How to deal with pain, depression, anger and other negative feelings


A technique to deal with “negative” emotions or Cravings.

Think about it as using “distraction” when feeling a negative feeling. It is also called centering or looking outward or healthy detachment.

The nice thing is that it can be done any time and anywhere. It occurs privately inside your own brain. It is not dissociation in the sense that you ignore your feelings but instead focusing on other stimuli to lessen the focus on the negative feeling.

There are three types of Grounding namely Mental, Physical and Soothing Grounding

Here is the process:

Sit down comfortably. Keep your eyes open. Now picture yourself sitting still and watching yourself from a short distance. Tell yourself “You are [insert your name], you are in [insert location], you are safe and everything will be okay. Imagine the negative feelings oozing out of body and forming into a cloud and slowly drifting away. Watch it leave the room or escape through the wall or out the window and drift far away. Now focus on the external world around your body.

Mental Grounding: Focus on the room you are in, look at the the colors of the wall, the ceiling, the floor. Look at the objects in the room, their color and texture. How many chairs are there? How many windows do you see. Are there anything hanging on the walls, where did these paintings come from, what did it look like when the artist took the picture? Are the lights white or yellow, picture the electricity running through the wires from outside and into the lights. Now look beyond the room, are you in a city or far from one. Is it a big city or a big piece of land. Is there a water source in the area, how about a park. Who is in the park. Watch the negative feeling flying upward and away from the city you are in.

What’s the point of this? Distraction. Like we discussed in the previous article, negative feelings are normal and they usually fade when you allow time to pass. This exercise gives you a chance to let time go by without focusing on the negative feeling.

Physical Grounding: This is exercise is well more physical, it has to do with touch, feeling and objects. Feel your feet on the ground, feel your toes in your socks, feel the inside of your shoes. Feel the positions of your legs. Feel the firmness of the chair. Feel the hand rests or the fabric on your pants. Feel the individual fibers. Now grab an object near you, maybe a pen or your phone. Again, move the object around in your hand, feel the texture and what it’s made of, the individual nooks and crannies, the little imperfections. How heavy is it? Is it warm or cold? Now tighten each muscle group, first your toes, then your calves, then the thighs, the buttocks, abs, chest, shoulders, arms, hands and so forth. Feel each muscle tighten then relax, then tighten then relax.

Soothing Grounding: This exercise involves imagining what makes you feel good or happy. Think of your favorite food, your favorite color, favorite song, favorite movie, animal, TV show, time of the day, season of the year, period of your life, location and so on. When thinking about each place, person or thing that makes you happy, remember to think of the details. What does it look like, what colors do you see, who is there, how are they dressed, what do they say, what food is there, what does it look like, smell like and taste? What makes you happy? Fight the negative feelings with happy thoughts. There has got to be truth in the Lost Boys from Peter Pan’s philosophy. Imagine good food and you will taste it, you will be happy.

Tips and tricks

Mental Grounding:

Describe the environment in detail

Play “categories” game, types of animals, cars, foods

The Alphabet Game, list an animal name starting with A, Aardvark, B, Baboon, C, Cat etc…

Describe an everyday activity in the most minute detail.

Physical Grounding:

Run cool or warm water over your hand

Carry an object in your pocket, a fidget etc

Stretch, tense muscle, relax, deep breathing

Eat a snack, discern the individual flavors, notice the texture, take the smallest bites possible

Soothing Grounding:

Kind statement


Happy place, ideal vacation

Coping statements “I can do this, I will be okay, I will get better, This feeling will pass”

Think of your next holiday and imagine it with loved ones

It doesn’t matter how long this exercise takes.

It doesn’t matter how often you have to do this.

It only matters that you start changing the way you feel and act on those feelings.

Check back next time to learn about the neurochemistry of addiction…

Good luck my friends

Information obtained from “Seeing Safety” by Lisa M. Najavits, A treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse. The Guilford Press. 2002.

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