To Allow or Wallow | What’s the Difference?

To allow or to wallow… what’s the difference?


Just one letter. One tiny letter with huge significance.

How do we make the distinction between wallowing and allowing our feelings? Should I allow my feelings when they’re based on cognitive distortions/ faulty beliefs? 


Thoughts create feelings. So should I allow my distorted thoughts to create distorted feelings? By allowing these distortions am I then wallowing?


There is this trend at the moment encouraging us to allow all of our feelings, but I think there is an extremely fine line between allowing and wallowing. I invite you (and remind myself) to tread very cautiously with this paradigm.


Absolutely acknowledge your feelings with gentleness and self-compassion. Meet them with love and hold space for yourself. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself that you are listening. Denial after all is no one’s friend.


But then gently investigate your thoughts that preceded the feelings.


I can experience feelings of sadness, anger, overwhelm etc that all feel hugely justifiable and valid, but if I skate on the thin ice of allowing too long, I invariably fall through the cracks into the icy waters of wallowing.


So allow but investigate. Challenge the thoughts that led to the painful feelings.

NVC feelings and needs
Have I been outsourcing my strength and power?
Have I been fearful of not getting what I want?
Have I been fearful of losing something I have?
Has a situation or person not turned out the way I thought it/they ‘should’?
Are things not going ‘my way’?
Am I indulging in black and white thinking?
Am I being single minded, obsessive and unable to see the wood for the trees?
Am I believing my own inner critic?
Am I trying to manage someone else’s life, thinking I know what’s best for someone who isn’t me?
If everyone is pissing me off, am I considering who the common denominator is?
Meet your fear and disappointment and anger and frustration with an open heart. Let go of self-condemnation and self-expectations and be sure to drop all those ‘shoulds’! Nurture yourself and practise self-empathy.
But then investigate. Release your tears and explore with curiosity. Journal, meditate, sing, dance, create, bake. Whatever works for you.
Thoughts are thoughts. They don’t represent truth but they do create feelings and those feelings can feel very true.
Red flags for when we’re wallowing rather than allowing:  

• Self-pity and resentment 

• Self-righteousness & justifying anger

• Endless thought loops – stagnating in the same thoughts

• Feelings of resistance to flow and growth

When we’re allowing:

• Curiosity about our thoughts, rather than self-criticism

• Self-compassion & gentleness

• Self-responsibility over blaming others

• Openness to lessons and growth

Olivia is passionate about all things healing. Having spent the last 12 years on a personal recovery journey from substance abuse and self-harming, she has a uniquely gentle and compassionate insight into this world.


She believes that connection with others and connection with ourselves is at the root of all healing and uses different modalities to explore this essential truth – 1:1 and group Breathwork, women’s healing circles, creative arts.


  • Ginny

    This is brilliant Olivia! So helpful and insightful. I’m going to read this again often. I really like the reminder that if everyone is pissing you off who is the common denominator – you are! The lists of signs and red flags are so useful. Thank you xx❤

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