Journaling Exercise What are the Playoffs of My Unpleasant EmotionsWhat are the Payoffs of My Unpleasant Emotions?

When asked about letting go of unpleasant emotions, our first reaction is most often, yes, please! Yet these emotions persist. On the other hand, we may hold on to unpleasant emotions because we feel justified in feeling that way, such as holding onto anger towards a partner. Many of us feel ambivalent about truly letting go of unpleasant emotions. On the one hand, they create pain. On the other hand, they have payoffs, or benefit us emotionally. Yet, they all come with costs. Knowing the pain, costs and benefits of our emotions is important. It explains why we hold onto things that hurt us and keep us stuck.

Recognizing the payoffs of unpleasant emotions can help you identify why you might be holding onto negative emotions. From there, you can create alternative and healthier strategies for meeting your needs.

Here are some examples of pain, costs and payoffs of keeping certain emotions alive. Identify the ones you are familiar with. If there are persistent unpleasant emotions you struggle with see if you can identify the pain it creates for you, the cost of keeping it alive, and the payoff. Your therapist may be able to assist you with this exercise.

Pain = the pain or suffering caused by holding onto particular emotions. What it does to you.

Cost = what you give up to keep the emotion alive. The price you pay for holding onto certain emotions.

Benefit = The payoff or advantage in keeping certain emotions alive. This may be a conscious or unconscious benefit.


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*Journaling exercises written by Cort Curtis, Ph.D, used with permission.