Giving all our Emotions a Seat at the Table (not just the pretty ones)

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

I was walking home from school this morning and I was thinking about a relationship that I think has permanently ended.  It made me feel super sad.  I don’t remember exactly what I said to myself – but essentially I shut down giving myself space to feel sadness, disappointment and frustration.

My default setting is to try to talk myself out of my emotions, at least the negative ones and if I’m honest, sometimes the positive ones as well.  Not sure if this is programming from childhood or part of my DNA (I’m a one on the Enneagram and sitting right next to the nine – I have to admit that I thrive when there is harmony) or maybe it’s something else.  But it’s there and active and alive and something I have to continually be aware of.

When the negative emotions start to surface – I hear – “you shouldn’t feel this way” or “be grateful for what you do have” or “you really just need to move on”.

As I rounded the bend and headed down my street – I realized that I needed to give the sadness, the frustration, the disappointment a seat at my tableEach one of these emotions deserves space to breathe, space to have a voice, space to be heard and seen.

I’ve been using this metaphor recently and when I am feeling overwhelmed, I will literally walk out to my dining table and sit at the head of the table. (I know, I’m weird.)  I will then look at the empty chairs around the table and acknowledge that there are emotions and feelings that I am experiencing that all deserve a space.

Sadness – you sit here.  Frustration – come on over.  Disappointment – I see you – sit there.

At this point – it’s less about solving the overwhelm and more about acknowledging the overwhelm and experiencing it in order to work through it.

And this is the harder work – to acknowledge the emotions and feelings and sit with them versus to shush them and push them away  Pushing them away leads to isolation, loneliness, despair, stress.  Acknowledging them leads to connection, clarity, authenticity.

Depending on where you are at in this journey of betrayal – your table might be a 6-seater.  Or – if you are like me in the early days – I was looking at a banquet sized table – many many emotions and thus many many chairs.

Own your table and make space for those emotions!


So I gave the emotions this morning a seat at the table.  I saw my disappointment.  And then I explored it.  I heard my frustration.  And then I looked at what about the situation was causing me to feel frustrated.  I felt my sadness.  And acknowledged the reasons within that were causing the sadness to bubble up.

Fast forward to this afternoon – nothing has changed in the relationship.  Nothing has been solved.  But I feel more whole versus segmented.  Seeing and hearing the emotions has allowed me to be more deeply connected to myself.  I feel authentic and can breathe.


I’d love for you to try this exercise next time you sense that there are some heavy emotions bubbling up.  Give them ALL a seat at your table.  See them, hear them, give them space to breathe.

Then explore the emotions.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

What is causing this emotion to rise up?

What about this emotion scares me?

What would be the benefit of seeing and hearing the emotion and not doing anything else about it?

And for those of us that are ready to fix:  what does this emotion say about a next step I need to take in my journey?

While it’s true our emotions shouldn’t always be the predictor for the next decision we make – our emotions are there for a reason.  They are God-given, apart of our heart and soul.  As Proverbs 4:23 says –

Above all else, guard your heart.  For everything we do flows from it.

Let’s remember this as we go about our days.  Let’s honor and guard our hearts as we acknowledge what we are feeling, give the emotions a seat at the table and allow them to be seen and heard.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here


8 thoughts on “Giving all our Emotions a Seat at the Table (not just the pretty ones)

  1. Denise Caldwell

    March 12, 2020  |  05:06 pm

    Set those plates at the table, and give ‘em a name
    Then assign a color to illustrate the feeling or the pain:
    Disappointment could be orange, Depression could be black,
    Sadness can be blue, the happiness you lack.

    Skepticism could be yellow, Frustration could be green,
    (Is this color assignment the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen)?
    Resentment… well…that one defies any color
    It’s a feeling much more toxic than any other…

    Anger, that volatile hot flash of red
    Now is it time to put these feelings to bed?
    Gather those colored plates up; they’re messing with your wits
    Then smash them one by one into tiny little bits!

    No more plates on the table, just shards of glass
    Well, maybe I didn’t act like a woman of class…
    But dang I feel good; I put those moods in their places
    My kitchen’s a mess, but now I can get back to the races!

    Ok, I know it’s better to set those plates at the table and make room for them, dealing with each
    one…but I kinda had fun writing this “poem”!

    • Shelley Martinkus

      March 12, 2020  |  08:06 pm

      I looooooove this Denise!!! I’ve known you were a writer at heart – this is just more confirmation of it. xoxo

  2. Tracy Binder

    March 13, 2020  |  10:43 am

    Shelley, I love this analogy. It is crucial and absolutely necessary to allow ourselves to feel all of them. We have a God that made us in his image. He feels all those emotions too. What a great exercise for us and a tool for to use with our kids too. Thank you for your heart.

  3. K

    March 13, 2020  |  12:46 pm


    I cannot thank you enough for this post. I am right there. I am sitting at the table looking at each one. And I wanted to push them away and live in harmony, fix and keep all happy. ( yes, I am a harmonizer too :/). Thank you for sharing and helping me to remember what’s most important about our emotions. I have done a lot of recovery/grief and emotion work for sure but in the day to day — it’s easy to slip into the sadness of loss and the emotional areas that we need to hold space for ourselves. Praising the Lord for this ministry. God Bless you dear friend. K

  4. muchalone

    March 15, 2020  |  06:30 pm

    Oh, so needed this right now! Lack of privacy will not have me sitting at my table, but I might be able to use the color thing…maybe in the bathroom? Thank you for sharing this idea!

  5. Erin

    March 15, 2020  |  09:07 pm

    Great metaphor, Shelley! Thank you. “White knuckling” it through hard emotions hasn’t really served me well…ever. Sure, things may look fine on the surface, but instead of giving my emotions a seat at the table, I just shoved them down again and again. What’s the expression…”Feelings buried alive don’t die”. Your approach is so much healthier. Somtimes it’s scary for me, as a recovering “white knuckler”, to acknowledge powerful emotions and give them that seat, but it’s a better way. Blessings!

  6. Michelle Johnson

    March 16, 2020  |  01:56 pm

    It was this time 5 years ago the we had our “Discovery” phase as I call it. God was gracious to not let it all dump on me at once. He revealed the depth of the Betrayals to me in pieces because He knew that is the best way I could process it all.

    So, with that said, we are in a really good place. I never thought I would say that. Is it “Glorious” or “Overwhelmingly” beautiful? No not really. As in the full “Serenity Prayer” we are “reasonably happy”. It was hard to accept that as the new norm when we are promised in society the Happily Ever After. Even many recovery books promise more than they should.

    I have joined many different facebook pages regarding praying over marriages. I want to give back, to help these other people. I just kind of wish that we could let people in on the reality that is actually promised and what we can really expect. As with any addiction it is lifelong. If you choose to stay in the marriage recovery and restoration are a lifelong journey as well.

    I remember feeling a little bitter about that part of it. I wanted to be done and move on. However, it is not like that. We have healed in a lot of ways but there are the rare triggers that surface like this anniversary month of the garbage. We talked it through and I know it is hard on my husband but I make him listen. He is not comfortable and I know it triggers his guilt and shame so we have to work through all that, too. I have learned to not hold in my feelings, I let them sit at the table when needed.

    It is my story now. I am trying to figure out how I too can make beauty from ashes and help others. I pray over all these people struggling on these other facebook pages. It breaks my heart and I really want to help now that I am in a better place.

    I know when the time is right, God will show me what he needs from me.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      March 29, 2020  |  01:28 pm

      Wow Michelle – I so love your trust in God, your honest perspective and your willingness to wait for Him to show you how to help.

      I agree with you – it’s not CareBears and rainbows all day every day on the other side of all of this. There is still pain, there are still tears. I think the difference today is being able to experience the fullness of life – yes the tears and pain but also the joy and peace.

      Thanks for sharing your voice here! xo – Shelley

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