We are able to buffer intensely stressful experiences by repressing our emotions in the moment (sometimes subconsciously). We save “feeling our feelings” for a later point when we’re more equipped to deal with them. But if we never unpack what’s there, we can accumulate emotional debt that contributes to burnout and causes issues with our bodies.

For individuals with a higher degree of emotional debt, their nervous systems will be prone to greater fragility and reactivity in relationships. They may be more liable to shut down in high-pressure situations. This can become a vicious cycle, leading to the loss of support nets of friends or romantic partners, causing even more stress to the system.

Time and time again, I’ve seen my clients develop emotional mastery in a counterintuitive way: by releasing control and allowing their feelings to flow freely. When we welcome emotions as they come and experience them without judgment, we can keep ourselves from building up “emotional debt” in the first place.

Present emotions can serve as a portal to the past, and processing a current situation sometimes releases stored “emotional debt” from previous experiences.

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