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Start Addressing Your Unresolved Emotions With 3 Steps


The holiday season can be especially difficult for many people. This time of year typically revolves around traditions and memories that can uncover unresolved feelings. Adding in the stress of busy schedules, conflicts with custody arrangements or difficult family situations only adds fuel to the fire. This anger, resentment, sadness or loneliness can intensify as you get closer to upcoming celebrations.

But in all of this there is a silver lining (there is always a silver lining)…. If you find yourself struggling emotionally with sadness or anger it shows you that there are areas to work on. What’s so great about that? Strong emotional reactions can be the wake-up call you need to deal, heal and move on. Keeping yourself busy throughout the year and ignoring pent up feelings is holding you back in areas of your life. There’s no way to completely avoid a past issue without it impacting you in some way. Seeing and identifying that issue gives you an opportunity to fix it!


Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey…


Be Honest. What are you really feeling? If you’ve gotten into the habit of ignoring or brushing aside your feelings, it can be difficult to name them. You’ve taught yourself how to disconnect from your basic emotional responses and it can take time to reconnect to them. For example, you may initially react with anger to a situation, but is it really anger that you are feeling? Are you disappointed, sad or scared? Is anger a defense mechanism? Are you disappointed in someone else or are you mad at yourself for an act of trust or not accurately reading a situation? Taking the time to dissect your emotional response to a situation can help to shed light on what you are truly feeling. Take away blame and excuses from this internal conversation. Being truthful with yourself will help in working through what you are actually feeling.

Identify the Source. Once you’ve gained an understanding of what you are feeling, take time to identify why you are feeling it. Many times an intense reaction has nothing to do with the immediate situation. For example, you are angry with your mother for planning all of the family gatherings without your input. Is this current situation the core of the issue or could it be something else? Is this the result of a longstanding feeling that she discredits your opinions or that you feel she is too controlling?

A common issue around the holidays with blended families is tension or conflict with ex-spouses. Are you truly mad or upset about this particular discussion or are you in fact upset about something deeper? Are you mourning the loss of your original family, missing your kids or disappointed at how things have turned out? If you are finding yourself battling intense feelings in a situation, know that there is likely more in play. Taking the time to identify the source will help you to not only understand your feelings, but to address them.

Let Yourself Feel. Intense or difficult emotions aren’t fun. There’s no sugarcoating the fact that dealing with a longstanding feud with a relative, anger towards an ex or disappointment with a parent will be anything but hard. It’s work. Honestly, let’s just be honest, it sucks. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let yourself feel it. You have to mourn past rejections, failed expectations and painful pasts. Remember that this process doesn’t give you a free pass on your behaviors, words or actions. You have to find healthy ways to work through these feelings. Let yourself cry, talk to a friend, listen to sappy music, run off your aggression or pray through your pain. If you find yourself turning to drugs, alcohol or other unhealthy means, please reach out to someone for help (I’ve listed a few resources at the bottom).


Sudden or intense feelings this time of year can be very difficult. It can initially seem easier to push through this holiday time, lock those feelings back up and continue on as you have been doing. But then there will always be another big event. Another holiday. Another opportunity for those bottled up emotions to escape in a way that you are not prepared to handle, and result in situations that you are not proud of. Take the time now to do the hard work. It’s not easy to address your past, to open yourself up in a vulnerable way, to learn how to control your emotions or to admit your shortcomings. But ask yourself, do you want to stay in the cycle you’ve been living?

If you find that you are struggling or having difficulty with working through these issues on your own, an experienced counselor may be the next best step. Reaching out for help is never a sign of weakness and is always the first step in growth.

Find a Therapist:
U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Start Addressing Your Unresolved Emotions With 3 Steps

Amy Bellows, PhD

Amy Bellows holds a PhD in Psychology and has had the opportunity to work in various settings including leading adolescent group therapy sessions, working with victims of sexual assault, helping woman inmates adjust to post-prison life, conducting parenting education classes and assisting with drug and alcohol dependency treatment plans. The unique challenges and opportunities that come along with being a part of a step-family is a special interest of hers. Amy is currently working in the corporate environment with a interest in group dynamics and change management. You can find her on her website, or on Twitter @AmyBellowsPhD.

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APA Reference
Bellows, A. (2015). Start Addressing Your Unresolved Emotions With 3 Steps. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2015
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