What Is An Emotional Detox? by Sherianna Boyle, MEd CAGS
If you are like me, you have grown accustomed to seeing a detox as a physical experience. A way to remove all the impurities swallowed, inhaled, injected, absorbed, and in some cases abused through daily living. Substances such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine, sugar, smoke, pesticides, parasites, and harsh chemicals may come to mind. Although physical improvements often occur, emotional detoxes have little to do with the physical and everything to do with you as a spiritual being. Emotional detoxes are a systematic and mindful practice for purifying undigested and overprocessed emotions, freeing us from the illusion that we are separate from love. They return us to our natural state of joy.
Like overprocessed and undigested foods that deplete energy (e.g., Tic Tac mints, which I happen to love), our emotions are so overprocessed by thinking they become unnatural. We know when this happens—when our feelings are weird, foreign, or unappealing. Just as consuming sugar substitutes can trick our body into being hungrier, living in emotional reactivity tricks our body. We get a temporary and illusory feeling of being okay, but it doesn’t last. This is because reactive emotions don’t nourish us.
One might think the point of an emotional detox is to get rid of it all—hurt, pain, guilt, sadness, and stress—because when left unresolved these emotions can make us sick, but this is not the case. We need to properly process our emotions. Since our bodies are connected to our spirits, they don’t benefit from all these toxins; what we thrive on is love. Learning how to process emotions through a detox will bring you closer to love.
To get rid of a feeling would be a reaction, like saying, “I am so done with him.” After I learned of my husband’s affair, part of me would have given anything to get rid of my pain, to make my husband pay for his mistake, or to confront the stranger who contributed to his actions. Something inside of me—it may have been my higher self—told me that to react from anger would only do more harm. I believed there were great lessons to be learned if I trusted all would be cleared through an emotional detox. I was right.
Here is the thing: our emotions have value no matter how painful and upsetting they may be. Undermining, numbing, or pushing them away will only delay their benefits. Rather than a juice cleanse where you might flush out highly acidic foods and sugar, think of an emotional detox as a reaction cleanse, where you flush out high levels of stress, worry, and defensiveness.
My client Jeanie had been in therapy for years. When she came to me, she felt stuck, unmotivated, and depressed. She put a tremendous amount of pressure on herself and was often overwhelmed by what she perceived as her lack of progress past her symptoms of anxiety and physical pain. Things changed after I looked into her eyes and said, “Jeanie, you are reacting, therefore nothing you are telling me is real; it is all an illusion. Sure, it feels like crap, but the thing is you are not really feeling at all, you are reacting, and it is time to change this habit.” I went on to say, “I know you feel rejected, unworthy, and frustrated. I have those feelings too; however, until you fully digest them (without reactivity), you are going to recycle these experiences. You can sit in your pain or make something good come out of it. The choice is yours.”
The same was true for me, which was why I turned to an emotional detox. It wasn’t until I was with things as they were that I was able to experience life in a new way. Whether you are moving through a traumatic experience, looking to release the past, or just want to create more positive experiences in your life, emotional detoxes will help.
Signs You Could Use a Detox
If you find yourself trying to fix everyone else’s problems, feeling guilty for saying no, or becoming less engaged with the people around you, then you will receive help from a detox. If you take more time for others than you do for yourself or have experienced trauma, a detox is in order. If you are a thinker, dwell on life’s problems, or are finding it hard to be in the present moment, an emotional detox is something to consider.
Here are some of the signs to look for:
· Easily distracted
· Worrying about or fearful of the future
· Losing or gaining weight
· Binge eating or eating too little
· Financial insecurity
· Relationship problems
· Lying to yourself or others
· Avoiding certain people or places
· Spending too much time alone
· Ignoring your gut feelings
· Feeling overwhelmed
· Considering or having an affair
· Drinking or doing drugs to escape the pressures in life
· Focusing (or stuck) on the past more than the present
· Trouble speaking up for yourself
· Self-doubt or second-guessing your choices
· Feeling stuck or out of balance
· Easily swayed by the opinions of others
· Comparing yourself to others or not feeling “good enough”
· Feeling like you work hard but nothing changes.
There are also some physical symptoms, such as:
· Trouble sleeping
· Chronic tension
· Illness or pain
· Depression and anxiety.
Other reasons to detox include:
· Looking to deepen your relationship with yourself and others
· Wanting to forgive, move on, or let go but are unsure how
· Feeling stuck in the past
· Feeling lonely, too old, or unsure of what your purpose is
· Interested in learning how to be more present and mindful.
One of the greatest things you will learn from an emotional detox is how to digest your feelings both verbally and nonverbally. You will see how there is more to emotions than expressing them. Without awareness, talking about our feelings can be a form of reactivity.
If you have ever listened to someone rant about their problems, you know what I mean. Let’s say you listen to a mom at the playground vent about her lack of sleep. If you are a parent yourself, you’ll probably relate to the feeling. Before you know it, you are in a discussion about sleep deprivation. Later you find yourself discussing this person’s problems with someone else, because part of you feels guilty for not being able to physically help this mom out. That’s a way of relating rather than digesting feelings.
Emotional detoxes teach the importance of digesting rather than reacting (thinking, fretting, fixing, remembering). Interestingly, as we digest our whole emotions, our ability to empathize with others without moving into reactivity improves. As a result, we can care and support others without clogging up our emotional flow, which can wreak havoc on our nervous system, creating things like anxiety and depression. This is an important skill to have in a world where each of us is so often exposed to trauma and tragedy in our daily lives and the world around us.
Excerpted from Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Toxicity and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle, Med, CAGS. Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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