The Only One of Our 4 Emotion Action Choices That’s Healthy

Robyn Tiger, MD teaches that when an unwanted feeling arises, you have 4 action choices that can follow and only 1 of those choices is healthy!

Have you ever stopped to think about the thing that happens next immediately after you feel an unwanted feeling or emotion?

Guess what? Actually 4 different things can happen next and they are actually a choice!

I will share with you that I spent most of my earlier life doing 3 of the 4 which are very unhealthy choices. But then I learned there was so much healthier choice with #4 ( so let’s explore!)


A little semantics here…

What is the difference between a feeling and an emotion?

A feeling is the somatic experience of an emotion.

For example, you may say “I feel so angry!” but actually anger is the emotion and what you are feeling may include hot, tense, sweaty, etc. Most people use these terms interchangeably. Whether it is a feeling or an emotion, for the sake of simplicity we will just call them feelings here.


Here are the 4 things that can happen after you feel an unwanted feeling. As I go through them, think about yourself when you feel something unpleasant and what happens next for you:


#1: You may react

Reacting is behaving immediately without thinking. Not pausing and making the next move from a clear mind, but just impulsively doing. Then frequently being sorry later for what you did. For example, saying something you don’t mean in a normal voice or a raised screaming yelling voice, throwing an object, or throwing your fist.

#2: You may resist

Resisting is pushing the feeling away, shoving it way down, not feeling it. You think that you are succeeding by shutting it down but the truth is that it doesn’t really go away, causes “issues in your tissues”, and shows up even worse later on.

#3: You may avoid

Avoiding is doing something else to keep your mind occupied instead of feeling the feeling. This is a form of buffering. Examples may be throwing yourself into your work (overworking), eating too much food or junky food (overeating), drinking too much alcohol (overdrinking), pushing too hard through fitness, binging on Netflix, scrolling for hours on social media.


Now these 3 choices, reacting, resisting and avoiding, are all very unhealthy “what happens next” choices when an unwanted feeling arises. And as I mentioned earlier, these were all I knew earlier in my life…and I did all of them…mostly unknowingly…except for the avoiding/buffering one…I kinda knew when I was doing that one


So what is healthier?

That would be #4: what I learned later on in life, and that is actually allowing the feeling. Actually feeling it. When an unwanted feeling comes up and you notice you would tend to react, resist or avoid, ask yourself:

What am I really afraid of?

Why shouldn’t I just feel the feeling?


When an unwanted feeling comes up and you notice you would tend to react, resist or avoid, ask yourself: What am I really afraid of? Why shouldn’t I just feel the feeling? Click To Tweet


Recognize that the feeling really can’t hurt you.

It is just a sensation in your body that is transient.

So what if you allow yourself to feel it?

It won’t last. And not feeling it doesn’t allow you to process it and move on. It just keeps you stuck in the prison of that feeling. And who wants that? It will come back to haunt you. It doesn’t really go away unless you let it in, acknowledge it and just feel it.

Now you can pull in iRest© principles originally created for our military.

As you feel the feeling, put on a curious lens and notice how it feels in your body and where you feel it in your body.

Then invite in its opposite and feel that. Notice how its opposite feels in your body and where you feel that.

Then move gently back and forth at your own pace feeling one….and then feeling the other….back and forth a few times.

Then feel them both together…simultaneously.

Notice what happens, the feeling will usually lift. Pretty amazing!

So now it is your turn!

This is what I want you to do: the next time an undesirable feeling arises, recognize it is here and say, “Hello old friend!” Notice what your tendency may be to react, resist or avoid. And then choose #4, choose to allow yourself to just feel it and utilize the iRest principles of drawing in the opposite feeling I just described. You will feel so much better, lighter, relieved!


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