the healing journey counseling fl

healing, anxiety, loss, grief, depression, ptsd, self-care, suicide prevention, post partum depression

Processing Emotions

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It is clear that many people have a hard time controlling their emotions which can lead to a variety of issues. However, we can learn how to handle them by understanding what is going on inside your brain that makes you explode.

How the Brain Operates

Let’s start out by addressing the left brain and right brain, which according to Dr Alan Schore (2003a)  ” the left brain is responsible for thinking ,while the right especially the frontal stores our emotions” (Siegel, 2010, p. 19). No wonder we have so much headache! When we explode, the amygdala is activated which starts a series of events. Our emotions begin to increase and it takes some time for your brain to determine the best plan of action. Our left brain which is basically our reasoning is bypassed and rest is history.

Thinking and Feeling

They are people who cope well and those who definitely cannot and lose it! The difference between both is the “stronger the circuits that connects left and right brain, the better able you are to tolerate and diffuse intense emotions (D.J. Siegel 1999) ( Siegel, 2010, p. 19).  When someone pushes our button, we can’t focus on new information or communicate in an effective way. When we are stress and the right brain takes the lead, we can’t focus on anything. But, when we calm down, we are better able to listen whereas earlier we couldn’t.  When both the right and left brain is connected, the better we are able to “stay with an emotional experience, reflect on it, and ultimately respond in ways that are productive for everyone involved” (Siegel, 2010, p.19).

Emotions or Feelings

Anger is an emotion that we may experience on a daily basis, such as children refusing to listen;  a car tries to cut you off etc. The emotion that you experience for each situation is different and there may be times when you cannot stand when others making stupid mistakes, which often leads to anger; “below the surface, this creates feelings of resentment, envy, worthlessness, and lack of control” (Siegel, 2010,p. 20).


It takes a long time for anyone to recognize self-awareness due to some recognizing our responses, such as being sad and crying. While on the other side, there are some people who can disconnect ‘from feeling-state awareness and instead only register the facts.” (Siegel, 2010, p. 21). I have a hard time disconnecting from my feelings because I generally access all of my feelings. On the other hand, those who disconnect “can tell you what they think, but not what they feel” (Siegel, 2010, p. 21). What an insight! At times we may regret what was said,  but if we could recognize it, give it a name and go over the consequences our life would be much easier.

Processing Emotions

It takes time to understand how to manage our feelings and emotions and we may get information from books to help with our emotions. But, how many of us really remember what to do?  As a parent, we tend to respond to our children’s emotional distress by soothing them or some parents ignore it. When a parent helps the child during distress, this helps them later on in  life because when children feel protected and “joined in the process of resolving a problem that help create a sense of trust and safety” (Siegel, 2010, p. 23). It is important that parents soothe their children because if we don’t this will makes it harder for the child who may be experiencing some anxiety.


Now here is a daring title! When we shut down this can work against us in the long run. For instance, Terry is a person who repressed her emotion while Bill tends to lash out. When Terry learned about her boyfriend’s Bill infidelity, she became anxious and shuts down because she doesn’t want to deal with her feelings. When you shut down it leads to a variety of feelings and you believe that you are in control. However, when we do not deal with our feelings, this impedes our life. One way of dealing with our feelings is to get to know yourself and try to understand someone else’s feelings which I agree take a lot out of you. Every time you address those feelings, “you are developing new circuits between the left and right parts of the brain” (Siegel, 2010, p. 26). How does this help you? We are not all created equally, but we must learn to face emotions. Our first reaction may be to run away, but we must deal with the emotions by giving it a name that activates the left-brain-right-brain circuits. It may be uncomfortable at first to experience your emotions, but with practice you will feel much better about yourself.

Siegel (2010) provided a list of feelings that will help you to address your emotions which includes the following:

When you feel angry, then you may be feeling…

  • afraid                            aggravated
  • agitated                        annoyed
  • appalled                        betrayed
  • bitter                              cranky
  • disappointed                 disgusted
  • exasperated                  frustrated
  • helpless                         hostile
  • irritated                          jealous
  • let down                        nervous
  • offended                        pessimistic
  • provoked                       repulsed
  • riled                               tense
  • vicious

When you feel happy, you may feel….

  • accomplished                                 amused
  • charmed                                          cheerful
  • delighted                                         elated
  • enthusiastic                                     excited
  • glad                                                  joyful
  • peppy                                               proud
  • validated

When you are content, you may feel…

  • appreciative                                   calm
  • fortunate                                         reflective
  • relaxed                                           soothed

When you feel hurt, you may feel….

  • cheated                                        defeated
  • deprived                                       deserted
  • diminished                                   forgotten
  • insulted                                        isolated
  • lonely                                           neglected
  • persecuted                                  slighted
  • snubbed                                      upset

When you feel inadequate, you may feel….

  • diminished                                helpless
  • incompetent                              inferior
  • pessimistic                                powerless
  • useless

We must also realize that our brain connects with our emotions and feelings, so the next time you feel that emotion, recognize it and give it a name and process it. Can you remember every experiencing being “lonely”? Dr. Beth Jacobs (2004) suggest ed that we get should journal and start writing so that you can learn more about different feelings. Another exercise that Dr. Jacobs recommended is to become aware of your feelings and take a different approach when faced with it. This is the first step to learn more about yourself and your emotions which will take time. So don’t be so hard on you!  In both exercise you will learn how to relax so enjoy it.

Develop Mind-body Awareness

Finally, developing mind-body awareness is one of the best ways I was taught as an intern. Most of us do not even recognize how we feel in our own body. It may be a surprise to you when you begin to examine the way how your stomach feels or just looking at the way how your fingers are clenched. The goal is to begin to explore both the physical and emotional responses which will alert you during an impending episode. I know that this is a challenge for anyone; however, “t is important to your overall emotional well-being” (Siegel, 2010, p. 31).

The following are exercises that you can apply so that you can learn more about your body.

Exercise 1: Body Scan

Scan your body from a point where you are not disturbed by others and you may want to close your eyes in order to feel the full effective of this exercise. Ask yourself if you are carrying any feelings. Do you feel tense? Is your heart beating rapidly? Are your fingers clenched or open? How does it feel in your stomach? Additionally, you can also go back to the list of feelings above and choose one that you can learn more about. Now complete a body scan and ask yourself the questions in the previous sentences. How does your body feel during this emotion? Think about the tension in the different parts of your body which will help you to understand more about your body and how it reacts. Allow yourself to work through these exercises that will help you to process your emotions.


Siege,J.P. (2010).  Stop Overreacting. Effective strategies for calming your emotions.New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Author: thehealingjourneycounselingfl

Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern in the state of Florida. Professional member of Florida Association for Infants Mental Health and Florida Mental Health Counselors and The American Counseling Association. Field Advocate for Suicide Prevention and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. She is also a mentor, army spouse and works with service members and their families.

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