26 thoughts on “How To Learn The Skill For A Lifetime: Self-Soothing

  • May 6, 2018 at 1:20 pm


  • May 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    This is a wonderful article. Thank you for writing this! I grew up in an Italian family, who all self-soothed with food. Mainly pasta….this has been a difficult thing for me to change, but slowly I have made progress. Now, getting outside, walking my dog, prayer/mediation, and music have really helped tremendously.
    Self-soothing is not something that comes naturally to me, so what I have noticed is that when my life is feeling out of control, I’m feeling overwhelmed and rushed, I need to stop and do something to soothe myself, even if only for a few minutes to start. It DOES work! Next, I will try some of that positive self talk.
    Thanks Again Dr. Jonice, for all you do!

    • May 6, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      Hi Christina, yes self-soothing with pasta or any other food can be problemmatic, for sure. I’m glad you have discovered this strategy for yourself! keep up the good work!

  • May 6, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Thank You. You’re wonderful!

    • May 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      I’m glad you like the article Ravenna! Take care.

  • May 7, 2018 at 3:48 am

    Hello. Understandably, lots about parents who emotionally neglect by not giving enough support. But “too much” can have the same, or I’d argue a worse effect, because when gushing support (no no my son is perfect, how could he not be since I myself am) overwhelms you, you distrust it, therefore don’t benefit from it, AND feel guilty on top, because you saw it was there. Too much = not enough!

    • May 7, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Yes Brian you are absolutely right about that. Giving a child’s feelings too much power is harmful to the child and so is general gushing that says more about the parent than the child. You are describing the kind of gaslighting that narcissistic parents can inadvertently inflict upon their children.

  • May 7, 2018 at 7:03 am

    This is a very interesting article! I did not realise it before but I always wanted to run or hide instead of soothing myself. I never learned! But I can work on this now, thanks!

    • May 7, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Dear Suus, now that you know the problem you can start handling your feelings differently and it will make a significant difference for in your life.

  • May 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Great article! Having some suggestions as a springboard spurs productive thinking on this.

    I am finding that mindfulness, especially awareness of gratitude for what is good in my life at that moment, is soothing. My parents were negative most of the time, so the peace inherent in noticing, enjoying, and expressing gratitude helps me a lot by being so different from their approach.

    It might be something as simple as patting the cat or dog, watching clouds, or the smell of the earth after a rain shower. When I connect with intention to what is good I find there is much less room for what is painful.

    I also self-soothe with comedy from non-angry comedians. A good laugh boosts me in a number of ways.

    Another I would add is doing something creative. You need not be good at it. In fact, it might even be better not to be! Then you can relax in your learner status and just explore what you like about it.

    Oh, and if the cup of tea has soothing herbs like lemon balm, linden, or rose hips and petals, it will soothe on multiple levels!

    Great article. Thank you. How about a followup with folks’ suggestions condensed? I am sure others will have come up with things that I haven’t tried yet!

    • May 7, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Those are all wonderful ideas Anya! And I will indeed follow your suggestion and write another article sharing all the suggestions people post in comments. Thanks for sharing yours!

  • May 7, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Jonice,
    Thanks for the article! What’s the best strategy if the emotion in question is depression and it prevents, or at least makes very difficult, the very self-soothing techniques that could help alleviate it?

    • May 7, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Hi James, good question. Actually depression isn’t a feeling per se, it’s more of a state. So one good coping strategy is to try to sort out the feelings involved in what you are calling depression. For ex., you may feel hurt, sad, angry, irritated, lost, alone or abandoned. Putting words to those actual feelings can be far more helpful than labeling them depression. I can also recommending journaling, or writing, about what you are feeling as a way to break through the paralysis that depression can put you in. I hope this is helpful! Anyone else have some ideas for James?

    • October 29, 2018 at 11:11 pm

      I minimize the amt of work I have to do to feel better. If I’m going to curl up in a ball, watch a funny video on my phone, read a book, I do it on my back patio or my front stoop and let the sun and fresh air work for me. It does. A few days of that and maybe I can make it to the bench on the bike path near my home. A week or so and maybe I can walk the bike path. But I take baby steps and employ any tool that will do work for me (like the sun). Ritual is important–getting up and doing the same routine is comforting. I force myself to eat at the same time every day. I never skip meals. I do what docs tell you not to. I eat a snack before bed to help me sleep and maintain healthy BS levels. If I can’t force myself out in the daylight, I take a walk at night or do yoga inside. I push myself in those areas (routine, exercise, diet). Otherwise I mother myself like I wish I’d been mothered, ‘Just do this one thing today. You got this. You can crawl back into bed right after this if you need to, just do this one thing first. You got this. You’re ok. You’re ok. You’re going to be ok.

  • May 9, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Hard to do when you have hyperacusis (sound sensitivity) and never find quiet, anywhere…and your doctors don’t believe you, don’t treat you, and dismiss you as “anxious” and “agitated”…I never have any peace and that gets me depressed and even feeling suicidal, often. To the point where I wonder if the good in life is sufficient to outweigh hearing every sound in a five mile radius, day and night, I never “get used to” sound, sound is never in the background for me, I get very little sleep, and people around me suffer as well.

    • May 10, 2018 at 8:55 am

      Dear RW, that sounds terrible. I am sorry for your suffering.

    • October 29, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      I have self-diagnosed myself with Auditory Figure-Ground. Here is part of the wiki defintion, ‘People with A F-G have trouble putting the background noise in the background.’ and ‘appear to have hearing impairment (while in fact having normal hearing sensitivity).’


      I had not heard of Hyperacusis until I read your comment. It seems like it would apply to me as well. Self diagnosing has its limits. But if you have A F-G, that could explain why doctors haven’t been able to help. I think a specialist in the psych field is required. Check the above link. If you type ‘Auditory Figure-Ground’ into Google you’ll find the blurb about backround noise.

      I can try to help with night noises. A regular fan is too loud and produces an inconsistent and thus noticeable sound. I use a portable airconditioner ($200-$500 at Lowes or Home Depot) in my bedroom. They are standing units and do not go in the window. I leave it on the fan setting at all times. It produces a consistent white noise that (for me) is powerful enough to block all other noise with the exception of jets that fly directly overhead and the lawn equipment used by our lawn svc. Most have 3 settings so that you can adjust the fan sound so that it blocks other noise without being a noise nuisance itself. It produces a consistent sound which is easier to dismiss. I consider the portable a.c. a critical tool. I put it before nearly all other purchases. I clean it 2 times a year and mine is on year 10. Mine was in the $500 range. The less expensive ones can make a more inconsistent noise or sometimes include additional little odd noises. Mine is a Soleusair.

      My only suggestion for the day is noise reduction headphones. Because I’m sensative to noise and live in a townhome, I try to minimize my noise output as well. I often watch TV while wearing wireless headphone. Sometimes I’ll just walk around the house wearing them (with the TV off). After even just an hour or so of wearing them and experiencing nearly complete silence, I feel better.

  • May 11, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    One thing I found which helped my overthinking about things and literally getting myself in a stew was to use the recording facility on my lap top as the “empty chair” as in gestalt therapy.
    After a few sessions, “unloading” so to speak, the playbacks eventually began to show a more objective quality to my thinking rather than my initial pickled state.
    Its also helped me to understand and develop interpersonal communications skills, as my PTSD tended to make me nervy and stand offish, whilst actually needing to interact in a normalish way with ordinary peeps.
    Dont do a lot of it now, as I appear to become a rather placid type after all the bloody silly shenanigans which had littered my early childhood, but there you go if this be the authentic me, thats fine.
    Artitistic and often pretty daft, I seem to be being looked after by the gods for the half asleep, and now thankfully with no thoughts about that haunting abyss of suicide which once lay in the shadows within me.

  • May 13, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    My pseudinym be savalarrieta.
    I am graateful to you for not only giving us tools to identify our challenges but giving us tools to address those challenges and becoming self-empowered. Specially helpful to one like me that is distrustful of even psychotherapists……i find myself often in sessions wondering about their true reasons to label…..or just sitting there listening……distrust is big issue in my life. Again thank you for the enlightening helpful ways to cope. I am applying these to my daily routines. CCS/Savalarrieta

  • October 30, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you Jonice for your series of articles!

    CEN is not a term I’d heard of before but it struck me because when you listed (in a different article) examples of common forms of unhealthy thinking that arises from emotional neglect and many of them seemed to perfectly reflect thoughts and feelings that I have. I also looked at your little quiz on your web site and nearly all of them were ‘yes’ answers for me.

    So it got me wondering.. all of your articles that I have seen so far talk about parents or family not providing an environment that meets the emotional needs of the child or provides the child with needed emotional training or guidance. However, I would say that for me it wouldn’t fall onto the shoulders of parents or family but it is actually mostly my own doing.

    See, in short, I tend to be a strongly introverted person and very uncomfortable with social interaction so I actively draw away from it. And growing up, I’d say I regularly pulled away from family as opposed to family pulling away from me. Also, even though I have a rich mental experience (generally I like my dream experiences much more than any waking reality experiences) I could never understand strong emotion. People who do irrational things because they are driven by feelings more than reason tend to annoy me to no end.

    So I wonder if it is possible to create CEN-like symptoms within yourself by never learning to engage, define, appreciate, or deal with your own feelings because you always distanced yourself from them and built up a habit of burying them.. not because others around you didn’t give you the emotional attention that you needed; _you_ denied yourself the emotional attention that you needed.

    Or are there other conditions / circumstances that have no connection to CEN but result in a very similar set of symptoms…

    Just the same, it sounds like everyone, no matter their background, could be well served by taking time to find healthy diversions for when they’re feeling bad (the self-soothing that you’re discussing). I know that for myself, I tend to engage in quite a few habits that don’t do me any good and when I think about why, or why it is hard to not do them, it seems to me it is mainly because they feel good in the moment or serve to turn my mind off or distance me from life.

    • March 17, 2019 at 2:09 am


  • October 31, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    Thank you 💗

  • August 26, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    Is there no cure .. am I condemned to this emotional aloneness ? My dog died and I tried to believe it was a door to something else .. there had to be reason , but I am alone , absolutely and totally alone . Do I have to accept this is my life , can I even hope someday this suffering will end .. or do I have to accept this is who I am .. I have learned I am hsp , this just adds yet another layer of understanding my life .. but gives no reason to hope anything will change

    • September 30, 2019 at 10:30 am

      Hi, Richard!

      I’m not a doctor, but I make my living researching mental health issues.

      May I suggest you find a support group in your area? That may sound like pure hell, but it seems like you’re dealing with many issues that a good support group — or two! — could help. Some support groups even meet online!

      A support group for grief, depression, isolation and/or HSP may help with the intense loneliness you feel, on your own terms. You’ll find camaraderie, connections, and resources.

      Google “support groups near me” and see what pops up. Keep looking and good luck!

  • September 20, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Just wow! I have done “work” on healing from several labels of dysfunctional parenting, but none of them really hit the nail on the head. CEN. First time I’ve ever seen what I already knew have form, structure and process. This is life changing. This is life saving. This right here is my truth. This gives my HSP self a language for a very deep pain. I feel like I finally have found home. Thank you.


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