Luisa Tam
SCMP Columnist
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam

How to let go of bad feelings that might end a relationship and make a fresh start for a new year

  • If we hold on to our views about what’s past, our emotions can get ‘stuck’ and cause communication breakdowns, the end of relationships, even physical pain
  • Decluttering your emotions the way Marie Kondo does physical spaces can help you identify issues and let bad feelings go

Many of us tend to use the time at the end of a year to put our accomplishments and failures into focus and reflect on them.

Re-evaluating major aspects of our lives, such as our relationships, can be bittersweet – the next thing we know, we’re reflecting on the factors that are holding us back or that are not contributing to our personal growth.

This is when difficult decisions need to be made, so that we can enter the new year absolved of any pain from the past 12 months.

We can look at this “cleansing” ritual like a Marie Kondo exercise. But rather than decluttering our physical living space like the Japanese organising consultant encourages us to do, we do away with unwanted negative emotions. Doing this can benefit our connection with our partner, too.
Re-evaluating the major aspects of our lives, such as our relationships, can be bittersweet. Photo: Getty Images

Sonia Samtani – a clinical hypnotherapist, life coach, and relationship and wellness coach – explains what emotional clutter is and how it can negatively impact the life we share with our partner.

“Decluttering your emotions is about allowing emotional wounds to be processed and emotional charges to be released,” she says. “Emotions are known as energy in motion, which means they are supposed to be transitory and move through us.

“If we allow ourselves to address things as they arise, it makes it far easier to manoeuvre through everyday life without feeling burdened.”

How to recognise and manage destructive heightened emotions

However, Samtani warns that when we hold on to our viewpoints and judgments of the past, these emotions can get “stuck” and cause communication breakdowns, the dissolving of relationships, even physical pain.


She further explains that most relationships deteriorate because people don’t take the time to face and address issues regularly. “Just like we ‘Marie Kondo’ by organising things into categories and keeping only what sparks joy, we can do the same for our inner space.

“We can declutter our emotions by identifying unresolved issues and the toxic emotions that they evoke, recognising that holding on to them doesn’t spark joy, and committing to letting these bad feelings go.”
Sonia Samtani is a clinical hypnotherapist, life coach, and relationship and wellness coach. Photo: SCMP

As to how to release unwanted emotions to benefit our relationship, Samtani offers some useful tips.

“A healthy way to release stuff from the past is to stop telling yourself ‘not to think about it’ or ‘not to feel it’. By the time you have said that, it’s actually too late because you are already focusing on it! Instead, allow yourself to feel those feelings. Basically, if you are sad, then let yourself be sad.

“If you are angry, be fully angry and do what you need to do to express it for yourself such as boxing, hitting a pillow or even screaming. Once the emotions have passed, you will feel unburdened and free to speak to your partner about what you learned from that experience. Your emotions won’t hijack the conversation, since you have already taken the time to process them.”

It’s normal for couples to argue – but there are good and bad ways to do it

According to Samtani, the most common emotion that we tend to hold on to is anger and its many variants: frustration, irritation, helplessness and stress.


She explains: “Anger happens when our expectations are thwarted by another, and the only way to move past it is to accept what has happened and learn from it.

“Holding on to the anger doesn’t help anyone. One of the best things to do is to accept your partner for who they are, or to be lovingly assertive and draw a boundary for yourself. If you are wondering which lesson it is for you, my clue would be to pick the one you are resisting more and finding more difficult to do!”

When we hold on to our viewpoints and judgments of the past, these emotions can get “stuck” and cause communication breakdowns. Illustration: Brian Wang

There are ways to work together with your partner to declutter and release unwanted emotions, and Samtani offers the following advice.


“Everything starts with communication and commitment. Have a conversation with your partner to create a win-win intention about wanting to move past old emotions.

“You need to have the ‘buy-in’ from your partner for you to work together.”

How to turn around those negative feelings about your relationship

Set some time aside for you to share with each other. Then, answer questions that arouse your commitment rather than your victim mentality which is what causes you to hold onto old issues.


As an activity, Samtani says you can each commit to looking at the past year and writing down a few things.

Start with what remains unresolved for you in the relationship; how that is making you feel; what do you need for this to be resolved and what have you learned; and what you can do to release your emotions and apply your learning.

Set some time aside for you to share with each other. Photo: Getty Images

“You can then share your answers with each other, and take individual action to move through your own emotional charges,” she says. “Know that moving past your emotional wounds is not something your partner can do for you; ultimately it’s something only you can do for yourself.”

Luisa Tam is a Post correspondent who also hosts video tutorials on Cantonese language that are now part of Cathay Pacific’s in-flight entertainment programme