How to transform difficult feelings into powerful insights

All of us occasionally struggle with negative or overwhelming emotional reactions.  But few of us have been taught to handle difficult feelings effectively. In this episode, Dr. Bethy Campbell returns to the Change Academy to share techniques for working with our most challenging emotions–enabling us to handle stressful situations with greater resilience and to access healthier emotional responses. 

Dr. Bethy Campbell is a clinical psychologist, a marriage and family therapist, with special expertise and certification in career development counseling.  During her academic career, she also pioneered a curriculum on Helping Skills, a process that people who are not trained therapists can safely use to support others (or help themselves) when dealing with psychologically or emotionally challenging situations.

Key Takeaways

  • Our emotions can be a powerful source of information, but we need to learn how to recognize and interpret the signals they are sending. 
  • Although our feelings are neither good or bad, the way we express those emotions may be healthy or unhealthy. 
  • Our primary emotional responses may be buried under several layers of secondary emotions that need to be explored first.
  • Simply labeling and rating the intensity of our emotions is often enough to dissipate their intensity.
  • The goal is not to eliminate emotions but to foster a healthier relationship with them, leading to improved self-understanding and emotional well-being.

Lab Experiment

(adapted from Helping Skills Training for Nonprofessional Counselors)

Consider how primary and secondary emotions and emotional signals apply to your own life. 

  1. Can you think of a time when secondary emotions clouded your awareness and expression of your primary emotions? Write down your recollections of that time, highlighting primary and secondary emotions.
  2. What do you believe your emotions were signaling and motivating you to do?
  3. How might talking (or writing?) about these feelings help you access primary emotions and adaptive signals?


Ep. #107: Designing your future: How to make a successful career or life pivot

Helping Skills Training for Nonprofessional Counselors by Elizabeth L. Campbell, PhD

Feelings Wheel