Overcoming Emotional Barriers with Feeling Cards

I was browsing a local charity shop with my son a couple of weekends ago, when we stumbled across an unexpected treasure that got us super excited—a deck of feeling cards!

For someone who works with emotion for a living I couldn’t wait to see how the artist portrayed people's various inner experiences! This particular card deck had pictures of stones with various postures and expressions to represent different feelings.

My new feelings card deck became an instant hit with my family, friends, and clients!

One of my current favorite counseling interventions is getting a client to choose a card that represents their various inner experiences.

Particularly those feelings that seem particularly “noisy” or challenging.

Clients may relate to visualizing parts of their inner experience as: an Inner child, Mr Anxious, Mrs Frustrated, perhaps Mr Calm; perhaps they may identify an Inner Wisdom or Strength, Kindness or Love…

The person picking out the cards becomes the Awareness, the CEO, who is evaluating the accuracy of the messages they are receiving, while managing how they ultimately chose to relate to the various parts of themselves: Is one part overly noisy? Is another prone to exaggeration? Is another trying to dominate? Which part would they like to continue their self-talk conversation with?

Once they find a picture that resonates with them, a helpful intervention is to write about what this emotion is saying, the information they want them to look at...

Next, I like to encourage friends, clients, (and husband, pictured above), to write a response letter from their CEO (that part of themselves that welcomes and receives messages from visiting emotions,) about the best direction for guiding their future self-talk and coping efforts...

Here is an example:

"Hi team feelings, Strength here. The CEO appointed me in charge today. Guys, this day is all mine. Anxious is allocated to light duties, keeping vigilant while driving, so my path is clear... I can't wait to flex my muscles and get a work out, "test my limits and breath through" (Frozen). New day, no limits, let's see how much good I can achieve today!"

The process of choosing a feelings card is such a great starting point for our journey of reflection... If you don't have a feelings card set, you can simply make a sketch that represents your feeling as a symbol...

When this process is done with gentle appreciation towards our emotions and the information they come with (which is an essential to empowered coping), it helps to dissolve one of our most harmful barriers to emotional wellness—our resistance towards our inner experience or our unwelcome attitude towards it, which hinders our process of reflecting on it and our emotional growth...

Feelings are a source of physical energy, which gives us motivation. At the right or manageable level, feelings have been shown to help us think optimally. They contain a reservoir of experience and information without which, even the simplest decisions would take hours. They deserve our welcoming, compassionate, reflective awareness.

I hope that this simple strategy will give you some inspiration to get to know your feeling friends better, and relate to them in an empowering way!

With Love,


Reflective writing is amongst my favorite coping techniques, one that is backed by plenty of empirical support confirming its value and effectiveness. There is an abundance of research linking the process of writing about stressful events to improvements in well-being, especially if the writing involves elements of reflecting about those events, as opposed to simply expressing negative feelings. Possibly because through writing we are diverting our mental traffic away from our emotional system, supplying it with much needed to-and-fro feedback with our cortex, which helps to mediate our experience...

Ullrich and Lutgendorf, “Journaling About Stressful Events: Effects

Of Cognitive Processing And Emotional Expression,” Annals of Behavioral

Medicine (2002) 24.3: 244—250.

Zawisz, B. Liberating Inner Eve. CA: Resource Publications, 2020.