Doing the opposite

What does this involve?

Sometimes when things happen that make us feel bad in the moment we can react in ways that make us feel worse later on.

This technique will help you identify when this might have happened in the past, and will teach you a strategy to help you choose whether to react differently next time.

As with many techniques, this won’t be helpful for everyone and every situation, and that’s OK. If you find it’s not helping you, don’t be disheartened. It’s just a case of trying different techniques until you find what works for you.

During this activity, it’s important to identify and acknowledge that you are experiencing a particular emotion or set of emotions in the first place. This then creates some distance and separation between your feeling and your actions. One aim of opposite action is not to let your emotions take the wheel, but to empower you to choose whether or not you act on your feelings.

When shouldn’t I do this?

When using skills like this, you need to think carefully about the impact of your behaviours. If doing the opposite action would put you in danger or at risk then it’s not advisable. Try one of the other interactive techniques or see if you can think of a different action that is safer.

It’s important to remember that opposite action works best when your emotions do not fit the facts of a current situation. This means that your emotion, its intensity and its duration, is not effective in helping you achieve your goals.

When your emotion is genuinely protecting you, in the case that you’re in an unsafe or unfair situation, then although it’s still good to be aware of the emotion and respond with consideration, acting opposite in these cases isn’t called for.

It’s also wise to start with less intense emotions first whilst you are learning the skill.


When we are feeling sad, our reaction may be to stay in bed and hide from our friends and family. It may feel easier to break our routine and isolate ourselves. However, we know this actually increases feelings of sadness. Instead we need to do the opposite to boost our mood. Getting out of bed, reaching out to our social support and engaging in activities.

Feeling anger gets us ready to attack; our reaction may be to lash out with words or our fists. But often walking away, or showing concern or kindness, can help to diffuse the anger and allow us to make a choice in how we want to respond.

Interactive techniques require an account to save and securely store the information you enter.

With an account you can:

  • Record your mood every day
  • Look for patterns in how you’re feeling
  • Make your personal safety plan
  • Store images of things that give you hope
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