Getting Over Feeling Badly

Everyone feels badly sometimes. Sadness, guilt, shame, and general feeling of upset are part of living. Here’s a simple way to get over such feelings quickly.

Lean into the uncomfortable feeling. While it is natural to resist or turn away from feeling badly—who wants to feel worse than you have to?—the quick way to get over it is to do exactly the opposite. You may need to go to a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts and emotions. It may take a few minutes, though rarely more than five or ten. Devote your attention to feeling the emotion purely.

If you feel a little sad, whether or not you know what happened to make you feel that way, let yourself feel very sad for a short time. Let sadness surround you and envelop you by deliberately focusing your attention on the sensation of the sad feeling. Don’t think about what caused it. Concentrate on the feeling. Close your eyes if it helps.

Feel the feeling all the way through. If it is mild, it will soon break up, that is, you will no longer be able to concentrate on the emotion. When that happens, the exercise is over and you can move on. If it is strong you may need to revisit it.

The same holds true for feeling guilty. People who feel guilty easily typically try to push away the feeling, but that makes it stay in place. Instead, let yourself feel really guilty for two minutes. Tell yourself how guilty you feel. It’s okay to be overly dramatic about it for a short time. Any feeling you cannot be with has power over you. Once you lean into it, it loses that power and you regain more control.

You must put your attention on the emotion rather than the reason why you feel that way. If you think about reasons, your mind will wander and the exercise will not work.

This exercise may reveal knowledge about your feelings and your life that are new and surprising. It may feel strange, even threatening, if on some level you do not believe yourself capable of withstanding such strong feelings. However you feel, stay with it.

In time, doing this exercise when uncomfortable feelings arise will strengthen your emotional system and make you more resilient. You will begin to develop a habit of recovering from feelings of upset more easily and feel better for it. There will always be emotional struggles from time to time. Bouncing back quickly from feeling badly will make your life better.

The Seventh System has more on this and other things you can do to make yourself stronger and more emotionally balanced for the long term.