3 Essential Strategies for Integrating Life Experiences

Updated: Nov 19, 2019


Polished gemstones in a ceramic bowl on a wood table

Emotions can feel overwhelming. Thoughts can get stuck in endless loops. Sensations can easily be ignored or misunderstood.


So what do you do with your thoughts, feelings, and sensations? Here are three essential strategies — suppression, expression, and communication.


Suppress for Short Relief


When we're feeling overwhelmed or stuck, suppressing our inner experience relieves the pain or discomfort temporarily.


We can distract ourselves with a task or more pleasurable experience. We can minimize the experience by talking ourselves out of it, second guessing our experience, or comparing to another's. We can try to change it by problem solving or taking immediate action.


Suppression sounds bad, but it can be a very useful temporary strategy.


Sometimes we don't have the energy, time, or resources to dedicate to digesting an experience. Sometimes it's simply not the right time or place.


When we don't feel safe or resourced, temporarily suppressing our inner experience can help keep us functioning with the task at hand and, in extreme conditions, alive.


However, if we suppress our experience indefinitely, we never integrate what happened.


Like food sitting undigested in the stomach, we get a tummy ache that gets worse with time, makes it harder to eat new food, and keeps us from getting the nourishment we need when we indefinitely avoid processing our experiences.


Express for Exploration


When we express our inner experience, we let the thoughts, feelings, and sensations take shape, process, and integrate.


Journaling, drawing, dancing, singing, screaming, venting, writing, visualization, and more are ways we can express what we are experiencing with our words, movements, and imagination.


Expression is a process of self-exploration and discovery.


By letting ourselves express what's going on inside, without judgement or distortion, we become more intimate with our own experience. We give ourselves the opportunity to explore the edges, guts, breath, and heart of what we're thinking, feeling, and sensing.


This process helps us make sense and meaning of our experience, stringing pieces together, weaving with other threads, and making the quilt of our life story.


Private expression allows the raw experience to digest without social consequence.


Sometimes the act of expression alone can be all that we need to clear something stuck. Other times, sharing our experience with others is needed to help us keep moving.