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How to process negative emotions

Overcoming negative and destructive feelings

Learn how to work through feelings which you find difficult.

1. Ground yourself

Focus on your body in the here and now. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, and take several breaths, bringing your awareness to the breath and into your body, and engage with your senses.

2. Feel your emotion

Think of a situation that you’ve been upset about recently. Find something that triggered an emotional reaction, imagine yourself back in that time and place and experience it all again with your senses.

3. Name your emotion

What are you feeling? What word best describes what you are feeling? Angry, sad, anxious, irritated, scared, frustrated? Confused?

4. Accept your emotion

It’s a normal body reaction. It can be helpful to understand how it came about – what it was, what contributed to you feeling this way. But don’t condone or judge the emotion. Simply let it move through you without resisting it, struggling against it, or encouraging it.

5. Investigate your emotion

  • How intensely do you feel it?
  • How are you breathing?
  • What are you feeling in your body?
  • Where do you feel it?
  • What’s your posture like when you feel this emotion?
  • Where do you notice muscle tension?
  • What’s your facial expression?
  • What does your face feel like?
  • Is anything changing? (nature, position, intensity)

What thoughts or judgements do you notice? Just notice those thoughts. Allow them to come into your mind, and allow them to pass. Any time you find that you’re engaging with the thoughts – judging them or yourself for having them, believing them, struggling against them, just notice, and bring your attention back to your breathing, and to the physical sensations of the emotion.

6. Where does it come from?

Do the sensations or emotions you’re experiencing right now connect with one or more experiences in your past? Do they give you any insight into the root of the trauma or a negative belief about yourself?

If you still have trouble, do some free writing. Journal about what the feeling means, for a full 10 minutes without stopping, until you think you’ve heard all the messages your emotions are sending you. Maybe look into writing therapy as another means also of processing what has happened to you.

This is an external resource which can help with writing therapy.

7. Visualise it leaving

Visualise the energy your trauma took up inside you leaving your body, or perform a symbolic release, like (safely) burning a letter you’ve written to the person who hurt you, or writing the experience down, screwing it up and throwing it away, or white light healing.

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