How to deal with difficult emotions?

Let's start with the meaning of the word itself, in Latin emotion is emovere which means ‘'moved out, remove, agitate.'' As the word says itself it's a feeling in our body that wants to be moved, removed and certain difficult emotions make us feel agitated.

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When it comes to difficult emotions such as anger, shame, guilt, fear etc, we tend to suppress them by any sort of distraction like watching Netflix, scrolling on social media, having a drink or even gossiping. Those are unhealthy coping mechanisms. Even when we manage to distract ourselves, they sneakily come back to us in different situations, triggered by different people. But the emotion remains the same and tries to remind us that it still exists and lives in our bodies.

We tend to treat them like unwelcome guests, we treat them with resentment. Usually, after when we thought the emotions have gone, they come back to us stronger, louder, and somehow bigger! There can be a feeling like they are taking over us and we start to feel disempowered and hopeless. We may fall into depression or start having panic attacks for example.

So how can we change this pattern, how we can deal with difficult emotions and ''make friends'' with them?


Changing unhelpful patterns

Firstly, we need to understand that our emotions echo our past. Every emotion that shows up in us is a reminder of unhealed wounds.

So instead of suppressing them, we need to understand them, what they need from us, or what they are trying to communicate to us and when this emotion was created for the first time. Simply we need to feel them. I understand it can be terrifying at times, but by connecting with them and understanding, that's the first step to integrating them, not rejecting them.

When we look at our emotions as a wisdom that is given to us, we will not want to reject them. Our emotions are our pathway to self-discovery and to heal our wounds.

Here are few steps worth to look at:

Recognise what your distractions are, numbing behaviours

It’s important to know that distracting behaviours and numbing look different to everyone. Basically, it’s anything you do intentionally or unconsciously to avoid facing your feelings.

Start identifying your feelings

Asking yourself simple questions every day: ‘’How am I feeling today?’’ After any stressful situation, ask ‘’How this made me feel?’’ The more questions we ask ourselves the better we can understand our feelings and emotions.

Start to be aware of your triggers.

Try to notice situations that trigger specific emotions in you. Knowing that every trigger comes from the past. This in the future will help you instead of reacting (re-acting, repeating the same behaviour) you will be able to respond to the situation in a way that is safe for you and others.

I understand that dealing with difficult emotions by yourself can be overwhelming at times, that’s why reaching out it's very important!

Having counselling can help you to understand those difficult emotions. A therapist can create a safe, non-judgmental and validating space where you can connect with them at your own pace. A counsellor can offer you tools that will allow you to begin to have self-compassion towards what you have experienced and will help you to understand where those emotions stem from. Having the awareness of where this has started will help you to shift your perspective on the situation and find healthier ways to deal with those difficult at times emotions.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London N10 & E14
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Written by Barbara Josik, Counsellor & Psychotherapist MBACP
London N10 & E14

I am psychodynamic, integrative therapist working with clients in private practive, at the moment I offer online sessions. I work with the whole person - mind, body, and spirit. This enables me to work flexibly and holistically and to adapt my approach to meet different individuals needs as necessary.

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