A Practice for Facing Uncomfortable Emotions

I’m moments away from hitting publish on a post. It’s vulnerable. It’s raw. It makes me feel exposed… like I’ve got nowhere to hide.

The post is written. The final edits have been made.

My hand hovers over the publish button. One click and it’s gone… sent out to be seen. No taking it back. No hiding.

I hesitate. My stomach starts tensing. Can I really send this out? This is too risky.

Pause.

“Hello, fear. I see you.”

***

I’m lost in my work. My fingers dance across the keyboard. Words flow from my mind to the page like a rapidly-racing river.

Everything else fades away. It’s just me and my creation. Just me and what I’m here to do.

Then the door opens. My wife announces lunch time.

In a flash the flow of work disappears… my rhythm broken.

Blood rushes to my head. Why do you have to interrupt me? Don’t you know I’m working?

Pause.

“Hello, anger. I see you.”

***

I’m walking the streets of my neighborhood and pass a man who’s homeless.

He kind of stinks. His clothes are ragged from constant use and dull from layer upon layer of stains. His head bows low.

As I walk by, I cringe slightly. My nose turns up. What is he doing here? Why doesn’t he ever take a shower?

Pause.

“Hello, disgust. I see you.”

***

Every day brings a river of emotions. And many of them are “negative”. We get angry, afraid, disgusted, jealous, anxious, stressed, tired, resentful, and more.

When those emotions arise, they’re often the last thing we want. So we try to push away the fear. We try to pretend we’re not resentful. We try to put on a positive face.

Trouble is… hiding from how we really feel is actually unhelpful.

By pushing these feelings away – even uncomfortable emotions like anger or fear – we deny our own experience of life. We call ourselves liars. We make ourselves “bad” for feeling how we do.

By hiding, we amplify the suffering. We let embed it deep inside of us. We cling to it.

So often, it is our story that negative emotions are “something to be avoided” that causes the most trouble.

But what if we accepted them instead?

What if instead of seeing emotions as bad or negative, we saw them as just a part of life? What if we allowed ourselves to actually feel how we feel?

One practice I’ve found helpful is saying “hello”.

I don’t remember to do it all the time. And with particularly intense emotions, it’s not always enough.

But often, just pausing and saying, “Hello, emotion. I see you,” disarms it’s power. You greet it as a friend… as a part of you. And you let it be as it is… without saying it’s good or bad.

And when you can fully accept it in that way… the emotion tends to flow on, drifting away into the river that is life.

Life goes on.

And you might even learn something from how you feel.

Of course, there’s something else I’ve discovered as I’ve deepened this practice. By accepting the “negative” side of life more fully… you also start embracing the goodness of life more fully as well.

Joy intensifies. Love magnifies. Gratitude washes over you.

You greet all of life.

###

PS: For more on this, check out the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

3 thoughts on “A Practice for Facing Uncomfortable Emotions”

  1. Thanks for that Josh. Good message mostly because I digest it easily and can use it. Stuff comes along , say hello to it, notice it , acknowledge it , feel it some, and that’s it , or might be about it. Solid upbeat end . I’m old fashion and just like to be left on a positive note. Which you did. Take care . Tom

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