How to deal with disturbing emotions with mindfulness

One of the main components that are part of a large part of the therapeutic processes becomes managing emotions, Especially those which destabilize us negatively or those which have an unpleasant connotation like anger, worry (fear) or sadness.

A basic principle in the psychological work of emotions is to learn both their identification, their manipulation and their expression in an adaptive way. Unwanted processes, i.e. repression or avoidance, usually lead to the onset of significant discomfort in the medium and long term. In this sense, and above all in the face of disturbing emotions, it is useful to resort to mindfulness, Or all the attention, to manage them.

    Identifying disturbing emotions

    One of the main goals for achieving emotional stability and well-being is to manage the feelings that are generated after the cognitive experience of a particular situation, to deal with them rationally and realistically, and finally to provide a response. acceptance and proper assimilation of this discomfort. As Simón (2011) argues, a fundamental process in achieving this goal is to “calm the mind and see clearly”.

    It seems necessary to practice “disidentifying” with the intense emotion felt at a given moment in order to to be able to analyze it with more perspective and clarity.

    One of the most widely recognized theories of how emotions occur was the James-Lange Proposal in the late 19th century, which established the hypothesis that physiological changes in the body are transmitted through the system. Autonomous nervous to the cerebral cortex and derive from it, emotions arise. Thus, these authors objected to the original theoretical principle that emotions are the causes of physiological change. For James-Lange, the individual does not cry because he is sorry, but he is sorry because he is crying.

    Subsequently, the Cannon-Bard approach in the early twentieth century was successful greater consensus on the physiological explanation emotions postulating that the bodily reaction and the emotion occur simultaneously and are interdependent. In this way, the idea began to be validated that a fundamental factor in the identification of emotions becomes the analysis of the physiological reaction that a person gives to a specific experience.

    On the other hand, from the most common approaches to building emotional intelligence, it is understood that there is a two-way relationship between emotions and thoughts. That is, the two influence each other, which is why another essential element to observe is the type of cognitions that a person generates when interpreting a specific experience.

      Dealing with disturbing emotions

      Simón (2011), an expert in the field of mindfulness techniques, has proposed a set of seven steps whose components can be changed in their order or appearance, which can serve as guide to dealing with hard-to-manage emotions either by its intensity or by its depth:

      1. Stop

      Stop doing what you have in hand (an action, a conversation, etc.), interrupt the disturbing instinctive emotional reaction that was derived from a particular event.

      2. Breathe deeply

      Take 5 breaths from the diaphragm, By respecting cycle 5-8 (5 seconds of inspiration and 8 seconds of expiration).

      3. Be aware of emotions and bodily changes.

      It is identify the emotions that occur and the thoughts that accompany them emotion, as well as if they are accompanied by a behavioral intention (a behavioral response).

      4. Accept the experience

      Starting from the active and conscious experience of the emotion, a series of phases of aversion, curiosity, tolerance, permission and friendship towards the emotion in question follow one another.

      5. Self-compassion

      It consists in giving affection and affection to oneself, instead of making judgments of guilt or anger, For example, having felt this disturbing emotion.

      6. Deposit

      This step is to differentiate the emotion from the “I”, the deidentification, to let go of that feeling.

        7. Decide to act or not to act

        Do this according to the circumstances of the situation, value the advantages and disadvantages to issue a response at this time.

        Acceptance or compliance?

        Perhaps, in relation to the guide set out above, one of the more complex phases corresponds to point four: the acceptance of the disturbing emotion. At this point, a fundamental distinction must be made between this concept and that of conformity or resignation.

        First, one of the main differences between the two constructs is the absence of judgments, critiques, and evaluations of the emotional experience inherent in acceptance. For this, the first step is get rid of so-called cognitive labels, Qualify adjectives that qualify the emotion as disturbing in order to eliminate descriptive expectations or prejudices from this emotional experience.

        It is therefore about perform a LOW-UP type mental treatment of this feeling, where the person focuses their concentration on living the experience as if it was the first time, exploring sensations and perceptions without classifying them, without valuing them. In this way, the person changes their relationship with the experience of the emotion in question, ceasing to be a relationship with negative or unpleasant meaning. This makes it easier for the person to break away from the emotion without getting caught up in it.

        Another relevant point is the active character which exhibits acceptance, as opposed to the passive nature which it is attributed to resignation or compliance. In the first case, the person makes a conscious decision to experience their emotions and thoughts with full attention, willingly and actively.

        Finally, in the fourth previous point of Simó’s guide, the following five moments follow one another from which the individual manages to make possible the change of relationship with his disturbing emotion:

        • aversion: The person does not want to feel this emotion because of its unsettling and unpleasant nature and resists it.
        • curiosity: The person begins to focus their attention only on observing what they are feeling, without valuing or judging.
        • tolerance: The person increases their acceptance of the emotion even if some resistance is still present.
        • authorization: Whenever resistances are weaker than emotional judgments are eliminated.
        • friendship: The person embraces the emotion as he accepts it as an experience which involves personal learning. At this point, one begins to activate the feeling of self-compassion where the individual is allowed to feel that emotion in a kind way, without emitting self-criticism or guilt.

        To conclude

        One of the most useful applications of mindfulness techniques it is closely related to competition in emotional intelligence, Specifically in the process of identifying, managing and expressing emotions that can cause discomfort.

        The guide provided above can be a useful strategy for change our relationship with our emotions and we go from seeing them as something unpleasant to avoid or ignore to understanding them as processes necessary and beneficial to our own psychological well-being. Such practices can bring us closer to a greater acceptance of such emotions, greatly diminishing the negative connotation that we might give a priori.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Simon, V. and Germer, C. (col.) (2011). Learn to Practice Mindfulness (10th ed.). Madrid: Seal Publishing.
        • Lázaro, AM (2012) Learning to Practice Mindfulness. Psychologist Papers, 2012. Vol. 33 (1), p. 68-73. Complutense University of Madrid.

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