Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jill Chivers from I’m Listening Now.

Most people reckon they know how to handle their emotions. It’s easy, right? You control them, you manage them (lest they manage you), you get on top of them. This is all advice that’s been touted loudly and long about how to ‘best’ your emotions.

Well, guess what? It’s all wrong. There’s only 3 approaches to emotions, and none of them is about “management”.

David Rock has written the brilliant Your Brain at Work. It’s not pop psychology and it’s not a theoretical tome that’s heavy in all respects. It’s thought leadership at its most profound and simple. He says you only have 3 choices once emotions kick in: You can express, suppress or transform the emotions. Here’s how.

1. Express the emotions.

This is what kids do. If they’re upset or frightened, they cry. If they’re happy, they laugh and run around. I’d landed at the Brisbane international airport and everyone was a bit grouchy and stiff from the long flight. A boy aged about 8 was running around the baggage carousel, laughing. First, I was a bit irritated (my grouchometer was pretty high at that point). Then I imagined what would happen if an adult was doing the exact same thing this boy was doing, and it made me laugh out loud. There we all were, stifling our emotions (and our knee joints). And there this young lad expressing himself. Who was the smart one?

WARNING: This is a context-specific strategy! There are some situations (such as social scenes, or when you’re in public) when this option isn’t available at all, or is only partially available. Hitting a pillow with a cricket bat may not be an appropriate way to express strong emotions when you’re sitting in a cafe. But laughing or crying may be.

2. Suppress the emotions.

This requires holding the emotions down and attempting to keep them from being visible to others. This is the strategy that many people use, particularly in cubicle land. Don’t feel it – manage it! Don’t express it – control it!

THE FACTS: Experiments in controlled circumstances on the effectiveness of suppressing emotions found this to be grossly ineffective – people just could not hold strong emotions in. Even if they thought that they looked ok on the outside, on the inside, their internal state was affected. But we didn’t need a study to tell us that, right?

Trying not to feel something is ineffective and can be harmful. Suppressing strong emotions affect what you are able to pay attention to and therefore what you remember. So much energy is spent trying to suppress the strong emotions that your sensory acuity is diminished — you are paying less quality attention to what is actually happening. This can be dangerous; for example, if you are angry while driving, you are not paying full attention. Not paying attention greatly increases your odds of being in an accident.

3. Transform the emotions.

Rock calls this cognitive change. “Even after you have gotten yourself into a bad situation, you can still, at this late stage, think about it differently”. There are two ways you can transform emotions:

(a) Labelling — putting a label on the emotion. This works best when you are succinct — if you talk too much about or enter into a dialogue with your emotions, it tends to increase the level of painful emotions you experience. So short is better – sit with the emotion for a moment, give it a label, let it go. I was a conference call the other day and found myself getting agitated by what someone was saying. Instead of pushing that emotion down or trying to ignore it, I gave it a few seconds of attention, asking myself what is this emotion? When I found it – annoyed – I did a quick label “I’m feeling annoyed” then let it go – so much easier to do after I’d quickly labelled it. The other thing that works well with labelling is using a metaphor – “this emotion is like….” I’ve used this approach in corporate workshops for years and I can tell you it works. We did an exercise where we used metaphor cards to help identify emotions. This emotion is like a herd of zebras – there’s dark and light here. Or this emotion is like a garden path – it’s taking me somewhere. It doesn’t have to make logical sense (metaphors often don’t); your unconscious knows how it folds together. This is not a process you need to share – it is largely an internal process.

(b) Reframing putting a different interpretation onto the same set of circumstances (or “facts”). This is an effective “braking” mechanism – it puts the kybosh on your strong emotional pain in smart order. It’s a version of Shakespeare’s tenet that “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”. How you sort and ‘file’ the event makes all the difference in the world to how you feel about it and how it affects you. You can label it horrible, bad, terrible….. Or you can print out a different label like “useful” or “I learned something important” or “the upside to this was…”. Even if you’re not sure if this possible or that there’ll be a single answer to those questions, try it. You’ll be amazed at how your unconscious will deliver an answer to you, if you only ask, be still, don’t judge and listen.

WARNING: Reframing painful events takes effort! Rock calls it “metabolically expensive”. That means you have to effectively delete the original scene and re-direct/script it into a better-serving scene. This is akin to a director re-shooting, re-editing (maybe even re-casting) and re-shaping the scene in a movie. Reframing takes time and energy but it is worth it because it is so powerful. The good news? The more you practice, the better you get at it and the easier it becomes. And the quicker you muscle in those poorly filed memories, the easier it is to reframe them in a way that helps you more effectively deal with that crazy thing called life.

What’s your choice?

Emotions are a part of what make life rich and fascinating. They are also part of what makes life challenging at times. Rock says there are only three options for dealing with emotions. Understanding these choices is vital as they can profoundly affect your health and well-being. Suppressing your emotions is nearly always the worst choice. Expressing your emotions is often the best thing to do, but that isn’t always possible (picture a 43 year old running and shouting through cubicle land!). Transforming emotions is the most powerful of the choices and is worth learning and practicing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about the three choices we have when emotions kick in. Stop by the comments and let me know.

About the Author: Jill Chivers writes and works about the power and magic of listening. Visit I’m Listening Now to learn more and sign up for her weekly ezine

photo courtesy of Saad Kadhi


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Comment & Add Your Voice

Jared June 30, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Great practical techniques and exercises!

I often remind myself and others that emotions are neither good or bad. It’s how well you can identify their underlying cause (fear, loneliness, etc.) and then what you do about it. It’s also important to feel the emotion completely. Go through it but be careful not to get stuck, especially if it’s anger or sadness. We also find that most negative emotions are rooted in fear. Fear of not getting something we thing we want or fear of losing something we thing we have


Jill Chivers June 30, 2010 at 11:06 pm

hey Jared – getting stuck is the thing, isn’t it? Can happen so easiliy. I try to think of emotions as being like clouds – real but fleeting. No one emotional state lasts for long, and certainly not forever.

Jared June 30, 2010 at 3:29 pm

“think” not “thing”… Drats… Typing on my iPhone at airport but just had to comment on this great post!!


Evan June 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Superb, thanks Jill (and Johnathon).

Trying to control our emotions is (STILL) the recommended way. It certainly shows perseverance that people are still doing what doesn’t work! If only all that time and energy was put into what works – imagine what could happen!


Jonathan June 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm

That’s a simple shift, but a powerful one. Do more of what works, less of what doesn’t!

It reminds me of a quote from Richard Bach:

“Imagine what the world would be like if everyone just did what they want.”

Jill Chivers June 30, 2010 at 11:08 pm

hi Evan – you’re so right, especially in corporateland, where the controlling of emotions is considered a talent, a strength. And the expressing of emotions is often considered with great suspicion. It’s amazing how quickly an emotion can pass, if you recognise it and let it go.

Meredith June 30, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Great post. A fourth option for me (if I can get away with it) is energy management – I’m really frustrated so I go for a long walk or spend some time with people that I like. Then, I usually end up feeling *much* better.


Jonathan June 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Energy is the currency of the universe. Whatever you can do to shift your vibration and interrupt the pattern, the better you’ll feel.

Jill Chivers June 30, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I’m with you Meredith – quick physical exercise is an excellent way to shake off emotions. Eckhart Tolle talks about this in The Power of Now – he was observing ducks in a pond, and two of them got into a bit of a territorial tiff. The ‘loser’ squawked off, flapping its wings… after a couple of seconds of doing that, the duck was serene again. No hanging onto it, no bringing it up 2 hours or 2 days or 2 years later. Expressed, then gone. Almost like magic!

Cindy Tonkin June 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Thanks Jill, insightful, clear, and well-illustrated with appropriate real-world examples!
I’ll keep this in mind next time I’m dealing with a difficult client!


Jill Chivers June 30, 2010 at 11:10 pm

hey Cindy – thanks for the kudos! Much appreciated!

Katherine W Hirsh June 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I had a chance to put this into practice today. I had a big piece of disappointing news. As luck would have it, I was at home and was able to cry and get out some of the let down, anger and hurt I was feeling. Equally lucky, I now see after reading this piece, was the fact that the news was so unexpected that suppression wasn’t even an option!

After expressing, I used the labelling of disappointed, hurt and angry to help me cast my mind back to similar situations where I was let down. This led me to what seems to me to be a second round of labelling – the source of the disappointment and anger was seeing myself as unable to control events. This new label felt somewhat easier to reframe than anger or disappointment. I’ve been trying to practice acceptance and surrender; viewing the negative news and its knock-on effects as incidence of absence of control can be reframed as a chance to deepen my commitment to my new way of being.



Jill Chivers June 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm

hey Katherine
Thank you so much for sharing such an intense and emotionally charged situation, and what you did with the emotions (nearly typed “how you managed your emotions”, which of course you didn’t). When we are in the grip of an especially powerful emotional surge is when we have the greatest opportunity to learn a new way of doing things. And it sounds like that’s what you did — well, it actually sounds like you reinforced an empowering habit that’s already in place. Namaste, friend.

Rara June 30, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Thank you Jill for this piece of advice. I just resigned from work yesterday and the emotions behind my decision were too turbulent for me to process that when my boss asked if I wanted to discuss, I said no. I know it was a cop-out but I did not want to express my emotions in front of her so chose to suppress them instead. I will try to see if I can transform my emotions and then request another opportunity to discuss. This will not change my decision to resign (it was a long time coming anyway) but at least I can communicate what happened, to my boss without leaving her in the dark.


Jill Chivers June 30, 2010 at 11:04 pm

hi Rara… loved your insight that doing something “else” with your emotions (reframing them, instead of suppressing them, say) wont necessarily change the outcome, or your behaviour. But it changes something as (if not more) important that’s intangible, and that’s your internal state. I often wonder where those intense emotions GO if they are pushed down…. nowhere good. So, bravo to you for having the courage to try another approach with this.

mike korner June 30, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Thanks for sharing this Jill. I can see where reframing emotions is a powerful way to make the best of events. I like Meredith’s idea, too – take a walk :)


Jill Chivers June 30, 2010 at 11:11 pm

hi Mike, yes that reframing thing is really powerful. We all tell ourselves a story of how an event went down, and almost always its some version of A truth (it’s not “the” truth, as appealing as the idea is that only one version of the truth exists)… so why not tell yourself “a truth” that serves you? Take some practice before it becomes second nature though.

Mumbai Paused June 30, 2010 at 10:46 pm

You said it.

I’ve always been amazed at the role hormones and emotions have played not just in our personal lives but also in history. If the history of the human race is written in that perspective, it would make very interesting reading.


Jill Chivers July 1, 2010 at 3:07 pm

oh I agree!

helen July 1, 2010 at 1:22 am

I totally agree for the transforming your emotions option. That’s what I usually do. It comes naturally to me. However I disagree with the statement the “expressing your emotions” option is the best one. Many people when they are angry, sad, disappointed tend to say hurtful things to other people. And then they are OK because they have released their emotions and they would even forget what they said. But what about the other people? The ones that had to listen to these words.


Jill Chivers July 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm

hi Helen – you bring up a valid point, and that’s around the appropriate expression of emotion. Just saying what we feel the moment we feel it isnt’ necessarily appropriate. That’s where having another process, a private one like journalling for instance, can help. Or a cricket bat and a pillow. Thank you for helping to clarify this point!

puerhan July 1, 2010 at 2:04 am

Excellent piece! The hardest bit sometimes is actually waking up to the realisation that we are so practised at suppressing that we don’t even realise we do it!


Jill Chivers July 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm

So true! Suppressing emotions can be like the hum of an air-conditioner – you get so used to it, you don’t even hear it anymore. “waking up” are the perfect words to describe the process of tuning into that, and then doing something different.

Chrissy @ Eat Your Career July 1, 2010 at 4:13 am

I just read a great book called “The Leadership Integrity Challenge” and it talked about emotions being “messages.” It totally transformed the way I look at my emotions. Instead of simply reacting, I now ask myself, “What is this emotion telling me?” When you do this, it makes your choices more conscious and your actions more responsible.

It’s a great book that really taught me a lot about emotional maturity. And basically, I discovered that I’m completely emotionally immature :) SIGH.

Great guest post, Jill!!


Jill Chivers July 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm

hi Chrissy – thanks for the reference, this sounds like a great book! I love that idea of seeing emotions as messages. Very helpful!

Helen Robinett July 1, 2010 at 5:15 am

Interesting article Jill. Thoughts we can control. Emotions will and do bubble up. The fact that we get to choose how we handle them always has huge impact on the outcome. Gotta love that. Had a profound conversation with my teenage nephew about how he thinks and feels about his school report. He actually ‘got’ the concept that he gets to choose how he thinks about the outcome.


Jill Chivers July 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Oh, what a gift you are giving you nephew – the opportunity to start young with a more helpful way of expressing and using emotions. Fantastic!

Richard July 1, 2010 at 6:34 am

Labeling the emotion can be very helpful in relationships as well, if you use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements. To label the emotion and then communicate “I feel annoyed when you do (insert behavior here)” is better than saying, “You annoy me,” or “You’re annoying.” In this way, you take responsibility for your own emotions.

If emotions can’t be expressed immediately, it’s worthwhile to express them after the fact. Even years after the fact. My parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this weekend. My sisters and I, our spouses, and our children are all writing a brief note of a special memory to share with my parents. My daughter was struggling and beating herself up for all the negative memories that kept coming to mind. “Once when I was little and visiting Grammy & Grampa by myself, I was sitting on the basement stairs pretending to be Rapunzel. I had some tinker toys, and I was poking them into the ceiling. They got really angry, and it was the first time I had been in trouble with them. I felt awful!”

After we cried together for a little while, I started laughing. Then she started laughing. I think today she’ll be in a much better frame of mind to write her positive memories of her grandparents.

Thanks for sharing, Jill. I will check out your web site soon.



Jill Chivers July 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm

hi Richard, I so resonated with your comments about how to frame a statement about your own negative feelings with someone you care about (for Helen, who commented a little further up this page, this goes to your point as well). Words like “you are annoying” can sting and ring in someone’s ears for a long time to come. The other option is a statement of responsibility. Thank you for sharing that, and the story of your daughter at your parents wedding celebration. Appreciated that story a great deal!

Curiousnotfurious October 26, 2015 at 6:35 am

As one grows up, thinking that expressing emotions is not appropriate (or is an invalid outlet for adults in modern “cubicle land”) may be troublesome/unhealthy. In my opinion, one of the leading factors that nudge mental “disorders” is emotion suppression. Expression is more crucial than we think. PTSD, for instance, can surface if people do not fully accept or process their emotions. Depression can be from not “labelling” them adaptively, to use the above terminology. Perhaps to see an adult running through “cubicle land” expressing his/her emotions is to see someone “mentally ill”, but perhaps that same adult wouldn’t be “mentally ill” if it was ok for him/her to run around cubicle land as s/he would have as a child.

Nate July 1, 2010 at 6:48 am

A fourth option can be ‘being with the emotion.’ So many of us are not in touch with our emotions because we really don’t examine them. The section on labeling above is excellent. I do this quite often.

For example, if I’m angry my first step is to become conscious of that…it’s a moving from a state of reactivity and the anger controlling me to me questioning the emotion. ‘What is this feeling? Oh, it’s anger.’ From there, I just sort of sit and be with the emotion, feeling it in my body. Sensing where it arises from. Is there a tightness in my chest, perhaps? Are my muscles tensed?

In doing this in a non-judgemental and objective way we can lose our attachment to getting caught up in the emotion, which leads to a completely new perspective on our emotions. We begin to see the impermanence of all emotional states.


Jill Chivers July 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Nate, thank you – this is so right. Sometimes labelling the emotion does not always lead to letting it go… and being with it is an act of profound courage. This, amazingly I’ve found, can include strong positive emotions like joy, as well as those we would consider on the ‘dark side’ of the spectrum. Thank you.

Jennifer July 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Say, Jill, your article reminded me of how both leaders and consultants spend so much time dealing with the emotions of others, and how easily I can slip out of paying attention to my own! I practiced labelling and I felt remarkably calm after taking all of 5 seconds to label the emotion and then let it go. It would have gnawed at me for hours. Your article was a much-needed reminder to not be one of the proverbial “cobbler’s children who have no shoes.”


Jill Chivers July 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm

hi Jennifer, ah, you’ve highlighted the essential issue, which is not just having the knowledge about how to be with our emotions, but actually doing the doing. Many of us in the self-help field are avid collectors of information – we read, we download – we gather lots of good info. But we don’t DO. So, thank you – well said!

And your other point about leaders having to take time to deal with the emotions of others, so true!


Alexander Yaremchuk July 4, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Reason for hiding emotions could be that other people can use this information in a bad way. So only limited emotions to limeted people are allowed.

But it may be counted ideal when everyone is safe to express their emotions freely, isn’t it?


Jill Chivers July 6, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Alexander, you’ve highlighted an important point, which is not just the appropriate expression of emotion, but feeling safe. We need to have some trust that those around us, who are listening to us, will be generous and patient with us. If they are unable to do so, it can feel like things have actually gotten worse. So, you’re right, the best situation is when everyone feels safe to express their emotions. Which is why when people teach this way of being to their children, they grow up with less baggage about this normal human thing called feeling and expressing emotions. Thanks so much for sharing~

Marsha Stopa July 5, 2010 at 9:12 am

I love reframing. Reframing can often find the silver lining in a dark cloud. Thanks for the great recap.


Jill Chivers July 6, 2010 at 9:51 pm

hi Marsha, so true! The dark cloud/silver lining analogy is wonderful — the cloud often feels so much bigger than the lining! But all it takes is that one small streak, and things shift.

Percival J. Meris July 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm

First of all, I would like to add another way people handle difficult emotions. It is called repression, in which they tend to exclude from their consciousness a painful memory. The sad part here is that the emotion generated by the forgotten experience remains alive, though inactive until brought up again. Repressed emotions negatively affect our physical health our relationships, and our reactions to events.

As regards the article, the best option among the three is, of course, transforming the emotion. The suggestions for dealing with emotions here applies when the emotion has already been generated.

But one might still be able to avoid its generation by handling it from its source – the thought. One who has trained himself to see situation in a positive way will produce positive thoughts that will generate positive emotions.


Jill Chivers July 7, 2010 at 8:17 pm

hi Percival, many thanks for your comments. I guess I see repression and suppression as being at least related. They both are defined as being “to hold in” or “keep back”. I do hear what you are saying about repression being unconscious.

I agree too that transforming painful emotions is very helpful – it’s also the most energy consuming, which is why many people don’t do it. Thoughts and emotions are connected, and I like what you say about the “training” of our thoughts — it is indeed more than possible to change our thinking, and therefore our feelings. Thanks for your comments.

Jacques July 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I am from an engineering background, and we are notorious for not being able to show or express emotions. I have been on a questo understand emotions, how they are shaped, what their effects are, and how we could best respond to them, while also teaching this in my personal mastery and leadership development programs. This viewpoint really helps, and it gives great food for thought, thanks very much Jonathan and Jill. Regards – Jacques Snyman


Jill Chivers July 7, 2010 at 8:20 pm

hi Jacques, good to hear your perspective. I’ve worked with engineers (and other typically “left brain” professionals, such as accountants and lawyers) and they do come with that reputation, don’t they? (and it is a generalisation, and wouldn’t apply to everyone). What I learned from working with those kinds of professionals was if there was a proven and robust system or methodology they could reference, it helped – it created a pathway for exploring areas that otherwise might be challenging. Glad you found the article helpful.

Melody July 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Hmm… This is a great post. I agree with most of it, but I’d like to make a small adjustment:

Allowing ourselves to feel 100% of our emotions is essential. Otherwise, we are just repressing it and storing it, and it will show up again next time something pushes that button.

Instead, go for it! Allow the emotion to be as ugly and strong as it needs to be. And you’ll come out the other side.

Now, this doesn’t mean you go tearing down walls, shouting at everyone, or crying uncontrollably in a public setting. It means taking a break, breathing into it and going on that rollercoaster ride. And then… Release! And so much clarity about what just happened. It really is a great way to get some insight into our patterns.

And, as Richard pointed out, this doesn’t have to be done immediately. It can wait a bit until we find a private spot.

I hve to say, Jill, I really liked how you phrased “I feel annoyed” as opposed to “I am annoyed.” There’s a HUGE difference!


Jill Chivers July 7, 2010 at 8:23 pm

hi Melody, thanks so much for your comments. Out of those 3 options, everyone would have their preferred way. Expressing emotions has a lot of advantages for sure. As Helen commented above, and you mention here, too, being aware of the impact our expression of emotion has on others is also part of “owning” our emotions and what we do with them.

Expressing emotions also doesn’t preclude the possibility to transform them at a later stage. If I’m feeling angry now, I might allow that emotion to be, feel it as fully as I can. Then later, when the ‘hit’ of emotion has passed, I might reframe the situation in my mind.

And yes, we need to be aware of “I am” statements, don’t we?

Thanks for your comment!

Hodan July 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Its an interesting way of analysing something that’s often so elusive if not painful: human emotion. I think ‘Expressing your emotions,’ depends on the situation and the person involved. Sometimes its extremely hard if not pointless to express a given emotion, because the whole point of expressing it is to let it out there for the world to see. Personally, if I have an issue or buried emotions that’s preventing me from moving on, I either seek a good therapist or let it out through yoga or boxing.

Transforming emotions is one that appeals to me the most, now the problem is figuring it out how to achieve it.


Jill Chivers July 7, 2010 at 8:27 pm

hi Hodan
Thank you for your comment… I would add to what you’ve said that expressing emotions can have benefit, even if others don’t see it. If I’m upset, privately crying may be all I need to do to fully express that emotions. Nobody else need witness that emotional expression; and in many cases, it may be advantageous for it to be a private experience.

Transforming emotions can be an energy consuming practice, at least when you first start. It’s like any new ‘skill’ – it takes time to master, so it becomes second nature. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

And I’d guess that yoga and boxing would be outstanding ways to allow the emotions to work themselves through in your body.

Aileen July 8, 2010 at 11:05 pm

This is very helpful! Thanks! I am a very emotional person and I would say I am the type who tries to control/suppress the feeling in order to make the situation less complicated. I didn’t know that there are 3 ways. All I ever knew was to express it or just control it (well sometimes it’s more of hide it, for me).

Emotions play a very big role in our everyday lives and it’s really important to know how to deal with them. If not, we may end up losing our sanity.

I wanted to share with you and your readers a very helpful and informative article on How Emotions Control Our Health (http://sn.im/z6itm). It’s always nice to learn something new everyday. Thanks a lot! :)


Jill Chivers July 11, 2010 at 7:31 pm

hi Aileen, thank you for your comments and for sharing the article on emotions and health. Yes, emotions can play a huge role in our lives and it’s so empowering to know we have choices.


Anita July 20, 2010 at 7:53 am

Tony Robbins uses the analogy – if you take a record and you scratch out the song on it, you can’t leave the space blank, you have to fill it in with something else.

Jill – I have to say I am in the 3rd option ‘camp’. It’s definitely the longest and the most energy consuming, but it is also the most enlightening.

It forces you to ask yourself the right questions. And through that you get great insight on how to deal with things.

If I may suggest the book – Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom – it was very helpful for me.

Thanks for the insightful post :)


Jill Chivers July 25, 2010 at 9:18 pm

hi Anita… thanks for the book reference – always great to know of wonderful resources out there. And thanks for your comments. I agree with you on the energy/enlightening aspects of choice #3 (transforming emotions). Glad the post was helpful!


Subbu September 19, 2010 at 6:03 am

Great post! I’am excited to try the “labelling” method. Thankyou.


halinagold October 1, 2011 at 9:56 am

In my experience very few people know how to deal with their emotions and they are aware of not knowing it.

“There’s only 3 approaches to emotions” is not correct.

A fourth way is to embrace emotions – simply be with them and let them roll through you without supressing, expressing, labeling or reframing.

A fifth way is expanding through emotions energetically (opening to higher states of consciousness through emotions).

A sixth way is using emotions as fuel for creative work.

And there are others I’m sure. :-)

At the end of the day what is the best way to deal with emotion depends on the situation, who you are, where you are on your personal and spiritual journey etc. etc.

And, I totally agree: Emotions are a part of what make life rich and fascinating. They are also part of what makes life challenging at times. The latter makes life rich and fascinating too. :-)


dimlotz June 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Great approaches towards controlling emotions and epsecoally the fact that our emosions actually determine who we are,the way we interact with other people.i usually find myself talking my problems to people,even people i meet for the first time.i


John Kohli July 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Stupendous post, Jill. Thanks so much. I hadn’t thought about using a metaphor to describe my emotions. I will do that the next time and see how it goes. That seems like it will help get my creative energy flowing, too. Thanks.


PK January 31, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Do you anyone have suggestions on how to deal with an emotionally suppressed person?


Erin May 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I liked reading this article. I had originally come here to try to help my emotional son, but ended up learning a few things for myself. I really like that you say to “label” the emotion. I myself am an over sensetive person and really take certain situations to heart and find myself getting extremely worked up about it. I just wanted to tell you that you have offered me an amazing tool to help deal with that. Thank you!


Kira August 29, 2013 at 7:54 pm

I think I’ll try it. I’ve been leaning toward suppression in my professional life and expression in my personal life. And suppressing the emotions at work carries it into my personal life and it’s there where it all comes crashing down. Like a boiling pot, seething until it reaches a certain point and bubbles over. And it’s rather nasty for any human being who happens to be privy to it. Basically, they get burned. I’ve also been having trouble concentrating at work which may, in fact, be due to suppression. And even if it’s not the case, at least it might help me in my social life. I don’t want to take my work home with me, it needs to stay there.


Teresa September 9, 2013 at 8:09 am

Great post Ms. Jill. I am a college student taking a critical thinking course now and I ran across this post while doing research for my class. I am a very emotional person and I believe that with a lot of practice, I can change how I feel about different situations. ;)


Mark David Fourman September 10, 2013 at 8:09 am

Great article Jonathan! I agree wholeheartedly.

I think “Transforming” is the most powerful approach for deeper and more persistent emotional pain. I’ve written articles with accompanying guided meditations on transforming shame, http://ow.ly/oJMVz and transforming sadness, http://ow.ly/oJNg5 into more positive emotions. You might find these interesting and useful.



steve werner October 20, 2013 at 5:39 am

Another well thought out post.

When it comes to emotional stress, I choose to “give the gift”.

Giving the Gift is literally handing those emotions back to the person or people that are causing the stress.

Saying here it is, now it’s your’s . You deal with it because I don’t want it any more.

Try it on for size:)



Daniel Beetham March 22, 2015 at 5:14 pm

I think that can sometimes be a good method. If something someone has done makes you angry – accept that it is your emotion, and a way of expressing it (hopefully in a loving, compassionate way) is to check in with the person who made you angry. Like someone else said, it helps to own the emotion – it is yours, and to make it productive chat to resolve the situation, no need to attack – this may mean doing some transformation of the emotion as outlined in the article.

I think that Buddha’s Right Speech is a good mindful way of approaching the chat – I have a pictorial version on my wall at work for reference, but it’s helpful in all life’s situations where emotion is likely to come up.


Sofia September 10, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Good article. Thank you Jill.
And what about “escape” as a mechanism to deal with emotions/feelings we’re not ready to deal with. I’m pretty sure that’s a legit way to deal. Not healthy, to be sure. But just one more thing we do!


Joy May 31, 2016 at 12:44 am

I have no concious pattern as to how i deal with my strong emotions like jealousy all i am noticing after feeling the pain n hurt for even 3 days i loss weight…how i wish i could function and being productive while in such pain..


Katherine W Hirsh July 8, 2010 at 7:41 am

It feels like our modern society has removed so many of our natural opportunities for physical activity – we drive to work rather than walking, we buy food rather than foraging or hunting – that we can easily lose track of how much our bodies are involved in how we feel and think. Emotions might just be the route back into a more comfortable and intimate relationship with our physical selves and this in turn could enhance our general well-being.



Michael September 8, 2016 at 8:50 am

This is 100% true. Emotions are the body’s natural reaction to our surroundings based on our genetic coding. Given that (men especially) were designed to fend off saber tooth tigers or invading armies, and hunt dangerous animals for food, it is no wonder that strong emotions can easily arise from being cut off in traffic or someone trying to cut in front of you while waiting in line. Women I’m sure face a similar condition today. Being a man, I will only speak for men.

I believe the body has changed very little since pre-historic times, and those same ‘dinosaur’ emotions are what drive us in our ‘modern’ interactions. The body does generate these emotions. We’ve allowed a society to be created where there is no outlet for these emotions, and no respect for them, and that needs to change.


helen July 2, 2010 at 1:08 am

Journalling is an appropriate tool I agree. Very powerful.


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