Ever come home from a trying day at the office only to blow up at a friend or family member over nothing at all? Let’s pretend we could put what emerged from that fit of pique under a microscope.

What we’d see would be toxic emotions–something repressed, suppressed or left unexpressed from before.

Most people know something about the dangers ofletting toxins build up in the body. But few of us really understand how repressed, suppressed and unexpressed emotions affect our physical, emotional and spiritual being. These emotions are the source of everything from irritability and road rage to despondency and chronic depression. They add fuel to the fire when we feel an emotion that causes us to react–rather than respond–to situations.

Still, we keep stuffing our feelings, believing we shouldn’t feel what we do. We think we should be able to handle it, or that it shouldn’t bother us. In reality, things do bother us, and we need to express feelings in a safe way. If we don’t, they could cause an emotional abscess. Like a physical abscess, an emotional abscess hurts and feels sore to touch. Left to fester, it can infect our whole emotional being.

Say, as a child, my big brother keeps taking my favourite toy and won’t give it back. I may stuff my anger and say to myself that I’m stupid to think I could have it in the first place. (This mechanism is common among children and helps them feel some sense of control.) If similar situations continue to confront me growing up, I may repress my anger, leading to an emotional abscess. I may also believe that I can never have what I want. Then, one day, when my daughter tries on my new sweater, I explode. The reaction comes out of the blue. I get embarrassed, my daughter feels hurt, and we all suffer from toxic emotional overload.

We know what it feels like when someone presses our buttons: Ouch! Then away we go, reacting and saying things we later regret. These sore spots don’t go away on their own. We need to open and cleanse them just as we would a physical abscess. Here are some options for approaching this cleansing process.

  • Enrol in an intensive residential program. Most range in length from three to 10 days. Check out the credentials of the facilitators, and ask for references from people who have taken the program.
  • Work with a qualified and knowledgeable therapist. Most professional associations provide lists of practitioners to choose from.
  • Work it out on your own. If you choose this option, I recommend the following personal initiatives:
    • Begin by acknowledging that you are going toperform a cleansing and prepare for "alone time" to facilitate your process.
    • Review your emotional history. What are your emotional sore spots? List them with the situations they were associated with. Try to remember the first time you felt the emotion.
    • Review the situation and give yourself permission to express the feeling you initially felt.
    • Identify the beliefs you took on and reassess for accuracy.
The time an emotional cleansing takes depends on the size of the abscess or the cumulative weight of the repressed emotions. As with a physical cleansing, you may experience some detoxifying effects–headaches, nausea, chills and flu-like symptoms. Take good physical care of yourself during this time and trust the process.

Like a physical cleansing, an emotional cleansing will rejuvenate your body, lift your spirit and restore healthy connections. Results include clearer relationships and the clarity and motivation to make positive changes in
your life.

About the Author

Paulette Tomasson, RN, RCC, MA, is a registered nurse with a masterâ??s in counselling psychology. Sheâ??s a pioneer in the innovative field of equine therapy and is an internationally recognized expert in specialized addictions. She operates a