Understanding and Transforming
"Dark" Uncomfortable Emotions

By Jon Terrell, M.A.

Our stuck, painful emotions hold tremendous energy, and freeing that energy is the fastest and most effective method to awaken, heal ourselves, bring joy into our lives  and accomplish our goals.

We tend to stuff uncomfortable feelings, deny them, bury them, avoid them, or attempt to medicate them away. Most of us spend a huge amount of our life (and time and energy) avoiding, suppressing and/or inappropriately expressing them. This can be exhausting, frustrating and damaging to our lives and others.

There is a better way - I see it again and again, at every retreat - as dark, uncomfortable feelings transform into love, freeing huge amounts of life energy and awareness that had been stuck.

Slow Going

As a psychotherapist and retreat leader, I've worked with hundreds of people who have tried all sorts of approaches to healing and awakening, and for many of them, it's been slow going and difficult.

Some folks try to meditate their way out of trouble, but often end up rising above it all...they get to a great state while meditating, and for time after, but then end up back at their baseline state of consciousness. They're not really changing at all.

Talking therapy can be helpful, but even with a highly skilled therapist it can take years to make progress.

While insight can be useful, the solutions to our problems lie below the level of thought, in the realm of feeling and emotions.

I've come to understand from working with hundreds of people that working through dark, uncomfortable emotions, in a safe and loving environment, can totally change a person's life. And it can happen quickly, in a course of a weekend retreat.

People often think that if they only have the right experience everything will change for the better.
--If I can just find the right diet...then I'll be healthy
--If I can just meet the right person...then my life will be complete
--If I can just take the right drug, go to the perfect workshop, read the right book, etc....then I'll get it.

Although those experiences can be helpful, the results often don't last because we eventually sink back to our baseline state of consciousness. To change our baseline we need to change our life story. The right kind of emotional work will make that change, rapidly and safely.

Changing Our Story

"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms." - Muriel Rukeyser

What do I mean by "story"? Our story is the pattern of thoughts, feelings and perceptions that make up our sense of identity--our self. It's built up from early childhood experiences that are reinforced as we grow older.

Our story informs us about who we are, what sort of world we live in, and where we are going.

Some of us live a sad story...there's a sad little boy or girl inside who never really grieved losses and healed. For more information about how sadness and grief affect us click here.

Some of us are living an angry story...people are always doing things that make us upset and angry, they're so inconsiderate, thoughtless, stupid. Anger is the biggest emotion...big and loud and can be very destructive in its raw, unconscious form. We may feel our anger is "out of control" but don't know how to change it. Yet within anger is vital passionthat we need to take action in our lives and live with joy. For more information about how to deal with anger click here.

Some of us are victims... people attack us or take advantage of us all the time. We hurt and feel powerless. We need to learn to own our power that is hidden from us, in anger, fear and other feelings.

Some of us live in a scary story... the world's a scary, dangerous place so be very careful. We shrink ourselves and live a small existence. For some suggestions on how to work with fear in times of change go this page on Fear and Change.

Working With The Body

Many of us live our lives in our brains, avoiding experiencing anything from the nose on down. And worse...some of us are in orbit, and never really come down to earth!

We carry these stories in our bodies. And we carry different parts of the story in specific areas of our bodies...the weight of the world on our shoulders (especially with those of us with a victim story), a heavy heart (sad story), high tension and anxiety in our nerves (scary story), and so on.

As a body-oriented therapist I see these patterns in my daily practice, and I work with people to release these patterns through Energy Healing, counseling and especially Grief and Other Difficult Emotions Retreats. At these retreats we transform the "dark" feelings to reveal their gifts.

I work in western Massachusetts and also travel to New York City once a month to see individual clients. For more information go to Energy Healing in New York City.


Let's take a look at how "dark" emotions steal our life force and learn what we can gain by working with them.

The "Dark" Emotions: Anger, Grief And Fear

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart." - Dhammapada

I call these the big three because they hold the keys to healing and awakening. Learning to lean into these feelings, and work them through (see below) is the best way I know to grow, to change our life story and become more luminous. Our life force is trapped within them, stuck in the past. Inside them is the gold all of us seek.

Anger inflates us...it's hot and too big for comfort! For more information go to How To Deal With Anger.

Fear contracts...it's usually cold and dark...and makes us want to run. For help with fear go here.

Grief hurts, it's soggy and heavy. For more information on working with it go to Handling Grief. 

Ways We Deal With Emotions

Let's look at some of the schools of thought about the best way to work with feelings.

Express - we can express our feelings. Often this helps us feel better, at least temporarily. We can vent our anger, letting off the steam, and as the pressure lets up we feel better. But expressing anger can hurt others.If we've been suppressing or avoiding feelings, this may be a step in the right direction, but unless we go further we'll just need to express again.

Suppress/Avoid - we can avoid our feelings. This is a common strategy that doesn't work well. Suppressing un-grounds us...we end up leaving our bodies and the present moment. 

Release - we can try to let the feelings go. Emotional release techniques, such as the Sedona Method, can help people let go of uncomfortable feelings. And sometimes, we can just sigh or stretch, like a cat, and release. But if we find those feelings keep coming back, then we may need to do something more.

Insight - we can try to understand what the feelings are about. Psychotherapy can help us understand our feelings, and in this process they will often change. Some methods, such as Nonviolent Communication, guide us to shift our focus away from the pain of the feelings and towards greater insight. Insight can be helpful, but often doesn't go deep enough. And it can take a long time.

Transform - we can work through the emotions and reclaim our power and joy trapped within them. I believe this is what life is all about...finding the gold within our heavy, uncomfortable feelings. We transform feelings by experiencing them fully, bringing them up into the light of day, into our present awareness. The stuck emotions change, revealing their gifts. And we can do this in a way that is safe, enjoyable and loving!

Find out more about our Grief Loss and Difficult Emotions Retreats here.

Watch this video on this topic: The Subject Tonight Is Love

And don't miss the 4 Core Relationship Skills on our Healthy Relationship Tips Page. 


For more information about transforming stuck feelings, you can reach Jon Terrell through the form below. He leads retreats in western Massachusetts (serving the Pioneer Valley) and in downtown Manhattan, New York City. He also leads retreats in Florida

Go From Emotions To Awakenment Wellness Home

Go To Grief, Loss And Difficult Emotions Retreats

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