Waves of Emotion


A lot of people find their way to therapy when they are feeling overwhelmed. Some people experience panic attacks or mood swings, irritability, challenges in relationships. And, in order to start feeling better, learning to identify and manage feelings is key.

Water has long been a metaphor for feelings, so this concept isn’t entirely original.

Imagine a beach, whether it is an ocean beach or a lake beach is entirely up to you. It is a pleasant day and you are watching the waves come in. One after the other, waves crest and then roll or crash onto the beach. The water from the wave is pulled back to the lake (or ocean) and another wave comes. This motion continues.

Some of the waves are really big and some are small, but they all have a natural flow to them. Any wave that comes on to a sandy beach will not get stuck. It will flow backwards into the lake or ocean.

Now, imagine that each of the waves represents a single feeling state. Feelings come and feelings go; what causes them to grow is when we add thoughts or feelings to them. If we can begin to notice a feeling when it arises (or whenever we can notice it), then imagine that the feeling is riding on a wave, rolls onto the sand and dissipates back into the lake or ocean.

This isn’t easy. It takes practice.

When we build walls where there was once a natural beach, waves don’t have an easy path. (See picture below.) They crash into the wall and spray all over the place.

Just as when we add thoughts or feelings to an initial feeling: the initial feeling grows and becomes multiple feelings and thoughts. It sprays all over the place in the form of conflict, verbal expressions of feeling, crying, etc.


You can learn to identify feelings and feel better! Therapy can help. If you are in the Chicago area, please contact me!