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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Support Groups » Sitting with Emotional Discomfort

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Author Topic: Sitting with Emotional Discomfort
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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I'm going to start writing something that touches on this in a very specific arena shortly, but I also wanted to initiate a conversation about this more generally here on the boards, and talk with any of you about it who wanted to have a discussion around this, or needed some help with this.

So, there are times when we don't feel good emotionally -- we feel sad, anxious, fearful, angry, etc. And oftentimes, something we will want is to make those feelings go away as quickly as possible. Many posts we get here are sometimes people seeking for us to help them do that.

While that's understandable, and to some degree, sound (especially when people are feeling this way over many months or years), it's also problematic. That's because often those kinds of feelings are feelings that, when we don't try to push them out, but instead let them happen and process them, can usually teach us a lot. Like what we need to feel comfortable, or less anxious, fearful or sad. They can be great cues to tell us when we're making choices or in situations that aren't good for us or right for us, and give us needed clues about what changes we may need to make to improve our lives.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's comfortable. Sitting with, and working through these feelings, really being present in them, IS uncomfortable. It DOESN'T feel good: it feels crummy. Until, of course, it doesn't.

Because the other problem with just trying to make them go away fast is that that usually doesn't work. Instead, we usually only resolve these kinds of feelings and move past them when we let ourselves fully experience them.

Is any of this familiar to you? Do you struggle with this? If so, what do you know or think would or does help so you CAN just experience these uncomfortable feelings and work through them?

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Peer Ambassador
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I guess seeing a therapist, or a school counselor maybe if one doesn't have access to therapy, could be something to consider.

I've been sitting around wondering why I've been so upset for so many years (and really examining different emotions I've had in certain situations), and I realized that overprotectiveness from my parents has been a large contributing factor. This has lead me to start planning to live somewhere with friends next summer instead of at home.

But yeah, I agree that it's definitely important to look at why we're feeling certain ways about things. It also seems to help bring clarity to what we can do about the circumstances we're in. So, it definitely wasn't fun to do that, but it was necessary.

I think that writing things down in a journal/diary/word document can also help to look at why we are feeling certain ways about certain situations, and if those emotions/situations have anything in common with each other.

[ 07-27-2013, 01:53 PM: Message edited by: MusicNerd ]

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

Posts: 301 | From: a galaxy far, far away... | Registered: Jun 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jacob at Scarleteen
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 66249

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I would second the usefulness of a therapist or someone to speak to.

I think some of us have had experiences that have really undermined our self esteem, so to unearth/trigger some difficult emotions is something we have already anxiously predicted we won't be able to handle. Having a therapist there while approaching those feelings certainly has made me feel a lot safer and to learn that I can handle more than I thought I could.

Also, it's a tad complicated but I think it's been useful for me to learn that approaching difficult situations, scenarios or feelings is a form of self-care and something I do for myself, not just because I 'should'.

I think that sense of self-care in the moment of facing distress is really invaluable.

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Peer Ambassador
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Yes, these are very familiar. I find that if I work on a project or something when I'm feeling emotionally uneasy - like studying for a midterm, writing a story, applying for jobs, or even doing chores - the feelings are a little more bearable. I'm not always comfortable talking to others about what's going on, but I think talking to someone else about them does make them feel a bit more bearable, too.

I agree with MusicNerd and Jacob: therapy is a good idea. It's sad that it's not always affordable or available, though; or that someone might not be able to find/access it because of transportation, or whatever other barrier they're experiencing.

What I do sometimes is just cry. I absolutely hate it, though, but whenever I eventually stop, I feel better. So I think, as you've been saying, processing your feelings at least gets you out of that denial phase and makes you truly look at everything around you. At least you're trying to be honest with yourself that you know you're suffering, you know something's wrong, and you're trying to get those feelings up so they don't continue to hinder inside. A very difficult process, but it's unfortunately necessary.

One other thing I do, as a Christian, is pray about things, or just have a kind of bitter conversation with God about why He's letting this happen. Of course, that's just something I do; and I'm not trying to push religion on anyone or anything. [Smile] But I find that actually yelling at God helps. But I also have conversations with myself, which help, too.

"I do the best that I can. I'm just what I am." - Rush (Best I Can)

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Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 50014

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Hi Heather,

What a great and to the point question. At 25.5 months, gosh I still struggle with it but actually beginning to understand the meaning of just 'sitting with it'.

In terms of daily habits, a 15 min first-thing-in-the-morning/right-before-bed ritual of meditation and just being still helped.

I do journal writing too, but i think there needs to be a space in my minds between experiencing somthing and labeling it/defining it/analyzing it/ making "logical sense of it".

I realized that once I stopped taking the events or things personally (ie. things/events/situations/emotions are either GOOD or BAD, HARMFUL or 100% beneficial), it eased up my need to label/put into a neat box.

I also realized that we exist (or atleast my true self) exists outside of these once I am no longer basing my identity/sense of personal well-being off those events, its much easier to just look at them.

Additionally, there is power in feeling emotion. Just raw emotion, negative or positive. I think once we 'sit' with our feelings, we are not spending so much energy running away from them and suddenly it is not as big as it seems.

PS: I was enlisted as a Volunteer long time ago but no longer affiliated so hope that my user ID reflects that.

[ 08-05-2013, 02:52 PM: Message edited by: breath ]

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Member # 45568

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This is something I've struggled with in a big way for quite a few years. I have an awful lot to say on the topic. The first few paragraphs are just a little of my background with this, which might be relevant to some people. Some of it is definitely just about putting it into words and having someone else read them, so please feel free to skip to the second section. I hope that it’s also in some way helpful to the piece you’re working on, Heather.


I think my combination of a very in-my-own-head personality and a verbal/logical cognitive style lends itself readily to emotional dissociation. Add that to the trauma I've experienced over a number of years and one can see how I ended up in a headspace of almost complete emotional detachment.

For me, I think it is also rooted in dissonance between the way I conceive of my personal identity in the theoretical and practical senses. I have never quite felt at home in my body (in large part) due to my genderqueerness, which does not feel congruent with my extremely feminine body.

This year I’ve spent a great deal of time studying metaphysical personal identity (the branch of philosophy that deals with determining whether people are identical with bodies, brains, souls and a number of other whacky possibilities). Scientifically I believe that I am (most accurately) the conscious manifestation of countless physical bodily processes. In other words, I /think/ I am identical with my body. And yet I /feel/ very different.

It is hard to genuinely integrate and rationally process emotions when you feel out of touch with both your own body the world around you. For me, evidence of this creeped up once the physical trauma was over. I noticed things like getting off a roller coaster with only a vague memory of a feeling of speed and euphoria of adrenaline. It was much the same way my mind did not properly integrate memories of the trauma. Eventually it got to a similar point with any emotion. One minute I would feel consuming anger and the next I would be totally numb. In some ways it was an extremely useful and adaptive defense given the fact that I had to live in the same house as the perpetrator of my traumas for years. Had I not been able to disengage from my anger like this, I may have done something unforgivable.

The trouble is that once I was out of this situation, I carried the dissociation with me. It became maladaptive and as I began to experience PTSD-related flashbacks, it caused debilitating panic attacks. During these times I smoked vast quantities of weed and drank heavily. It controlled the PTSD symptoms, but caused me to retreat even farther into my own mind.

How I’ve started to fix things:

At that point I started giving therapy and meditation an honest go. I also fell in love with roller derby. It took a while, but I was eventually able to start extroverting my anger in the form of kicking butt on the track (while being kept in check (pun intended) by being knocked down at least as often). Eventually I was able to express my anger in therapy as well. I sometimes reached for the emotion I thought I should be having, making things rather contrived. All the same, I got good practice expressing emotions, even if they weren’t exactly mine. I stopped drinking and smoking excessively.

Then I began my body modifications. I carefully select each based on emotional significance and aesthetics of both the design and how it complements the natural shape of my body. Some are specifically related to traumas and some are related to overwhelmingly positive events in my life. Each one makes me feel more like myself.

My grades and overall functioning greatly improved. Last year I gained the self-confidence I needed to finally come out as genderqueer and bisexual.

Since then, I have had some significant setbacks after I was re-traumatized and later had to return to my dysfunctional home (leaving school and derby behind) after my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I am not functioning in the same capacity as I was this time last year, but I am trying to use this time to learn how to be with intense emotions in new ways (and without using drugs excessively or dissociating). I haven’t been perfect, but I am definitely better equipped this time. I feel like a whole human being now.

These days I rely on: organizing my thoughts and emotions in writing; hard exercise; talking with my dad (even the hard life-and-death stuff); long walks/bike rides/night driving; and screaming along to the angstiest of punk albums in the car.

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