It’s not surprising that sitting with painful emotions can be uncomfortable. That is why so many of us don’t do it. Instead, it is easier for us to ignore our feelings or dismiss them. We try to numb the pain, isolate from it and possibly engage in unwanted coping mechanisms. We may think we’re minimizing the pain with these behaviours, but we’re amplifying it.
When we choose to sit with our emotions, we accept them, resisting the urge to get rid of the pain and not criticize ourselves for having this distress. Here are three simple ways to make sitting with our painful emotions more bearable.
1. Observe your emotions.
Sit with your emotions by noting what you’re experiencing without judging yourself. By naming those feelings: “I’m feeling _____”, you are noticing those feelings and acknowledging what they are inside of you. Another way is to observe how you are feeling inside your body, noticing possible sensation and tension. For example, here are some popular hot-spots for anxiety.
2. Validate your emotions.
Validating your emotions means accepting them. Again, you do not need to judge your feelings, and thereby trigger extra pain. Validating your feelings can mean saying, “OK, I’m feeling ____ right now.”
3. Focus on the present.
When we are faced with painful e
motions, it’s easy to reminisce about our past or future. Another helpful way to observe and validate your feelings is to bring your focus on the present moment. Once you bring your attention to the present, you acknowledge your emotion while refocusing on the task on hand.
Sitting with our emotions can be difficult. But it’s a skill you can learn and practice. Give yourself the space to try.