How to Release Unwanted Feelings

Bury grief  How to Release Unwanted FeelingsI have never thought of myself as one to bury feelings. When I’m sad or hurt, I readily cry. When I feel anger, I have a lightening fast temper.

There are, however, some feelings I am not so open to experiencing, anxiety for example.

I do everything I can to shift this emotion as quickly as possible.

Anxiety is not only very unpleasant to feel; it interferes with getting my work done.

The same can be said for sorrow and anger, particularly when they go on and on.

Expressing feelings, it would seem, is not the same as unburying them. It just releases some of the pressure.

In the book Unattended Sorrow, author Stephen Levine suggests another way to work with unwanted feelings. Instead of expressing, shifting or burying our feelings, he invites us to go inside, to “feel the feeling” at the physical level. Notice its location, texture, and intensity. Then observe the thoughts that surface around it. Don’t run away. Don’t try to change it.

Look the feeling right in the eyes and open to it with compassion and acceptance.

I tried that strategy on anxiety. Anxiety is a gremlin that pounces on me first thing in the morning like a hungry cat. If, I jump right out of bed and start doing yoga it tends to dissipate. This morning, however, I stayed in bed to observe and let it be.

I noticed a tightening in my chest that made it hard to breathe. I took a deep breath, not to change it, but to explore it further. I discovered that my thoughts about the anxiety came afterward. I saw how I make up stories to explain my anxiety and then try to talk myself out of them.

Gremlin: Oh my god! The bank account is so low and it’s nearly the end of the month!

Me: Trust! Haven’t I always been able to turn it around?

Gremlin: You have so many things to do to grow your business and must choose what to do next. Oh my god! What if you make the wrong choice?

Me: There are no wrong choices, just lessons, I learn from my mistakes.

I stopped this flow of thoughts and returned to observing. I let go of any need to do anything. I just allowed the stories to go by, not grabbing on, not resisting, just watching. The grip in my chest relaxed on its own.

There is a saying that what we resist, persists.

In not resisting, in just letting be, the unwanted emotion lost its charge and released.

I understand that many people believe they do not have the time to hang out in bed and sit with unpleasant emotions. I’m one of them. There are schedules to follow and promises to keep.

But what if busy-ness is just another way to avoid unwanted feelings?

What if busy-ness is not necessary at all? What if being authentic, being truly yourself is all that is required? That would take a lot of air out of the anxiety bag.

I have two events coming up this August in which I will teach my own adaptation of Stephen’s presencing technique for handling sorrow. See WORKSHOPS for more information.

Be Present,


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief Transformation Coach Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps people transform their grief with a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit that heals trauma, reframes past attachments and releases limiting beliefs while uncovering a true life purpose and direction. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at


  1. […] I can see how that is true when I am unforgiving of myself. My stomach tenses, my breath becomes more shallow, my heart aches and I feel just plain awful. Over the years I have developed many tools for shifting this state: meditation, movement, sound and one I describe in my blog last week: letting be. (See How to Release Unwanted Feelings.) […]

Speak Your Mind