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How to overcome emotional barriers

Updated February 21, 2017

Emotional barriers can occur at unsuspected times in any every area of life. Professional athletes run into emotional barriers that affect their performance. Professional salesman often encounter an emotional barrier on their way toward higher productivity and sales goals. Like an unexpected criminal hiding in a dark alley, emotional barriers leap out and attack a person's emotional well being unexpectedly.

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  1. Find a professional counsellor, minister or friend to discuss recent feelings and events. Emotional barriers are rarely overcome alone, and are disempowered through conversations with a trusted confidant.

  2. Find an individual with whom you can build a long-term relationship that includes trust and confidentiality. Emotional barriers are rarely related to surface issues. They are most often connected to personal events, memories or experiences buried deeply in the person's past. An ongoing relationship with a trusted individual can help navigate the conversation toward emotionally buried memories.

  3. Spend time regularly with this individual over months. Allow your counsellor to get to know you deeply, and allow yourself to lower any emotional defences.

  4. Spend time with your journal investigating current thoughts and feelings. When feeling heavy emotional resistance, journaling can act as a third-party companion or a trusted friend. Journaling can be an integral part of the emotional healing process.

  5. New York psychologist Barbara Sher recommends that individuals facing emotional resistance select a short and focused period to directly confront their conflict.

  6. Acknowledge the validity of feelings and fears when experiencing emotional resistance. The first step to changing personal behaviour is to acknowledge the feelings that are associated with the avoided behaviour.

  7. Choose a specific time and duration to do exactly what the emotional resistance seeks to prohibit. For example, if a person is afraid of cats, rather than buying a cat for permanent pet, Sher recommends the person find a cat and spend five minutes in the same room with it.

  8. Take time to recover emotionally from the stressful experience. An individual who directly faces his fear learns two things: First, he did not die from the experience; second, the fear will not defeat him, and therefore, he can engage in the emotionally difficult experience again.

  9. Repeat the process, choosing slightly longer times and slightly more engaged interaction with the source of emotional barrier after experiencing small victories. Some emotional barriers are grounded in baseless fears. Others are connected to past painful memories that can no longer hurt us. By intentionally doing the opposite of what an emotional barrier seeks to prevent, the person will slowly internalise confidence that the emotional barrier isn't real, and shouldn't be allowed to control his behaviour any longer.

  10. Tip

    Overcoming emotional barriers is rarely a simple process --- a successful journey over and through emotional barriers often takes time and patience. When experiencing emotional barriers, give yourself permission to admit the difficulty and seek the help that may be needed.

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Things You'll Need

  • A counsellor
  • A good friend
  • A journal
  • A pastor or minister

About the Author

Since 2003, Timothy Burns' writing has appeared in magazines, management and leadership papers. He has contributed to nationally published books and he leads the Word Weavers of West Michigan writers' group. Burns wrote "Forged in the Fire" in 2004, and has published numerous articles online. As a trained conference speaker, Burns speaks nationally on the art, science and inspiration of freelance writing.

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