Untying Painful Emotional Knots

Untying Painful Emotional Knots
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Emotional knots rob you of your energy, freedom, and capacity for growth. They’re made up of emotional wounds, emptiness, painful relationships, and unfinished cycles. Freeing yourself from these mental tangles requires very precise psychological skill. Only then can you move on without pain or fear.

Over time, you might realize how the existential baggage you’re carrying around is causing you pain. Unresolved issues from the past might have crystallized into emotional knots. It could happen if you had to leave a complex relationship, experienced loss, or are living with childhood trauma.

The analogy of knots fits perfectly. In some way, these psychological states put painful pressure on your brain. They plague your heart and suffocate you because they force you to stay stuck in the past. In this precarious state, you lose your ability to take advantage of the present. It gets hard to reach your potential.

“You can’t untie a knot until you’ve found the knot.”


Emotional knots

Emotional knots: wounds that don’t heal themselves

Emotional knots can’t untie themselves. Sometimes it isn’t enough to just pull. Most of these knots create complex and tangled bows where your thoughts, fears, and anxieties pile up. Every day they exert more pressure and cause more suffering.

Gestalt psychology deals with these types of situations. This school of thought says that when human beings have to face adversity and they haven’t managed to overcome it, there is something unresolved.

It could be a persistent pain or discomfort that refuses to go away. It’s all evidence that there is some unfinished business. It is like an emotional debt that you have with yourself. 

Likewise, and no less important, you have to remember that emotions have a significant impact on the container that holds them: your body. Consequently, emotional knots predispose you to paralysis or flight. 

They can be like torture as well. They affect your muscles, digestive system, cardiovascular system… This pressure also intensifies with inaction. If you don’t do anything, the knot becomes more complex. If you wait for it to come apart on its own, it will only double back on itself and tie itself even tighter.


Learn how to untie emotional knots

Hasn’t this happened to you? Your shoelaces or headphone cords get so tangled up that you lose patience for a moment. However, if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that the best thing for untying a complex knot is to look very carefully at how it’s tied.

Then, little by little, you can meticulously pick apart the knot and pass one end through the loops one by one. You slowly loosen it and return the cord to its original form. Well, it’s the same with emotional knots. 

Of course, you won’t be the same as you were before. These emotional mazes cause permanent change. But they strengthen our internal architecture. Let’s look at some techniques you can use to unravel these tangled balls of emotional yarn.

Pain and suffering aren’t the same

Buddha said that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. What does that mean, exactly? Gestalt psychology tells us that people often go through life with two types of arrows stuck in their hearts.

  • The first arrow is one that no one can avoid. This is the original woundthe pain of loss, disappointment, or a breakup.
  • The second arrow is suffering. This is the arrow we so often inflict on ourselves. We cling to our wounds and our pain, but we don’t accept responsibility for them. Instead of seeking closure, we feed it daily with our memories.

Emotional knots hurt, but you can stop your suffering by accepting your internal wound. This will help ease your pain.

Your current emotions and the importance of focusing on the present

Emotional knots are the result of one or more past events. However, it’s important to acknowledge something: what happened did happen and you can’t change it. What you can change is how you feel right now. Transform your suffering into tranquility, your fear into safety, your anxiety into serenity.

You have to learn to recognize your current emotions. Identify what is causing you pain. Name the emotions that make up your emotional knot, whether it’s fear, worry, nostalgia, sadness…

When you recognize your emotions and deal with them, you give yourself the opportunity to close a cycle. You can finally free yourself from the knot.

untying emotional knots

Be responsible for your life

Gestalt psychology takes a holistic view, trying to get people to understand their problems in a comprehensive sense. That’s why it is so important to work on being aware of what is going on inside your heart and mind. Feeling truly responsible for yourself is crucial.

To achieve this, you have to pay attention to your emotions at all times. After all, an emotional knot is the consequence of neglect. You didn’t take responsibility for something, and now it has become an impediment.

Always deal with annoyances, worries, anxiety, and fears in the present. Be more aware of your emotional life. Learn not to flee from your pain and fear. Otherwise, each neglected emotion crystallizes into a tangled web that will cause problems later on. You can fix it — you still have time. 

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.