The Emotional Backlog and Music

What I’m learning recently is that many of us have this what I call the “emotional backlog.”  Built in to our system is this defense mechanism which kicks in when we encounter emotions that feel too strong to fully feel.  The defense mechanism protects us from the overload by tucking portions of that emotion into our body parts.  So that we can come back to it later, when we are ready.

Emotions are neither good nor bad, but when they come up, the only way to get it out of your system is to feel them.  Our mind is like a computer processor.  It “processes” emotions by feeling them.  Some do it fast, some do it slow, some emotions are harder to process than others.

But the important thing to know is that the only way to process these emotions is to feel them.  They never dissipate from being stored a long time.  The longer it stays, the deeper it gets engrained, the more normal it feels for you to be carrying that inside, beneath the surface.  You are not aware of it most of the time, even though it’s affecting you constantly.

The emotions we tuck away tend to be those that feel uncomfortable when they are strong.  Like anger, sadness, and disgust.  Actually intense happiness feels uncomfortable, too.  I find that I put a brake on myself from feeling “too happy.”  (Have you ever dampened your happiness because you didn’t want to set your self for a letdown that may follow?  I have.)  But when you have stuck emotions stored in body, they tend to permeate through your system and create this tint in your perception.

So let’s say I have this sense of overwhelm because earlier in my life I had this experience where I was asked to do too many chores and instead of having the time to feel that overwhelm, I had to just grit my teeth and do it.  Later in life when people ask me to do something, I automatically react defensively because that overwhelming feeling is still deep inside of me and I tend to view any requests as a potential threat that makes me feel it.

But that request is neither positive nor negative, and I would assume that there is no intention to overwhelm me on the part of the requester.  My stuck emotion is influencing me to view the situation that way, because the desire of the stuck emotion is to come up to the surface and be fully felt.

So if I wanted to stop being overwhelmed, the key is to actually embrace my feeling and feel overwhelmed.  But not front the view point of “this is uncomfortable, I shouldn’t have to feel this way.”  I have to allow it to overtake me and say “this feels uncomfortable because I had so much stuck in me, but I will allow myself to feel it.”  And after a while, the stock pile does get depleted, and I stop seeing every request as an overwhelming agent.

And this is where music comes in.  My favorite kind of music creates a safe space for me to feel the feelings I’ve been avoiding.  It feels safer because expressive music feels like a friend or a parent who knows what I’m going through.  Since my companion knows what it’s like, it somehow feels safer to let it out.

This is why I cry a lot listening to music.

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  1. Pingback: Two Steps to Heal Stuck Emotions | Ari Koinuma

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