How to Process Emotions (The 4A Process)

Emotions are simply ‘energy in motion’. They are like passing clouds; they only need to be felt and they will eventually pass away. Depending on how we were socialized around dealing with emotions, we can have healthy or unhealthy ways of processing and expressing them. Avoiding, suppressing, evading emotions or having emotional outbursts or even emotional numbness are some signs of unhealthy patterns around emotions. When a person has a healthy approach to dealing with emotions, they experience challenging emotions like everyone else, but are able to remain stable
and move through their emotions steadily.

There’s a four step process created by Tarurî Gatere, known as the 4 A Process that provides assistance in dealing with challenging emotions. 

  1. Acknowledge: 

The first step is to, without judgement, criticism and as little resistance as possible, acknowledge exactly what you’re feeling. The best way to do this is to focus on the physical or physiological aspects of your emotions; how does it feel in your body?
Simply observe and acknowledge to yourself what you feel. For example, “my heart is racing” or “I feel tension in my shoulders” or, “I feel hollow in my chest”. Do your best to stay away from the narrative surrounding your emotions as that could trap you in a loop of mental patterns and beliefs. Focus simply on how the ‘energy in motion’ is showing up within you.


  1. Accept: “Whatever you resist, persists.”- Conversations with God.

The reason why many of us have so much unresolved emotion is because we are unable to accept what we are feeling. Have you ever found yourself constantly reaching for distractions? Have you ever found yourself unable to stop scrolling through social media, or unable to stop watching series or videos? Have you ever found it very uncomfortable to sit in silence with yourself? Sometimes the scariest thing is being with yourself, without anything to distract you. Acceptance, without trying to change anything about how we are feeling is the next step in processing our emotions. Take time every single day to sit with yourself. Acknowledge what you are feeling as discussed in the last post and then simply add, “…and I accept that.”

“I feel sad…and I accept that.”

“My tummy is in knots…and I accept that.”

“I feel uncomfortable sitting in silence… and I accept that.”


  1. Awareness

Let’s do a little exercise. As you are reading this, start to bring attention to your breathing. Notice your chest rising and falling. Notice the air being pulled in through your nostrils as you inhale and pushed out as you exhale. Next start to notice your thoughts; what are you thinking about. Just notice them without judgement. Notice the feelings and sensations in your body.

There is an awareness in all of us. There is a part of us that is a still, silent witness. If you are doubtful of this, ask yourself, who was watching your thoughts and feelings right now? If you are able to watch yourself, then there is a part of you that is separate from your thoughts and emotions. There have been many names given to this part of us; our spirit, our awareness, our inner witness, the labels themselves do not matter. The importance of this aspect is that it holds space for the rising and passing away of our mental patterns and emotional states, like the backdrop against which they play.

After you acknowledge, then accept what you are feeling, step back and watch the emotions as that awareness that exists within you, in the same way that you watched your breathing and your thoughts just a few moments ago.


  1. Allow

The final step in the 4A process is to allow.

Have you ever watched a toddler get upset? For example, they fall and bump their head and start crying. For a few moments it seems like all they can feel is that pain and it’s very upsetting and overwhelming for them. However, have you noticed that after the pain has passed and they feel sufficiently comforted, they move on swiftly and within moments they are back to being playful and happy, off to the next fun thing?

That’s the natural flow of emotions. They come up and can sometimes be quite overwhelming and take us over, but if we allow their full expression, they eventually pass away. Now, we may not have the desire, capability or opportunity to express emotions in the same way that children do, it may not be practical, possible or even healthy to do so, but what we can learn from them is to allow them to move through us, as uninhibited as possible. 

After you acknowledge, accept and bring awareness to what you feel, simply allow it to be for as long as it needs to, without needing to change it into something else, or feeding into it by wallowing in the emotion. Just like a passing cloud it will eventually move on.