Personifying Emotions

5 mins read

I’ve come across a coping skill that resonates with clients and myself. It has unlocked a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of our inherent emotional fluctuation. The skill is to personify our emotions.

Personifying your emotions means taking particular emotions and giving them human characteristics. A lot of really powerful processing can come from engaging in this practice.

Choose a particular emotion to lean into. You can lean into one you enjoy feeling or maybe an emotion you’ve been struggling to understand and accept lately.

What does your emotion look like? Is it you?  Is it you currently or is it you at a younger/older age?  Is the emotion someone else? If it is someone else, why do you think that emotion is them? What facial expressions does your emotion have? What is the demeanor of your emotion?  How is your emotion acting?

Does anything in particular surprise you about your emotion? How do you feel seeing your emotion in this way? 

After personifying your emotion, maybe take some time to interact with it.

How do you feel interacting with your emotion this way? Are you able to sit with your emotions and talk with them?  How does your emotion interact with you? 

Does anything in particular surprise you about interacting with your emotion?

Through engaging with this practice I’ve found that I can much more easily lean into acceptance of my emotional experience. No longer am I interacting with an abstract, intangible thing. But, I’m dealing with a person. And, along with acceptance, I have much more empathy for that particular emotion.

I’ll give you some insight into a recent personal experience to help give more context for implementing this. I’m continuing to work through better management of my anxiety and went through this very exercise recently. 

Leading up to this practice, I’ve had a lot of anger toward my anxiety. I feel defeated when I start to realize it’s onsetting and angry that I am experiencing it as much as I have been lately. Much to my surprise, my anxiety, which was me at my same age, looked utterly exhausted, frantic and scared. She had bags under her eyes, her hair was disheveled and she appeared to have not had any rest in quite some time. I have never taken the time to think that my anxiety is equally exhausted as it makes me feel, which immediately intrigued me and calmed my anger towards it. 

It took a while for my anxiety to calm down enough to be willing to interact with me. And when it did, I just hugged my anxiety. At that point, my anxiety began to cry and shifted to a much younger version of myself. It dropped down to the age in which it is likely my anxiety really took root and became a formative personality trait of mine. And we stayed like that for a while, my current self, holding and hugging my younger self, that was personifying my anxiety. 

Since this interaction, I’ve been able to continue interacting with my anxiety in this manner more consistently. She’s a little less frantic each time and my compassion and desire to befriend my anxiety, instead of fighting it and being angry at it, has grown with each interaction. 

There are a lot of different directions personifying emotions can go. Maybe you’ll realize your anger is much smaller than you initially felt it was, and maybe that anger is full of fear. Or perhaps your anxiety is also equally as exhausted as it makes you feel. Maybe your sadness just wants a conversation with you and it will no longer feel so all-consuming. 

So, which emotion do you feel like getting to know better today?


Kylie Larson, MA, LPC

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Outside of the therapy room, Kylie enjoys spending time with her family, exploring the world through the eyes of her son, adventuring with her husband, running around with her dogs, cheering on our Kansas City teams, gardening, being active, reading and exploring new recipes.

Professional Background
Bachelors in Elementary Education from Kansas State University, 2015
Master of Arts in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University, 2020

Kansas Counseling Association
American Counseling Association

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