Getting Unstuck: 7 Steps to Working With Difficult Emotions

Try this 7-step process for getting out of an emotional rut.

“None but ourselves can free our mind.” 

~Bob Marley

Ever have one of those days (or weeks or years)? Sometimes it can be difficult to shake a feeling of depression or sadness.

As much as we want to run for the hills when we are experiencing a negative slump in the road of life, avoiding our feelings often makes things much worse.

It’s like when we hit the gas when our car wheel gets stuck on a muddy, dirt road. The more we spin our wheels to get out of there fast, the deeper our emotional rut becomes.

In my own life, and in my work with clients, I have found that when life is slewing mud our way, we are often on the verge of a turning point.

To get moving again, it can help to let go of our story about what is happening, get a little dirty and face our truth.

When You Are Feeling Blue

Here’s a simple way to hear what your emotions are really trying to tell you.

What are your emotions trying to tell you?

When young children can’t get what they want, sometimes they shed big tears or have a tantrum to get their needs met.

Negative emotions are the same way. Often a bad mood is our intuition trying to tell us something.

When we can hear the message beneath an emotion, we switch from feeling like a victim to learning how to take better care of ourselves.

Difficult Emotions Meditation ~ Seven Powerful Steps

The following seven steps can help us uncover the wisdom behind a bad mood.

Step 1: Label your feeling

Sit still, breathe, and try to sum up how you are feeling in as few words as possible. With a name we can claim.

Step 2: What are your beliefs about this feeling?

Many of us have been taught that negative emotions like fear, sadness, loneliness or anger signify a sort of weakness. If you had any judgments about your emotion, what might they be?

Step 3: What contracts do you have with yourself or others about this emotion?

Sometimes, without even realizing it, we make an unspoken contract with ourselves or others about feeling certain emotions. For example, our contract might be that we will hold our anger inside so we don’t hurt anyone. Or perhaps our contract might be that we will never let people see us cry, or that we will do anything we can to cheer ourselves up whenever we are sad, even if it means eating or drinking things that are unhealthy for us.

Step 4: What is a new belief you can choose, and a new contract you can make?

We are in charge of our minds. While it may not always feel like it, we choose our beliefs. If we want, we can choose to change them. What is something that would be more helpful to believe about your difficult emotion? What is a new contract that would be more supportive of your well-being?

Step 5: What could your current emotion be about?

I am constantly amazed how, in the course of our busy lives, we can be so unaware of our inner world and intution.

When we explore what our emotions may be about, we may fall into the trap of placating ourselves with simple reassurances like, “Now you know there is nothing to worry about.” Or, “that’s silly, get back to work, you’re just being a worrywart.”

In the face of a difficult emotion, it’s important to move through the temptation to placate ourselves (which can make us feel small, rather than empowered) and access any wisdom an emotion may have to offer (which connects us to a larger part of ourselves).

Step 6: Imagine your feeling as a guide or teacher

One of the best ways we can get reconnect with our power is to tap the wisdom behind our emotions.

Ask yourself, “If my emotion could appear as a guide or teacher, what would he/she look like?”

Our intuition often communicates with us in symbols, pictures. Just go with whatever shows up.

Step 7: What is the message or gift this feeling has to offer you?

Once our guide/imaginary teacher has appeared, it’s time to see what message he or she (or it) has to offer. Often intuition speaks in short, few-word answers, similar to the way a child communicates.

Sometimes it helps to visualize just being with our guide for a bit before we hear a response. Write down whatever you receive. Even if it doesn’t make sense at first, the answer may become more clear later.

For the next week, read the message and watch it work its magic in your life.

To try this exercise as a guided meditation, click here.

A Real-Life Example

Here’s a simple process for hearing your inner voice.

“The cheerful, sunny self you are missing will return, as it always does, but only being will bring it back.” 

-Alice Walker

Here’s an example from my own life of how this process can work.

One day I was feeling down in the dumps. I couldn’t figure out why. It was a gorgeous day. I was well-fed and well-rested (always good things to check before we go diagnosing an emotion that is simply the result of starvation or fatigue).

I couldn’t think of any obvious reasons for feeling off. I really was having a hard time sitting down and doing this exercise. This often happens when the negative emotion has a message we don’t want to hear, or if we have some judgment about it.

Here are the steps of this exercise and how they worked for me.

Step 1: Label Your Feeling

When I finally got through my endless distracted busy-ness and sat down and asked what my emotion was, I received the words: “alone” and “scared.”

Step 2: What are your beliefs about this feeling?

When I asked myself what I believed about being alone, I realized that somehow I believed this particular brand of aloneness meant a failure of some kind, a lack of strength. Unconsciously I had a belief that these feelings meant I was weak.

Step 3: What contracts do you have with yourself or others about this emotion?

In this case, I realized that my unspoken contract was that if I ever felt this way, I would hide it or run away from it before admitting it or letting others see my weakness. By agreeing to hide my feeling of alone-ness at all costs, I realized I had unconsciously signed up to act in a way that would only result in me feeling even more alone.

Step 4: What is a new belief you can choose, and a new contract you can make?

 The new belief I decided to choose was “All emotions are good emotions.” My new contract was to promise to trust myself and respect my inner wisdom, no matter what form it takes or what other people may think.

Step 5: What might your current emotion be about?

When I investigated my feeling of aloneness, I was surprised feeling alone was making me feel so bad. (I usually love my alone time to do my writing work.)

An overnight guest had just left so I realized perhaps in this case, I was feeling a little lonely from the shift in energy of the home. Then the recent death of a friend’s father popped into my mind. While my friend’s loss wasn’t a major event in my own life, I realized I was thinking about it more than I had realized.

This friend’s loss was making me think of my own father who had died several years before. I was missing him.

But what was the fear about? At first, it seemed crazy. Then I realized that these losses were making me more conscious of my own mortality, and the mortality of those I loved. My fear was a fear of death. A fear about what happens to us after we die had been triggered. In other words, I was on the fast track to misery.

Step 6: Imagine your feeling as a guide or teacher

When I asked what my feelings of “alone” or “fear” looked like, I was surprised to see the image of a very wise, bright spiritual guide. At first I wanted to question or judge this information. Then I remembered that one of the best ways to become more intuitive is to just go with the information we receive.

Step 7: What is the message or gift this feeling has to offer you?

I closed my eyes and saw my guide very clearly before me. When I asked what message he had to offer me, my guide asked me to simply sit for a few moments and be with him. “Just be with me,” he said.

I decided to just go with it. I sat in meditation, hanging out, just my guide and me.

After a few minutes, I felt a sense of deep peace. I no longer felt alone or scared. In fact, I felt incredibly peaceful, and more creative. I went to my computer and began to write.

No, I wasn’t bouncing off the wall with enthusiasm and excitement. I didn’t “fix” the emotion in the way I probably had wanted when I started out the exercise. Instead I was in a state of quiet productivity and compassion for how I was feeling. I had shifted from feeling alone and scared to “quietly creative.”

Your Activation Meditation

Now it’s your turn. If you are feeling anything other than peaceful or happy, now is the perfect time to do this exercise. It only takes a few minutes.

When we are open to life’s gifts—those that come in dark, scary, ugly packages, and those with pretty wrappings, the more we learn to live a full multi-dimensional, juicy life.

With a lot of compassion, and the courage to navigate these steps slowly, one at a time, we can awaken to our amazing inner wisdom. We can slowly rekindle an open, loving, and powerful relationship with our souls.

Note: While this meditation can be very transformational, it is not designed to replace professional care. If your emotions feel overwhelming, please seek professional assistance. Knowing when to ask for support is a sign of courage and strength.

Read more about overcoming bad moodsgetting unstuck and a 28-day challenge and a meditation to help you connect with your inner joy.

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Copyright © 2020 Laurie Smith. All Rights Reserved. Photo credits: LeventeGyori, Angela Waye, Mehendra/Shutterstock

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