August 21, 2018

Why do I react like this and what do I need?

When things happen in our lives that are hard to deal with, it is common to feel depressed or hopeless afterwards. Perhaps you have lost someone, been hurt by someone, experienced humiliation, or have been subjected to traumatic events? In that case, it’s no wonder you react strongly to it.

Your emotions are there to let you know that something very important has happened in your life. And even though your emotions will help you deal with the situation, it can feel like just hurting.

This exercise is not meant to help you get out of a painful emotion, but rather to help you become more aware of what your emotion is trying to tell you. Pushing away painful feelings can be tempting, but can often lead to greater difficulty later on. Listening to painful emotions can help you move on in a healthy way, and probably faster than if you are trying to push away the pain.

1. Describe the bad thing that happened!

  • Find a sheet and write down what happened. Start by describing what happened rather than your emotional reactions to it.

2. Feel your body and find the pain!

  • If you’re hurting, it’s tempting to try to push the pain away. But see if you can try to approach the painful feeling instead. Start by feeling the physical sensations in your body. Where does it hurt? What does the pain feel like? Describe it and write it down.

3. Explore the emotional pain!

  • When you feel the painful sensations, see if you can keep your attention there. Imagine your attention sinking into what hurts. As if the words are coming from the feeling, complete the sentence:
  • It feels like __________________ (sadness, worry, loss, injustice, insecurity, fear, other).
  • Check to see if the word you find matches your experience. Once you have found a few words that describe the feeling, keep your attention there and add other words that pop up.

4. Find the need within the emotion!

  • When you feel like you can endure the emotional pain, ask yourself: Now that things are the way they are, what do I need when I feel like this now?
  • Give yourself time to respond. Stay with the bodily sensations before answering: I need ____________________!
  • Spend some time on this. It is common to want to move ahead. See if you can search for the answer to what you need now that this bad thing has happened. Do you need support from someone? Do you need care? Do you need time to mourn? Do you need to feel appreciated by someone?

5. Validate the need?

  • Not all needs can be met, but all needs can be validated. See if you can appreciate the need within the emotion by completing the sentence:
  • I feel ______________________ and I need __________________. It is no wonder that I feel like this and no wonder I have this need when I have experienced ______________________.

6. Take care of yourself

  • Now see if you can truly feel the painful feeling and maybe be more aware of what the emotion is asking for. What do you need to do right now? Can you take care of yourself in one way or another now? Can you seek comfort/support from someone? Can you do something for yourself that you know soothes your pain, like going for a walk, listening to music that sooths you, treat yourself to a cup of warm chocolate, or the like?