How to cope with difficult emotions


The research carried out by CarrerBuilder – the world leader in the field of human resources – showed that 71% of employers in USA values EQ more that IQ. Employers will choose people with emotional intelligence three times more often. Therefore, control over emotions, self-consciousness and ability to self motivate are a very important subject that should be discussed. In the following article you will find 9 techniques that can help deal with difficult emotions.

When stressed, you don’t have the access to all your resources.


You can’t remember things during the exam, but when you’re done and leave everything is back to normal again. Or you have a job interview, when you’re a bit older, and you’re shaking and making bad first impression in front of your potential employer. Or you are about to have a tough conversation with your partner and you put it off, procrastinate, but you are really running away from fear that you feel. Or you are in a very prosaic situation: your computer crashes, and you, instead of just taking a deep breath and using the side button to restart it, hit the keyboard, which does not help neither you, nor the environment around you. Therefore, it is worth to know how to cope with difficult emotions and what in fact an emotion is.

Tell emotions from physiological needs.

If you feel hunger, it is not an emotion, but a physiological feeling imprinted in your genetics. You need to feel hunger to satisfy specific needs and for your body to survive. Without hunger, you wouldn’t be motivated to eat. Or if you feel hunger, but for some reason you can’t eat because you don’t have the time or access to food, you may be upset and frustrated. Frustration is already an emotion.

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An emotion consists of a interpretation of thought and body reaction.

An emotion is a body reaction combined with a thought. An emotion is a fact. If somebody says he feels something, e.g. pride, sadness or lust, he is above any doubt describing his own experience. But emotions that lead to a creation of an emotion are no longer a fact and can be interpreted. Every emotion is dependent on the stimulus that causes it. If our mind does not produce an interpretation like: “A spider is a danger, you should fear it”, “Turbulence causes fear, you should dread it and start to be afraid”, “A sight of an attractive partner triggers lust, you should focus you attention in a certain way”, “Being inappropriately dressed while among people causes shame” etc., then you are not able to feel the emotion not to mention hold on to it. Consequently – a perpetuum mobile between an emotional reaction and thought has to be created in order to sustain it.

Emotions don’t last forever.

When you know how to expedite that process you have great control over it. There is no good or bad emotion, the context defines that. Saying that experiencing fear is good is a cognitive error. One goes to the zoo, looks into a cage with a lion and feels safe. At a certain moment the cage opens and the lion jumps out. Naturally, it is recommended that you start to fear, because it makes you run fast and maybe even save your skin. If you weren’t afraid of the lion, you would be more willing to do something stupid or do nothing, or walk up and stroke it – your hand would probably be gone.

There are no good or bad emotions – it’s all about their proportions and context of use.

IMG_4879-1So, saying that fear is bad is erroneous. Fear is good in the right context, when it motivates and in good proportion. If you were to perform on a stage and present your skills to a certain group, the feeling of fear on level 2 (in scale 1-10 where 1 means none, 10 – very much) may encourage you, but if you exceeded 4, 5 – not to mention 6 or 7 – you’d start to lose control over our behaviors. Consequently – there’d be to much fear. Questions about emotions are always: “What do I feel?”, “Where should I take advantage of this?”, “What proportion would be the most adequate?”.

Ask yourself: where, when, and how many emotions do I want to feel?

When you’ve done that, try to name and define the emotion that you feel. I feel sadness, I feel grief, I feel lust, I feel pride, I feel shame, I feel enthusiasm. Regardless of whether it’s a positive or negative emotion, in that moment you are self-conscious. Self-consciousness regarding emotions is vital, because if one can’t name the emotion he doesn’t know what he is dealing with. Also, avoid statements like: “I am upset”. Instead, say: “I feel the nervousness”.

Do not identify yourself with emotions, observe them.

If you say: “I am upset”, you preset a situation where the emotion moves up to the level of personality, level of identity. What you really say is that I = emotion. It is not true because you are its maker: You produce it, you make it and consequently – you also feel it. So, instead, say: “I feel fear”, not: “I am afraid”.

Only you are responsible for what you feel.

The second element is recovering the responsibility. Don’t say that Krzysiek upset me. Say to yourself: “My interpretation of Krzysiek’s words has led me to feeling nerviness”. Doing so, you recover agency and are no longer subject to others’ actions.

Let’s now move on to the techniques that will help you cope with difficult emotions.


1. When you feel something, and have already named it, ask yourself: “Is it based on facts?”

Here’s the context. You are in a plane, it hits turbulence and starts to shake violently. Instead of holding on tight to your seat, which won’t stop the turbulence, but most likely upset you even more because flexing your muscles gives your body a signal to produce more cortisol, the stress hormone, which in turn will create a perpetuum mobile of negative emotion – ask yourself: “Is what I feel right now based on facts?”. In other words: if you identify the thought, meaning you feel fear, you think that the plane will crash, is what you think based on facts? Is it based on facts, that the plane will crash? The moment you start thinking rationally about what you feel you gain control over it.

The Rational Behavior Therapy is an efficient tool to deal with convictions.

Crashing of the plane hitting turbulence is not based on facts. Most planes go through the phase of turbulence. Statistically, very few of them crashes. So the question whether it is based on facts is crucial. You help yourself the moment you ask it. You can also use another technique called the camera test.

2. The camera test.

It is a great method to deal with difficult memories from the past that include any types of negative emotions.

Imagine this: a boy was to perform in a school play, unfortunately he forgot his lines, felt embarrassed, sick and labeled this memory under the “phobias” category. He then decided not to perform publicly. If he went back to that memory using the camera test he would simply picture the whole situation once again and describe it on a piece of paper, e.g.: “I went onto the stage, talked to people, forgot my lines, people were looking at me strangely. They all had big eyes, I felt terrible, I nearly died”.

Step 1: Write down the description of the event exactly the way you remembered it.

You write down that kind of description on a piece of paper and you carry out the camera test. You look at it as the camera would look at it. It does not see the fear, it sees only facts, doesn’t see emotions, the camera sees only what is real. The boy processes the text with the camera test and the result is as follows.

He says: “I nearly died…”, and asks himself if the camera can see that. It doesn’t so he can cross that part out right away, leaving only: “I went onto the stage, forgot my lines, people were looking at me strangely.

Step 2: Put the text through the non-judging camera filter.

Will the camera see strangely looking people? No, the camera does not see anything such as “strangely”, because that is an opinion, the boy will cross that out too. In the end, he will read the text and all that is left will be: “I went onto the stage, forgot my lines, left the stage”. And those are facts, they are not emotional, and it will help him function much better.

3. Finding the conviction

Conviction is a cause and effect type of judgement about the reality.

Balance convictions with their contraries.

E.g. a woman thinks: “If he, being a man, offers me flowers, he must want something. Probably wants to talk me into something, manipulate me”. When finding this kind of conviction, seek its contrary and try to find at least three examples that prove the contrary to be true. So if you believed that he gave you flowers to manipulate you, find three proves for the fact that what he does, he does to show you his appreciation. And remind yourself of the situation when your father, who did not want to manipulate you, gave you flowers, all he wanted was to be nice to you. Remind yourself of all the people giving you flowers on your birthday. Using the above given technique, find three solid examples that will change your conviction.

4. Change your environment

If you felt bad when you were in a clinic and felt stressed before i.e. seeing the orthodontist, leave that place at once, take a walk. Your emotion will change automatically.

5. Change the body position

If you were hunched, you should definitely straighten up, even stand up, start to make additional gestures.

The body influences emotional states.

Stretch. The sole fact that you raise your chin above the horizon line, spread your arms, that your chest is more open will automatically lead to hormonal changes. Your level of testosterone will rise, level of cortisol will drop, you will feel better.

6. Change your voice intonation

If you used to talk to yourself in a certain way and you suffered from stress, try to talk differently, your emotional reaction will be completely different. Be overly dramatic to send a clear signal to your brain, to change your emotion.

7. Take a deep breath

It will place you here, right now, and allow you to observe emotions without identifying with them.

When controlling the breath, you control emotions.

When walking around your apartment you happen to hit it against a cabinet for instance, instead of clenching your teeth and screaming, take a deep breath; you’ll see how your muscles relax. You will come back to here, to right now, decisively step out of emotions related to events connected to the future or the past.

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8. Observation of emotions

When you’ve taken the deep breath, changed the environment, observe the emotion.

The mindfulness techniques teach how to observe emotions without judging them.

Imagine that the sadness steps into you and you say: “I can feel you, you are not welcome here”. You neither step into the sadness to be subject to it nor do you run away from it because it would be like a maker running away from its creation. It would mean that the chair made by the carpenter is stronger that him, and it’s not. You observe the emotion, let it be a part of you and consequently – you get used to it. You exercise the muscle of presence and in a certain moment you’re definitely stronger. When you’ve done that, remember to use the Huna technique.

9. Huna

When an emotion of some kind emerges, close your eyes, and imagine that you work with it in some way.

Huna offers many techniques of working with emotions

For instance: you start to feel an emotion which is like a lump in your throat. How do I get it out? Imagine, for instance, that you perform a physical gesture – do it in your imagination – and you pull that lump out, throw it into the bin somewhere near you.

By doing this, you will feel much better, because you start to use your body to work on your emotions. If you feel i.e. a stone in your stomach, ask yourself, how to get rid of it. Maybe your imagination will tell you that you should imagine that you drink an acid of some kind that dissolves the stone.

I encourage to use the mentioned techniques. It, naturally, requires practice to enforce them. Remember that after more less two, three weeks of systematic practicing a new habit can be implemented. The sole fact that you’ve read this article is a great start that stimulates you cognitively and motivates you to put it into effect. Now you know what, and if you devote two weeks to each technique, in a few moths you will be much more skilled regarding self-consciousness and emotion management. The bottom line is, you will feel much, much happier.

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