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8 Self-Talk Strategies For When Your Emotions get Intense.

Updated: May 1, 2022

Learning to accept difficult feelings and emotions.

Our feelings and emotions can feel like a storm sometimes.

They make us feel like we're being swept out from the "normalcy" of daily life and are being washed out into rough seas.

When we get caught up in an emotion, we see everything else from within.

  • Sadness colours our world black, white and grey.

  • Anxiety feels like there is too much colour, too much stimulus.

  • Grief feels like everything has gone dark.

  • Anger feels like the world is shaking at its core.

Since the feelings are intense and sometimes overwhelming, we struggle with them. We struggle against these waves of emotions and try our best to get back to the relative safety of the shore.

Here's a surprising insight for you:

Emotions themselves can't hurt you. It's wanting to get rid of our emotions that leads to our ongoing struggle.

Think about that.

It's true isn't it?

Sadness itself is just a feeling. It's the wanting to get rid of the sadness that makes us feel like things are futile. Hopeless.

Anxiety too is just a feeling. It's the wanting not to be anxious that spirals us into overthinking and creates even more anxiety.

The trick is to learn to stop struggling with them.

Easier said than done, I know.

Especially because we're so used to getting caught up in them. Yet, if you really want to get better at handling emotions, you're going to have to try a different tact.

  • It starts with noticing them. Becoming aware of them.

  • Then noticing whether you're trying to struggle or get rid of them.

  • And finally, learning to be okay with them. Accept them.

Here's 8 helpful self-talk strategies in dealing with your emotions, taken from Russ Harris's book on Trauma-Focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.


1) "This emotion is normal, it's a normal reaction to a difficult situation."

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what you're feeling. In the same vein, there is nothing wrong with you for feeling this way either.

Whatever you're feeling is valid - it's a response to an ongoing difficult situation in your life.

You are allowed to feel.

2) "Emotions are like waves: they rise, and peak and fall. In this moment, this emotion is intense, but over time, it will subside."

You already know that this feeling will pass. Yes, sometimes it feels like it will last forever.

Still, no matter how intense this feeling is in your head and in your body, it will go away with time.

Give it time.

Remember, there's a reason you're feeling this way.

3) "I have room for this feeling. No matter how big it gets, it can't get bigger than me."

Sometimes feelings get so intense it feels like it's going to burst out of your body.

Trust me I get it, I used to struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder - I personally know how intense emotions can be at times.

Yet, what are we actually doing when we try get rid of our feelings?

We exhaust ourselves and cause ourselves to feel miserable until it's over.

Instead, try to make room for it. Curiously observe where it sits in your body. See if you can simply let it be there.

The strange thing is, when you do just that, it'll often go away on its own.

4) "Emotions are like the weather, and I am like the sky."

Similar to above, emotions are just passing visitors. They come and go just like the clouds and the weather.

On the other hand, you are the sky. You are the consciousness that holds these passing visitors.

Just like the weather can't harm the sky itself, your feelings can't actually hurt you.

Gather yourself, and watch the storm pass.

5) "I'm willing to make room for this , even though I don't like it".

We are coming to true acceptance now. That we have the ability to hold space for unpleasantness in our lives.

We've been taught since young that certain things are good or bad. For example, that being angry or even crying is something you have to stop.

You've been taught wrong.

Emotions are just emotions. They aren't good or bad.

You don't have to struggle to get rid of them. You don't always have to respond to them either.

In fact, it's changing the way you respond to them that will help you to heal :)

6) "This emotion is painful but it can't physically harm me. I don't need to fight or run away from them."

Remember, it's the the need to fight our emotions and get rid of them; or distract ourselves from them and run away that is the cause of our struggles.

Why? Because we" think" we are "not okay" until they are finally gone!

We spend our day in a state of misery or anxiety.

Rather, could we try to let whatever we are feeling be there, while continuing to keep doing what we hope to get done?

7) "I don't have to let this feeling control me; I can make room for it and choose to act on what matters".

What are the things that matter to you?

Have your emotions been getting in the way of them?

Should you continue to let them control your life?

To recap again, your emotions are not bad or good. They are natural responses to difficult situations that crop up in your life.

It's absolutely not your fault you feel this way.

Given this, what would you be doing with your life if these "feelings" disappear?

Can you still do these things even though these feelings are here? My guess is, that's a yes right?

8) "Just like in a real storm, I can drop the anchor and weather the storm".

This is actually one of the most powerful interventions in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

It deserves it's own little article.

It's a simple practice (but takes effort to master) that you can use to weather even the most toughest of emotions, and not just that, but intrusive thoughts and beliefs too.

Wanna find out more?

Read my article on Dropping the Anchor (coming soon).

Thanks so much for checking out this article. Do stick around or drop me a note if there's something I can support you with. Take care okay? Your friend, Hernping.


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