Feeling uncomfortable emotions and not sure how to handle them? Read on for some helpful practices.
by Tessa Bender
Learn how to deal with negative emotions through turning towards what’s difficult and find out how you can set yourself free
Many things in life can cause us discomfort and pain. Whether it is the feeling of disclusion while at a party without anyone to talk to, getting into an argument with a loved one, or feeling inadequate when someone at work outshines you, life can be tough in moments. Though it may seem counterintuitive, what I am suggesting here, is to turn towards our difficult moments with tenderness, and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are there. This is a critical step to helping you feel happier, more connected and at ease.
Difficult situations lead us to feel uncomfortable in our minds and bodies, and unfortunately, the common internal response comes from our animal brain reactions; fight, flight, and freeze.
Envision a Negative Experience
Try this right now:
Close your eyes and think of the last time you felt uncomfortable or there was a conflict between you and someone else. Remember the situation: where were you, and more importantly start to conjure up how you felt in that moment. If you could name any emotions that were present, what were they? Now, try to think of what your internal response to that conflict or discomfort was. Did you want to run away from the situation? Were you angry and wanted to scream to make it go away? Or, did you feel speechless like you simply wanted to hide in plain site? Identifying your typical response pattern is important because we tend to have our “go-to” reaction. When we see what that is, with clarity, we can start to unhook ourselves from the pattern of repeating it. Okay, so back to your situation, what was the result of the action you took? If it ended in a not so great feeling that you couldn’t shake, don’t worry that’s normal. Here are some practices to help us navigate difficult experiences with more skill.
Practices to Deal with Negative Emotions
Start a Meditation Practice
“Meditation is a surrender, it is not a demand. It is not forcing existence your way, it is relaxing into the way existence wants you to be. It is a let-go” – Osho
If you’ve read my articles, you know I’m a big advocate for meditation! I have bias, of course, because I teach it, but I truly believe that it helps you develop superpowers that equip you to face any situation. The reason I suggest it here for dealing with difficult emotions, is because the more we sit in silence, the greater variety of experiences we will notice during practice. Like it or not, meditation shows us the good, the bad, and the ugly, including uncomfortable emotions or situations in our mind. The practice is to observe these moments with a non-judgemental mind, welcoming all experiences as they come. If we can sit with pain in meditation, we build our capacity to be able to be with it outside of meditation. When we observe it without judgement, we sometimes see the reasons it has appeared in the first place (belief patterns, emotional history, etc.). Observation leads to healing!
Journal about your Difficult Situation
“ I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say” – Flannery O’Connor
If you’d prefer a different activity, you can try journaling. Take a piece of paper and write the prompts, “This situation makes me feel…” and then on the next page write, “I feel this way because…”. Now I invite you to try stream of consciousness journaling. For this, keep your pen moving on the paper the entire time. That means if you run out of things to say just write, “I’ve run out of things to say, blah blah blah” or something like that until you notice what wants to be written next. This way we tap into our subconscious and invite it to come forward. Oftentimes it will reveal helpful information about this situation. You may be very surprised at what comes out!
“After we’ve cradled and embraced our suffering for some time, we can look deeply into it and begin to understand what has caused it and what has been feeding it.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Treating yourself tenderly, as you would a best friend, is a truly liberating practice. We are incredibly hard on ourselves all the time and often have unrealistic expectations of what we “should” be accomplishing. Practicing self-compassion can let us relax a bit. Research has shown that it is actually a great motivator and leads to sustainable action. There are many ways to practice, but one of my favorites I use is from Kristen Neff, Self-compassion researcher. If you’re feeling difficult emotions, or a strong inner critical voice place your hand on your heart and say “This is a moment of human suffering”. You can even comfort yourself by saying “there there”, or “you’re okay”. In this way we stop trying to push the pain away and rather, we acknowledge it. Through this practice, often the pain itself may partially subside.
Suffering belongs to life, it is a part of our human experience. We can ease the suffering by fully acknowledging it, turning towards it with openness and care, the way we would show up for our very best friend.
What other practices do you use to deal with negative emotions in your life? Comment Below and share your thoughts with the Till Community!
Photo: Amadeo Valar