One way of thinking about our emotions is to think of them like the ocean.
If you imagine the sea, you might picture it as flat, calm and blue, or as crashing surf, or small rocking waves.
Just as the ocean can change, so can our emotions. With the ocean, it is the weather that might cause changes—high winds or still, sunny days can make a difference to how the waves react. In our lives, things that may affect our emotions can be problems with friends or family, stress about school or things that happen in our environment and around us that may affect our emotions.
Sometimes you can see a storm brewing that might whip the waves up, other times the change may happen with little warning. But what we know for certain, about the sea and about our emotions, is they chop and change.
So, like waves, our emotions may at one moment be calm and serene, and at another rocky and angry. We might float along on a happy emotion, or be swept away by anger, we might experience small emotional ups and downs, or a big wave of sadness and hopelessness might dump us.
We can let our emotions push us around and move us along—or we can learn how to harness our emotions. We can learn how to float with our feelings, letting them wash over us, or how to surf the big feelings, not letting them crash over us, but taking control, and riding the wave!
Therapy can help us learn how to ride the waves of emotion—not to be swept away by them, but to recognize the weather changes (emotional warning signs), go with the flow, and deal with getting dumped by a wave. Once you know how to ride the waves, you should have the skills to surf any breaker that comes your way.
Observe your Feeling
Experience your Feeling
As a wave coming and going
Try not to block the feeling
Do not try to get rid of it
Do not try to push it away
Do not try to hold on to it
Do not try to make the feeling bigger
Remember, you are not the feeling
You do not need to act on it
Remember times when you have felt differently
Become more comfortable with your feeling
Do not judge it
Radically accept it as part of you
Name your feeling
Invite it home for dinner and just sit with it
Excerpt from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills group booklet developed in conjunction with the Prince of Wales Hospital – Adolescent Service