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How to deal with emotions?

Hey guys, I was wondering if anyone had any tips or could explain how this is meant to work.

l don't know how to deal with emotions. The only thing I can figure out how to do is to squash them out - punish myself for feeling bad and self harm, or force myself to just shut down and stop feeling.

l have heard of mindfulness and stuff but I don't understand how that is any different. For me, "Tolerate the feeling" = ignore it til it goes away and shut it down. I can't figure out how else to interpret it or what else is possible. And because I'm struggling to keep shutting it down every time, it makes me think I must be a weak loser to fail where everyone else can succeed.

Has anyone else dealt with this? Am I missing something?

Re: How to deal with emotions?

hi @Bay52VU


Ill encourage you to look at multiple peoples opinions and different perspectives, but id love to share my understanding with you - I have a sortof mini passion for mindfulness.


From what I understand and have found from my expereince, I would probably suggest  quite a different way of handing your emotions then you currently are.


The 'acceptance' component of mindfulness- Can also be seen as a 'willingness', willingness to sit with and experience your current emotional experience, weather that is positive of negative. Its suggested that some suffering is completely natural for all human beings and they call this 'clean pain'.


However, what a large component of 'acceptance and commitment therapy' teaches is that it is when we try to AVOID our natural experience, and emotions, is what creates a lot of pain in our life where is refered to as 'dirty pain'. 


So what mindfulness meditation can do, is to help you learn to sit still and focus on your current sensations and emotions, non judgmentally. We would prefer not to judge our emotions as 'good or bad' and to try and get rid of one and hold onto another. Rather we let ourselves sit with our experience. (Im at a point now where if Im not feeling good even, a slight discomfort in my stomach or chest, 90% of the time its just a sign to myself, that im not being mindful or present enough, and am resisting my current experience, perhaps because I am a bit stressed due to an assignment .


Also, when we have been training ourself to avoid our feelings or internal experience for so long, it can be very difficult to meditate and clear the mind of thoughts. But over time with practise this will come. When you notice that you are trying to change your emotional experience, try to shift to a more accepting stance or stance that is more willing.


One technique great technique that you probably know about is focusing on your breath. When you are focused progresively deep and relaxing breaths, you will not be able to entertain 'controlling' and 'judgmental' thoughts.


Remember, being mindful is a skill and practise that is developed and cultivated over time. So hang in there! Because its definately helps!


heres a link to a basic description of Mindfulness


I wont bombard you with any more information- But fire away any questions , doubts, etc!


Re: How to deal with emotions?

It sounds like this is something that's really troubling you but it's great that you have already looked in to ways to make changes. @Troy has offered some great information on mindfulness; it can be difficult to get your head around and like many things, will take practice.


First, I want to assure you that there is no right or wrong way to respond emotionally to situations. The word itself means an instinctive or intuitive feeling, separate from reasoning or knowledge. There is often a physcial response that goes with the emotion, though, and possibly this could help you to understand what is happening and how to work through it? There's more about this here on RO.


Sometimes when things are difficult we try to stop ourself from actually 'feeling' the emotion. This may not help you but in my experience previously I would pre-emptively cut off the emotion with some kind of excuse so there was no chance to feel anything. Through talking to someone I was able to see this and then curb the behaviour. Have you spoken to anyone about how this is troubling you? If it's something that concerns you, your GP is a good place to start.

Re: How to deal with emotions?

Hi @Troy, thanks for your reply.


I guess I have two main sticking points with what you're saying.

  1. Not labelling/judging emotions - I wouldn't have the first clue how to start this one. To be honest, I'm not sure that I'd want to. To me, not feeling negative emotions equates with strength. Strength is also getting through difficult situations/emotions, but they have to be legitmately difficult. It's not necessary to keep a tally, but it seems kinda necessary to identify 'bad' emotions, sort them on a scale of legitimacy, and figure out when it's being weak and overreacting and therefore not ok to be feeling that.
  2. I'm not sure how 'accepting' is functionally any different to 'ignoring/cutting-off'. Like, I get that in one it's like "ok I'm feeling that, no biggie" and the other it's "ok I'm feeling that, stop it"... But  both can be achieved by emptying the mind of other thoughts and concentrating on breathing or some other physical sensation. Sometimes the latter is achieveable on the spot with no other actions required, sometimes it's made easier with self injury. I'm not sure how that would change with the former.

Also not sure I understand your example about feeling stressed because of an assignment. Are you saying that you'd notice some physical discomfort, take a moment to notice where that feeling was coming from and realise that you're stressed about the assignment? But then what? That stress can at best be ignored or pushed to the back of your mind until the assignment is completed... or at worst, can lead to a decision to avoid the stress, procrastinate, and maybe not submit the assignment. So the Zen-master skills just make it easier to ignore the emotion and get on with what you're supposed to be doing?


@Kit thanks.

I do sometimes have difficultly figuring out what I'm feeling and have found that physical signs can help particuarly with noticing anxious feelings. I never used to be able to figure those out at all without the physical match-up unless it was related to something reaaally obvious. 


What was it about cutting off the emotion that wasn't helpful?


I don't see a need to speak to anyone at this stage. Things are manageable enough, and the self harm/suicidal thoughts are just about regulating emotions I have no reason for having. No substance behind them at all. Which in itself is pretty pissweak honestly but whatever.


Re: How to deal with emotions?

Hey @Bay52VU


I have trouble dealing with emotions as well. Especially negative ones. 

I find distraction works for me. For e.g. I am feeling disappointed because I was rejected from a job interview, I would go on Youtube and watch a music video that is my favourite. It takes away the negative feelings for awhile. In time, the disapointment subsides and the rejection is not that much of a big deal.


Hope you find the strategy that works for you Smiley Happy 

Re: How to deal with emotions?

Hey @Bay52VU


Okay i need to chew on your post for a bit because you're thinking very deeply and carefully about these concepts. Don't get me wrong, that's absolutely awesome, but I also want to make sure i pick this appart as carefully as you are and help you keep exploring Smiley Happy 


I also need to be careful, because the converstation you're having with us is almost exactly what an expert like a psychologist would normally have with you.


So i guess be mindful of this, and the limitations i have in a forum setting around giving clinical advice. Remember that you would get better answers with a GOOD clinician who respects that amazing brain of yours. That being said, i totally respect that it's not something you're interested in and I'll do my best.


Give me 48 hours Smiley Happy 

Re: How to deal with emotions?



Those are some good questions, im glad you raised it.


My first suggestion would be not to take my word for it - I encourage you to try mindfulness for yourself, and see what your experience of it is. Here a link for information about Smiling Minds, an app to help support a mindfulness practise Smiling Mind.


1. Not labelling/judging negative emotions:  


Where to start:

One way you could start is a breathing practise, a meditation practise, What you are doing is engaging in 'experience' rather then engaging in 'chronic thought' within your mind. Think about when your playing a sport you love, a maybe a musical instrument, or an extreme activity. These activities usually dont inspire internal diaglogue, usually they immerse you in experience fully.


What im suggesting is that by allowing yourself to be with your experience fully, the positive and the negative - it ultimately reduces negative experiences, because much of our negative experiences come from trying to control or force our experiences .


For example - Im in the army reserves, and they really reinforce 'responding instantly' and being 'switched on'. You quite literally have to have a clear empty mind, or you wont respond instantly and you will be shouted at and make the entire group to pushups. This includes day dreaming and reacting slowly, or anticipating and reacting too fast. They hate both, just as much. What this teaches us is to have a clear, alert mind, that can respond instantaneously- because if someone for example  throws a grenade your our , you dont have time to delay or 'think' about it. You must act intuitively and instantly.

I find that when I am in this present, intuitive state, which for me has an absence of thought (because you literally cant afford it) there is for me very little negative emotions. Or there are only fleeting negative emotions such as ouch, these extra pushups hurt, or damn We have to re-run these sprints. But there is less of a  'clinging' to one experience over the other, or desire for a different experience. Rather you are immersed in what you are doing in that moment, not reflecting or projecting your mind in different states. We have a lot of intuitive wisdom, and if you let yourself operate from this state rather then constantly overiding or trying to control it with your conscious mind, when you dont need to you may surprise yourself.


Heres a quote from one of my favourite philosophers Alan Watts " When you try to stay on the surfurce of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float.  When you hold your breath, you lose it."







Re: How to deal with emotions?



2. By acceptance, it  refers more to  willingness- Willingness to sit with and to come into contact with your current emotional experience. If there was an opposite it, would probably be to avoid the emotional experience. 


This perspective isnt suggesting to make it easier to ignore the emotion, but rather suggests the development of a more regulated 'detached' response, that is less reactive.


When you try not to feel your negative emotions, maybe its like trying not to think of a 'red elephant' what do you think of? A red elephant Smiley Tongue. So i guess in mindfulness you focus on your general experience and, for me at least (and many others) a more positive moment to moment experience naturally unfolds. People who are confident for example dont focus on being confident (not sure how applicable of an example that is....but just threw it in off the top of my head). Thus perhaps by focusing on happines or unhappiness, we may inhibit our ability to experience a positive moment to moment state, because we are clinging onto what could, should, ought or whatever else. If you are eating your favourite food for example, the enjoyment may be severely compromised if your judged 'am i eating it right? "does this taste how it should taste" , or whatever other internal comment you can think of. But when you let yourself fully engage with that experience....well who doesnt love their favourite food? Smiley Tongue  (again just a random example off the top of my head at 3:49 am Smiley Tongue ).


Ill quote something out of a journal article published by the Australian Psychological Soceity on Mindfulness " During mindfulness, practitioners expose themselves to whatever is present in the field of awareness, including extenral stimuli as well as body sensation and emotional experiences. They let themsleves be affected by teh experience, refraining from engaging in internal reactivity toward it, and instead bringing acceptance to bodily and affective(emotional) responses. Practioners are instructed to meet unpleasant emotions (such as fear, anger and aversion) by turning towards them, rather than turning away. Those people who are new to meditation often initially find this process counterintuitive, but many practioners discover that the unpleasant emotions pass away and a sense of safety or well-being can be experienced in their place"


I dont want to persuade you that this perspective is right or wrong. But from this post and your experience, im it seems like trying to avoid, get rid of or even punish yourself for feeling bad may not be working. Theres a metaphore in 'Acceptance and commitment therapy' about a person in a hole. Which suggest that the tools (shovels) the person has do no create a way out of the hole, but rather make it larger; thus the goal is to drop the shovel.


Its can be difficult hard to talk about these concepts, I would really encourage you to try a mindfulness practise and see if you see any benefits over time. I personally like an informal practise, which may involve gently bringing myself back to the present moment, when I find that my mind is wandering. And I just do this throughout the day. When we say to try and reduce labelling judging, another way of thinking about this, is to not 'tell a story' about it. If you feel a certain way, feel that sensation in your body, but you dont necesarily need run with a dialoge about if you should, if you shouldnt, why it is, why it is. You just simply experience what is happening. 


For me personally over time, I have found myself a lot more happy. I remember last year, I at time I would be driving home having an awesome day! then I would think "I hope it stays awesome", "how can I make it so I always feel like this? ",   "what if I start feeling negative" so I would try to cling on to my positive experiences....which of course, would make that good experience start slipping through my fingers  and when I started feeling negative I would try to "work out why", avoid it, push through it etc, and all I would achieve is to diminish my good feelings and create a negative spiral for myself.


These days, because I am less 'forceful' of what im feeling and just let myself flow with it, I weirdly just feel good most of the time. Because doing my day to day things I feel good. If something bad happens, then damn. But im not in a chronic state of trying to 'feel the right way'. And being in a mindful presence, actually feels really good. I feel a lot more whole and centred. Previously, instead of sitting with myself, I might be searching for something external and at time have part of me that felt a little empty. But most of the time i feel quite full now Smiley Happy


This is just my experience and one perspective! I encourage you to try what works for you, to hear and listen to other experiences and perspectives etc. 


Also, with everything Im saying, just remember im not a professional, so when I talk about these perspectives they are simply my personal interpretations. 




P.S SORRY ABOUT THE ESSAY LENGHTH RESPONSE. Dont think I have ever written something so long. But its definately an area im passionate about! and have struggled with myself at times (:

Re: How to deal with emotions?

Thanks @Doris. Distraction can be pretty useful if there's nothing time-sensitive to do. It's definitely one of my old go-to tactics when I've had negative emotions in the past. Right now I've mainly just been using it for avoidance purposes rather than intentional distraction, so that was a good reminder. Cheers. Smiley Happy


@Ben-RO Oops, I didn't mean to go out of the bounds of the forum. The original intent was just to find out what works and see if anyone has shared some of the same difficulties in understanding/accepting the usual advice that comes up as a real workable solution.


@Troy thanks for that answer - you clearly put a lot of work into that response and I appreciate it.

So how I interpret what you're saying, is that mindfulness to you is just about being present and aware of the current situations and surroundings, instead of having and analysing conscious thought. Is that right?


That actually makes a lot more sense to me than what I'd previously read about mindfulness. I can certainly dig that for certain situations. One thing that it reminds me of is the concept of 'flow' that I'd randomly read about a few years ago - when the challenge and skill levels are at the right ratio, it's naturally easy to stay in the moment with what you're doing without becoming distracted by emotions or other thoughts. I don't know much about it other than that, but found a quick illustration:


Anyway, I'm glad to hear that mindfulness has been working for you. Smiley Happy


Re: How to deal with emotions?



You can tackle mindfulness from many different angles which makes it difficult to give a simple answer Smiley Tongue



Yeah, I believe that being mindfulness is very related to the flow state Smiley Happy Thats a good pickup!