When your emotions are exploding… then what???

How often has a kid told you, “Why talk about my feelings if nothing is gonna change?” How often have we said the same thing at some point in our lives? It sometimes feel useless just to talk about emotions when what we really want is action. But there’s truth to the idea that if we don’t “discharge” emotions, the bottle of emotions might explode.

Q: How can we explain the idea of “discharging emotions” to kids?

A: I draw the “seltzer bottle” analogy. This is what I might say and draw as I’m saying it. “If I have a seltzer bottle that has a lot of yellow happiness, a lot of blue sadness, a lot of red anger, a lot of black fury, a lot of green jealous, a lot of purple worry, a lot of turquoise disappointment, a lot of maroon scared, etc. and then someone comes along, and annoys me and shakes up my seltzer bottle, what happens if I try to open the bottle now? Yes, it’s gonna spritz and explode all over!! But what if I have a little of the happiness and sadness and anger and fury and jealous and worry and disappointment, etc. so that I still have a littleof ALL those feelings, and someone comes along and annoys me and shakes up my bottle? Yeah, I might get some bubbles floating around the bottle but there’s plenty of space for all those bubbles. And what happens when I open the bottle now? Not much. I’ll hear a little sizzling in the bottle but the seltzer will stay inside. That’s what happens when we talk about our feelings. Instead of having lots of many BIG feelings that can easily explode, when we talk about our feelings, the BIG feelings become smaller so that they can stay inside the bottle. And we’re not exploding anymore.”

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