This is a simple meditation practice that has changed my life, and I think could also change yours.
It's called: RAIN. A technique developed by the wonderful Buddhist psychologist, Tara Brach. I've also incorporated most psychoanalytic elements into the practice to hopefully make it more effective.
This is what you do: Sit down in a quiet, safe environment. Then, recall a troubling experience in your head, it could be an incident that caused you stress in school, at work, or a person who said something hurtful to you.
Once you recall the event, let yourself feel the negative emotion the event triggers, without resisting. Do that, until the pain starts to fade away.
Try to deal with that incident in as much detail as you can (why did it hurt you, the specific parts of the incident etc.) If one thought doesn't hurt anymore, move on to another. If you get bored with a thought even though it still hurts, move on to another (but try not to switch too much so it doesn't get overwhelming). Only deal with issues where you experience a noticeable degree of pain, otherwise you risk overthinking about non-problems.
Also, notice the physical sensation that the thought is causing you. Tightness in the back of your neck? In the head?
If there's a thought that feels too painful, then deal with a less traumatic event, but try to come back to that painful one whenever you feel comfortable.
And here's one of the most important parts: you shouldn't just recall events in the present, but also the past. In fact you should go all the way back to when you can remember (so maybe as far as 18 months old).
Because if you recall a past trauma and it still provokes intense negative emotions (maybe you had an awful family or school experience, or you might have even been physically or sexually abused), that means it's still bothering you in the present, whether you realise it or not.
So you've got to have the courage to finally confront it, and wipe away all your past trauma, creating inbox zero in your mind.
I generally recommend at the start to do this practice 30 min to 1 hour every day (though if that seems too much of a commitment, you can go as low as 3-10 min/day), until you feel about 80% of the mental baggage from both your past and present has been lifted.
After that, you can do RAIN whenever you feel it's necessary, like when something bad just happened in your life, or when you suddenly remember something especially negative from your past.
The point of this exercise is to change your habit: from running away from upsetting emotions, to confronting them.
Research shows it only takes about 10-90 seconds for pain to enter and leave your body. Yet people have allowed negative feelings to fester in them for years. Why? Because they made the mistake of resisting it.
At points in your life you should put aside distressing thoughts (like when you're trying to focus on work or a conversation), but generally you should try to deal with distressful feelings as soon as you find the time.
It's like dealing with a whining, petulant child. if you ignore them, they don't quiet down, instead they become even more loud and obnoxious.
But what happens when you finally give the child the attention they crave? They start to calm down.
Once you confront the emotional scars you've experienced for years, it feels amazing. The psychological baggage that plagued your subconscious mind is finally lifted. You're able to comfortably deal with problems in the present, without feeling as strongly whenever setbacks occur. And you begin to feel a sense of bliss and peace, that you might not have experienced for a very long time
Related: The Human Torch
Tara Brach's Excellent Speech on RAIN:
Fear and Anxiety Expert, Kirsten Ulmer, on the Science of not Resisting Fear: