How To Handle Difficult Emotions

Tips from a chronic pain recovery therapist

We all experience difficult feelings from time to time. It’s a part of life that can’t be avoided, no matter how hard we try. But how we deal with our emotions can significantly impact our physical well-being. The way we interact with our feelings can even bring pain levels up or down.

Simply put, when we approach our emotions from a place of fear, emotions tend to respond with fear — which can amplify pain. (If you identify with this, please know that it is not your fault. We’ve all been steeped in generations of social conditioning to be afraid of our emotions. This is a journey of learning and growth, and we are in it together!)

By contrast, when we approach our emotions from a place of love, emotions are soothed — which can reduce pain. (Again, we are all a work in progress when it comes to this. And wherever you are on the journey is exactly where you need to be right now!)

Here are some common strategies we tend to use when we’re approaching our emotions from a place of fear:

👉 Getting angry at your emotion

👉 Shaming your emotion

👉 Judging your emotion

👉 Ignoring your emotion

👉 Panicking about your emotion

👉 Trying to silence your emotion or make it go away

👉 Interrogating your emotion (“Why am I feeling this way? Whyyyy?”)

I’m listing these out not to say that these strategies are “wrong” or “bad,” but to help you recognize the patterns. (We all tend to do these, including me!)

And here are some strategies you can play with to practice approaching emotions from a place of love:

👉 Acknowledge the feeling

👉 Accept the feeling

👉 Empathize with the feeling

👉 Reassure the feeling that you’re on its side and you have its back

👉 Take action on the feeling’s behalf (for example by setting a boundary to protect the feeling or by nurturing the feeling with care)

A journaling exercise

Here’s a journaling exercise that I use to practice approaching my emotions from a place of love. It’s a dialogue between two parts of the self: Your “wise self” and your emotion.

Wise self: I’m right here, emotion. What are you feeling?

Emotion: [Let the emotion answer in a sentence or paragraph; whatever spills out onto the page]

Wise self: It totally makes sense that you feel that way. I love you. Is there more?

Emotion: [Let the emotion answer in a sentence or paragraph; whatever spills out onto the page]

Wise self: it totally makes sense that you feel that way. I love you. Is there more?

Etc. etc. until your writing timer chimes or until the emotion has said its piece for now.

If you try this out, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Sending lots of encouragement and compassion your way,

Anna

➡️ If you need support with chronic pain and anxiety, take my FREE QUIZ called Why the *bleep* am I still in pain?! so I can help you get some clarity.

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The article lives here: Mental HealthHow To Handle Difficult Emotions
Anna Holtzmanhttp://www.annaholtzman.com
Anna Holtzman is a chronic pain recovery therapist and coach based in New York City.
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