- How to Use Mindfulness to Work with Negative Emotions
- 1. Stop, Turn Towards
- 2. Identify The Emotion
- 3. Acceptance Of What Is
- 4. Realize The Impermanence Of All Emotions
- 5. Investigation and Response
- 6. Trust Yourself To Choose The Appropriate Response
- 6 Ways to Mindfully Manage Tough Emotions
- 1. Turn Toward Your Emotions with Acceptance
- 2. Identify and Label the Emotion
- 3. Accept Your Emotions
- 4. Realize the Impermanence of Your Emotions
- 5. Inquire and Investigate
- 6. Let Go of the Need to Control Your Emotions
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How to Use Mindfulness to Work with Negative Emotions
There are moments in life that are hard, painful, scary and difficult to endure. There are times when we feel anger, anxiety, grief, embarrassment, stress, remorse or other negative emotions.
In these trying times we often want to escape the pain, drown it out or push it away somehow. We may begin a mental struggle with the pain trying to mentally talk our way it, or we distract ourselves with activities or drown it out with food or drink or something stronger.
All these ways of avoiding pain only perpetuate it in the long run. Avoidance creates suffering and keeps us from living fully this miraculous and precious life that we have.
Through mindfulness you can learn to turn your negative emotions into your greatest teachers and sources of strength.
Instead of ‘turning away’ from pain in avoidance we can learn to gently ‘turn towards’ what we’re experiencing. We can bring a caring open attention towards the wounded parts of ourselves and make wise choices about how to respond to ourselves and to life.
It’s a paradox that we all must understand: It is by turning towards negative emotions that we find relief from them – not by turning away.
Whatever You Fight, You Strengthen, and What You Resist, Persists – Eckhart Tolle
1. Stop, Turn Towards
Once you have become aware of the feeling, stop for a moment. Take a deep breath and then ‘sit with’ the anger, shame, guilt, anxiety, frustration or fear. Don’t inhibit it, suppress it, ignore it or try to conquer it. Just be with it with an attitude of open curiosity and acceptance.
2. Identify The Emotion
Acknowledge that the emotion is there. If you are embarrassed, you can specifically recognise that feeling. You can mentally say to yourself, for example, “I know there is embarrassment in me.”
3. Acceptance Of What Is
When you are embarrassed, or feeling another negative emotion, you don’t need to deny it. You can accept what is present. In his book ‘Peace is Every Step’, Thich Nhat Hahn suggests we can actually mentally acknowledge to ourselves… “I can accept that I am experiencing intense embarrassment right now.”
Through your mindful acceptance, you can embrace or hold the feeling in your awareness– this alone can calm and soothe you. This is an act of self-compassion and responsiveness to your own distress, and it is so much more effective than punishing yourself for having this feeling.
See if you can be open to feeling what you feel. Opening to it means to see what is there fully without suppressing, rejecting, ignoring or trying to be ‘stronger’ than the emotion.
By opening and embracing the emotion, you create a mental space around it and witness it instead of being enmeshed in it. By creating this space you’ll discover that you are not your anger, your fear or your pain. You are much larger than that.
Think of embracing your difficult emotion in your arms just a mother holding her upset child.
4. Realize The Impermanence Of All Emotions
Acknowledge that all emotions are impermanent. They arise, stay for a while and then disappear. They come and go in you, waves in the sea, cresting and receding.
Your task is simply to allow this current wave to be and to witness, with patience, as it continuously changes form and eventually disappears.
We often take emotions (especially negative ones) very personally. But mindfulness invites us to view them as simply mental events passing through- temporary waves in our ocean of awareness.
Psychologist and mindfulness teacher Elisha Goldstein suggests, it can be helpful to say to ourselves, “While this is a temporary feeling, it is here right now, how can I care for it? What do I need?”
5. Investigation and Response
When you are calm enough, you can look deeply into your emotion to understand what has brought it about and what is causing your discomfort.
It may be that particular kinds of thoughts were the cause. You may have been worrying unnecessarily about something or someone and that generated feelings of anxiety. Perhaps you were ruminating on a random comment a colleague said last week and it created anger or embarrassment.
You may also find that you have particular values, beliefs, expectations and judgments about how you should behave or be seen by others that contributed to the emotion.
Perhaps an event has happened and your response is perfectly natural or perhaps an old habitual reaction. Allow the light of your mindful awareness to help you gain insights into the emotion.
You may then reflect on how you want to respond to what is happening. This may take the form of simply realizing that your thoughts are not reality and therefore not taking them seriously.
It could be that the simple embracing of the emotion is all you need to do for now, or it could be that a response is needed to a situation that has arisen in your daily life.
6. Trust Yourself To Choose The Appropriate Response
Wishing you well,
P.S Are you suffering under the weight of negative thinking? If so, read this related post about how I overcame this in my own life and my ‘Four Keys to Overcoming Negative Thinking….For Good’
6 Ways to Mindfully Manage Tough Emotions
Open yourself up to your emotions instead of fighting them.
Let’s get real here. For most of us, life is fast-paced and chock full of family, relationship, and work stressors. This reality, along with the ever-increasing pressures of technology and society at large, can really take a toll on your marriage.
As a result, difficult emotions anger, confusion, fear, loneliness, and sadness, just to name a few, can arise. Emotions these are often the most present and powerful forces in your life.
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The key to learning how to deal with difficult emotions is mindfulness! Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm down and soothe yourself. In this state, you have space to reflect and thoughtfully respond, rather than react.
Following these six steps will help you to understand how to deal with difficult emotions in a mindful way:
1. Turn Toward Your Emotions with Acceptance
Once you become aware of the emotion you are feeling, notice where it is in your body. You may feel it as a stomachache, a tightening of your throat, the pounding of your heart, or tension somewhere.
Sit with this anger, anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, sadness, shame, or whatever emotion you are experiencing. Become aware of it and don’t ignore it.
If this is difficult, get up and walk around or get a cup of tea.
The key here is to not push the emotion away. Bottling it up inside will only cause it to bubble up and explode later, resulting in more difficult emotions or even a complete emotional shutdown. Listen to your difficult emotions. They are trying to help you wake up to what is going on before a major crisis occurs.
2. Identify and Label the Emotion
Instead of saying, “I am angry,” say, “This is anger” or, “This is anxiety.” In this way, you’re acknowledging its presence, while simultaneously empowering you to remain detached from it.
When my husband was in the hospital before he passed, I felt a deep sense of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. I needed to acknowledge and identify the emotions and say to myself, “I know that I am experiencing anxiety and fear right now and I don’t know what will happen, but I am going to just ‘be’ with it.”
Although it remained an extremely painful experience to the end, identifying and labeling my emotions in this way allowed me to take some of the pain what I was feeling. This, in turn, allowed me to stay in the present, versus catapulting me into the future, or trapping me in the past.
Being thrust in either direction would have only caused me to blame myself. I can just imagine how that critical voice would have rung out: “If only you would have done something different, maybe there would have been a different outcome.”
3. Accept Your Emotions
When you are feeling a certain emotion, don’t deny it. Acknowledge and accept that the emotion is present, whether it is anxiety, grief, sadness, or whatever you are experiencing in that moment. Through mindful acceptance, you can embrace difficult feelings with compassion, awareness, and understanding towards yourself and your partner.
Think of a friend or a loved one who might be having a hard time. What would you say to them? Bring the scenario of what you would say to them into your mind’s eye. Now, say the same thing to yourself: “I am ok. I am not to blame. I did the best I could.”
Hold these images and phrases within yourself with loving kindness and compassion. Extend this act of kindness toward yourself and become aware of what is going on within you. In this way, you will gain the power to not only calm and soothe yourself, but also your partner.
You will soon come to realize that you are not your anger, fear, grief, or any other difficult emotion you are feeling.
Instead, you will begin to experience these emotions in a more fleeting manner, clouds that pass by in the sky.
Opening yourself up to your emotions allows you to create a space of awareness, curiosity, and expansiveness that you can then apply to your relationship, as well as any other aspect of your life.
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4. Realize the Impermanence of Your Emotions
Every one of your emotions is impermanent. They arise and reside within you for a time and then disappear. It’s easy to forget this when you’re in the midst of dealing with difficult emotions.
Allow yourself to witness and observe your emotions with kind attention and patience, giving them the latitude to morph, and in many cases, completely evaporate.
To embrace this process, ask yourself: “What and where is this feeling? What do I need now? How can I nurture it? What can I do for my partner? What can my partner do for me? How can we, as a couple, turn toward one another with acts of loving-kindness?”
Asking these focused questions and responding, in turn, will go a long way to promote empathy, compassion, and connection within your relationship.
5. Inquire and Investigate
After you have calmed and soothed yourself from the impact of your emotions, take a moment to delve deeply and explore what happened. Ask yourself: “What triggered me? What is causing me to feel this way? What is the discomfort I’m experiencing and where is it arising? Was it as result of my critical mind, or was it in reaction to something my partner said or did?”
Perhaps you had a hard day at work or difficulty dealing with your family. Maybe you feel unappreciated, lonely, or disconnected as a result of your interactions with someone. Whatever the cause or trigger, look at it closely and ask yourself, “What is happening here?”
Consider what was said or done and compare it to your values. What were your expectations surrounding the situation? What reactions or judgments caused you to become angry or anxious? Is this a pattern that keeps arising? Asking yourself these critical questions and investigating the root of your difficult emotions will help you gain empathy and insight into what you are experiencing.
Taking yourself off autopilot and trusting your deepest, authentic self to answer these questions about your situation will create a space to see things with a different perspective. This will ultimately allow both you and your partner to be more present and connected with each other.
6. Let Go of the Need to Control Your Emotions
The key to mindfully dealing with your difficult emotions is to let go of your need to control them. Instead, be open to the outcome and what unfolds.
Step outside of yourself and really listen to what your partner is feeling and what he or she has to say.
Only then will you truly gain an in-depth understanding of your emotions and the interactions surrounding them within your relationship.
Mindfully dealing with emotions is hard and it takes time. Be kind, compassionate, and patient with yourself and your partner. You’re in this together! As Dr. John Gottman has said, “In a good relationship people get angry, but in a very different way. The Marriage Masters see a problem a bit a soccer ball. They kick it around. It’s ‘our’ problem.”
We are fortunate that we live in a world where you and your partner can take the time to explore, discuss, and learn about mindfulness and your emotions. Take nothing for granted, for life is fragile and fleeting!
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 6 Ways To MINDFULLY Deal With Difficult Emotions (Without Losing Your Sh*t).
6 Ways to Mindfully Manage Tough Emotions