Holding in our feelings causes mental and physical stress. And,
stress can be very destructive. Often suppressing and hiding an
"awful" thought actually results in uncontrollable obsessions about the
very thing we are trying to hide. Sharing our secrets often provides
relief. On the other hand, letting vile feelings spew out all over others
is surely harmful too. Moreover, our own intense emotions can be very
frightening to others and to us, so we often avoid dealing with them or
pretend we don't feel so strongly and, thus, problems don't get
resolved. For a variety of reasons, it can be helpful to learn we can
control and reduce the strength of suppressed or repressed emotions.
Methods for uncovering, venting, and reducing emotions are included
in this method because once you accumulate intense emotions, then
you may need to discharge those strong feelings harmlessly.
For some of us, expressing feelings is hard but we can learn to
emote (feel our emotions) by encouraging ourselves to practice doing
so, by gradually giving up our inhibitions or fears, and by finding out
that it feels good to "let go" and to feel strongly. If you need additional
encouragement try attending a self-help group, a 12-step program, or
It will become clear to you that the private venting or catharsis
process described in this method is different from "telling your own
story" in a therapeutic group. "Telling your story" is usually more
consciously controlled than a catharsis, but a sterile, "clinical"
description of some troublesome experience will not yield many, if any,
benefits. You need to let go of your feelings, i.e. your heartfelt
emotions must be expressed openly, not just described in well
measured words. Also, to be therapeutic, your disclosure must be
received by accepting, not critical people. Under therapeutic
circumstances, there is growing scientific evidence that sharing your
feelings and problems by talking or writing is helpful and healthy.
Likewise, keeping traumas a secret is unhealthy (Pennebaker, 1995).
This method describes a process that can be used when all alone.
Venting or discharging emotions involves vigorously expressing the
emotion--fear, sadness, anger, dependency--so completely you feel
"drained." Then, the strength of the emotion is markedly reduced or
eliminated. Do this in a private place because strong emotions often
offend and upset others. Expressing your emotions fully may be hard
even when alone; this may be true for persons already expert at
wailing or raging with people.
A warning: Many professionals doubt the effectiveness of these
processes to "clean out" toxic emotions held inside (see discussion of
outcome research later). Moreover, especially when dealing with a
traumatic experience, such as a horrible crime or accident or a rape or
abuse as a child, there is a risk of being retraumatized by this
procedure. Recently, most therapists, in these cases, prefer "trauma
reconstruction" in which order and completeness of the experience is
gradually restored. That is, the complex, emotional, fragmented, often
distorted experiences and memories associated with the original