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Sitting with Negative Emotions

Meet Jackie Cole, one of the exceptional psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP) at Aspire Psychology. Our PMHNPs, like Jackie, are specialized psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners who work with individuals to assess their mental health needs. While they have different credentials than a doctor of psychology, PMHNPs are able to assess and determine accurate diagnoses, collaborate with you on a plan for your care, establish a treatment approach, and continue to evaluate it for effectiveness. According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, “they’re able to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with psychiatric disorders or the potential for such disorders using their full scope of therapeutic skills, including the prescription of medication and administration of psychotherapy.”

“I enjoy working with adults, and I aim to balance medication management with psychotherapy when treating patients. You will find me to be compassionate and attentive.”

“I love living in Portland. When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling, exploring the city and finding new and exciting restaurants.”

“I am a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Prior to obtaining my master’s degree, I worked for 13 years as a registered nurse specializing in cancer care. After earning my master’s degree in 2015, I spent two years working with underserved mental health populations.”

When patient’s talk about Jackie, they say she’s empathic, understanding, and compassionate. At Aspire, we are all committed to providing each and every patient with an empathic ear, an understanding mind, and a compassionate heart. We’re not robots, and we don’t treat patients like numbers. We value and respect you as an individual. As Jackie puts it, “We are real people here to help the real you, to establish healthy collaboration from one human to another.” 

“Jackie is really kind and patient with me, and she truly seems open to hearing my thoughts and helping me.” -Aspire Psychology Patient

“Jackie is a great mental healthcare provider. She is knowledgeable, compassionate, and easy to talk to. I appreciate that she takes my concerns seriously in regards to my medication and management when it comes to my overall health.” -Aspire Psychology Patient

We asked Jackie to take us through an example of an exercise a patient might experience in working with one of our PMHNPs. When you see any provider at Aspire Psychology, you’re being invited into an environment of safety and growth – the perfect place to try new tools to help you cope with your life and emotions. “Part of building and maintaining good mental hygiene and wellness is learning to practice processing negative emotions as they come up, rather than letting them build and cause more suffering than is necessary,” says Jackie. “While it’s a hard thing to acknowledge them in the moment, processing these difficult emotions as they arise will help keep them at bay, and keep them from staying. Suffering can be described as pain times resistance.”

Rather than ignoring or pushing away negative emotions, Jackie recommends you “let the emotions move through you, working on observing them like you’re exercising a muscle. Daily practice will help increase self confidence in how you deal with emotions, rather than looking for external sources, distractions, and coping mechanisms.” Once again, the more you distract, the longer negative emotions tend to stick around. Reteach your mind to acknowledge emotions in this new way so they can be less of a burden to you. 

So how does one sit with their emotions? What does that look like? Thankfully Jackie has put together a 6-step guide for emotional observation to help nudge you in the right direction! Sit yourself down in a calming, comfortable space and focus on the following:

  1. Sit and watch your emotions in a non judgemental way

Remember you are not your emotions, but rather an observer of them. They are temporary and they will pass.

  1. Label your emotion – give it a name

Acknowledge the emotion and find a way to name it into existence.  Give it a label that helps you hold yourself in the moment with that feeling.

  1. Apply imagery as you watch your emotions pass by

Some people like to envision a wave or a cloud passing by or through them, or leaves floating in a stream as the water and the moment flows softly by.

  1. Let yourself be in the moment

Focus on the present moment as you sit with your labeled emotion.  Rather than getting lost in what ifs and what could be, live in the now with your emotion exactly as it is.

  1. Expect emotions to reappear

It’s normal for emotions to float by and then reappear – it doesn’t mean you’ve failed the exercise.  See it as an opportunity to practice sitting with the emotion again and watch it get easier with time.

  1. Congratulate yourself – you did it!

Acknowledge that this type of emotional observation is hard work.  Keep your sights on the moment and trust that watching them will get easier with time. 

If you took a moment to try the exercise, then congratulations! This is tough work and can take practice, so keep at it. Give yourself patience and grace as you navigate this new tool you can use in and outside of your therapy visits at Aspire. 

Why should you choose Aspire Psychology for your therapy and medication management needs? According to Jackie, “Psychiatry and psychology are so individual and there is no one size to fit all people, so we avoid a one size fits all approach. At Aspire our care is as comprehensive and inclusive as possible, and we strive to meet people where they’re at. We can relate to your experiences, especially with this particular task of emotional observation. We all need to sit with negative emotions at times.” Jackie and our other providers hold the space for you to process these things in a safe growth environment, and help give you tools to use outside of therapy as well. We know the work is ongoing, and we want you to know your support through Aspire is ongoing as well. We’re here for you each step of the way! 

Not a patient at Aspire yet? Start the journey to becoming a new patient today. Schedule with Jackie or another Aspire mental health provider for your specific needs. We’re here and ready to help. 


American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)  

How to sit with painful emotions

6 steps to mindfully deal with difficult emotions

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