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Moving through emotions: you don't have to let them linger

by Gretchen Belenchia

 “Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
- Chinese proverb

One of my interests as a Chinese Medicine practitioner is the link between emotions and health. In my observation and interactions with patients, friends, and family, I’ve often found anger and sadness to be two of the emotions that are glossed over or repressed.

I’ve observed that these emotions are often carried around within the person – that they are stuck there, triggering the person and often controlling the person’s reactions.

I’ve also learned that taking a five-minute break when you are triggered or reacting to a situation can be a powerful method to begin moving through the emotion, discovering your triggers, and escaping old patterns.

A little disclaimer before we get started: I’m mostly referring to everyday occurrences, interactions between loved ones or close relationships, as well as minor skirmishes in day to day life with strangers or colleagues.

There are often times when anger or sadness is justified and warranted. I’m talking about the smaller stuff that adds up over time.

In Chinese Medicine, there is a relationship between certain internal organs and emotions. Anger and the Liver are linked, as are Sadness and the Lungs.

Without getting too deep into theory, these emotions have a reciprocal relationship with their specific organs. So anger can damage the Liver, and Sadness can damage the Lungs.

Conversely, a person who has a Liver that’s not functioning well may have a tendency to be more angry while a person with weak Lung function may have a tendency to sadness.

Often anger and sadness are fueled by whatever is happening in that moment. Anger flares like a fire and is fed by many different factors – past, present, and possibly future – while sadness sinks and has a spiraling down quality.

Both the flare up of anger and the sinking of sadness can be arrested or halted if you put yourself (and not the emotion) back in control. This is where the five-minute break can help.

Sometimes it’s not possible to remove yourself from the present situation or person that is, together with yourself, creating these emotions. But if you are able and willing to try, take a step back and look objectively at the situation.

I’ve found that it’s such an interesting study of the self to do this because we are all an accumulation of past experiences and present beliefs. I’ve found that my triggers for anger and sadness are so far ranging and are often not really applicable to the present circumstance.

However, these triggers do amplify the emotion while trying to control my reactions and me. Taking a five-minute break can put me back in control of my reactions while allowing me to discover why I am reacting in a certain way.

And so can you. Because if we do not move through the emotion, we run the risk of getting stuck in the same patterns with the same triggers.

Over time, these emotional patterns that are allowed to linger around us may damage our health.

That’s why it’s important to move through them, however slowly, and then let them go. Move through your old patterns and old stories into a happier, healthier you. You don’t have to let them linger any more.