Processing Strong Emotions

All the Christmas stuff has been dug out of storage.

Thanksgiving Week was most definitely an up and down experience for me. During the downs, I learned something very useful that I’d like to pass along.

Friday night I was driving my daughter to swimming and she was falling apart – lots of tears, on the verge of hysteria, babbling about some issue (that most definitely wasn’t THE issue).

I didn’t know what to do so I listened until she paused on her own accord.

At that point, I asked… “Tell me a favorite memory of you and me.”

At first that really rattled her – her mind went straight to remembering me when I’m gone. I reassured her with “I’m right here, Sweetie. I just want one example of a nice memory of you and me.”

She said skiing and thought about it a bit more… then she said “driving me to swimming,” which was exactly what we were doing right then.

Now, that was very interesting.

You see, my view of the world is through my own experience. If I was crying on the verge of hysteria, I would be in a very different place than my daughter.

In her own way, she was sharing that it’s possible for her to be both falling apart, and happy, at the same time.

She didn’t perk up on the drive but she did settle enough to get herself into the pool. After swimming, she was as happy as I ever see her. Radiant – I made a mental note.

Kids have a wonderful ability to leave stuff behind.


I’m sharing the story so we remember there are different ways to process strong emotions.

Sometimes there is something “there” with a big emotional response – other times, like with my daughter, she was moving through a situation, in her own way, and didn’t need anything other than someone to bear witness.

Particularly with my kids, I have a desire to cure their pain.

A useful option is to ride it out together.

Bearing witness with quiet presence.