A (not so) Simple Trick to Cutting Off Emotional Blow Ups | Justin Lioi, LCSW - Brooklyn, NY

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Emotional blow ups are when, seemingly out of nowhere, we explode. Maybe in anger, maybe in sadness, maybe in a stressful collapse–but when we investigate, the thing that activated us doesn’t seem like it should have carried that much weight. Sometimes this gets explored in anger management classes, but not always. 

If we travel back a little farther, as I often spend time doing with my clients, what we discover is that you’ve been “cooking” for a while. Something has been brewing inside you for a day, a week–maybe longer–and what seemed to be the cause of your emotional blow up is really just the final straw on the back of that weary camel.

The trick is to become more and more aware of those feelings — even the slight hint — of those feelings before you’re in emotional blow up territory.

It’s for you to know right away, in the moment, that something stings.

Here’s where the simple trick gets less simple.

Teaching Feelings to Avoid Emotional Blow Ups

Walk into any counselor’s office who works with kids and you’re bound to see a “Feelings Charts” where there are a bunch of faces with different expressions. Underneath is the name of the feeling that goes along with the expression. For some reason, these are not a standard part of the offices of counselors who work with adults.

The implication being that adults must know this already.

We don’t all know this.

A good amount of people have no idea they are having a feeling in that moment. Which makes it hard for them to express it in that moment. It becomes one more straw of “stress” that they’ll carry…and then continue on their way until that emotional blow up moment.

I address this further in my article for Unmasking Masculinity at the Good Men Project. I talk more about how after you’ve become aware of the feeling you will find that if you don’t spend so much energy trying to deny the feeling, you are less likely to have that emotional blow up. Let me know what you think of the article.


Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working in family and counseling for men for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.

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