Fireballs: Taking on People’s Emotions

Written by an iTherapy Provider

Fireballs: Taking on People’s Emotions

Have you ever come home from a frustrating day and all you want to do is just vent?

Me too.

The problem with this is that the people we vent to may also have had a frustrating day. Combine those two energies together, and BAM! You have a confrontation you weren’t looking for.

My therapist gave me this metaphor once, and it helped me to view my emotions differently. Let’s call it, The Fireball Metaphor.

Think of your anger, sadness or frustration as a fireball. A ball of fire. Kind of like that game “Hot Potato”.

When you feel these kinds of emotions, it’s like holding a ball of fire. And all you want to do with it is: GET IT OUT OF YOUR HANDS, IT HURTS, IT’S HOT.

So, what do you do? You find someone to give it to. A friend, a therapist, parent, partner, child…

“Man, I had such a horrible day! First of all, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, then my toast burned in the oven. On the way to work, I hit so much traffic! I had such bad road rage, and this lady cut me off! Then, I get to work, and all the hard work I did yesterday went unnoticed and I got a stack of new files put on my desk. I was fuming!@#@! GRRRR! I’m SO MAD! To top it all off, I ran out of gas on the way home!”

If you don’t have someone to give it to, you try to numb the pain, probably unhealthy ways to numb. Maybe have a glass of wine, watch hours of TV, go to sleep.

Let’s pause here.

  • If you got the fireball off your hands and feel better. YAY!
  • If you used numbing tools to dull the pain, more than likely, the fireball will still be there the next day.
  • If you used healthy tools to drop the fireball (I’ll explain below), this is the best option.

The problem is that the fireball goes somewhere, either:

  1. It went in someone else’s hands
  2. It stayed in your hands
  3. It dropped to the ground.
  4. It burned out.

More than likely, if you aren’t aware of this metaphor, you either impatiently give it to someone else, or you keep it (and numb the pain) in your hands.

Here’s how to NOT do that.

When you decide to talk to someone about your “fireball”:

  • Be aware of their emotional state, be aware of their fireballs
  • Ask them permission if you can just vent
  • Remind them that they do not have to take on your “fireball” and to just “let it drop”

Giving someone a fireball can be a catastrophic mistake. The vicious cycle of anger, sadness, and frustration just continues. This is also how the cycle of violence works.

I get angry because something happened to me, so I lash out at you, you get angry at me, so you lash out at me or someone else. And repeat. Angry at life, angry at you, angry at life, angry at you.

Effectively getting rid of the fireball and its pain involved mindfulness and an awareness of what you’re experiencing. Then, you just have to know how to drop the fireball to the ground.

Healthy ways of coping with fireballs include:

  • exercising
  • screaming into a pillow
  • going for a long walk
  • journaling
  • seeing a therapist
  • breathing/meditations
  • Etc., comment below on how you would manage your fireballs in a healthy way

When you are the receiver of “unmanaged” fireballs

This is awful when it happens. And it happens a lot. Lady flips you the bird on the freeway, cyberbullying trolls, mom or dad yells at you, kid yells at mom or dad, someone pushes you in a basketball game. There are so many  to be aware of. Some people don’t understand how to control and let out their fireballs in a healthy way. Here are some tips on how to not take on their fireballs:

  1. Know your emotional state of mind when you begin talking with them
  2. If you are emotional, ask for some time and space: i.e. “This is important to me to be here for you and listen, but I may need an hour or two before I can completely be ready to hear and help.”
  3. If you get thrown an unexpected fireball, i.e. road rage from another person, take a deep breath and keep in mind that they just want to get rid of their fireball.
  4. Acknowledge where the fireball is and let it “fall to the ground”. Don’t pick it up or take it with you.
  5. Use healthy coping techniques to get rid of the fireball if you happen to pick it up (see above).

Remember, emotions are temporary. Just as the fireball will eventually burn itself out, so will emotions. But, when the fire is burning bright, make sure you use these tools to take precautions with them.





Michelle Taylor, LPCC
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Visit Michelle Taylor’s Profile


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