Transforming Your PTSD Emotions

January 9, 2013 Michele Rosenthal

It may be a new year but old trauma topics continue to be relevant! I’ve written before about how important it is to move slowly in recovery. A few years ago, I worked with a client, Anna, who refused to heed this advice. When she had a small success in healing, she took that as license to go full speed ahead – and always slammed herself into a wall, had a meltdown and had to start over again.

I’m no stranger to this cycle. I, too, had to learn to take myself down a notch or two from warp speed. It makes total sense that we do this. After trauma speed can be comforting as it stops us from spending too much time in situations or uncomfortable places in our minds. Plus, the road to healing is long and frustrating, which makes you just want to get it over with fast!

Instead of recapping what it means to pace yourself in recovery, today I’m mulling over what it means to pace yourself in your emotions.

How To Make Smooth Transitions

I existed in a state of extreme darkness and depression for so long, I thought I’d never see the light of joy. It was, in fact, impossible for me to feel anything that wonderful, or so I thought. While I was correct that I couldn’t go from depression to joy in an instant, what I discovered in my PTSD recovery is that I could titrate up. That is:

I started with the hope to feel joy, then the belief, and then imagined that I could see and feel what it would be like to be joyful.

From there, I started looking for ways to access that part of myself. I settled on dance and signed myself up for some classes.

Having settled on a choice and taken an action, I began to feel a little trepidation, and then anticipation.

I went to my first class, overcame my inhibitions and had a really good time.

Next, I began to feel excitement each day for the class to come. I began to feel comfortable with my classmates, the dances and the process of learning. Having a good time and becoming comfortable turned into having fun and feeling good about myself. This opened a portal to happiness, and from there, eventually I moved into joy at the freedom dancing ultimately offered me.

The point here is to pace yourself emotionally. Have realistic expectations about your progress and your experience of the process. You don’t have to move through your emotions at warp speed. In fact, you feel them more deeply and healthily when you allow them to titrate up, slowly.

Michele is the author of Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity. Connect with her on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and her website,

APA Reference
Rosenthal, M. (2013, January 9). Transforming Your PTSD Emotions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 23 from

Author: Michele Rosenthal

January, 12 2013 at 7:51 pm

I have to say thank you for your sharing. I happen to be working through my emotions/PTSD, feeling a lot of rage. On the inside I feel so out of control and trying to keep it from showing on the outside. Unsuccessfully I might add :( Your article gave me a sense of hope....xoxoxo

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
January, 15 2013 at 7:33 pm

@Rhonda -- Go easy on yourself. We are so naturally self-critical with PTSD. The fact is, you are always doing the best you can while your emotions challenge you to do better. Check out this post for a quick and easy process that may be helpful:
Onward toward freedom!

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