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  • Writer's pictureClarissa Tapia

Emotional Hangovers

My definition of an emotional hangover: The sensation of wanting to throw up, cry, dance, scream and possibly eat an entire pint of cookie dough ice cream all at the same time. An emotional hangover usually occurs after standing up for yourself, standing up for others, setting your boundaries and enforcing them, speaking up about your fears, facing your fears and/or ultimately being emotionally vulnerable with your actions and words.


I can laugh about this now, in the comfort of my home where I feel safe and in control, but in the moment when I experienced an emotional hangover, I wanted nothing more than to make it stop. At all costs. Funny thing about hangovers… that thrumming in your head that makes it hard not to squint at any bright light only gets worse the more awake you become. The more awake you become, the more you remember, and when you finally remember with jarring clarity all the things that led to this hangover, you ask yourself, why did I do that?


Emotional hangovers work the same way. Instead of heading to the club, you go out into the arena of your life and you tell yourself you’re going to own this moment - bring it on. You carry nothing into the arena but yourself, your progress, your love, your belonging, everything. You do everything right. But nothing prepares you for the exact moment when vulnerability hits you. Much like taking that third, fourth or fifth drink knowing it’s not going to end well, but doing it anyway - taking a stand in the arena requires the same “Do it anyway” mindset, despite knowing you’re about to face something that is going to hurt. When you come face to face with an emotional trigger you have a couple of choices:

  1. Armor up and hide behind false pretenses

  2. Run Away

  3. Tackle this moment head on AND sit with it

In order to really get an emotional hangover right you have to take the person you so desperately want to squish like a bug on a windshield - and humanize them again. Watch how they falter. Notice the nerves. They’re not in control. Basically everything you worried about prior to entering the arena is reflected in the other person. You have the same trepidations. The same nerves. The same feeling of lost control. You allow yourself, for one second, to empathize. You lower your guard, you take a step back. Only in this moment of doing nothing, do you realize that the person standing before you didn’t show up unarmored as you first thought. They hid it well, behind nerves and shyness, but hidden beneath layers of perfectionism lay the weapon of choice: in some cases ego, in others avoidance.


Dr. Brené Brown calls her ego her inner hustler. In Rising Strong, she writes: “It’s (My ego) always telling me compare, prove, please, perfect, outperform, and compete. Our inner hustlers have very little tolerance for discomfort or self-reflection.”


For me, the moment I allowed myself to empathize, I knew I was going to pay for it the next day. People who show up to the arena with no armor don’t get the comfort of falling back on numbing, bouncing, chandeliering, high centering or stockpiling hurt - the most common forms of off-loading hurt as described by Dr. Brown. In my blog Time to Grow Up, you can read up on my weapon of choice. Instead of refusing to admit hurt exists, you face it. You look it in the eye and you acknowledge its presence and its affects it is having on yourself. That is so much harder said than done. Who wants to make pain last longer? It’s so unnatural. Who wants to forgive and give up the role of victim? It has to be someone who is ready to grow. Ironically, the only way out of your victim story, is to sit with that awful part of you, the part that you find so hard to forgive and hold his or her hand because deep down you know that version of you is simply scared. You hide and detest this part of you, the part of you who is pining for love and belonging and ultimately forgiveness. Not from outside sources, but from you. True self forgiveness.


During a podcast I listened to this week on Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, founder and spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center, Michael Bernard Beckwith describes our struggle with self forgiveness as Self Abuse. Beckwith says by not forgiving yourself you are telling the universe: ‘Hit me again, I want more of this.’ You are literally choosing to circulate toxic chemicals in your mind, leaving them to fester and wreak havoc on your actions rather doing the hard work of letting yourself off the hook. How many people can you think of who are pulling their past around like a carcass?


I learned something huge during my emotional hangover. I am growing. I may have bruises and cuts, and watery eyes, but I sat next to the temper-tantrum filled five-year old version of me, held her hand and said, you’re ok, you are already so loved. Open your eyes and look around you.


Emotional hangovers have nothing to do with anyone else but yourself. Show up and be seen.




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