From the Docs

The Emotional Hostage-Taker/Negotiator

Imagine what it may be like to be held hostage. Visualize wondering when you will be able to escape and constantly seeking an opportunity to experience freedom. Imagine not knowing when you will be released and if you will survive. Now, switch roles and imagine being the hostage-taker. What effort would it take to ensure that the hostage does not escape? What are the worries that you would have?

You may be wondering how this relates to how we “deal with” emotions, so let’s get into that. Emotions are experienced for various reasons, and there are countless different emotions we face. Also, the same emotion may be experienced differently by different people as we learn to relate to emotions from various sociological factors including expectations expressed by family, gender, culture and work, to name a few.

What messages were you given about which emotions are acceptable? What about those that are not?

It is not likely that “unacceptable” emotions will not come up at some point, so what do we do with these emotions? Do you push them away? What do you do to avoid “dealing” with them? Look at the wheel of uncomfortable emotions (retrieved from BetterUp,, on June 13). Take some time to identify how you relate to them. As you do this, do not judge yourself and just notice the response. Pretend you are a detective of emotions and inquiring to better understand the role of the emotion and how the relationship with the emotion is affecting your behavior.

Working in law enforcement may have an influence on how you relate to emotions. What emotions are acceptable in the law enforcement culture? (Take a moment to answer that question.) Because we see some emotions as unacceptable, we tend to hold certain emotions hostage. Take a moment to acknowledge those emotions/sensations. What are they? What caused them? How do they physically make your body feel? Pushing them away can cause further complications, so it is important to find ways to cope with emotions that we tend to hold hostage.

Negative coping with kidnapped emotions may be manifested by abusing drugs or other addictive behaviors, physiological discomfort and relationship problems, to name a few. After all, these are good (although problematic) strategies to avoid having to deal with the nagging hostages, right?

In order to manage these emotions in a healthy way, it is important to be able to tolerate them. This does not mean we have to like them, but we must sit with them and try to understand them. It is this action that allows us to release the hostages so they can go on with their life. Otherwise, they will fester and continue to cause problems because emotions do not like being kidnapped. Who would, right?

Think of a time when you had to meet up with an annoying person. Maybe you hesitated in setting up the meeting, but in the end, you scheduled meeting for coffee and tolerated the interaction. You were likely able to do this because you understood it was temporary, and once the conversation was had, the annoying person would be on their way. It is important to understand that emotions are temporary, too, and that they will come and go fairly quickly as long as we do not get in their way. It is when we hold them hostage that we may encounter challenges.

You deserve to live well! If you have questions or would like to learn more about managing emotions, contact Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 for support. You can call for a consultation or to make a confidential appointment. To obtain additional information, you may visit our intranet site at