Mindfulness: Dealing with difficult emotions

Most of us will have problems in dealing with difficult emotions at some time or other in our lives. Unpleasant emotions can be a downward spiral of physical sensations, thoughts and feelings that could be overwhelming. It would be very helpful if we were able to become fully aware of the emotions, suspend judgement and in that way shift our perceptions of the difficult emotions.


The practice of mindfulness can deal with unpleasant emotions by combining a spirit of gentleness and acceptance with a spirit of adventure and discovery. By being aware of what is in the present moment, we will only focus on the problem of the moment rather than on all the problems of next week or next year. This attitude of acceptance of what the present moment brings, is illustrated in the poem “The Guest House” by Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet (in Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn, 2007):


This human being is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival


A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor


Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honourably

He may be clearing you out

For some new delight


The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing,

And invite them in


Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.


Mindfulness leads us on the path of full awareness of the moment, coupled with elements of curiosity and self-compassion. In this way mindfulness practice can lead to a positive shift in our perceptions and change our relationship with difficult emotions.



Wllliams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z. & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The mindful way through depression. The Guilford Press: New York, NY.


For a further exploration of mindfulness make an appointment with a student counsellor