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Use Your Difficult Emotions to Gain Emotional Freedom

For a number of months now hundreds of people have been taking the Basics in Mindfulness Meditation: 28 day program challenge to bring more mindfulness, self-compassion, compassion and balance into their lives. Throughout the unbinding the heartcourse questions are asked that I field and one came in recently that I thought important to bring to all people as it is a seminar question of our time.

Here is the question

Hi Elisha, Thank you for this very helpful course. I notice that my thoughts start whirring around in my head when I have had an emotional encounter. I try to accept the thoughts, acknowledge it being there, then focus on breathing or the body scan but my mind races back to that emotion I experience of sadness. How can I pull myself into the moment when this happens? Will appreciate your advice.

Here is an answer

Wherever you are that’s the entry point.

Difficult emotions can naturally kick us out of a place of presence or make it difficult to come back. The brain is wired to move away from what’s uncomfortable and move toward what’s comfortable. However, what if the difficult feeling itself could be used to be more mindful?

In week 3 of the 28 day program I talk about and give practices toward building self-compassion. This is the awareness that there’s a struggle with an inclination to want to support ourselves. The first thing to do when there’s a difficult feeling is to acknowledge that this is a difficult moment. That recognition immediately pops us into a mindful space between stimulus and response where perspective and choice lie.

Difficult moments are inevitable in life, we have them on our own and in relationships. It’s part of being human.

The deeper question is, “What am I needing in this moment?”

This question catalyzes the wisdom within, that has always been there, just covered up, to know what is best in that moment. Maybe the wise thing to do is to take a walk, to do a deeper mindfulness practice, to put a hand on your heart, to call a friend, to distract yourself (if it’s too intense), to get some exercise, to agree to disagree, to practice forgiveness or compassion, to communicate your feelings, or just to take a nap (rest can be good for the brain).

That moment of mindfulness gives us the space to inquire deeper into our needs and then make a wise choice that meets those needs. Imagine what would happen if we intentionally practiced and repeated this like we did when we learned how to ride a bike? It would start to come more naturally.

With any change you want to make in your life, stay connected to your practice, stay curious, keep asking questions and keep learning to get increasingly better at tapping into your own inner wisdom. Remember, if time has gone by and you haven’t practiced, you own all of this forever, so just forgive yourself for the time gone by, investigate your distractions, and in this moment of awareness, invite yourself to begin again.



PS – If you;re interested in expanding the mindful footprint and want more information about the 28 Day Challenge to go deeper, you are welcome to check it out.

Use Your Difficult Emotions to Gain Emotional Freedom

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2014). Use Your Difficult Emotions to Gain Emotional Freedom. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Sep 2014
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