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Identifying and Expressing My Emotions

When emotions have been repressed from trauma it takes awhile to learn how to identify and express them. Staying busy, keeping distracted does not allow us to get in touch with feelings. Resisting them, avoiding them, doing what it takes to hold back emotions takes so much energy and causes them to build up.

Letting them flow brings relief and with practice becomes easier. As a result of the ritual abuse and mind control that I had repressed and dissociated my emotions had become numbed. Also, the mind control programming does not allow for the expression of my own thoughts or emotions.

I discovered that emotions have a purpose and a function.

Emotions alert us and signal our brain to have our body respond appropriately. Fear alerts us to possible danger so we can escape and avoid the threat to our life or the life of another. Sadness lets us know that we’ve been hurt or harmed and alerts us to seek out social connection. Anger is a survival instinct associated with the fight response. Our body responds with adrenaline, pumping blood to the hands and legs with the function of defending ourselves against possible danger or an injustice.

Have you ever seen the emotion wheel? It shows the primary emotions of fear, sadness, anger, happy, surprise, and disgust. As you can see from the wheel below there are many different forms of the primary emotions. If you look at sad you can see that feeling shame, depression, or feeling powerless is a form of that primary emotion of sadness.

Naming My Emotions

Saying the words aloud, (to myself or to someone else) was so helpful in my recovery.

For example, I feel __________. When I started to name my emotions it automatically helped to lower the intensity of my feelings. Cognitively our brain makes the connection to help us cope with the issue that’s confronting us. Then I could deal with my emotions to have the best possible outcome.

Body Responses to Emotions: A way to Emotional Identification/Regulation Something I found helpful was getting in tune with the physical responses and body sensations I was having to help identify the feeling. My emotions were numb and I had disconnected from my body. My body and my emotions started to thaw after my dad’s death. The first time I went to a therapist I would say things like it hurts and he would keep asking me , “What hurts?” until I could identify personally that I hurt. I started to notice a physical gut reaction that I had never noticed before that let me know to pay attention. For instance, with feelings of fear I had increased heart rate, shallow breathing, sweating, my hands and body would start shaking. Then I would use deep breathing techniques to decrease the body responses which would help to regulate my emotions. This is a great technique for support people like my husband when dealing with parts that are angry. By checking in with himself he could see what emotions it was bringing up for him and then take a step back, take some deep breaths, and be able to respond lovingly instead of reacting defensively. I found that underneath anger is hurt and/or fear.


I discovered that emotions have a purpose and a function and by naming my emotion it lowered the intensity of my feelings and I was able to identify and regulate them.

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