Dealing with Difficult Emotions

Difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, loneliness, jealousy and fear can be painful, even unbearable at times. People tend to instinctively either repel such emotions, or become consumed and overwhelmed by them, which serves to fuel and intensify the emotions. Emotions dealt with ineffectively can contribute to self-destructive behaviours, such as excessive worrying, self-blaming or criticism, alcohol and drug abuse and overeating. However, emotions can be informative about what is not working well in our lives or signal unresolved issues, if dealt with effectively. For example, anger could indicate that we have been hurt, or that we need to create boundaries in a relationship.

A mindful approach is useful in dealing with difficult emotions. Here are some key aspects to mindfulness:

·Identify and label. When experiencing a difficult emotion, identify where it is felt in the body. Label the emotion, such as “this is anxiety”, “this is anger”, etc.

·Acknowledge and accept. Try not to resist feeling the emotion. Instead, allow space to experience the emotion without pushing it away. Try to cultivate kindness and acceptance toward oneself for experiencing that emotion.

·Understanding. Understand that there is a reason or trigger for the emotion, that it is impermanent and will pass. Investigate the cause of the emotions once the intensity of the emotion has subsided. Difficult emotions are not a sign of weakness.

·Letting go. Once the emotion has been acknowledged, redirect one’s attention onto something positive or productive (e.g. physical activity, deep breathing).

As always, it is essential to ensure one has a solid foundation in one’s life, such as exercise, healthy eating, drinking in moderation, sufficient sleep and restfulness.

Written by Dr Roberta Szekeres, a clinical psychologist at Seed Psychology.