Emotional acceptance exercise / method

This is an exercise to be carried out in pairs, with one person revisiting a past emotional state while the other person helps them by providing support, kindness and encouragement in a role similar to that of a therapist. They can then switch places so that both people get to process a different emotional memory.

How it works

Here are some instructions for what the person playing the supportive role might say:

  1. “I would like you to go back to a situation that brought up a strong emotion for you. You can start by closing your eyes and gradually visualising what happened… Try to picture who was involved and any words or looks that were exchanged”
  2. “Now I would like you to focus on what you were feeling while this was happening… can you describe what emotions came up?“
  3. “What are you feeling now as you think about the event and where in your body are you feeling it?”
  4. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is the feeling?”
  5. “That’s wonderful. I’d like you to stay with this feeling, just sit with it and allow yourself to really experience it.
  6. [If the feeling is one of very strong sadness:] “If you feel like crying there’s no need to hold back, it’s good to let it all out”
  7. “What sensations are you feeling right now and where in your body are you feeling them?”
  8. “You’re doing really well. Now I would like you to focus on breathing deeply and just feeling those same emotions as much as possible”
  9. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is the feeling now?”

The main rules

  1. Remember that the only aim of the exercise is to help someone feel their emotions as fully as possible. People may naturally express thoughts as they go along and then it’s good to say something encouraging which helps shift their focus back to how they are feeling, such as “That’s great, you’re doing really well. Can I ask you to describe how you are feeling right now?”
  2. The most important goal for the person playing the supportive role of the therapist is to listen and then respond in a way that is gentle, encouraging and above all accepting of whatever the other person feels so that they can express, accept and feel it