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COPING WITH COVID-19: Letting Go of Painful Emotion

Wanda Sevey on using The Sedona Method to release negative emotion
Wanda Sevey

The COVID-19 crisis continues to impact the Princeton Theological
Seminary community. To help us navigate this season, experienced
counselors in the Seminary community are providing guidance on simple
methods you can use to reduce anxiety and stress. We hope you find
comfort and hope as you read about tips, techniques, and testimonies
from members of our campus and alumni community.

This week’s reflection is offered by Wanda Sevey, director of student counseling.


Emotions come and go but sometimes we find that we are overwhelmed by an emotion that stops us from thinking clearly or prevents us from concentrating on what we want or need to do. The goal of letting go of a painful emotion is not to solve it, and isn’t a long-term solution for a problem that needs more attention. The goal is simply to let the feeling go for that moment so that you can move forward with your day. It’s like the experience of holding an object tightly in your hand and then opening your hand to release it.

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The key to letting go of an emotion is being able to stop resisting it and simply accept it. The Sedona Method is a four-step process you can use anywhere and anytime. The steps are:

  • Step one: Focus on an issue or emotion you would like to feel better about, and allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling in this moment. Ask yourself: “Could I allow this feeling to be here? Could I welcome this feeling the best I can?” The intention of “welcoming” is to let go of resisting the feeling or being upset about having the feeling.
  • Step two: Ask yourself: “Could I let this feeling go?” The question merely asks you if it is possible to take this action. Just notice if “yes” or “no” floats up inside you. Both are acceptable answers. As best you can, answer the question with a minimum of thought, staying away from second-guessing yourself or analyzing the merits of this action or its consequences.
  • Step three: Now ask yourself: “Would I let this feeling go?” “Am I willing to?” Again, stay away from debate. It doesn’t matter whether the feeling is justified, long standing, or right. If the answer is no, or if you are not sure, ask yourself “Would I rather have this feeling or would I rather be free?” Even if the answer is still “no,” go on to step four.
  • Step four: Ask yourself: “When would I let it go?” and “If I don’t let it go now, when would I let it go?”

Repeat the four steps as often as needed, until you feel free of the feeling you want to let go of. You will probably find yourself letting go a little on each step. Initially, the results may be quite subtle, but if you are persistent, changes will become more noticeable. This is not as time-consuming as you might imagine: You are not analyzing yourself or the situation, or trying to change yourself. You are simply engaging in the simple process of releasing, which can be done anywhere, anytime.

After letting go of feelings, you can more easily decide what to do in the situation if there is a need for action, or you may simply find that your perspective has shifted and you feel freer.


    Wanda Sevey, MDiv ‘85, LMFT, is Princeton Seminary’s director of student counseling. Her work is rooted in her conviction that being in relationship is part of being created in God’s image and that the power of relationship to transform us is rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit. She works from an integrated relational perspective and has specialized training in Emotionally Focused Therapy, EMDR, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, The Gottman Approach, and Internal Family Systems.

    Educating faithful Christian leaders.

    Pastor at Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, New Jersey

    Alison VanBuskirk, Class of 2015

    “My call as a pastor centers on shaping a community where people can connect and be real with each other and God.”