The Lost Art of Working with Emotion


Have you ever been confused about how you feel? I have! At first I thought it was just me, but over the years of being blessed with hearing client’s life stories, I realized how wide spread this problem is. Depression and anxiety conditions are at epidemic proportions in Western society and a large causal factor is our disconnection with and our lack of understanding of emotion. As a culture we have lost the fine art of honoring our emotion and working with our inner guidance.

The Downward Cycle of Misunderstood Emotions

Emotions are one of the most misunderstood and poorly represented phenomena in Western society. We are often given destructive messages about our emotions such as “get over it” or “stop over reacting” or “you’re too emotional” and expected to cope. Unfortunately these messages only leave us feeling ashamed and empty inside. We often begin to believe there is something wrong with us and do our best to hide our true selves. This then leaves us feeling even more “emotional” and misunderstood. If we see a doctor about how we feel, our emotions are then often medicated which further leads to suppression and disconnection.

This process of inner disconnection is a downward vicious cycle that leads to aggression, low self-esteem, withdrawal and isolation. The hard thing is, if you start on this cycle it is difficult to turn it around. Many people develop addictive coping mechanisms such as self-medicating on drugs and alcohol. If the emotions are particularly intense such as when someone has experienced trauma or abuse, then the drug and alcohol cycle can be incredibly challenging to heal from. Underneath addiction is misunderstood emotion and real emotional meeds that were never met. Of course, the addiction simply further shames a person and therefore further disconnects them from the core issues and a balanced relationship with their emotional self.

Empowering Ourselves Through Honoring Emotion

Western culture has generally lost the art of being present with our emotions. The consequence of this is disconnection from ourselves, in our relationships and culture, and with our environment. The art of becoming aware of emotions and learning how to honor and listen to them and ultimately work with them, is an empowering journey back to personal re-connection, self-love and self-acceptance. This does eventually lead to personal freedom, but to embark on this journey we have to allow ourselves to feel.   Becoming aware of our emotional selves is incredibly powerful. When we learn to become present with our emotions with compassion and wisdom, we step away from compulsion and addiction. This practice is what I call “self-responsibility”. Simply put, it is the “ability to respond”, rather than react out of unconscious childhood conditioning and emotional wounds. Self-responsibility is freedom. When we practice it we begin to make real choices that honour ourselves and others. We begin to act out of self-awareness rather than unconscious drives.

As a rule of thumb, the more aware of ourselves and others, the more conscious our choices become. Also, the more we authentically feel our emotions, the more naturally we want to act in the best interest of ourselves and others.

Over the course of the following blogs, I am going to explain how to distinguish between old emotional wounds that are the result of supressed emotional pain, and “adaptive emotion” which is our natural emotional response to current world events. I am going to discuss the process of honouring our emotions and responding rather than reacting. I am going to outline some processes of working with specific emotion. And finally, I am also going to talk about emotional safety and real emotional needs that require us to meet as an act of self-love.

Surfing the Waves of Emotion Workshops for Men and Women

If you are interested in learning how to apply these processes in your life, I am facilitating workshops in 2012 called “Surfing the Waves of Emotion”. Due to gender differences in how we approach our emotions, both socially and biologically, I am presenting this group to men and women separately.  On the 17th March, Surfing the Waves of Emotion” will be held for women, while on the 21st April, this group will be for men.

Learning to honor and work with your emotions leads to self-responsibility, self-empowerment and person freedom. You can be your best friend, and break out of addictive cycles and emotional wounding for good.

Workshop Bookings


6 Responses to “The Lost Art of Working with Emotion”

  • Thanks for that post Vanessa. What was particularly interesting to me was the difference between old emotion and new emotion as I tend to think of them as pretty much the same.

    Once again you have displayed much knowledge of your subject matter and given us a very interesting read.

    • Thank you Madonna! Yes, it is not often recognized that we have new adaptive emotion that tells us something legitimate about the current world, and emotional wounds that are reactive patterns from childhood (or where ever else in our past!).

      Lots of love

  • Sheb:

    HI Vanessa, would be interesting to learn how to tap into that emotion deep down and finally free it.. Cant wait for your next blog.. Thank you

    • Hi Sheb, I will be talking about healing these emotional wounds in a few-blogs-time! The good news is that yes, there are ways of clearing out this old emotional pain of the past!!!!

      Lots of love

  • Great post Vanessa, having BPD myself emotions are something I struggle with deeply (It is a condition of emotional instability after all! lol) I look forward to the rest of the series :)


    • Hi Sharon, I find BPD is interesting because I find it often better fits with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I do not know anything about your personal journey but I do know that you are right about the emotional ups and downs being very intense with BPD (and for complex PTSD).

      In my experience as a therapist, I often have good outcomes for people with BPD from long term therapy when there is A LOT of compassion and understanding for the very real struggle with emotional highs and lows. Learning self acceptance and conquering shame can be so difficult when we experience intense emotion … and yet that is a big part of the solution…

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing personal info. Feel free to contact me via email on my site if you want more information
      Lots of love

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