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why does expressing emotions make my symptoms worse?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Ready2heal, Jan 16, 2023.

  1. Ready2heal

    Ready2heal New Member

    Last week, I went to a lecture and the woman speaking reminded me of my mother. She had all of the personality traits that I deny in myself—the same traits that hurt me. She was selfish, condescending, arrogant about her spiritual beliefs. I was finding myself somewhat triggered but tried to use the situation as an opportunity to recognize and accept those traits in myself.

    Toward the end of the lecture, she started talking about how she abandoned her kids every year to go on these spiritual journeys, and I just completely lost it. This was almost exactly what I experienced, and this woman was just so blase talking about how she's just pick and leave her family to meet her own needs.

    I almost had a panic attack right there in the lecture, but instead of stuffing the emotions, I allowed myself to get up and leave (which is progress for me). In the car, I cried and screamed and sobbed for like 30 minutes.

    My pain eased for a moment and then came rushing back. Over the next two days, I had more symptoms than I have had in months.

    I don't understand. Shouldn't releasing these emotions be helping me?
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    It is helping you, but it takes time. There is a part of us that resists these changes, so our brain keeps using its old strategies, such as creating pain as a distraction from our emotions. Sometimes this is referred to as an extinction burst. I find it helpful to use the neural pathway model to think about this. The old neural pathway remains active until a new one is formed. Forming new neural pathways takes repetition and is hard work until it is strong enough to replace the old one.

    Your insight is profound and will serve you well. Just keep at it and eventually your brain will stop trying to protect you from feeling your emotions.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  3. Ready2heal

    Ready2heal New Member

    Thankyou @Ellen! So it's not always like the emotion is released and boom, better? I'm sure the timeline differs for everyone, but any sense for how long I have to dig into the trauma before something shifts?
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think the more you (your conscious, rational higher brain) are able to demonstrate to your unconscious brain that you are willing to examine and feel your emotions, the faster your recovery. But, no, there is no timeline that works for everyone. Dr. Sarno and Dr. Schubiner both recommend talking to your brain, which I guess some would call affirmations. One I use when I have TMS symptoms is: "Look brain, you don't have to create these symptoms anymore, I'm willing to look at and feel my emotions." The other important component is what you did in the example above, which is to identify old wounds from childhood and how they still affect you in the present. Journaling is a useful way to do this for many people.

    You're on the right track, just keep going. You'll get there.

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