of just 15 minutes per day. You will find in the Conscious Strong™ Foundation Course:
- Engaging video lessons to teach core concepts and movements.
- Guided meditations and mindfulness techniques.
- Resources to help you reflect and adjust your practice.
- Lifetime access to course materials, including updates and revisions.
- Membership in The Conscious Strong™ Community.