Learning to sit with painful emotions


Painful emotions, are painful. Bottom line. As humans, we naturally do everything we can to get rid of painful feelings. This can sometimes mean negative and harmful things for us like repressing our emotions, reacting too fast or too irrationally, isolation or even self-harm.

“I know I have resistance to sitting with my emotions. Way easier to do just about anything else.” — Theo Fleury from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

What sitting with your emotions means, is simply acknowledging and allowing your feelings, and not judging yourself for them. Kim Barthel describes sitting with an emotion as becoming an observer of your own feelings.

“Sitting with an emotion is kind of like pressing the pause button and slowing down our reactivity. It gives us time to think and discover what it is that our reactions are trying to tell us.”  — Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

Here are some simple steps to sitting with your emotions:

  1. Acknowledge your emotions. Observe what you are feeling, and allow it to happen without any judgment from yourself. Whatever it is you’re feeling: anger, sadness, anxiety, simply acknowledge what it is.
  2. Validate your emotions. Accept what you are feeling and again, be free from judgment. Try statements like: “I am angry with that person”, “I feel sad that happened”. Whatever it is, let yourself feel it without the additional damage of adding on judgment to yourself for feeling that way. Last thing you need is to pack shame onto everything.
  3. Be present. Allow yourself to feel the emotion, but try not to get too deep into it. Feel your emotion, but remind yourself to stay mindful. The emotion you’re feeling has no control over what is currently happening for you, that reminder will help you stay present. Nothing can be done abou something in the past, sit with the emotion, and then bring yourself back to whatever it is you’re doing.

Sitting with your emotions is not necessarily easy, for most of us it can be a difficult skill to learn. But learning to put these things into practice will serve to benefit you in so many ways. Just remember, healing is an ongoing process, and this can be part of your progress.

If you’re interested in being part of a conversation about healing, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can find out more about ‘Conversations With a Rattlesnake’ on our website.

 – Written by Amber Craig
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