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4 Key Steps for Highly Sensitive People to Navigate Difficult Emotions

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

Anyone who resonates with the traits of a Highly Sensitive Person is likely to feel the impact of strong and overwhelming emotions.

Stressful situations at home, conflicts in close relationships or an underlying feeling of uncertainty can cause these emotions to arise.

Sometimes, these emotions lie underneath the surface as a general feeling of irritation until a sense of frustration builds and we experience outbursts of anger, sadness or even fear. Our mind and body is often ‘flooded’ by these emotions and it can be difficult for us to respond or manage them effectively.

Over the years I’ve noticed that those of us who are Highly Sensitive are particularly good at holding onto stories which tell us we’re not good enough or that we can’t manage our emotions effectively. Instead of cultivating emotional resilience, these stories actually prevent us from staying strong or grounded.

Awareness of our Emotions

As a coach I guide highly sensitive people towards becoming the awareness, or the self, that rests behind their emotional experience.

This aligns with what Eckhart Tolle emphasises in his book, A New Earth. He shares “rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” When you become the observer of your thoughts and emotions, you create space between your true self and the contents of your mind.

This space enables you to choose how you respond to particular emotions and reminds you that your experiences or emotions are not the truth of who you are, but they are part of an experience you are having at that moment in time.

The language you use is really helpful for creating this space, for example, instead of saying “I am angry” try saying, “I am aware that anger is arising in me.” Can you notice the difference?

Cultivating Acceptance

It is helpful to move into the felt sense of your emotional experience, rather than moving away from it. This is because cultivating greater emotional balance is not about suppressing or ignoring your emotions, and you can’t force difficult experiences to go away.

Welcome all your emotions and lean into your experience — no matter how difficult it might feel. Remember, emotions are what make you human and there is a reason you have them!

Be-friending an emotion and welcoming it into you, lowers the resistance you have to the emotion, and this negates the power of that emotion over your true self. When you learn to navigate the emotions in this way, you find a way for these emotions to arise and support you in a healthy way.

Four Key Step

With practice, it is possible to recognise, with mindful awareness, the emotions arising in your body and to choose how you want to react or respond to these emotions.

Here are four key steps you can use to practice cultivating emotional balance:

1) Be aware of what has caused an emotion to arise. Is it something in your external environment, an internal story, a memory, or anticipation of a future event? It might be a combination of these!

2) Notice the felt sense of this emotion in the body. What physical sensations are present in the body? See if you can notice where the sensations are and what qualities the sensations have.

3) Label the emotion as something you are aware of. For example, “I am aware that anger is arising in me.”

4) Breathe into the felt sense of this emotion in the body. Meanwhile, observe the stories, or thoughts that are coming up in relation to the emotion. Do not try to push the stories or the felt sense away, observe them from the space of the self (the one that witnesses your experience).

Developing greater awareness of our emotions and being able to observe them is a process that takes time. Use this 4 step process when hard emotions arise and see how it shifts the intensity of the emotions over the time.


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