Do This for 12 Minutes a Day to Release Negative Emotions
You'll need a pen, paper, and matches.
Habib Sadeghi, DO, is co-founder of the in Los Angeles. In this excerpt from his book , he describes a simple writing exercise that can help you process anger and other toxic emotions that may be holding you back.
Purge Emotional Writing (PEW 12)
Every emotion has a charge, and the positive or negative energy an emotion generates has a real and measurable impact on our bodies. The act of writing allows us to physically release some of that charge much in the same way we release tension during sex. Burning the page, which happens at the end of the exercise, allows us to purge even more of that charge and serves as a symbol of letting go. If you can release negative energy on a regular basis, it doesn’t accumulate. You could look at this exercise as an act of freedom. Whenever you release your emotions, you lighten your burden so you don’t have to carry it with you to your next experience.
This exercise works best if you just keep writing and don’t stop to think about what you’ll write next or self-edit. Forget about punctuation or making your handwriting pretty, even legible. In fact you may get to the point where your emotions are flowing so fast and furiously that you can’t even write real words. That’s great. Just keep the pen in with the paper and let the thoughts roll out of you. This isn’t a time to be polite or fair. This is your side of the story. Also, at the end of the exercise you’ll be destroying the pages you’ve written, so as you write there’s no reason to worry about anyone else reading them.
- Before you begin, get a notebook and pen and find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit down and set a timer for twelve minutes.
- Open your notebook and simply start writing about whatever is disturbing your peace. It could be your health, job, finances, personal relationships, or anything else. Don’t think about it too much—just start.
- At the end of twelve minutes, stop writing. Immediately take the pages to a secure, nonflammable area like a concrete patio, your driveway, fireplace, or barbecue and set them on fire. Don’t just tear them up. Fire is transformative and cleansing. Your goal is to neutralize the negative energy, and fire does that by changing the chemical composition of the paper to ash.
Things to remember
• As you finish each writing session, don’t read over what you’ve written! To do this is to reinfect yourself with the negative energy.
• Don’t do this on a computer or other electronic device. You want a physical energetic connection between you and the materials you’re using—the pen and the paper—so that you can expel as much of the emotional charge as possible. That’s why this exercise must be done in your own handwriting.
• You may use lots of powerful, negatively charged words during this process to discharge pain, but remember to never direct them toward yourself. Be kind to yourself and know that you have every right to feel what you feel.
Do this every day for five days. Even after five days, it’s a great thing to work into your morning ritual as a way of regularly purging negative energy and maintaining clarity. Think of it as practicing good psycho-spiritual hygiene in the same way you practice good physical hygiene by bathing, grooming, and brushing your teeth.
What to expect
Not long ago my day started with a surprise. Intending to get to my office before anyone else, I was up and out the door early. But when I walked outside, I found something I wasn’t expecting. My car, which I’d parked on the street the evening before, was sitting there with the trunk and driver’s side door thrown wide open. I stopped dead in my tracks.
I remembered being in a hurry when I arrived home the previous evening, wanting to work on a birthday present I was making for my wife before she got home from her office. Could I have been in such a rush that I’d forgotten to close and lock the car? After a brief moment of confusion, I was certain I hadn’t left it that way. Then the obvious answer hit me. My car had been broken into.
I went to survey the damage and, sure enough, some personal items and documents I’d left in the car were missing. As I waited for the police to come so I could file a report, I discovered that my next-door neighbors had a security camera that happened to be pointed in the general direction of my car. I knocked on the door and asked if I could see the recording. While it didn’t show my car, it did show the space just behind it. That was where I saw a woman on a bicycle riding away with my belongings. She even dropped a few things as she pedaled away, leaving them on the ground like forgotten and unimportant breadcrumbs.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman. Her image stuck in my mind. I was angry that she had invaded my space and privacy in such a callous and careless way. I was worried about the personal information she had taken. I was annoyed that my day had been hijacked by an event that was beyond my control. All of these thoughts and feelings were swirling around in my head. In short, I started to stew.
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After nearly a day of dwelling on what had happened, I turned to PEW 12. I wanted to stop fixating on my feelings of anger and violation, as well as on the woman who had done this to me. Aware that getting stuck can be a danger to clarity, I began to write. Moving my thoughts and feelings from my inner world to the outer one by putting them on the page helped me get past them and move on from the event. After all my years of practicing PEW 12, I find it still helps me through difficult situations of all kinds, big or small.
So that you aren’t left wondering whether PEW 12 is working or if you’ve somehow done it wrong, it’s important to understand the range of reactions you might experience after engaging in the exercise. As long as you follow the directions (i.e., remember to write by hand, don’t reread what you’ve written, etc.), it isn’t possible to make a mistake. There’s no wrong topic to write about, no wrong words to use, no wrong feelings that might come up as a result of what you’re writing.
Afterward you may immediately feel lightened and clearer, or you may feel exhausted and emotionally wrenched. It can be a bit like vomiting from food poisoning. At first you feel achy, tired, and awful, but once you’ve let it all out you start to feel better. If you keep up the exercise over time, you will eventually feel an emotional shift as your burden of negative energy becomes lighter and lighter with each written page. As with other disciplines such as exercise or meditation, the more you do it, the more benefits you’ll see.
Excerpted from the book by Habib Sadeghi, DO. Copyright © 2017 by Habib Sadeghi, DO. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.