What is emotional well-being?
Let’s start with the basics. The word ‘emotion’ comes from the Latin ‘emovere’ the 'e' of 'emovere' means ‘out’ and ‘movere’ means to move; therefore, the word ‘emotion’ means ‘to move out’. Feelings need to be naturally flowing out, this is the basis of emotional well-being - the natural outward expression of emotions in the moment.
Why do we have emotions?
Emotions are important for two reasons. Firstly, our emotions are the way we connect to our experiences and therefore make connections with others and the world around us; you could say emotions support us in embracing life. Life would be very bland without emotion; they literally colour our experiences. People who are struggling with depression, a condition where emotions are often inaccessible or distorted, often describe their life and experiences as being monochrome and lacking vitality, like living without colour.
Secondly, emotions are an in-built warning system that is associated with survival; for example, the emotion fear teaches us we need to keep a distance from the roaring lion. Anxiety could be seen as our in-built survival system being over-active and assuming everything is a danger.
What happens if I don’t allow my emotions to flow out?
Emotions that don’t flow out could be described as being blocked. Interestingly, emotions cannot be turned off and are always present in our experiences whether we are aware of them or not. Therefore, emotions that are prevented from ‘flowing out’ remain in, this could be by conscious control (a choice is made not to express the emotion) or they could be held in the unconscious.
Imagine, for a moment, emotions are like a flowing river. All is well until there is something blocking the flow - a dam perhaps. The dam can stop the flow for a certain amount of time, but inevitably, the dam will burst and the river will flow with a sudden rush.
This is exactly what happens when emotions are blocked. As mentioned earlier, blocked emotions need to flow out. Unexpressed or ‘held in’ emotions can adversely impact the body, for example, tension headaches or skin complaints.
The other way blocked emotions are expressed is through outbursts or they can leak out at inopportune moments. Remember the dam analogy; the dam cannot hold the water and has burst, letting the water flood out. The person cannot hold the unexpressed emotion, perhaps anger, any longer and they explode out, often doing some serious damage to the relationships around the individual. This can be particularly upsetting for both the parties as this frequently occurs at the most inappropriate time.
How can I deal with unexpressed emotion
The answer to this is straight forward and there is plenty you can do to loosen those blocked emotions. Obviously seeking the support of a counsellor or psychotherapist is the best option; although you could begin by writing how you are feeling, you could imagine having a conversation with someone who really hurt you or you may want to get a large sheet of paper and scribble.