All emotions are messages about you, your experiences and past events. No emotion is wrong, although you may have gotten the idea that some emotions are more right than others. Some emotions just feel more comfortable than others. And it is natural for humans to avoid pain – even painful emotions.
However, every emotion needs to be seen and heard. Dealing with emotions does not mean trying to ignore it, but daring to face it. You can practise confronting your feelings like this:
Notice your feelings. In the moment of noticing, you make it possible to process the feeling.
Accept the feeling. If the feeling is unpleasant, don’t explain it away or shift your attention to something else – for example, doing something or looking at your phone. If the feeling is pleasant, it is often easier to accept it.
Name the feeling. Sometimes it is easy to name the feeling (e.g. sadness or joy), but it is also enough to recognize whether the feeling feels pleasant or unpleasant. Naming your feelings also helps you to talk about your emotional experience with others, without it pouring out in an uncontrollable emotional reaction.
Breathe. Don’t do anything else, just breathe calmly and let the feeling be. Regardless of whether the feeling is difficult or painful, breathing helps you calm down, and allows you to be present with the feeling. Feelings come and go like breathing when they are not hidden or ignored.
Observe what is happening within you. The feeling is felt in the body: where in the body do you feel the feeling? It may also involve many kinds of thoughts: do you notice what kind of thoughts are running through your mind? Be like a detective who makes observations – but don’t try to reason, explain or summarize.
Finally, say something encouraging and nice to yourself. You have taken a moment for yourself and the messages that the feelings bring. You feel a little better about yourself again. It’s a big deal! And besides, it’s important to learn to talk to yourself nicely and encouragingly when you’ve experienced something difficult, as well as when you’ve experienced something wonderful. Although the process may seem complicated, over time with practice the process will flow with ease.
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