A psychologist’s guide on dealing with difficult emotions


Hello readers,

Last night I had my last class of mindful self-compassion. During the class, I went through a rollercoaster of emotion. Some days I felt joy because I discovered a new way of managing my emotions, other days I felt absolutely horrible because of the opening of intense emotional doors.

I discovered through this class that I don’t fit in very well in groups. This is something that I’ve noticed my whole life. Some times people do not like me because I am too honest, other times I just feel like I cannot connect with others. As I write this post, I realise that many of those who are my friends might be puzzled or disagree with what I say because I portray myself as a social butterfly who fleets from friend group to friend group.

This feeling of being odd ball is not always the most pleasant of feelings but it is a feeling nonetheless. So I decided that I needed to learn to deal with it. This morning, I was supposed to go for a walk, but it rained. It was 6am. I thought, maybe I’ll do yoga. I opened my yoga mat and realised that, my body did not want that. “Go back to sleep, ignore the feelings, sleep it off.” that’s what I told myself. AVOID AVOID AVOID! I was actually avoiding it since last night, I told myself, “You need to sleep now because you have to wake up early to go for your walk, you can deal with it in your dreams as you always do”. Of course I had nightmares and also a not so pleasant sleep. Back to the morning, I laid in bed, and I was not tired! Well, I guess avoiding wasn’t working out.

I decided to then do a meditation. I realised, “Okay, I am feeling a difficult emotion right now, so let’s face the emotion and deal with it.” This was the meditation I did: Working with Difficult Emotions (Audio Meditation) – YouTube

It was a good experience doing it, I allowed myself to feel the emotion, created space for it, named it, and then allowed it to be. After the meditation I felt better and even decided to do a short yoga practice.

I’m posting this because I used to always avoid my negative emotions and try my best to hide and run from them. Also, I tried to get rid of them and shut them out. When I did so, they decided to linger longer and come back scarier than before. I also had a lot of shame around negative emotions, as though having negative emotions made me a bad person.

However, now I am learning (still in the process) of being braver, more compassionate, less afraid, and facing my negative emotions head on. It’s not about solving the problem (that requires much more processing), it is about allowing and befriending all emotions like they are just a way of the body speaking to me!

Difficult emotions psychologist singapore

If you notice yourself having difficult emotions and realise that avoiding them or running away from them is not working, try the following steps:

  1. Start with kindness: Start by taking a few relaxing breaths, place your hand over your heart, send some loving-kindness to yourself
  2. Label the emotion: Ask yourself what is the emotion that you are feeling right now? Label (name) the emotion that you are feeling in a gentle and kind voice. e.g. That is the feeling of pain, or I notice a feeling of anxiousness
  3. Mindful awareness of the body: Do a scan of your body and notice where you feel this emotion in your body (pick 1 spot that you feel it the most), it could be some tenseness or a feeling of ache, bring your attention to this spot in your body
  4. Soften: Breathe into that part of your body and allow the muscles to slowly relax. You can help by gently saying to yourself, soften, soften, soften. Just allow the emotion to slowly become softer. Just like when you are adding water to clay, you are not trying to get rid of the clay, you just want it to become softer to be able to work with it
  5. Soothe: You may say to yourself in a kind voice, just like you would to a friend or to a little child some kind words. e.g. “Wow, that really does hurt” or “May I feel at ease and free from suffering” or you can say to yourself, “Soothe, soothe, soothe” as you breathe into that part of you.
  6. Allow: Allow this feeling of discomfort to be there. You can even say to yourself “allow, allow, allow” Just like dealing with a difficult person, the more you try to push them away and get rid of them, the stronger and more tricks they are going to use to try to get your attention and stay.

The above is my own version from the soften, soothe, and allow practice by Chris Germer. Here is the link to the actual version and practice: https://chrisgermer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/SoftenSootheAllow.mp3

Alright, that’s all for today! Remember, difficult emotions are just like any emotions, they come, and they go. We can become friends with them and not always run away from them 🙂

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