How to Release Suppressed Emotions & Trauma

Welcome to My Spiritual Toolbox

They say that when a student is ready, a teacher appears. If that’s the case, then I have been spoiled. Over the past 12 months, I’ve been flooded with a wealth of teachers, guides and gurus, each leading me down a fascinating rabbit hole of endless books, YouTube videos, podcast episodes, and articles. Though I’m still only at the beginning of my health and wellness journey, the concepts and tools I’ve uncovered have been life-changing. Perhaps in reading this, you will discover some ideas that will be transformational in your personal journeys as well.

One very special teacher that has been a game-changer for me in the realm of mental health and its impact on the physical body is Dr. Gabor Maté. A fellow Vancouverite, Dr. Maté is a world-renowned doctor, author, trauma specialist, and recipient of the Order of Canada. A humble hero in the field of mental health and addiction. He stars in a beautiful documentary called The Wisdom of Trauma, which initiated my deep dive into his work. I wanted to get a better understanding of the inner child wounds that I had experienced and suppressed growing up, and that were now manifesting themselves physically in my body as anxiety and issues with digestion. I’ve starting learning about the powerful gut-brain connection, and definitely had my share of AHA-moments.

My mission, with the help of Gabor and a handful of other guides that followed, would be how to do the work to uncover, process and eventually let go of the buried emotions that I’ve been feeling since childhood. That until recently, I didn’t even know were there. An invisible anchor. Gabor speaks a lot about sitting with your emotions (a process he calls Compassionate Inquiry), but since this doesn’t come naturally to me, I didn’t understand how to do that. How does a chronic, bottler-upper of emotions get started?

In a recent Q&A, held online by the fantastic Science and Nonduality online community, Dr. Gabor Maté shared what I found to be the missing piece to the mental homework he prescribes. A detailed walk-through of how he personally guides patients through decades of repressed emotions and trauma. And advice that for many of us feels priceless. I find his process to be quick and adaptable to different people and emotions. It’s something you can easily turn to anytime you feel the tug of unresolved emotions from deep inside. The perfect tool for our spiritual toolbox.

A Healing Meditation inspired by Dr. Gabor Maté

The following guided meditation is adapted from the teachings of Dr. Gabor Maté and his conversation with a member of the audience during the online Q & A. You can modify it to match the healing you are looking for and the feelings that come up for you, such as fear, anger, sadness, pain, etc. I hope you get as much out of this tool as I do. You may also want to work through the prompts below in your journal. I find that this really helps me organize my thoughts and allows me to refer back to them later. So let’s get started.

Sit in a quiet and comfortable space, and take a few deep breaths to calm and quiet the mind.

Begin to sit with yourself and feel what is going on in your body. Find the physical sensation in your body that is expressing itself.

Don’t focus on the memories that may be behind it. Just for now, forget any deep emotional pain.

Are you aware of an uncomfortable feeling or sensation in your body? This could be fear, pain, sadness, anger, or anything else that comes up. In this example, let’s call it fear, but for you it could be anything.

Where is that feeling right now in your body? Is it in your chest, your shoulders, your gut, your temples? Focus on feeling that physical feeling for a few breaths.

What does this feeling feel like? How do you know that it is the feeling that it is? Perhaps it feels like a contraction in the chest, a tightness someplace, pressure or nerves in the stomach. In this example, let’s say it’s a contraction in the chest.

Can you put your attention on it? On that contraction or whatever physical discomfort you are feeling? Keep your attention on it for a minute.

How do you feel about that feeling, the contraction? How do you feel towards it? Why do you feel that way?

Imagine a 5-year-old little girl (or little boy) comes to you. It may help to visualize a child you know or yourself when you were little. This child is having that same physical feeling you are experiencing – that same contraction. What would you say to her? Would you sternly tell her to stop that feeling, the contraction, right away? Or would you hug her and be loving? What would be your attitude towards her? Most likely, you would allow the feeling, the contraction, to be there. You wouldn’t force it to go away.

Now for a moment, could you adopt the same compassionate attitude towards your own feeling, the contraction, in your body? Because it is the feeling of a little girl (or little boy), isn’t it? Can you put your annoyance at the feeling, this contraction, aside for a few minutes and just allow the feeling to be there? Is it possible? Just to put your attention on it without trying to get rid of it or judge it?

Keeping your attention on that feeling inside you, allowing it to be for now, I’m going to ask you a question and see what comes up for you. Just say to yourself whatever comes up for you. And if nothing comes up, that’s ok too. There is not right or wrong answer here.

What does that feeling, the contraction, want from you?

In order to be (or have that want fulfilled), what does that feeling need from you? Does it want to be seen? To be allowed to exist?

If you allow it to be, to be seen, I want you to ask it a question.

Talking to the feeling: You, this contraction, this feeling, what are you trying to do? For example, are you trying to protect me?

So here we are being annoyed with something that’s trying to protect us or help us in some way.

Ask it, what are you afraid of? What are you trying to protect me from? For example, feeling, suffering, getting hurt, being overcome with grief.

And the fear is that if you feel that, then what? For example, you will be vulnerable.

And if you’re vulnerable, if you feel that, then what will happen? Will you be too open? It could feel like you could be destroyed. Too overwhelmed. Like it would be too much for you.

This feeling, this contraction, this part of yourself, how old is she or he? For example, 5-years old.

So you’re talking to a 5-year old and you’re annoyed with her.

If you weren’t annoyed with her, what would you say to her? Anything else? You might say, I love you.

Repeat the following words to yourself, if they feel right to you, if you agree with them:

{ Words by Dr. Gabor Maté }

Thank you for trying to protect me.

When you came along, I really was helpless and it would have been too much for me to experience these feelings.

And so for all those years ever since, you’ve been trying to protect me.

Thank you for that.

But now I need to move on.

Now I need to grow, I need to become stronger, I need to be more authentic.

And I promise you something.

You don’t have to work so hard anymore.

Because I’m strong enough now. And I know how to ask for help.

When you first came along, I had nobody to help me. I was completely alone. And I didn’t have the strength. So that’s why you came along.

But now I know how to ask for help. And I’m much stronger than I used to be.

So the next time you come along, I’m going to thank you again, and I’m going to ask you to step aside. And I promise you, I’ll take care of me. So you don’t have to. So thank you for working so hard all those years. You must be so tired.

You are done now. How do you feel? Sit and feel the sensations inside until you are ready to move one.

Repeat this guided meditation as often as you like. When you do this work, you are creating new neural pathways in the brain. And with each repetition, you are reinforcing those new connections, creating healing for your mind, body and soul.