Home » Blogs » Psychotherapy Matters » Developing Emotional Stability

Developing Emotional Stability

The experience of becoming emotionally unstable is profoundly disorienting.  It fundamentally interferes with personality, with cognitive functioning, with the capacity to concentrate, to remember, to process information.  It interferes and inhibits the capacity for spontaneity and creativity.

We cannot play or be ourselves when we are in the grip of emotional instability.  We lose our capacity to maintain a coherent narrative about ourselves

How do we live with this?

I think it can be helpful to try to remember and keep sight of the fact that we suffer these unpredictable experiences of emotional instability.

The more we can keep this in mind as a fact of who we are, the more prepared we may be to deal with it.

But how do you remember something which only becomes a fact of your experience at unpredictable moments?

Perhaps there are particular metaphors that help you to remember what happens to you?

Emotional instability seems to suddenly imbue our personality with something chaotic.  It is as though we are caught up in a ghost story, as though we are being haunted.  Suddenly our lives change from the predictable every day, into something much more frightening and unpredictable.

It’s like the ghost of a breakdown past has touched you, and for that moment you are lost in it again.

Perhaps it is like suddenly noticing a spider in the corner of your room.  A moment ago you were comfortable and relaxed, you could be spontaneous.  Now you are caught up in something frightening.

Emotional stability is not a moral issue

You don’t get caught up in these states out of some kind of character weakness or moral deficiency.  These states of instability are part of your identity, part of your make up.  They probably relate to things that you have been through.  Emotional instability is an acquired response to life.  You weren’t born with it, you developed it as a consequence of things you have lived through.

Experiences that were overwhelming and indigestible and could not be adequately processed at the time they happened.  Events that were traumatic.

Because they have not been processed and digested, they return again and again

I think the best you can do is try to gain the clearest sense of yourself, of your psychology.  The more you can pursue an understanding of your emotional experience, the more you may attain stability.

This doesn’t mean that you can stop these experiences of instability from happening, but it might mean you can know what’s happening to you faster and so be in a position to look after yourself better.  It’s like trying to build a memory you can locate that will help create stability.

These are intensely personal and internal states that cut us off from ourselves, and from others.  We tend to suffer alone.

Try to be kind to yourself

Anything other than kindness will become critical.  It will just add to the sense that you are being somehow deficient.   It’s easy to get on your own back and attack yourself, but it won’t help at all.  What you need is kindness.

You will recover your equilibrium, you always do, but it’s a hard thing to come back from. It leaves us with a sense of shame, guilt, and wretchedness.  Hard emotions to process.

You might try finding a therapist who you can trust and build up some sense of understanding with.  Psychotherapy is private and confidential.

In psychotherapy, you may be able to develop a sense of safety, of containment.  You may be able to internalise aspects of your therapeutic relationship that will insulate you and protect you and comfort you when you are in the grip of emotional instability.

Developing Emotional Stability

Toby Ingham

Toby Ingham is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and supervisor based in High Wycombe in England. Toby works on both a short and long-term basis with people who are trying to work through a variety of situations. Sometimes these relate to a specific event such as CPTSD, bereavement, divorce or redundancy, sometimes relating to a more general problem or behavior. He blogs on a wide range of psychological themes.

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2020). Developing Emotional Stability. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Jan 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( 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 All rights reserved.