The things that we need to practice on a daily basis to be mindful are the same things that we need to do in times of emotional difficulty. Therefore, it’s important to practice mindfulness daily until it becomes a habit and thus our automatic response to emotionally trying times. It is in the daily practices and habits of our lives that we develop constructive coping mechanisms that will see us through challenges and trying circumstances.
However, this is so much easier said than done. Our coping methods have been ingrained in us since early childhood and it can be challenging in the extreme to override these powerful habitual responses. It is particularly difficult when trying to cope with something that places a strain on our emotions – it is as these times that our habits of old have a strong pull and newer approaches tend to fall by the wayside.
Learning and practising mindfulness, like everything else, is a process and requires patience. You will probably have to learn the same difficult lesson several times before you have really gained a habitual mindful response in times of difficulty. But the journey and the attempts are worth it. Although it may seem nebulous at first, mindfulness is incredibly powerful.
No matter whether you believe in a higher power, fate, or nothing at all, it cannot be denied that we get endless opportunities in life to get it right. There is something uniquely comforting and reassuring in this concept. Because none of us gets it right all the time.
We are all human, fallible, and make mistakes of varying degrees throughout our lives. That is simply the way life is. Life can be complicated; life can be difficult. We have to learn to forgive ourselves, forgive others, and accept that things are they way that they are. In short, we need to let go of the past, let go of anger, guilt and frustration, and look to the future.
We need to keep in mind that every moment is a new moment. Every moment is its own fresh start: a new beginning. Every moment has the potential to be the first moment of a new chapter in your life. Every moment has the power to change our lives forever or not at all. No matter what has happened, the one constant is that “every moment is another chance to get it right”.
’m intrigued by the notion that “emotions can be divided into two broad categories – love and fear.” It sheds a new light on our emotional experiences and creates a whole new perspective of emotions and behaviour.
The idea that so many of our emotions can be reduced to some sort of fear paints a picture of vulnerability that is an interesting interpretation of the human race. The idea that fears, including fear of failure, rejection, change, etc, drives so many of our reactions and behavioural habits speaks to the insecurities and fragility of our lives. It’s an interesting perspective with which to view characteristics such as arrogance, a quick temper and condescension.
It’s much easier to see how many of our emotions stem from some sort of love. And not just romantic love, but love for life, justice, creativity, and many other facets of our lives.
Viewing emotions in this way poses questions regarding the origins of our feelings and how we should deal with them. It’s up to us to nurture the love-based emotions in our lives and to resolve the fears that cause negativity in our lives. Perhaps adopting this theory will also allow us to truly empathise with others and understand the core emotions behind people’s behaviour and reactions.
Your really don’t need to go to the extent of experimenting with narcotics to experience an altered version of reality. Our feelings often do this for us, without us even being aware that we’re experiencing an altered perception of reality.
“The valuable information provided by our feelings interprets our experiences and profoundly influences our perception of reality.”
It is only by getting rid of denial, anger, grudges, and everything that can alter our perceptions that we can truly see our experiences for what they truly are. It somehow always comes back to the theory of mindfulness.
I think that we all fall into the trap of labelling emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We’re bombarded with messages from an early age that tell us that anger is bad. That bitterness is bad. That we shouldn’t feel envious and a whole range of emotions that don’t fall under the category of the convenient ‘good’ emotions. The truth is that we’re all humans. We’re all going to experience the full spectrum of emotions over the course of our lifetimes. Some drama queens manage to get through the entire list in a remarkably short space of time. Some people are naturally calmer and experience fewer instances of the more intense emotions. We’re all different, but we can all identify with the emotional component of the human experience.
If you really want to label something as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, then focus on the way in which people manage (or don’t manage) their emotions. Look at people’s behaviour, at how they treat others.
The same can be said about the way in which you judge yourself. It really is okay to feel so-called negative emotions. In some cases, it would probably be more worrying if you weren’t angry, bitter, or negative. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Deal with it. Deal with your emotions. That’s where you should focus your energy.
“Emotions are inherently neither good nor bad. It is what we do with the information and energy they produce that makes the difference.”
“Emotions are related to activity in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behaviour, and determine the significance of what is going on around us.”
It is so important to keep this in mind because heightened emotions have such a powerful and far-reaching impact on our lives, and the lives of those around us. Our emotions determine what we notice, how we react, and how we perceive and evaluate our environment. It’s no wonder that things look better in the morning when you’re feeling more composed. At that point your emotions are more under control, more bearable, because the immediate intensity of your emotional reaction has dissipated. This then has a calming effect on your perception of your circumstances; you tend see things in a calmer light, which then results in more mediated behaviour.
It’s just another reason why mindfulness it so important. And now neuroscience provides the incontrovertible evidence. It pays to be in tune with your emotions and to regulate them effectively. Having control over your emotional wellbeing essentially gives you control over your behaviour and the rest of your life.
Yes, you read that correctly. In fact, “experiencing and expressing emotions is viewed by more and more people as a sign of strength”. So much for the cowboys-don’t-cry parenting technique.
Many people are brought up on the notion that expressing – or even experiencing – emotions is a sign of weakness. And this view is widely adopted in society. Being stoic and holding back your tears has largely been held to be a sign of strength, maturity and socially acceptable behaviour. That idea is now being challenged and thrown on its head.
So does that mean that we should all cry at any available opportunity? (I can almost hear you hiss ‘weakness’ in response to the very idea.) But no it does not. It simply means that we need to engage with our emotions, to understand them and act on them accordingly. Experiencing a range of emotions is part of the human experience. After all, no matter what so-called macho men say, we aren’t machines. We are human. We have emotions.
And sure, there is still a time and a place to express those emotions. Encouraging people to express their emotions is still tied to the idea of what is appropriate (a debate for another day). There are still appropriate times, places and means of expressing emotions; the important point is that they are experienced and that they are expressed. It is through the process of truly experiencing and expressing our emotions that we develop true emotional strength.
So yes, cowboys do cry. And they do get frustrated and they do have bad days. And the sooner they embrace this, the stronger they will be.