Ep. 27: How To Process Difficult Emotions

As we become more familiar with Thought Work, we realize that all of our feelings are caused by the thoughts we think.

This is a powerful realization for most people. And it makes people want to change their thinking immediately. “Oh, this thought is making me feel bad! I need to choose a better thought!” Now, this may work occasionally, but it’s not really that simple.

We must first start with awareness. Bringing attention to the feeling itself and then to the thought causing it. If we brush past the emotion too quickly and ignore it just to get to a better thought, we risk the habit of toxic positivity.

Toxic positivity is when you think your entire life is supposed to be happy and positive, so you’re afraid to feel negative emotions. You rush through them.

This is a problem because if you ignore your negative emotions, they could fester and keep coming back. You also might find yourself over-eating or over-drinking to numb the pain of negative emotions, because you don’t trust yourself to handle them.

In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to bring awareness to all of your emotions, even the difficult ones, and process your feelings in a way in which you will learn from them and allow them to move out of your body.

Listen to Episode 27 to learn how processing your emotions can help you to know yourself more and make it possible to tap into your unique inner wisdom.

What You’ll Get From This Episode:

  • How avoiding your emotions leads to more anger and arguments
  • Why you need to process your emotions if you’re going to make consistent change
  • How to calm your nervous system when you feel intense emotions
  • Three steps to process your emotions that will help you feel calmer, more in control, and more in tune with your wiser self.

Mentioned On The Show:

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Hi friends!

It’s been about 6 months since I’ve started this podcast and it’s been a while since I’ve given a shout out to my listeners! So first, I want to give a huge welcome to my new listeners and give you the low down on what this podcast is!

So First of all this is a podcast all about having an incredible marriage. And a marriage is not just your relationship with you partner – before you were a wife, you were a woman with the same needs for her own self-love and respect.  So we talk a lot about how to mange your life in a way that supports your needs as a human first – including your mind, body, and spirit – your dreams and goals – and then your relationship with your partner and family.

It’s a holistic view of marriage – I don’t believe we can have an incredible marriage – if our life feels like it’s out of our own control.

But when we nurture our relationship with ourself – then we can develop the relationship skills and tools to fall DEEPLY in love with the one and only in our lives – our partners who we’ve committed to love through the good and the hard!

My goal for my own marriage, my clients marriages, and yours to have way more fun and pleasure in life together – and when the hard things in life come – which you know they will …. You will have the understanding how to climb that difficult mountain with strength and joy  instead of feeling like you’re falling into a pit of despair!

We do this by understanding ourselves on a deeper level. Learning how our brain works, what makes it think the way it does, and how to create massive change in our lives through thought work.

One of the most powerful skills I teach my clients is to own that you and only you are in charge of your emotions.

No person or circumstance has the authority to decide or determine what you think and feel. That is your job and only your job!

When ever you allow yourself to feel a certain way because of the way someone else is showing up, you are giving THEM the power of your emotions.

The way we take back control of our emotions is through thought work. Because it is not our circumstances or other people who create our feelings – it’s our thoughts about them that creates a feeling in our body.

So Thought work is simply the process of deciding what you want to feel and intentionally choosing thoughts to create those feelings.

If you’ve listened to my podcast since the beginning, you know that Circumstances generate a thought. That thought creates a feeling (which is just a vibration in your body), the feeling drives you to take an action or an inaction, and that’s what determines the results in your life.

If you want real change in your life — if you want a high quality marriage, high quality health, or high quality ANYTHING, you must choose high quality thinking.

In my coaching, we learn to drop the drama and create our own powerful results in life!

When someone learns this skill it’s very exciting at first! You know, to learn that just because your partner is having a stressful  day , or month, or year, doesn’t mean you have to …. Or just because you had a hard childhood, doesn’t mean you have to carry that burden with you for the rest of your life … or even just because something is difficult in life right now, doesn’t mean you can’t experience joy and gratitude when things are hard – Learning this seriously changes my client’s lives.

But inevitably …. There comes a time when one of my clients comes to me and says, “wait, I’m feeling so sad this week. And I don’t feel like I can change that so easily with my thoughts this time.”

And that’s when we get to dig deeper.
We get pay attention to those very real emotions. And we get to learn how to process them on purpose.

I’ve touched on this briefly in other episodes –  specifically episode 18 where I talked about the discomfort of human growth. And being willing to feel that discomfort in order to make important changes in your life. And in order to grow. But today we’re going to dive in a little bit deeper and give you some specific tools to know exactly what to do when you have those big difficult emotions.

So … Yes, positive mantras and intentional high-quality thinking is where you create massive change in your life… but if we believe that negative feelings mean something bad – we’ll end up brushing through them too quickly and they won’t go away …. They’ll stay in our bodies and fester … They create tension in our muscles. And they’ll keep coming back – until we pay attention to them and process them out of our body.

Many of us have been afraid of feeling our feelings since childhood. Because some of us we’re taught from a young age that you put on a happy face no matter what. We weren’t taught how to sit with and process our emotions in a healthy way – so we resist them or try to numb them.

You’ll know you’re resisting an emotion when you fight it by blaming it on someone else or by criticizing – oftentimes this looks like lashing out and arguing.  

For example, if your partner points out something he thinks you’ve done wrong … and you think the thought, “I’ll never be good enough” you might feel insecure. But we’re never taught what to do with insecurity! We’re just told, “that’s ridiculous – you shouldn’t feel insecure!”  So what are we left to do? We’re left to shift blame – and we then turn it on our partners and criticize them for saying the words they said. And then you’ll notice that both people in the relationship want to shift blame and they’re both now resisting the feeling of insecurity. It’s a vicious cycle.

The other thing we do with our feelings is we try to NUMB our emotions.  So with the example of insecurity – we don’t want to feel it do we? Of course not! It feels yucky! And do you know what makes that insecurity not feel so intense? Dopamine! The chemical in your brain that releases during something pleasurable. It’s a feel good hormone! And our brain and body like it!  So when we’re feeling a negative emotion like insecure – it’s only natural that we would want to BUFFER (or numb that negative emotion) with pleasurable foods or alcohol so that our feel good hormone, dopamine can be released, give us the feeling of pleasure – and distract us from feeling insecure.  

Which would be fine if it worked long term – but we know it doesn’t.  Dopamine lasts for a short time and then that negative emotion comes right back – and sometimes it doubles in strength!

So because we don’t take the time to figure out why we’re feeling insecure in the first place, we end up wasting time revisiting it over and over.

And if you’re like me – I spent much of my life trying to avoid the negative emotions of “insecurity, sadness, overwhelm, frustration, shame, guilt, and exhaustion – just to name a few – And I did so with food and alcohol.

 When we do that –  when we decide to ignore or numb our very human emotions, we end up in a cycle of inconsistency. And in a relationship we can even end up ignoring very important things that our  inner wisdom is trying to tell us.

So instead of ignoring or buffering and resisting our feelings I want to offer that we don’t have to be afraid of our feelings. Human existence is a balance of positive emotions and negative emotions. And it’s good to feel both.

I believe our emotions are here for a reason. I don’t want to just move through life not feeling any of them! I WANT to feel excited, joyful and happy on a regular basis! I want to know how to generate those feelings and feel them on purpose! And I also want to feel sad if my dog dies. Right? Why do I want to feel sad when my dog dies? Because it’s the flip side of feeling happy that I have him! You can’t know what happiness is fully – without a bit of sadness.

Now I don’t want to feel ever is insecure – why? Because that’s an emotion that is never going to serve me … but if it keeps coming back, if it’s a common emotion – we need to take the time to process it so that we can understand why it’s there. When we understand the WHY … why that insecurity is there, we can learn better high quality thinking – that with practice, we can replace insecurity with total confidence. But to learn that we have to pay attention to it and feel it fully.

So we want to feel the wide range of human emotions. To FEEL emotions is part of humanity. And I think there is beauty in feeling it all – AND learning to process our feelings – especially the ones that don’t serve us … is an important piece of being in control of creating the life we want in the process.

But how do we FEEL our emotions and use them for us instead of against us.

It’s actually pretty simple and I’m going to walk you through three steps today to get you started.

# 1. When we have intense emotions, our nervous system is activated. If it’s a negative emotion, our lower brain screams that this is dangerous, avoid this emotion at all cost!

So we first need to come back to our Breath when you feel out of control with your emotions – BREATHE. That is step one. When you breathe deep – it sends your body signals that you are safe and helps you to remain calm and collected so you decide what to do next instead of letting your animal brain decide.

So take a deep breath in – and then a big exhale – tell yourself “I am safe. This feeling is a vibration in my body that I can process. It will not always feel this intense.  I am safe. Breathe.”

Sometimes you might have to step away from a situation or conversation and find a few minutes alone to do this.

I’ve often excused myself to the bathroom or for a quick walk to process my emotion on my own before I tried to process it with my husband or with my family.

That is okay – if that’s what you need to do.

Taking a moment by yourself is different than storming off in anger and avoiding a conversation. This is you intentionally saying, “I need a moment to understand what I’m feeling.

If that’s all you can do in the moment – Breathe, tell yourself, “I’m safe”, and possibly take a moment alone to process – that’s enough in that moment. And it might be enough most of the time!

The 2nd and very powerful skill to practice to help process emotions is writing.  My private clients who take the time to journal and answer the writing prompts that I give them speed up their progress so much – just by spending 20 minutes per day with a pen and paper!

So dump your thoughts on the page. All of them. All the Negative and positive thoughts that are running around in your head. Name your emotions. I’m feeling insecure because of this. I’m feeling angry because of this. I’m feeling overwhelmed or hurt because of this.

Bring awareness to the thoughts you’re writing.

And then allow yourself to write something you’re grateful for in the process. To FEEL your negative emotions fully and yet still be able to write something your grateful for in the moment is a reminder that YES, this is a difficult moment AND I can feel gratitude at the same time.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be both.

And the third way to process emotions is to make time to sit and process the emotion on your own.

Remember that a feeling or emotion is simply a vibration in your body that comes from a thought in your brain.

You might be wondering how to sit with an emotion.

You find a quiet space. You sit and close your eyes.

And you bring awareness to the emotion – bring awareness to the vibration in you body.

You’ll describe the emotion in a tangible, physical way.

So – WHERE do you feel the emotion in your body? Is it in your shoulders? In your stomach? Maybe in your head?  Where do you feel it most?

Describe it in detail.

So is it hard or is it soft?

Does it move or stay still?

Is it slow or is it fast?

What color is it?

Sit with it. Breathe into it. Allow it to be there. Don’t resist it. Don’t run from it. Many times tears will flow – and that’s ok.

How does this emotion make you want to react? Maybe run? Avoid it? Yell, scream, cry? Punch something, climb in bed and sleep? Eat? Bring awareness to what you WANT to do.

And then, finally, after you’ve sat with the feeling and described it … ask yourself “what is this emotion here to teach me?”

It could be anything – from it’s there to tell you to slow down – to ask for help more – to accept something you cannot change – to speak up – to respect yourself – to honor your commitments – to spend more time with your family – to spend more time alone … to stop worrying about the future and to be present with today. … it could be anything…

The important thing is that you sit with it long enough to understand why it’s there and process it.

When you do this … you will notice that vibration in your body start to lighten up. . You’ll notice your wiser self begin to speak to you and tell you the next right step.

And the more you do this – the less afraid you will be to experience the wide range of human emotions. You’ll start to tell yourself – heck YES I can meet that goal! Because I’m WILLING to feel any emotion that comes up along the way. And you’ll notice that it’s easier to say no to the extra glass of wine or the bag of chips – because you trust yourself to feel your emotions instead of numbing them and avoiding them.

You even notice yourself having better relationships. Because you’re no longer shifting blame for your emotions. You’re not giving someone else power over your feelings. Instead – you notice your feelings. You process them in a healthy way where you can learn more about yourself and understand your own inner wounds and strengths on a whole new level.

So how can you apply this to this during this holiday season?

When insecurities, frustrations, and seasonal sadness can be on the rise – especially around family get-togethers?

Well, if you didn’t listen to last week’s episode on surviving family get-togethers, start there.

And then – If you feel worried or concerned about how you will feel during your own family holiday, take the time to go through these 3 steps BEFORE you meet with your family:

1. Breathe, remind yourself that you are safe. Calm your nervous system

2. Journal your thoughts – all of them. And write down something that you can be grateful for in this present moment. Gratitude is also going to calm your nervous system!
And #3 Find time to sit with the emotion. Allow it to be in your body. Process it. And learn from it.

Do these things before your get-together and watch yourself show up as your highest self this holiday season!

I’m looking forward to cooking. And eating pumpkin pie. I’m looking forward to the sweetness of celebrating with my little family – and then in a few weeks with my extended family! And bring on the emotions. Bring on the differing opinions.

I’ve got this! And so do you!

If you’re in the united states, have a beautiful thanksgiving weekend! And wherever you’re at in the world … have fun spreading love, joy and you’re own unique beauty this weekend!

That’s what it’s all about friends!

There are a few ways you can work with me more – I have a Facebook Group that you can get to through the show notes or on my website.

Or you can decide to go all in and invest in yourself and your marriage and get 1:1 coaching. I promise, investing in your mind and your relationship is the BEST money you will ever spend. It will last longer than the new car, the new furniture, or even the vacation you might be dreading going because your partner is such stick in the mud … Yes – coaching is an investment – but it’s one that will benefit you for the rest of your life!

If you want to book a free consultation call with me to find out more, shoot me an email and let’s talk.

Until then –

Remember – Emotions are simply vibrations in your body that come from your thoughts. They are not scary. They do not last forever – and it’s important that you learn to process them fully.

Have an incredible week friends!