Dropping the Struggle with Difficult Emotions

Allowing yourself to experience all emotions, whether pleasant or painful, can lead to greater psychological health, according to recent research conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Based on questionnaire and laboratory data, researchers found that people who typically resisted acknowledging their difficult emotions, or judged them harshly, reported more psychological stress than those who allowed themselves to experience difficult emotions.

This makes sense when we consider that emotional discomfort is a very normal human experience. Emotions such as sadness, anger and fear are not only common, but are also essential to our survival. They are like signals that send a message that something is important to us, or motivate us to act. Hence, trying to rid ourselves of these emotions not only takes up a lot of our time and energy, but in the long term is ultimately unsuccessful, as we are designed to have these emotions. In struggling with them, we end up magnifying our distress in experiencing both the emotion and the distress about having the emotion.

Allowing yourself to experience the discomfort, rather than struggling against it, is not about having to like or want the discomfort. Instead, it is about seeing the emotion for what it is and changing how we pay attention to it. For emotions do naturally pass, they build in intensity but then plateau and subside. We can use mindfulness processes to help us handle these emotional experiences.

As many people are probably now aware, there are a number of ways to engage in mindfulness processes, often coming down to individual preference. These include:

Noticing whatever you are feeling in the present moment. Observing sensations, their intensity, their location in the body, with curiosity rather than judgement. Identifying and labelling emotions.

Relating to your emotions with imagery, such as going up and down a wave in the ocean, floating leaves down a stream or even sushi passing you on a sushi train..

Noticing other sensations in the present moment, bringing your attention to what you can touch, see, hear, smell, taste, and what task you are doing.

Practicing kind self-talk, for example in reminding ourselves that it is normal and natural to have painful thoughts and feelings.


Ford, B., Lam, P., John, O. & Mauss, I. (2017). The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000157


Written by:

Dr Thea Longman
Registered Clinical Psychologist                                                                    SACAC Counselling

The other side of #Selfcare

selfcareposter-w320h240#Self care is a trending topic often spoken and written about and fairly so – it is an essential element of wellbeing and optimal physical and mental health. However, many times the recommendations on self care can be a bit lop sided towards indulgence and pleasure oriented activities only – get a massage, take a holiday, treat yourself to chocolate  – the benefits of which can be temporary and shallow.

This is because an essential aspect of self care can often get ignored, without which it would be incomplete and potentially ineffective in the long term – CLEANING UP YOUR ACT.

Self care is simply that – taking care of yourself, just like you would take care of a loved one. When we care for someone- being kind, compassionate and comforting is important and often the much needed healing touch to a wounded soul. However, is that all you would do for a Friend in trouble? If that person is suffering, would you just keep on comforting them or also encourage them, nudge them and if needed jolt them into taking an honest look at the mess they may have gotten themselves into so that they can find a way out of it?

Of all the people receiving your love and care, you too deserve the best of it – not just the yoga and the pampering, but also the action plan to clear your debts, following an exercise routine to keep the cholesterol in check, daily choices to live a life in coherence with your value system, finding your way to true self acceptance and the many internal and external conquests that await you on your path to health and happiness. We need to find ways to reduce stressors and overcome challenges and not just continue to struggle with and somehow cope with the issues life presents.

Similarly, for people suffering from burnout, stress and other maladies of the current times – it may be necessary to first take out time for rest and restoration as their resources are depleted. However, it is then essential to take a deeper look into our lives and make choices which don’t end up in us requiring regular staycations to survive the work week.

Take time to take stock – How are you? What’s troubling you? What can you do about it and how? What support do you need? Are you stretching yourself too thin? What are the things you know you need to do but have been putting off? What demons are you battling which exhaust you this much? Is this an emotional issue or a practical one? What steps, however small, can you take towards a solution? What do you need to change, what do you need to accept and what do you need to let go of to clear the toxic clutter in your life and mind and make space to become the person you always wanted to be?

If not now – When?


Written by:                                                                                                Mahima Gupta Didwania
Registered Clinical Psychologist (SRP)                                                          SACAC Counselling