Our experience shows that our grief is often stored in our minds and bodies, waiting to be purged when the time is right. We understand that grief is cumulative, which means all the neglectful and shaming acts of our past are piled up. We had not forgotten them as we thought. Our bodies remember. Our minds remember. Our Inner Child knows. In addition to addiction or depression, many of our members believe grief helps fuel our compulsive acts of cleaning, perfectionism, sex, binge eating, work and gambling. ACA Red Book, p. 201.
Many of us can easily identify with emotional pain. In fact, it accumulates as stored grief and it drives a lot of our behavior. Although we may be able to readily call it up at a moment’s notice, like an old friend, we have a hard time letting go of it. We have lived with emotional pain for so long, it is a familiar home. We may have trouble letting go of it because it is all we know as normal. Letting go feels terrifying, as if we are walking a tight rope without a net. We feel as if it’s dangerous to let go of something that’s been holding our world together for so long.
But consider this, emotional pain is stored in our bodies, as the above quote states. That means, we are carrying it around like heavy weight, dragging it around thinking we need it or that it’s serving us in some way. As we recover, we find that we have less and less need to carry around our emotional pain, but many of us get stuck here because we just don’t know how to let go of it and we are scared to death to not have our familiar friend with us, our pain. The truth is, we cannot lift it from ourselves, it requires a Higher Power, a complete willingness to have it lifted from us. But we also have a part to play. Once we are willing, there are some things we can do to help the process along.
There are many resources for continuing on the journey of locating emotional pain and having the willingness to let it go. Recovery, the 12 steps, ACA meetings and journeying with fellow travelers are the greatest resources. But there are many supplemental resources our there. In this blog, I’ll offer a few of my own strategies and some resources that have helped me purge emotional pain in my recovery process.
The point is that when the time is right, along the pathway of recovery, we need to let go of this old friend that doesn’t care too much for our well being –the emotional pain you’ve been carrying around with you all these years, thinking it was helping you along.
Give yourself permission to let go of it and trust your Higher Power, your Inner Child and your Loving Parent to build a new life, a new home. I hope these resources are helpful for you as you begin this year of recovery, each resource is only meant to be an aid to our recovery program, certainly not a replacement.
We are all vulnerable to searching for quick fixes and shortcuts to avoid feeling our pain. But the goal of these resources are not to become a short cut, but to help you locate, process and release emotional pain alongside your recovery program. You cannot recover alone or without your recovery group. As you engage in these processes of uncovering emotional pain, you will need your support group to return to as a safe space.
Processing emotional pain is very difficult and you need to be aware that you may experience some body pain as these emotions are exiting your system. For me, lots of rest, self nurturing, lots of baths in lavender and epsom salt, being gentle with myself, staying with my program, and trusting my Higher Power, Inner Child has taken me through a great deal of letting go. The purging of stored pain is a part of the natural healing process. You will know when the time is right for you, so here are some resources for when that time arrives.
- Where are emotions stored in the body? Chinese medicine, which has been around for over 5000 years, actually has a body diagram for where particular emotions are stored in the body’s parts when we are unable to feel them and release them. It seems the body holds on to them indefinitely. Here is an easy to use blog that I found in my research to be helpful at understanding my own body pain and how I needed to go about purging painful emotions that I was having trouble accessing: https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/philosophy/the-emotions/ Once you begin to locate the places in your body where the pain is stored, you can target resources for helping you to purge these emotions. Recently, I pinpointed some emotional pain stored in my liver, and I went to the health food store and bought a liver cleanse tincture, dissolved in water. I did this for 3 days and it really helped. Alongside the cleanse, I meditated on these particular emotions, and I lovingly asked them to leave my body. Next, I think I’m going to work on the kidneys. Note, the goal of a cleanse is always to be gentle. I don’t recommend any harsh, drastic or fasting types of cleanses. There is no need to be harsh with your body.
- Flower Essences: These can be purchased at your local health food store and have really helped me, gently, to feel my own wholeness and begin to move towards it. Here is a great site to help you review the 38 flower remedies in helping to purge emotional pain. http://www.bachflower.com Note, if you struggle with alcohol addiction, do not use these as they contain 27% brandy. It could trigger a larger alcohol craving. There are non-alcoholic versions available on the same site, for kids, so maybe try those. You can also make your own using vinegar, easily found online. I have used walnut and white chestnut but I also want to try the rescue remedy.
- Deep tissue massage: For some, a massage feels like a luxury, however, if you check Groupon regularly, there are often amazing deals on massages. Deep tissue massage has been proven to help target emotional pain, bring it to the surface, and help you release it. This is because frozen emotions are stored in the tissues of our bodies, according to our Big Red Book, and we often have trouble accessing them.
- Meditation: Reading step 11 in the ACA Red Book is a great place to begin. Try the meditation exercise in Step 11, p. 276 -278. This is a very powerful tool to connecting with the healing power of your Inner Child. The meditation says to visualize your parents walking on the beach (you will know what I’m talking about if you follow along with the meditation). Do this one, but also do more visualizations with other people walking down the beach. Someone who has threatened you, used you, someone who is seeking to control you, etc. It is very powerful when we begin to step up as the loving parent and protect our inner child from dangerous situations. We begin to realize that we inadvertently continue to place our inner child in dangerous situations because we continue to act out of our survival traits. However, as we become more aware of our actions, we begin to act more lovingly towards our own true selves. The Inner Child is a great healer!
- Another meditation I like is the heart meditation. I have some quartz stones that I picked up out of the river, they seem to be very calming when I place one over my heart during this heart meditation. Many ancient healers use stones to help calm the patient. I lie down in a comfortable place, put the stone over my heart, and begin visualizing the space around my heart. I breathe deeply and express gratitude to my heart. I visualize the chest cavity where the heart beats, the four quadrants of the heart that are working non stop to keep me going. I visualize how fierce and strong the heart is, how resilient, and yet how gentle it is, how soft. I see that joy and love reside in the heart. I thank my heart for being my guide. I do this meditation and let it guide me for about 10 minutes. I often fall asleep and the stone ends up under my back in the morning! Connecting with the joy of the heart gives you a point on the horizon to move towards. It helps you to listen to wisdom of the heart. This is really important because our brain voice tries to be dominant, but it’s really the heart that is the true leader. When we can put our brains in service of the heart’s agenda, then we can begin to develop true courage. Courage comes from the heart. The heart is also a great healer.
These are just a few resources, I’ll try to share others as they come to mind along the way. What resources have worked for you in the purging of emotional pain? What are some of your struggles and insights on this topic? Share your thoughts here in the comments section below. Look forward to hearing from you!