Unsticking Stuck Feelings

Category: Play Therapy

Babies have a marvelous way of releasing what they experience. They are very “in the moment” with their thoughts and feelings.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we all retained the ability to appropriately release feelings, so they don’t get stuck inside? I think so, but all too often as we mature those unmetabolized feelings do get stuck.   There are many reasons for this such as; the possibility of traumatic events, poor coping strategies, old family rules about emotional expression and a host of other reasons.  How do we know we are stuck?  How do we know we need to release feelings?  There are specific signs that point to the need for release.


  1. Somatic complaints: headaches, tummy aches, generally not feeling well.
  2. Irritability – flying off the handle at little things.
  3. Having a sense that you want to cry, but it doesn’t seem to happen.
  4. Having a façade that “everything is okay” despite clear evidence that there is a lot going on.
  5. Distractibility – having difficulty focusing on task completion – particularly when it is associated with the event or thoughts that are difficult to discuss.
  6. Moodiness – switching between anxiety and depression.

Theses symptoms are often experienced by friends and families as being out of character for you and can be hard for them to manage.  They may feel confused and irritated with your irritability or moodiness.  In children and teens, it starts to impact socialization and academic performance.


  1. Verbally processing thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or family member is a great way to release feelings.  Sometimes you may need to consult a therapist to deepen the process and gain further release.
  2. Get physical – for many pushing their bodies through physical exertion allows the feelings to come up naturally.  Going for a run, using a punching bag, trying to rip a phone book in half are ways to release pent up energy in the body that allows for emotions to be released.
  3. Mindfulness Practice – using yoga, meditation, and guided imagery can reduce stress and help you become more aware of what you are feeling in the moment.
  4. Writing – writing in journal or writing a feelings letter can not only release thoughts and feelings but it helps you gain insight into what is bothering you on many levels.
  5. Connection – choose a special person – perhaps a spouse, sibling or parent – and sit quietly together in a tranquil place, like a garden or park – allow for silence or conversation as it happens naturally to feel the connection between you and them so that it will feel safer to explore your thoughts and feelings.
  6. Be creative – draw, paint, sew, knit, sing, write poetry or music, scrapbook; these are just a few ways to be create.  In creating we are allowing the right hemisphere of the brain to be expressed thereby unsticking the stuck feelings subconsciously.

Sometimes even after practicing all these strategies we can still feel stuck, that’s when it is time to consult a therapist.   We at Treehouse Family Counseling Services offer supportive therapy for all members of the family.  We want to help you unstick the stuck feelings.  Visit our website, www.tcservices.org for our e-book on helping kids and families manage angry feelings, it’s called “The Angry Bear Workbook”  It’s a great tool to help kids, teens and their families process and understand anger.

Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NCC, RPT-S