Struggling to Work With Emotions


How should I work with my emotions when I feel numb and defeated?

This month’s Ask a DEI Professional question is about working with emotions alongside treating a condition that requires medications.

Finding the right dosage and medications can take time and can be a challenge. Always consult a psychiatrist to help you in this process. Our questioner writes:

I’m on a lot of medications. I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective bipolar, as well as many anxiety types. However, currently I’m so numb and surrendered to defeat that complaining and questioning are difficult. I’m numbed from my anxiety. I think the doc is trying to stabilize me before tweaking things.

So my question is, during the stabilization process and softening of my interoceptive ability, how should I work with my emotions? Grant it, shame is still easy to recognize, and depression, but nothing else.

Thanks for your question! Here’s a reply from Karla McLaren, M.Ed.

Karla answers:

Karla McLaren, M.Ed.

Hello and thank you for your question. I hope that you and your doctor can get your situation stabilized soon, and that you’re getting a lot of rest.

Since your medications and underlying conditions are affecting your emotional realm, it can of course be difficult to identify and work with your emotions. I appreciate that you’re working to find ways to do so even though it’s difficult!

You are the expert of your own life and the translator of your own emotions, so these following suggestions are only suggestions. If they don’t work, you’re not doing anything wrong!

  1. See if this free Daily Emotions Chart helps. It’s a very simple way to keep track of what’s going on, and the process of working with this chart may help your emotions know that they are being heard and seen, even if they’re very quiet or very activated right now.
  2. There is also a lot of good research on the power of your emotional vocabulary. Something about naming your emotions with precision helps you deepen your emotional regulation skills — all by itself. It’s a simple approach, but the effects can be powerful, and I have a free Emotional Vocabulary list that can help you develop a large and articulate emotional vocabulary. Using the list with your Daily Emotions Chart may be helpful too.
  3. It may help to perhaps reverse-engineer your emotions by looking at the gifts and skills they bring to you. So instead of trying to feel anger or sadness, etc, look to your boundary-setting skills (anger) or your ability to let go when things are not working any more (sadness). Each emotion brings you unique wisdom and abilities, and you may be able to more easily gauge where you are by looking at the gifts and skills each emotion contributes to your everyday life and behavior.
  4. A final thought is that sometimes the only way we can work with our emotions is through creative expression. This could look like anything from making marks on paper with crayons, or simply moving your body in the way that feels right to you. Your emotions are always present. Even if you can’t name them, they are there, working to support you. Creative expression is another way to honor them, and I wrote about The Magical Healing Powers of Art,

Art helps you express yourself, and art helps you understand your emotions, the social world, the natural world, and your place in the grand scheme of things. Art also helps you express the unspoken and those difficult-to-explain-in-any-other-way ideas that tend to be more important than ideas that make sense in the light of day.

Art can help you understand who you and are what’s important to you, and it’s a delightful mindfulness practice.

Even in difficult situations, your emotions are always there. Perhaps they’re very quiet, or they’re disconnected from their emotion-friends, but they’re always there to help you make sense of your world.

I hope these suggestions are helpful, and I wish you the best in your healing journey.

~ Karla

Thanks so much for your question and for working to welcome and understand your emotions.

Have you ever dealt with a similar struggle? How did you manage? Share your thoughts and comments with us below!

Each month, we’ll choose a question or two for our licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration® professionals to answer right here on our Empathy Academy blog.

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