Creating a Healthy Check Valve for Emotional Energy

Rosalyn Baker

Feelings are energy. When you are angry, you have negative energy. Happiness is positive energy. People are the containers for their feelings, like a pressure cooker contains steam. When we experiences events in our lives that create intense emotions, we often becomes overwhelmed with energy. It needs to be released, or just like a pressure cooker, the lid will blow.


When Emotional Steam Builds

Many people enter into counseling because of impaired relationships, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. The root of the problem is often a buildup of intense anger, sadness, fear, and/or guilt. Usually these feelings have been suppressed, for months or even years.

When so much energy has been held inside, it’s easy to become confused about what feelings are attached to which events. We then have a difficult time communicating what is exactly bothering us.

Everyone needs to communicate about their feelings, but many of us do not. Common reasons are:

  • I don’t want to be a burden…
  • My parents punished me for showing my feelings…
  • I don’t know what I feel…
  • I’d be embarrassed…
  • There’s no one to talk with…
  • I can handle my own problems…
  • Nobody listens anyway…
  • I don’t want to be a complainer…
  • It doesn’t seem to do any good to talk about my feelings…

When the Lid Blows Off

When a person erupts into a rage, walks off the job, bursts out crying, yells, hits, or runs away, they are exhibiting signs of being overwhelmed with their feelings. Rebellious behavior in children and teens is often an outgrowth of needing to “blow off steam.” Headaches, backaches, ulcers, eating disorders, and general body tension are other ways in which emotions manifest themselves.

Often poor self-esteem plays a role when the lid blows off. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, we have an increased likelihood of overreacting emotionally. A person with poor self-esteem:

  • may react in total frustration if they don’t play well during a sports game.
  • may be overly jealous or possessive when their partner spends time with other people.
  • may be overly sensitive to rejections as their child strives for independence.

Improving self-esteem and learning to communicate about feelings reduces the risk of becoming overwhelmed emotionally, which in turn reduces stress.


Creating a Healthy Check Valve

If it didn’t do any good to talk about emotions, counselors wouldn’t stay in business very long. Venting feelings is an essential part of the therapy process. It’s a check valve that can release the buildup of steam created by life events. It has been said that if each one of us had a best friend to whom we could tell everything and then get nothing but positive feedback and support in return, there would be little use for therapist.

Imagine for a minute that you put aside all of the reasons I listed above and starting being emotionally honest. It would likely be intimidating at first because you’d be unsure of how your friends or family would respond.

The same thing happened when I taught assertiveness training courses, people were afraid to start saying what they really felt for fear of making others angry or sad. So they would continue to hold feelings inside and make themselves angry or hurt instead. As they gave up their passive and aggressive modes of communication in favor of assertive modes, they began to feel better about themselves. As their confidence grew, so did their ability to handle other people’s reactions to their emotional honesty. They created healthy check values to release steam.

Since we are not born with the knowledge of how to express our feelings in a healthy way, we must learn. If we did not have a good role model as children, then we must educate ourselves as adults so we can in turn role model for our children. Assertiveness training, counseling, and books are all excellent resources to get started and practice will help make permanent changes in how we communicate our feelings to others.

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Rosalyn Baker, LMSW, LMFT, MAC
Rosalyn Baker completed her Bachelor of Social Work and Teaching Certificate in Secondary Education in 1979 and her Masters in Social Work with a clinical counseling major, in 1983. She is also a trained as a Neurotherapist, Brain Fitness Coach, Wellness Coordinator and a Certified Nutritional Consultant.
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