Teens: How to Face Negative Emotions


Certain feelings are hard to be with! And if you’re experiencing heavy feelings frequently, it can be difficult to want to face them. Some teens might turn to drugs or drinking or other dangerous behavior to try to escape those feelings. To help you avoid resorting to harmful habits, this article will discuss how to face negative emotions, such as:

  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Despair
  • Powerlessness
  • Hatred
  • Rage
  • Unworthiness
  • Guilt
  • Overwhelm
  • Shame


Here are a few suggestions for how to face any negative emotions you may be feeling and deal with them in a healthy way.


  1. Acknowledge that you’re experiencing heavy emotions. Recognizing that you’re feeling negative emotions can be the beginning to no longer avoiding them. You might be wondering, “Well, what’s wrong with avoiding them?” The truth is that feelings that are avoided tend to return again and again. What you resist persists. The goal is to let yourself feel emotions. However, for many of us, it takes time to be ready to feel emotions fully, especially the challenging ones. But in order to begin the process of feeling emotions, you can start by recognizing that you’ve been experiencing some feelings that have been hard to face. In turn, this might help you stop avoiding those emotions, if you are.
  2. Develop a practice of emotional awareness. We have the ability to experience all sorts of feelings. This can be wonderful, especially if we tend to experience the lighter emotions, such as joy and excitement and satisfaction, more than the heavier ones. And even experiencing the heavier emotions from time to time can help us recognize when we’re feeling good and feel grateful for those happier moments. Yet, when the hard feelings appear, it’s easy to want to avoid them. To help create a balance and to let yourself feel all feelings, start recognizing what you’re feeling and when. Emotional awareness is your ability to be aware of what you’re feeling right in the moment.
  3. Help yourself feel safe when heavier emotions appear. If you can find ways to help yourself feel safe during those heavier emotions, you’re more likely to have the ability to face them. You might feel safe by having people you love around you. Or if you’re in the middle of class, you might quickly pull out a journal and write down how you’re feeling. Or if you’re walking down the street, you might stop and take a few deep breaths. The point is to use a coping tool to calm down so that you can gently feel what you’re feeling. Often, when hard-to-face feelings show up, it can also trigger fear and anxiety. If you can help yourself calm down with a few coping tools, you might feel more resilient and capable of feeling what doesn’t feel so good.
  4. Give yourself time. Know that the ability to fully face all of your emotions – positive and negative – is a process. It will take some time to be totally okay with all of your feelings. Initially, you might notice that you’re no longer using drugs and alcohol to avoid feelings. Instead, you might go to ice cream and junk food. Over time, you might not need any escape methods to avoid your feelings, and perhaps eventually you’ll notice that feelings are simply a form of energy. E-motions are energy in motion.


It can be difficult to face negative emotions, especially during the teen years. However, these suggestions will help you face those emotions without resorting harmful habits. Depending on a variety of circumstances, such as your early experiences, family of origin’s response to feelings, temperament, and your psychological well being, you might be someone who tends to experience heavier emotions more so than the lighter ones. In fact, research shows that those who tend to experience heavy emotions and who haven’t often felt happier ones tend to not have the ability to experience lighter ones consistently. They are so used to feeling anger, shame, regret, grief, and loss. For them, it takes work to feel the lighter emotions such as joy and happiness. But with time, you might experience more emotional balance. You might feel easier and lighter about experiencing an emotion such as shame, anger, or guilt. If you feel you need support with facing your feelings, don’t hesitate to contact an adult you trust. Your parents might even be able to arrange therapy sessions for you to discuss your feelings with someone you can trust.