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How Unresolved Emotions Can Make Us Sick | with a guided meditation

February 28, 2022 5 min read

My friend Stacy doesn’t cry. She once told me that she has a monthly tradition of kicking her husband out of the house. She picks the saddest movie on Netflix and attempts to weep.

It rarely works.

Why does she do this? Because she’s a smart woman.

Stace tries to cry because she knows that holding onto unresolved emotions can result in some pretty tough consequences. She struggles to emote, but does her best to express emotions so that they don’t become trapped below the surface and impact her on a subconscious level.

What are unresolved emotions?

By definition, something that’s unresolved has no conclusion or distinct outcome. Unresolved emotions are those that exist below the surface. They can involve events in the recent or distant past. They may involve anger, sadness, fear or any combination of the three.

My friend Stacy doesn’t cry. She once told me that she has a monthly tradition of kicking her husband out of the house. She picks the saddest movie on Netflix and attempts to weep.

It rarely works.

Why does she do this? Because she’s a smart woman.

Stace tries to cry because she knows that holding onto unresolved emotions can result in some pretty tough consequences. She struggles to emote, but does her best to express emotions so that they don’t become trapped below the surface and impact her on a subconscious level.

What are unresolved emotions?

By definition, something that’s unresolved has no conclusion or distinct outcome. Unresolved emotions are those that exist below the surface. They can involve events in the recent or distant past. They may involve anger, sadness, fear or any combination of the three.

Emotions can be suppressed intentionally, or completely by accident. We may purposely choose to bottle up tough feelings to avoid feeling hurt or scared. The choice can also be made completely subconsciously, as a means of self-protection. People who struggle to emote may have learned at some point in their lives that it’s safer to avoid acknowledging their feelings.

When emotions are held below the surface rather than acknowledged, they don’t simply fade away. They can manifest as psychological or physical symptoms which an individual may struggle to pinpoint the cause of.

How can unresolved emotions make us sick?

“When you shut down emotion, you’re also affecting your immune system, your nervous system. So the repression of emotion, which is a survival strategy, then becomes a source of physiological illness later on.” - Dr. Gabor Maté

Put simply, ignoring your emotions (consciously or subconsciously) is bad for your health. It can lead to stress and anxiety, fostering the perfect environment for disease to flourish.

In Eastern medicine, it’s widely accepted that the body and the mind are inherently interconnected; one can’t heal one without the other. In the West, too often, physical symptoms of the body and the state of the mind are treated as independent clauses.

Across traditional and alternative fields of medicine, it’s agreed that stress is a significant factor in facilitating illness and disease. Research in chronic disease is becoming more and more focused on addressing underlying emotions in order to heal the physical body.

How do you know if you have unresolved emotions?

Unresolved emotions can arise in the form of physical symptoms or mental suffering. Memories and traumas can be hidden from a person’s awareness and yet still impact their day to day life.

You may be holding onto unresolved emotions if you experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Trouble managing anger
  • Poor impulse control
  • Uncertainty and mistrust in relationships
  • Unexplained fears
  • Hopelessness

What can you do to prevent unresolved emotions and their consequences?

Uncovering stuck emotions can feel quite overwhelming - especially if it involves trauma or memories that may have been repressed. That said, the catharsis and health benefits that can result can be profound and priceless.

Working with a counsellor, therapist or trained mental health practitioner can be extremely beneficial to release trapped emotions. One of the most significant factors needed to facilitate emotional release is a feeling of safety. Having the guidance and security of working alongside a trusted professional can help to facilitate an environment that encourages letting go and emoting freely.

Many yoga teachers and philosophers believe that emotions can be stored in the body. To help release stuck emotions, focus on gentle yoga practices such as yin and restorative yoga. These softer forms of asana practice typically involve longer holds, and tend to incorporate props to facilitate a sense of ease and safety. When we feel safe to open up space in our body we are more likely to feel safe to open up and uncover hidden emotions. I personally have experienced feelings of vulnerability and old memories coming up during yin yoga practices, especially those that focus heavily on the hips.

Take your healing beyond the mat by making time to journal. When you feel off or triggered by certain events but can’t quite pinpoint the cause, put pen to paper. Journaling is a great way to gain clarity on emotions that may be subconsciously driving your actions. Guided journaling can often be very helpful in cultivating a sense of self-reflection when the cause of anger, stress or anxiety is unknown.

(Want to start journaling but don't know how to get started? Read our Journaling Tips for Beginners.)

In addition to a therapeutic practice, yoga, journaling, breathwork, and meditation can all be useful tools to uncover, address and respond to underlying emotions.  

Many yoga teachers and philosophers believe that emotions can be stored in the body. To help release stuck emotions, focus on gentle yoga practices such as yin and restorative yoga. These softer forms of asana practice typically involve longer holds, and tend to incorporate props to facilitate a sense of ease and safety. When we feel safe to open up space in our body we are more likely to feel safe to open up and uncover hidden emotions. I personally have experienced feelings of vulnerability and old memories coming up during yin yoga practices, especially those that focus heavily on the hips.

Take your healing beyond the mat by making time to journal. When you feel off or triggered by certain events but can’t quite pinpoint the cause, put pen to paper. Journaling is a great way to gain clarity on emotions that may be subconsciously driving your actions. Guided journaling can often be very helpful in cultivating a sense of self-reflection when the cause of anger, stress or anxiety is unknown. (Want to start journaling but don't know how to get started? Read our Journaling Tips for Beginners.)

It takes courage and patience, but addressing unresolved emotions can make a significant shift in your mental and physical health.

Trust in your ability to heal from within.

Note : This post is intended as purely informational and should never be used as a substitute for professional counselling.

Victoria Maybee l Mukha Yoga
By Victoria Maybee; All Rights Reserved @2022

Victoria Maybee l Mukha YogaBy Victoria Maybee; All Rights Reserved @2022