Every emotion has a beginning and an end. Like an ocean wave, even the most painful feeling crests and dissipates. In our confusion, however, we sometimes block the natural flow of emotions by holding on to resentment, hurt, hostility, regret, or grievance – at great cost to our emotional and physical wellbeing.
Step 1: Take responsibility.
Emotions are so powerful that it is easy to believe that we have little control over them. When someone says something rude, we feel justified in reacting with an angry response. But if your emotional state depends on how other people’s behavior and words, you will forever be at the mercy of others. Understanding that you have choice in how you respond and interpret experiences is the key to healing the emotional body.
Step 2: Witness what you are feeling.
Conditioning trains us to feel the same feelings over and over every time we experience the same situation. As soon as an emotion is triggered, we get tangled in our old response. To escape this painful cycle, we need a clear place of witnessing. The best way to witness is to locate where the feeling is arising in our body. Observe the feeling and allow your attention to embrace the sensation. Breathe into the feeling. By allowing yourself to experience the physical sensations without trying to change them, the charge of the emotional begins to dissipate.
Step 3: Label your feeling.
Give a name to whatever sensation you feel in your body. Use simple words such as fear, anger, guilt, frustration, or sadness. Don’t use the language of victimization – betrayed, let down, hurt – any word that implies blame for someone else. By simply labeling your feeling, you avoid the temptation to rehash the long, complicated story. Every story is about the past. Your sensations and emotions are in the present.
Step 4: Express the feeling.
When we resist or suppress emotions, they only become more toxic. Expressing a feeling leads to release and purification of the body and mind. The purpose of this step isn’t to express how much you hate or blame someone else but to experience release, clarity, and insight. First describe the situation and your feelings from your point of view. Then express what happened from the other person’s point of view. Then describe the situation as though you were a reporter writing an objective news story. When you describe all three perspectives, the intense emotions lose their grip on you and your awareness expands.
Step 5: Share your feeling.
Choose someone you trust and share your feelings, including the whole process you’ve been going through and all three points of view. You should now be able to share without blame and without trying to get the other person to take “your side.” The aim is to be heard and get a true reflection, which the right listener can provide.
Step 6: Let go through ritual.
Create your own ceremony for symbolic release of the toxic emotion. Every culture since ancient times has used ritual, and you can invoke this age-old power by creating a ritual that has personal meaning for you. You may want to write down what you’re releasing on a piece of paper that you then burn and release to the Virgin Mary, Buddha, or any spiritual being. You could also wrap your note on a rock and jettison it into the sea or a lake. You can make your ritual private or invite others to witness the release and help you remember its significance.
Step 7: Celebrate and move on!
Honor your release by doing something nice for yourself. The celebration doesn’t have to be showy or elaborate. You could simply listen to your favorite music, buy yourself a special present or enjoy a delicious meal. You may want to invite others to share in the joy and gratitude.
You can use these even steps on something that upset you today or to let go of pain you’ve been carrying for many years. By letting go of emotional toxicity, you will not only feel lighter and free, you also create space in your life into which more love, abundance, and joy can flow.