trauma are carefully reviewed bit by bit and, in time, brought together
into a coherent, understandable, whole picture of the event(s). In this
way overwhelming emotions are avoided (also see chapter 15 for the
use of writing as a way of coping with traumas).
To learn it is healthy to express feelings, that it feels good to
get them into awareness so you can deal with them.
To learn or re-learn (we all knew how to throw a temper
tantrum at age 3) how to fully and honestly express our
feelings, at least to ourselves. You may have lost touch with
your body or your "gut" reactions, i.e. you may inhibit feelings
so well that you have forgotten how to emote fully and
To privately vent unwanted feelings--to get them out of your
system--so that you feel more in control and able to take
constructive, rational action. The most common feelings that
need to be discharged are: anger, frustration, disappointment,
depression, dependency, helplessness, fears, and child-like
To gain some insight into the original causes of your strong
emotions that seem inappropriate responses to the current
situation (this may occur but most insight-producing methods
are described in chapter 15).
To counteract the belief that we'll only hurt more if we attend
to our feelings or that we'll find out we are really bad. To
realize that we can cope better if we know what's going on
To overcome your own fears of strong or taboo emotions, to
learn that you can tolerate and control these feelings.
(Example: one doesn't immediately seduce a person of the
same sex just as soon as homosexual interests break into
STEP ONE: Becoming more aware of your feelings (if you swallow
If you are inclined to avoid feelings, here are some exercises to
sharpen your awareness of feelings (Pierce, Nichols & DuBrin, 1983).
Skip to step two if you do not need this, i.e. if you feel intensely and
vent your feelings fully, perhaps too freely.
Find a quiet, private place to talk to yourself about feelings. This
could be sitting in a favorite chair, alone in the woods, or doing
exercise. Talk out loud. When you notice a feeling, stay with it and let
it grow to its full strength. Often we shut off feelings so they won't get
stronger but now let them grow or even exaggerate them. If you feel a
little anxious, say you are terrified and try to feel it. If you are
irritated, say you are really mad, shout, and pretend to hit something.