What do you think when you hear the word “wallow?” For many people, this word holds strong negative associations. The word wallowing is usually used when someone is so absorbed in their own thoughts and feelings that they are unable to pull themselves out of it and focus on something else; being so consumed by feelings that it’s impossible to move forward. However, wallowing doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being and in fact, wallowing can be a worthwhile emotion to explore and sit with.

Time is key to processing emotions.You may have heard that sleeping helps our brains encode information and process memories. Sometimes, we need to allow ourselves time to process rather than moving swiftly onto the next item on our agenda. Wallowing gives us time and space to think about memories and recognize the many layers of emotion that are associated with them.

To understand the importance of wallowing, we can consider the alternative. While some people indulge in feelings as a way to work through them, others may block out the feelings entirely. This can be a harmful trauma response as it can block you from understanding your emotional experiences. Ignoring trauma and pushing it under the rug allows it to fester and spread into negative thought patterns about one’s self. Granted, we may need time and space to rest before digging into wounds, but when you’re ready, processing painful memories with a trusted, safe person can be very healing.

Learning how to wallow in a way that helps you work through the emotion rather than simply allowing it to take over is the way forward. Tina Gilbertson coined the term “Constructive Wallowing” in her book Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them. Gilbertson writes that wallowing allows you to feel more comfortable with your emotions. This in turn takes the power out of them.

Wallowing can be a useful emotion, but it’s also important to recognize when it’s time to do something about it. Book a session with us or with a therapist in your area when you’re ready. We also have early morning therapy availability for California clients.