(Added as an update on Sept 2019, for if meditation doesn’t work)
As much as I encourage you to try mindfulness meditation as described in Part I as a way of working through your unprocessed emotions, there are alternatives which do pretty much the same thing. Namely, certain types of therapy, but only when administered by a competent therapist.
Ok, how the hell does this work?
So, there’s this thing called EMDR, and it gets that unprocessed emotions are the main cause of fucked-up-ness. The first link in this paragraph is to a video of it that’s very good at showing what it is.
Basically, it’s where a therapist prompts you to recall some trauma, and then waves their fingers or a light back and forth, to distract you from being in acute emotional pain, while you kinda end up processing the emotions in the back of your mind anyways.
Compare and contrast this with the flavor of mindfulness explained in Part I of this blog: mindfulness requires you to sit with the pain, which can be hard, especially if you aren’t very far along. But, therapy costs money, and I’ve never heard of a therapist who did more than a single hour at a time. To which I’d say: try mindfulness first, and if it works, you can do it for free, and if not and you’re comfortable going to one of the Vipassana retreats I mentioned, that’ll probably work. If that doesn’t work, try this kind of therapy, probably switching back to mindfulness once you feel less intimidated by the idea of sitting through some painful feelings as you process your emotions. Because you’re not going to hunt down every last unprocessed emotion with EMDR, even if you do like 40 sessions: it’s just for processing the big stuff.
Note also that while EMDR is the main kind of therapy that seems to be used in this way, you can use also use other sorts of therapy as a way to basically, sit with people so they are somehow distracted from the pain that comes with processing emotions. Here’s an example of IFS therapy being used this way. Keep in mind that just because a therapy can be used this way, does not mean it will be.
Also, it seems like there’s a part of EMDR that’s basically, “reprogram some positive emotion over where the negative emotion was”, which has the potential to be a bad idea depending on how your therapist does it. It seems like some therapists do this as a way to check that you really totally processed the negative emotion, which is a good idea, though it’s easy to see how this could be done in a fake positivity way too.
Lastly, how the hell do you find a therapist? Frankly, I just tried a bunch of different ones that ended up being useless, and fixing all my own shit through meditation irrespective of them–until well after I’d worked through everything, and a friend referred me to a damn competent therapist. So, I guess, ask people who work similarly to you for referrals, if you can, and otherwise, just look for people who do EMDR and try a few?
One last thing you can try, is to leave a comment on this blog, and I’ll tell you if it sounds like you’re doing something wrong.
Next post: Part II: Preliminary Thoughts