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Coming Out Sideways

Emotions Move

We are sentient beings - that means we FEEL, we perceive and we are consciously aware of our human experience.

As we feel internally, we have an emotional experience that expresses as energy moving in and through us. Emotions move.

How does it move? How does our conscious awareness of the movement of emotion empower us to express more fully, compassionately and kindly?

In this blog, I explore:

Movement of Primary Emotions

Our primary emotions include anger, fear, sadness, disgust and enjoyment. It is what we feel first, the emotion directly connected to what we have experienced. Every human experiences each of these emotions throughout life. It is normal to experience emotion and it is normal to experience emotions in varying degrees at different times in our lives. There is nothing inherently wrong about emotions, they are simple part of our human experience.

When emotions have the opportunity to exist and move in a clear and direct way, they will peak and then recede. Primary emotions come and then they go.

When emotions have the opportunity to move in a clear and direct way, they will peak and then recede.

For example, I felt frustrated and angry the other day. Moving that energy out in a clear and direct way looked and sounded like me screaming in my car and naming what I was frustrated about. I really let it rip. In my car. With myself. I would scream and then be quiet. And then another burst would come out, followed by quiet. And then there were no more bursts. I drank some water and moved on with were I was going.

Primary emotions are tender and sensitive, but if we allow the energy to move through us, we will experience a level of release, order and internal regulation.

Clear and Direct Movement

Because primary emotions come and go, not every emotional experience needs to be addressed. The key is to notice when an emotion is really sticky and not dissipating on its own. To support yourself (or someone else) with clear and direct movement of emotion that is lingering:

  1. Give permission to safely express it as close to the moment of awareness as possible. I feel sadness and I give myself permission to express the sadness now.

  2. If it is not available to express it in that moment, acknowledge the emotion and commit to expressing it later. I feel sadness, now is not the time to express it, but I acknowledge that I feel this and will give myself time this evening to express it.

Here are some ideas for expressing emotion clearly and directly:

  • Express to the air, a tree, the ceiling, or with a safe person who is not involved directly in the situation (it is NOT time to direct emotion at someone, yourself included, or send any written expression - just saying);

  • Express through crying, laughing, clapping, stomping, screaming, writing, drawing;

  • Express "I" statements about what you feel and your personal experience of the situation. I am so sad/angry/afraid/happy. It isn't fair! When ______ I feel _____! Why is this happening!

  • Pause to check in and see what else wants to be expressed and how it wants to be expressed.

  • Continue to express until the wave of emotion recedes. Notice what is present in the physical body, mind and emotional body.

  • Once the heat of the emotion dissipates, consider what, if anything, needs to be communicated with someone else.

This practice builds self-confidence, self-trust and self-efficacy - all attributes of healthy, well-adjusted, thriving humans.


Judging Primary Emotions

With the reality that primary emotions are tender and sensitive, we have come to accept that means they are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Generally speaking, we have adopted the tendency to very quickly make experiences and emotions mean something else. These judgements can be boiled down to good/bad, right/wrong and safe/unsafe. We carry deeply engrained beliefs and reactions to tender primary emotional experiences, which give rise to a secondary emotional experience.

Movement of Secondary Emotions

Secondary emotions are emotions we experience in response to our primary emotions and what we think about what is happening; they are emotions about emotions.

For example, I may experience a wave of sadness when I go home and there is no partner there to greet me. Sadness is the primary emotion related to the situation, and it is tender.

If I roll my eyes at myself and think "I'm so pathetic," I feel the rise of shame as I make myself wrong for feeling sad. Shame is the secondary emotion.

Secondary emotions are harder to tack down, process and move in a healthy way through our systems, because they are learned responses to cover up the tenderness of our primary emotions. They are part of our human survival strategy: cover up the perceived unbearable tenderness with something that is more bearable.

{Can you see the irony in this survival strategy? Is shame really more bearable than just feeling the sadness?}


Emotion is Energy Moving

Here's the thing: Emotion is energy moving. It will move, it will come out, whether it is given a direct way out or not.

Sideways Movement

If it is not given a direct way out, emotional energy will shoot out sideways, like a beach ball that you try to push underwater. When it bursts out, it is more likely to cause harm to the person expressing it and/or to those around, in ways you can't anticipate.

Here are some examples for how emotion can come out sideways:

  • Explosion of expletives directed at a person;

  • Huffing/rolling eyes/shaking head within earshot or line of vision of a person;

  • Shutting down or storming off without explanation;

  • Blame;

  • Shame;

  • Negative self-talk;

  • Name calling;

  • etc.

When we consistently don't give ourselves permission and space to express our emotion in clear and direct ways, it may not just come out sideways, but become chronic expressions of distorted emotion. Some examples include:

  • crying that doesn't end and doesn't bring relief;

  • being constantly on guard, hyper-vigilant;

  • feeling like a raw nerve;

  • rage and acts of violence.

This kind of expression can feel like you are on a merry-go-round that keeps going and going and you can't get off.

Sideways Examples

Earlier I gave the example about when I felt frustrated and angry the other day. Had I not been able to move that energy out in a clear and direct way, it probably would have come out sideways.

Instead of really letting it rip in my car, I may have internalized the anger, pushing it way down and pretending everything is fine until I just couldn't hold it inside any more. And then, instead of screaming in the safety and privacy of my car, I may have unleashed at the store clerk who didn't know how to ring up my purchase. Instead of directly naming what I was frustrated about, I may have yelled at someone for never doing what they say they are going to do.

Bursts would likely keep coming out, but there would be no relief because they weren't connected to what I was initially experiencing. They would just keep cycling around and around, and I would feel more and more bent out of shape, angry and unconsolable.

One time, my step-daughter was really frustrated when we were leaving the house. She stormed into the garage, grabbed the door handle and pull it open. She pulled it with such fury that it ripped off! She was 10. This is an example of emotion coming out sideways.

Can you think of a time when you knew you had emotion brewing, but instead of letting it out in a direct and clear way, it came out sideways?

The Bottom Line

We are sentient beings - we FEEL, we perceive and we are consciously aware of our human experience. As we feel internally, we have an emotional experience that expresses as energy moving in and through us. Our emotional experience isn't good or bad, it is just part of our human experience.

When we develop awareness of our emotions, give ourselves permission to feel them and allow them to move through us in clear and direct ways, we cultivate self-efficacy and expand our capacity as healthy, well-adjusted, thriving humans. This is the way to fully, compassionately and kindly express emotion.

With love,


P.S. If you would like some direction and support in getting to know your emotional self, learning to trust, and allowing emotions to express clearly and directly, let's chat. Schedule a Discovery Session HERE.


Rachel Sartori is an Embodiment and Wholeness Coach. She is kick-ass and heart-centered whether she is showing up as a workshop/retreat facilitator, a private coach, a writer or a speaker. Rachel invites you to exercise your soul, and participate in the healing of your own heart and the world around you. With Rachel, all is welcome, all the time.

Read: Exercise Your Soul: Ignite Healing and Wholeness in your Life and Live from the Inside Out

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Join Rachel for the The Flight of Your Life, an empowering and transformational 2-day retreat.

October 7 + 8, 2022 in Scottsdale, AZ.

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