How to Navigate Strong Emotions


Do you ever feel that physical or emotional sensations are simply “happening to you,” and that you don’t have much control over them? When you feel tense, anxious, angry, frustrated, or anything else, does it seem that you have no choice in the matter, even if a part of you would truly prefer to feel differently?

Along with so many other things that have been labeled “feminine,” emotions are regularly dismissed as either irrelevant or bothersome, especially if they are unpleasant or painful. Strong feelings tend to catch us off guard in our places of work or in our personal relationships, triggered by events that may otherwise seem ordinary.

We can’t ignore our emotions though, without negative health consequences. Sooner or later, neglected emotional material returns as a weakened immune system, depression, distraction, or disease. Squashing our feelings is, unfortunately, a pretty reliable way to create tension and conflict both in ourselves and in our relationships, whether professional or personal.

However, when we are able to witness our feelings with steady attention, they start to feel less like a burden and more like a source of useful insight. We learn what's important to us and what we want and need, and are then better equipped to move toward those things. The greater this emotional awareness, the clearer our life and career choices become.

The good news is that it’s possible to track your own internal state by matching thoughts with corresponding feelings, and setting or resetting them in advance. With this technique, challenging situations become less mysterious and more malleable. You begin to be able, in many cases, to actually choose how you feel, and to make the way you communicate with others more deliberate.

This is a large and complex topic, but I hope the three exploratory steps below may still help you begin to see how even a small amount of focused attention can improve your emotional well-being.

1. Bring to mind a situation where you regularly experience conflict or tension of any kind. It may involve other people or not. In your mind, recall as many details of the experience as you can, noting any physical or emotional responses that occur in the present.

2. In your mind, observe the feeling, even if it is uncomfortable. Is it located in some part of your body? Does it feel warm or cool? Concentrated or diffuse? Notice how there are now two parts of you – the part experiencing the feeling and the part of you observing that experience.

3. Staying connected to those two parts of yourself, ask this question: “As I am feeling this way, what am I believing to be true?” OR “As I am feeling this way, what am I fearing might happen?”

Note: What you discover here may very well seem "irrational" to you. Emotional logic does not always “make sense” according to our intellectual thinking brains. Noticing this, in itself, can often help to ease and reset our emotional system. The key is not to dismiss, but rather observe whatever your feelings are telling you in a neutral way. This kind of mindful acceptance is the first step in any process of softening strong emotions. After that, there are various techniques coaches use to transform one thought/feeling pattern into another.

If you are curious about this process and have a situation or relationship in your life where you’d like to create a healthier dynamic, please reach out to schedule a free, no-obligation coach consultation with me. We’ll explore how empowerment methods might be able to assist and decide together on a path forward.

And if you try these sample steps in your own life, please leave your thoughts in the comments!