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Paying Emotional Debt

paying emotional debt

Paying Emotional Debt

Vivek Jayaraman
30th Aug, 2020

What is Debt?


The term "Debt" means "to owe". In financial terms, if we have a debt means we owe money to someone. If you do not pay the amount back in full to the person/institution you owe, you are in debt. The more you delay in payback, the more you are expected to pay back with interest. Unless you pay it back, it is trouble, and the bad thing about debt is, it keeps increasing. After a certain point, it's the debts you will be paying than spending on things you want to nor saving/investing in the future. 


Debts are also like an uncleaned garden. If you do not keep clearing them, it grows more wild, absorbing all the necessary nutrients for your plants. Your plant's growth will be shunned and stunned because of the weeds. The weeds are the debts that you forgot to remove. 


 Irrespective of whatever debt it may be, it gets accumulated over a while, if you do not pay it. Over some time, the debts will eventually outrun you. 


What is an emotion?


Per wiki, Emotions are biological states associated with the nervous system brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioral responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure. Since emotions are related to the nervous system, it affects both the physiological and psychological aspect of a person. 


The emotions that we experience are happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety, anticipation, jealousy, disgust, fear, etc. Emotions keep us healthy, and too much of it consume us as well.


What is an Emotional Debt?


Financial debt occurs when you do not pay back in full what you owe. Emotional debt occurs when you do not identify and acknowledge your emotions. Such debts steal away your time and energy in the present by letting you imagine things that may not exist or letting you stress about your past again and again. 


Just like any other loan, it keeps accumulating interest until and unless you pay off the principal. One needs to understand the emotional baggage is from the past where something happened and gave birth to the emotion. It could be because of abuses, harassment, rape, insults, tortures, etc. The feelings associated could be anger, shame, resentment, hatred, guilt, etc. It could lead to an emotional debt in the form of self-blaming, cursing own inability to act, victimizing oneself repeatedly, engaging in self-pity, worried what evil may happen, etc.


How these emotional debts affect our life?


  • It steals you from your everyday life. You will not be in the present. Your mind tries to replay what happened in the past and tries to keep you anxious towards the future. 
  • If it were a relationship issue, you would stop trusting anyone personally and professionally. Be it a workplace relationship, friendship, a potential love interest, or even family members. 
  • Just like an unhealed physical wound, the emotional damage as well pains a lot. If there is an emotional hurt, the brain treats it just like a physical wound, and that's one reason it is hard for people to undergo an emotional trauma. 
  • Your creativity in problem-solving will not happen as anxiety is a creativity killer. Being not mindful of the present can take your creativeness away.
  • Focusing on any work is wary, as the mind is always cautious about what might go wrong instead of what one should do to make things work. Coming up with possibilities is a risk. 
  • Courage to face situations will be affected. Constant abuse, both mental and physical, may lead to learned helplessness. Learned helplessness. [Per wiki] Learned helplessness is a state that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available. How much ever-powerful an elephant or a lion may be, they still obey the ringmaster's whip for the same reason. 
  • Seeking solace on substance addiction. Addiction to drugs such as cigarettes, alcohol, and other sedatives puts the physical body at risk. 

These are only a few of what an emotional debt can do to you. 


How to pay the Emotional debts?


  • Sharing by letting it out is one of the few first steps. Find someone to talk to. It could be your friends, close relatives, a therapist/counselor, or even a total stranger. Speak out. Sharing your emotions with others helps reduce the debt (burden), and you also have the advantage of seeking help than suffering alone. 
  • One of the problems with having an emotional debt is that people stop trusting other people. It could be because they had trusted the wrong people before. Challenge yourself by trusting new people take it one step at a time. Sometimes, proving the logic or the assumption that one holds changes the whole perspective. Having a dog changes things as well because one starts trusting the dog soon.  
  • Writing your emotions is a great start, as well. Whenever there is a negative emotion perceived, please write it down and validate it. Validating has benefits. At the end of the day, look at your feelings and see the ones that made sense and the things that haven't. Understand when and what situation gave rise to the feeling, see if that is expected, and learn what you want to do if it shows next time. 
  • Acknowledge your emotions whenever it shows up. Many a time, people try to run away if a bad memory pops up. They try to suppress it by trying to focus on other things. If you choose to run away, then you are giving power to your thoughts than yourself. The thoughts come back again and again, getting powerful because you keep running away from it. Observe the thoughts, let it show the memory from your past, acknowledge that it happened. Accept you were helpless, accept it happened to you, accept things do happen for anyone, and not just you. 
  • Make peace with the past and everyone involved in it. It is impossible to move on without closing the portal to what happened. Accept that things happened, and you had no control over whatever happened. If there were people involved, either excuse them or as discussed on #1, share it with someone else, so people know about the who got involved. It gives more confidence and courage when things are spoken out. Excuse yourself for the inability to act upon or letting yourself fall into such incidents. 
  • Try to be mindful every day and every time. Mindfulness is practicing to be present at the current moment without troubling memories of the past and not to get anxious because of an uncertain future. Mindfulness can be achieved through self-awareness. Spend time understanding your emotions, the way your behavior is towards certain things, and the conscious actions you take. By utilizing your five senses, you can get an understanding of your environment, and that helps you with the awareness. 

Pay your emotional debt and move on. Withholding only does more harm to your mental and physical health. Settle your debts and kiss goodbye to it. 






About the author
Vivek Jayaraman

Vivek is a compassionate Coach, Mentalist, and Story Teller. He is an ICAgile Authorized Instructor, NLP Trainer, Agile, leadership & Wellness Coach, and a practicing psychotherapist with more than 16 years of experience. He currently works as a Customer Success Officer for Leanpitch Technologies & LeanGears LLC. Vivek has a knack to work closely with people and help them succeed. He shares that experience of working with people on all his training and uses them in his Coaching, Counselling, and Consulting assignments.

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