Emotions 102: Emotions that Keep Us Stuck

In the first post, we talked about six core emotions that move us towards particular actions. However, there are three other emotions that tend to keep us stuck: anxiety, shame, and guilt (Panto-Mars, 2021). These emotions inhibit our ability to really feel what core emotions are present.

Inhibitory emotions may arise because we learned very early on it was not okay to express certain emotions, such as the common sentiment that “boys don’t cry,” or because they were too overwhelming to handle alone (Hendel, 2018). As young kids, we need adults to let us know that our emotions are okay and that we are okay for having these emotions. When this doesn’t happen, inhibitory emotions block access to our core emotional states to protect us from how overwhelming they can be, and to keep us connected with others.

As an example, let’s talk about anxiety. Anxiety is different from fear, in that it is usually about something in the past or future, whereas fear is about some immediate danger in the moment. Because of this, anxiety often does not lead to solutions, but keeps us stuck.

In order to understand what is really happening for us, we have to learn to sit with and manage anxiety, giving space for the core emotion underneath to rise up (Hendel, 2018). Some common grounding techniques can be found here, and you may need help from a therapist to learn and practice managing anxiety. Once anxiety has settled, the core emotion that was blocked can be explored and understood. 

Sometimes we do things to move away from the discomfort of anxiety, shame, and guilt. Unfortunately, these take us further away from experiencing our core emotions and knowing what they want for us. In the next post, I’ll talk about common defenses we use to avoid emotional discomfort.


Hendel, H. J. (2018). It’s not always depression: Working the Change Triangle to listen to the body, discover core emotions, and connect to your authentic self.  Random House.

Pando-Mars, K. (2021). Using AEDP’s representational schemas to orient the therapist’s attunement and engagement. In Undoing aloneness & the transformation of suffering into flourishing: AEDP 2.0. (pp. 159–186). American Psychological Association. https://doi-org.twu.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/0000232-007

Thank you to Danny for writing this blog post! If you are curious about exploring your emotions, consider booking a session with Danny (or any of our other counsellors).

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor

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