Have you ever felt an emotion so strong, it just wouldn’t go away?
The grief from losing a loved one, the sorrow after a breakup, worrying about your health, anxious of the future…
Every single minute of the day, your mind is occupied by the emotion. You don’t have a choice. It is taking over your life.
You exert so much energy just to get through a day. It is exhausting. You want a break from it so badly, but your mind just wouldn’t stop.
You don’t want this anymore. But you are stuck.
The emotion is too powerful: from mindfulness, observance, breathing, Zen, mantra, you can try everything you know, but it just won’t work.
Yes, even mindfulness is useless against such a fierce emotion.
You even start to think you are never going to get out of it. You think you will stay wounded forever.
The Surprising Cause of Your Strong Emotion
I understand you. I went through the exact same thing when I lost my grandmother, and when I had a panic attack a while ago.
It was hell.
But trust me, you will get out of this emotional vortex. And I am going to show you exactly what to do.
First, I want you to know why your emotion became so strong in the first place.
Understand this: Your emotions operate on the physics principle of momentum.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say your friend borrowed your car. When he returns, you spot a dent on it. The car is now hideous. You are angry with him.
He explains he didn’t actually do anything wrong. He drove carefully, but someone bumped into him.
You are still angry. You think he should have noticed a bad driver from a mile away, stay away from him.
Then let’s say you find out later your friend literally did nothing wrong. He was probably more careful with your car than with his own car. It was pure bad luck that your car got bumped into.
Now you have no reason to stay angry. Even you would have screwed up your car, perhaps even more.
But still, your anger has so much momentum built up from all the accusation and argument, it refuses to go away.
So you continue to act on it, trying to nitpick the faults of your friend, even though logically you know you should calm down and apologize.
Sounds familiar? I am sure you can relate to this.
When your emotion is so strong, there is no way you can stop like just like that, even if you are aware of it.
So what should you do with this strong emotion? Here are 5 step for you to follow:
1. Acknowledge your emotions
When an emotion is strong, it will totally dominate your thoughts and dictate all your actions.
At this point, even mindfulness can’t help you much. The emotional momentum is so just so powerful it can throw you off your mindful state in seconds.
But without mindfulness, you also can’t act consciously to counter this powerful momentum.
Here is what you do:
First, stay still for a few seconds. Take some time to acknowledge your emotion and your physical sensations right now.
Say to yourself, “I am feeling [your emotion] right now. I feel [sensation] in my body.”
This is what I said to myself in a panic attack: “Okay, I am feeling nervous again. I am starting to panic. My body is getting hot and I am starting to shiver and sweat.”
You will be tempted to talk down your emotion this way, but don’t. Because you will be essentially dwelling on it, which will only amplify its force.
So don’t talk to yourself this way for too long. Don’t do this for more than a minute.
What you need is just a few seconds of consciousness, so instead of being driven by the emotion and chasing your own tail, you can do the right steps I am going to teach you below.
2. Don’t fight the emotion.
When your emotional momentum is so strong, it is impossible to stop it directly. Anything you do will just fuel its power even more.
This is very similar to meditation, actually.
People make the mistake of trying to stop their thoughts all the time, but instead their minds just get nosier and nosier.
What they did not realize, is that you cannot just deicide to quiet your mind like that. You need something else occupy your mind.
Likewise, your emotion is now snowballing. It has become an all-consuming monster, and whatever comes in its way becomes its fuel.
Here’s a shocker: All your mindfulness, meditation, self-talk, and every attempt you make to stop it are now completely useless. Worse, they will make the emotion even stronger.
So how to you stop this indestructible monster that is now taking over your life?
The answer: Just don’t fight it. Just don’t do anything to stop it. Just let it be there.
But keep in mind though, this doesn’t mean you just sit there and dwell on it and make yourself feel worse.
Instead, this is what you should do:
3. Do something fun.
Yep, it is that simple. Just go and do something fun.
Let me explain.
Instead of attacking the emotion head on and fueling it even more, you need to slow down its momentum indirectly.
You need to do something completely unrelated, preferably something fun.
You need to direct your flow of thoughts somewhere else, somewhere other than your all-consuming emotion.
Then you stop fueling its momentum with your thoughts. All you have to do now is to wait for your emotion to come to a natural end when its momentum runs out.
This is not necessarily distracting yourself and trying to bury it. Rather, this prevents you from dwelling on the emotion and making it even stronger.
But why something fun? Why not work?
When you are dominated by an emotion, you are paralyzed. Your mind doesn’t want you do anything else other than dwelling on it.
And fun, light-hearted things are easy to get into. It gets you moving.
For example, when I was having a panic attack, I downloaded a mobile game. I hadn’t played games for years.
Whenever I was nervous, I would just bust out my phone and play a few rounds. It calmed me down.
So it doesn’t matter what your activity is, as long as you like it enough to get moving. You just need to do something to redirect your thoughts.
4. Get out of the situation you are in.
Sometimes, you are just stuck with an emotion because everything around you triggers it.
Let’s say you are arguing with someone and you get angry. You want to calm down. What is the most logical thing to do?
It is nearly impossible to just calm down in the middle of a heated argument. Like I said before, even if you came to an agreement, you will still want to argue some more.
When you take yourself away from the argument, the momentum of your anger starts to die down, and you calm down as it comes to a natural end. It is only than you can have a sensible and productive discussion.
Likewise, this applies to all your other problems.
When you get anxious in bed and can’t sleep, just get up and do something else, calm down first, and try again.
When the empty house reminds you of your grief, go on a trip and get away from it for a while, if possible.
This Is What You Will Feel When You Are Free from Your Strong Emotion
The brief minute you realize you got it under control, you will feel ever so grateful to live normally.
The sun is shining. The grass looks so green. The light touch of the breeze feels so good on your skin.
The normal world will look like heaven to you.
But the thing with emotion is that it is not a switch. It’s not like once you are out, you are out for life.
Instead, you will be gradually free from its grasp little by little. There may be setbacks once in a while, but it is part of the healing process, too.
When you are under the grasp of a strong emotion, it will feel like you have entered a tunnel doesn’t have an end.
But this isn’t true.
Look at it this way: Instead of a proverbial endless tunnel, it is just a “normal” tunnel. You know, like the one trains go through.
To bring you where you want to go, the train has to go through mountains. And in the real world, tunnels can only be so deep.
I lost all hope when I was like you. I thought this hellish experience would last forever. I had no one to tell me otherwise.
But now you have my word.
You will be fine. Your strong emotions will pass, and you will be normal again.
I promise you.
Blon Lee is a Chinese Buddhist who helps people transform suffering into joy with Buddhist wisdom. Download his free guide: Buddhist Meditation Ultimate Guide: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding True Inner Peace.