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Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion

3356410440_c96be2df81_oRecently I received this request from a reader:

What I have found lacking is books or articles on the process of revealing my feelings, the associated pain and some kind of plan to work through the feelings that would help DURING the healing process. Knowing the common steps of healing would be very encouraging and provide both patience and hope.

When you push your feelings down as a child in order to cope with an environment which cannot tolerate them (Childhood Emotional Neglect), you grow up lacking access to your emotions. A large part of the process of healing involves breaking down the wall between yourself and your feelings, and welcoming them.

But what if many of those old feelings are painful? What if the process is so painful that it’s too hard to let the wall down? What if you lack the skills needed to cope with the pain because no one ever taught you?

Managing painful feelings happens on Two Levels:

  1. In the Moment: Coping
  2. The Long-Term: Resolving

Next week’s article will be about Level 2: Long-Term Resolving. So check back!

But for now, here are the Steps for Level 1, Coping in the Moment:

  1. Sitting with the feeling is Step One toward processing it. So fight the natural urge to escape it. Take a deep breath, and set a goal to sit with it.
  2. Putting words to the feeling is Step Two toward processing it. So try to identify the feeling while you’re feeling it. Give it a name. Or, since most powerful feelings are a mixture of multiple ones, several names. For example: hurt, damaged, helpless and hopeless.
  3. Remind yourself that this feeling is only just that: a feeling. It’s your body telling you something. Don’t give the feeling too much power, yet listen to what the feeling might be telling you.
  4. Let your tears out. (This applies to you too, men.) All of the above steps work best when you don’t hold back. Tears are your friend in this process, not your enemy.
  5. Recognize that no feeling lasts forever. And the best way to get a strong emotion to pass is to accept it. If you fight or escape it, it will keep its power over you.
  6. Picture the feeling as a wave washing over you. You are not running away from the wave or swimming into it. You are sitting and letting it run its course.
  7. Use your breathing to help you. Close your mind inward and focus on your breathing. Say to yourself with your inner voice (while continuing to welcome the painful feeling):  As you inhale, you are breathing in strength, resolve and clarity. You are building your ability to tolerate this strong feeling that you are having. Keep repeating it over and over.
  8. Most intense emotions need to be felt more than once and processed before they go away. After you have sat with the emotion, when you feel it lessening, it’s OK to put it aside and distract yourself out of it. But know that you will likely need to welcome it back again. 

Each time you welcome, sit with, and process an intense emotion, you are breaking through the wall that was set up in your childhood. You are taking an old, simmering emotion that had power over you from underground, and you are taking control of it. By owning it and listening to your feeling, you are owning and listening to yourself. You are giving yourself something vital, powerful, and meaningful that you did not get as a child: emotional acceptance and validation.

Truly, there is nothing more courageous than that.

*****

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it happens, the problems it causes, and how to heal, visit EmotionalNeglect.com, or see Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion


Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who is recognized worldwide for her groundbreaking work in defining, describing, and calling attention to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). She writes, speaks, and trains therapists on the topic, and is the bestselling author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. She also created and runs the Fuel Up For Life Online CEN Recovery Program. Since CEN can be difficult to see and remember, Dr. Webb created the CEN Questionnaire and other free resources to help you figure out if you have it. Take the CEN Questionnaire and learn much more about CEN, how it happens, and how to heal it at her website EmotionalNeglect.com.


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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2014). Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-neglect/2014/10/eight-step-method-to-manage-intense-emotion/

 

Last updated: 1 Oct 2014
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.