Methods are many and varied. The methods that are helpful are the methods that resonate with the individual.
Developing personal and helpful rituals as simple as a daily morning walk or evening journal writing. Lighting a candle and being silent and alone for five full minutes.
Develop knowledge and trust in the ongoing power of the life force in living beings.
Experience art and expand appreciation of perspectives different from those that are familiar.
Set aside time to self reflect.
- Category: Cultivating Resilience
I saw the trauma effect of war videos in my living room this week.
A young woman I know well looked pale with shell shocked eyes, as if all familiar feeling were wiped off her face and out of her soul. She could only talk about the atrocities in Israel. Instagram is part of her daily life with friends and followers sharing stories of campus life, dates, trips, clothes, parties and selfies.
All of a sudden her Instagram is a torrent of horrific videos. Massacres, butchering of men, women, children and babies flood her vision. She can’t stop watching. She doesn’t know how to think about what’s happening. She never knew such a horror could happen.
As I think of her I see her as a newborn, suddenly thrust from care and safety into a living and dying Hell of a world. She’s not alone, I’m sure.
Real danger exists in watching these violent videos on social media and in news coverage. Watching them puts you in harm’s way. You traumatize yourself by watching them.
Yes, keeping up with current events helps us make decisions based on our values, perspectives and well being of our loved ones. However, watching scenes of violence, of atrocities, of massacres, of blood flowing brutality is an act of violence against ourselves. The trauma of the events are traumatizing to us.
The videos of the atrocities and violence in the Israel Gaza war coming through social media seem to be nonstop. Seeing one, as heartbreaking and infuriating as it may be, can be helpful information. But more than that is not required.
Why we watch
Scenes of violence can be mesmerizing. Some people find themselves in a brain lock where they can’t tear themselves away from the horrors.
People watched the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 many times. Watching repeatedly may be an attempt to believe the unbelievable. It may be an attempt to gain equilibrium in a world that suddenly shifted on its axis and is not the world we thought we were living in. We may want and need repetition to understand the violence and barbarism that exists in human beings.
But we don’t have to destroy ourselves with the violence we see in the videos. We don’t have to live in shock, be wounded and psychologically paralyzed by what we see. We don’t have to feel helpless, powerless and terrified because of what we now know humans are capable of. Or at least, not too much.
It’s important to see a little. A little is enough. The rest of the unfolding events we can read. We can learn and understand without bringing more debilitating trauma to ourselves.
We need to be able to learn, digest even the horrors of the Israel/Hamas war. We need to be able to think and decide where we go from here.
How can we be active and support what we believe needs supporting?
Any action we take reminds us that we are not paralyzed with horror. Actions can range from putting a stamp on an envelope containing a letter someone else wrote or starting a major institution.
- We can contribute to organizations already in existence.
- We can write letters and articles.
- We can carry placards in a march.
- We can make placards without going outside.
- We can deliver the materials for making the placards.
- We can deliver or send lunches to the people who are making the placards and those who carry them.
- We can make art and share it.
Any action we take is empowering and counteracts the force of trauma that blasts out from those violent videos into our psyches.
Listen to the news. Read the news. But be minimal in watching those videos.
And for Heaven’s sake, please keep those images away from your children. Let them know, when they ask what’s happening, what Mr. Rogers told us. People sometimes hurt each other. But we see the helpers. Helpers are always there. I (your mom or dad or cousin or friend or neighbor or teacher) are helping too. And the helpers will keep you safe.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, UT. Author of Book:Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at
- Category: Cultivating Resilience
Your feelings map is in your hands.Pushing Feelings Away
A common coping mechanism when confronted with challenging emotions is the tendency to push them away. This is often seen as a defense mechanism, a way to avoid discomfort. However, it's essential to realize that suppressing your feelings does not make them disappear.
Instead, they tend to fester beneath the surface, causing more significant pain over time. It’s possible to behave harshly without appreciating why because what sets you off are denied feelings. You can push feelings out of your awareness but not out of your psyche.
The key here is to explore and acknowledge your emotions. Understand that it's okay to feel vulnerable at times and recognize that these emotions are a natural part of being human. Then you can work them through, remain realistic in the world, and not act out what’s is suppressed in you.
Feelings are neither intrinsically good nor bad; they are simply part of the human experience. It's all too easy to harshly judge ourselves when we experience certain emotions, labeling them as weaknesses or inadequacies. But it's vital to remember that feelings are a natural aspect of your humanity. Rather than judging these emotions, strive to understand where they originate and what they can teach you about yourself.
For example, you can have dreams that demonstrate rage and a desire to attack and destroy people, or a person. That kind of dream doesn’t mean you are an evil person. It often means you have been avoiding getting rid of nonessentials in your life. It could mean cleaning out your closets or shelves or getting rid of bulky furniture that no longer serves you. Yes, it could mean moving to another home or another part of the country. Your rage is rallying your energy to stop postponing an action you need to take to care for yourself well.
Being a Victim of Your Feelings
Feeling victimized by your emotions can be a common response to your feelings, particularly when dealing with anxiety and self-esteem issues. This mindset disempowers you, making it challenging to respond to your feelings in a healthy way. A critical shift is needed, where you realize you have the capacity to influence your emotional state positively. You are not at the mercy of your feelings; you can learn to respond to them effectively.
If you feel a desire to hide then articulate what you are hiding from and the dangers you might face if you emerged. Then imagine someone who can deal with those dangers. And then imagine that person is your teacher or actually is you.
Blaming Others for Your Feelings
Another common response to emotions is to attribute them to external sources. Blaming others for your feelings can be detrimental, causing strain in relationships and inhibiting personal growth. While external events may influence your emotions, your response to them ultimately rests within your control.
Some people can give you a disapproving look, and you feel anxious, even worthless, and about to crumble. Yet others can give you a disapproving look, and you don’t care. It’s not the disapproving look that brings up your response.
It’s how you experience it within yourself. Usually, we respond to another’s real or imagined criticism because we agree with it. So rather than blame the other person we need to examine our own negative self-perceptions.
Allowing Feelings to Be What They Are with No Judgment
A fundamental step toward emotional growth is allowing your feelings to exist without judgment. This shift in perspective involves viewing your emotions as valuable signals rather than burdens. Create a non-judgmental space within yourself for these feelings to coexist.
Thich Nhat Han said, “Hello, my little anger.” He offers his anger a chair and invites his anger to join him. You have the capacity to experience many feelings including conflicting feelings because you are human. Simply sitting with them for a while with no action or judgement can help you understand your experience.
Feeling Them Fully
Experiencing your emotions fully allows you to learn, heal, and grow. This means facing them without suppression or avoidance. Regardless of whether you're grappling with anxiety, self-doubt, or any other emotion, it's essential to confront and even welcome them with an open heart and mind. These emotions offer insights into your inner world.
Allowing Feelings to Fill You, Regardless of What They Are
As you embrace your emotions fully, prepare to let them fill you, irrespective of their nature. Each emotion serves a purpose, and acknowledging it provides an opportunity for personal insight and growth. By feeling your emotions deeply, you can forge a more profound connection with yourself. Just because you feel something doesn’t mean you have to do something.
Developing the inner strength to feel fully while remaining calm allows you to stay present for reality or reach a closer connection to reality. If you can feel and not act out you will not color your world with the brush of your emotions. You will not eliminate other possibilities and other perspectives. You will be wiser, have more inner resilience, and discover more that exists outside of your own ability to perceive.
Keeping Your Mind and Heart Open While You Feel What You Feel
Exploring your emotions requires an open mind and heart. Negative thought patterns can be alluring. It feels so good to be right. It feels so good to leap to assumptions and feel self-righteous. But, maintaining an open and curious mindset fosters self-discovery.
Feelings are transient experiences that provide glimpses into your inner self. If you don’t hold them and act out you may let a transient experience force you into dealing with long-lasting consequences that might become major problems.
Staying with Your Feelings
Instead of fleeing from discomfort, learn to stay with your feelings. This skill is especially important in managing anxiety and self-esteem issues. By remaining present with your emotions, you can uncover their root causes and work through them, ultimately fostering personal growth. And even if you can’t, because this power develops over time, you still receive benefits from staying with your feelings.
You learn you can remain present. You learn that you can watch the shifts that happen within you and that they change. You can choose to act when your mind is not crushed by what you feel. Taking action when you can feel and think at the same time is where you find your wisdom.
Breathing Through Your Feelings
Breathing techniques offer valuable support during emotional turmoil. Deep, intentional breaths can help you stay present and prevent feelings from becoming overwhelming. When anxiety or self-esteem issues loom large, remember to breathe through the storm.
Trusting Yourself and Your Feelings
Trust serves as the foundation of self-acceptance and emotional growth. Begin by trusting yourself and your feelings. Your emotions are genuine and valid, representing an integral part of your journey. Believe in your ability to navigate your inner world and emerge stronger.
Journaling and Discussing with Your Psychotherapist What You Experienced, Including New Perspectives
Journaling is a powerful tool for self-reflection. It can help you make sense of your emotions, identify patterns, and gain fresh insights. For intelligent, well-educated women grappling with anxiety and self-esteem issues, discussing these journal entries with a psychotherapist can provide invaluable guidance and perspective.
The journey of exploring, learning, and growing through your feelings is deeply personal. It demands courage, self-compassion, and a commitment to self-improvement. By addressing common issues such as pushing feelings away, judging them, playing the victim, and blaming others, you can embark on a transformative path toward emotional well-being and a more fulfilling life.
Remember that your feelings, even anxiety and self-esteem issues, are part of your unique story, offering valuable opportunities for self-discovery and growth. By applying these techniques, you can initiate a transformative journey toward emotional well-being and a more fulfilling life.
Plus, you don’t have to suffer the consequences of taking quick action based on a fleeting feeling, no matter how intense. You can bear what you feel and let the feeling pass through you, leaving your status quo intact. You won't have a mess to clean up. You will have more understanding, more awareness, and greater resilience.
Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at