The Most Undermet Emotional Needs

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For years I often heard people say that you have to go through grief and pain, you can’t go around it, you can’t go above it, you have to go through it. For years I didn’t understand what that meant. We live in an incredibly emotionally avoidant culture which then leads to chronic mental emotional health struggles, high addiction and disconnection from self and others among other symptoms. 

In order to move through grief or pain a person must create a safe space for emotions to build. Like a wave on a beach, emotions need to be able to build and crash safely on the shore before they can recede out and become calm again. Instead of allowing the natural flow, we often dam up the water as high as we can to keep it from crashing, but then when it inevitably breaks the dam, and the lifetime of suppressed emotions can come cascading and flooding out.

So how do you create a safe space to process emotions for yourself and others? How do you become aware of what your patterns even are? How do you even grow conscious awareness of how you’re treating your emotions? Below is a list below of responses to emotions that typically cause emotions to be suppressed and later a pathway of what to do instead.

So, what “not to do”... when you feel sad, mad, scared, lonely etc., it’s actually unhelpful to do the following to yourself, or others, the following responses lead to suppression, aka “stuffing” emotions instead of them feeling safe to come out, your emotions will “turtle”, or go into hiding and not receive the healing, comfort and compassion they need:












Unsolicited Problem Solving

Unsolicited Advice or "Fixing"

Abused (Physical, Emotional, Sexual, Verbal etc.)


All of the examples above typically lead to increased bodily tension, disconnection from yourself and others, and emotions being stuck inside. So instead, what “to do:” try utilizing the comfort pathway below, to work through emotions in safety. Your body and heart will probably be conflicted as you likely have not received this a lot in your life, but try it and see if your heart and your body find a sense of calm and relaxation afterward. Comfort and compassion are the healing balm for difficult emotions, and they are the most undermet human need of our time. 

Attunement “You seem… (tense, sad, scared…)”

Validation “That makes sense you feel that way…”

Compassion “I’m sorry” or “That’s really hard…”

Comfort “A hug when possible from a safe person, or allowing emotion out in the safety of comfort and compassion for yourself until your body calms. 

So the next time sorrow or fear walk through the door of your heart, instead of kicking them out, notice them, and get curious and compassionate about why they are there and what they need. Instead of booting them out as unwanted guests, they’re there to tell you something and they’re worth listening to.

~ Kimberly Bytwerk, MA, LPC, ESMHL