Time for an emotional detox?

DetEmotional detoxox – that word instantly conjures up images of green, gluggy looking juices doesn’t it? In the physical sense, this is correct. A detox is often used to rid the body of toxins, and restore a state of balance and health.

But what about the mind? As a species, we are often overcome by a range of emotions we must deal with every day, and in the high stress environment that has become our lives, emotions can be challenging to deal with. Anger, rage, frustration, fear, anxiety…I’m sure most people are well acquainted with these. So, what exactly is an emotional detox?

Emotional danger

There is no such thing as a negative or unhealthy emotion. Every emotion has its place and can be good, as long as it is dealt with in the right way. Emotions may feel unpleasant but they’re not “good” or “bad”; it is only the attitude towards the emotion and how those emotions are allowed to manifest through thoughts or actions that cause it to become toxic.

So what makes a healthy emotion turn toxic? Toxicity occurs when emotions are rejected, judged, suppressed or lied about. These behaviours create emotional mind states that eventually lead to the core psychological disorders of our time: depression, addiction and anxiety.

As a child, people are often taught that some emotions are socially acceptable, whilst others aren’t. This is already setting the stage to suppress and bury emotions that are deemed “bad”. Anger, frustration, and even sadness and grief can fall into this category. Men in particular are often taught to believe that to show emotion is to show weakness, and so they endure them in silence.

The pandemic

Today, despite advances in medication and acceptance of the mind-body medicine concept, toxic emotions are taking the same heavy toll as ever. All over the world, depression and anxiety have reached pandemic proportions .

In Australia, the statistics are even more alarming. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics report in 2007, 7.3 million Australians had, at some point in their lives, experienced anxiety, mood or substance-use disorders. That’s almost half the population!

 The home of emotions

Emotions affect the body; there’s no denying it. Fear makes the heart beat faster, increases respiration, and makes the skin cold and clammy. Laughter makes us feel relaxed. In the same way, when emotions turn toxic, their toxicity also affects the body.

Anger is particularly destructive to the body if suppressed. Those who continually suppress their anger may develop ulcers, high blood pressure, chronic headaches and other physical problems including. Excessive anger makes it difficult for the body to digest food and, over time, the body becomes congested.

Repressed anger can also eat away at the body as cancer. Several studies have linked suppression, repression and restraint of anger to the development of cancer. [1]Hostility is an inflammatory emotion. When repressed, hostility can also cause physical inflammations, resulting in inflammatory cardiovascular episodes. Hostility is also linked to auto-immune disorders. Chronic criticism is said to lead to arthritis. The tension and stress that fear produces have been cited as a cause of ulcers, high blood pressure and even baldness.

 Releasing toxic emotions

Unconsciously, many people look for ways to deal  with the emotions that are becoming toxic. Unfortunately, this often ends up being where alcohol, drugs, self-destructive behaviour and overeating eating come onto play. The challenge is to find a positive way in which the emotions can be uncovered, expressed and dealt with.

Physician and mind-body medicine advocate Deepak Chopra understands that a fundamental change in thinking is essential to the emotional detox process. He has devised a simple step-by-step process to rid the mind and body of toxic emotions by giving them nowhere to hide.

Seven steps to emotional detox

  • Identify the emotion
  • Observe the emotion
  • Take responsibility without feeling guilty
  • Express your emotion to yourself
  • Release it through ritual (dance, meditation, massage, exercise)
  • Share the emotion
  • Celebrate the detox process
Release me

Taking these steps will lead to a happier, healthier existence, with the knowledge that emotions can be released, and that there is a safe and effective way to express them. Doing this on a regular basis can help to balance and tonify the energy of the body and mind, leading to a more positive outlook on life!

Source: Cavalot. R. www.wellbeing.com.au – 23 May 2011.

[1] Thomas, S.P et al. Anger and cancer: an analysis of the linkages. Cancer Nurs. 2000 Oct;23(5):344-9