Start to understand mindfulness

Mindfulness is a widespread practice that is currently widespread and is sometimes part of evidence-based treatments, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Mindfulness-Based Therapy.

It consists of observing the events that are unfolding in the present, in a particular way: without an attitude of judgment, with full openness and acceptance. Every thought, emotion or sensation that presents itself to consciousness is contemplated without attempting to eliminate it..

This practice also benefits people without psychopathological pathology and is trained through workshops around the world by instructors who supervise the meetings.

As part of several treatments in different psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, chronic pain, among others, it is common for those who dedicate themselves to teaching this practice know how to guide participants but do not know the mechanisms. biological as well as psychological which allow the benefits, which is why the criterion of use and usefulness is often not clear.

The aim of this article is to report on one of these psychological factors which makes it possible to understand the conditions in which this tool is useful in clinical conditions and in the general population, because it is necessary to understand when, why and why to train in this practice.

    Mindfulness and the fear mechanism

    Humans, along with other animals, inherited from our ancestors the ability to approach what we find appetizing and move away from aversive events. This ability is very useful for subsistence and allows, among other things, to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

    One of the mechanisms by which the body emits escape and flight responses is that of fear.. Faced with a stimulus that presents itself as a threat, there is a series of responses that prepare the individual to avoid the danger and thus to be able to save his life.

    However, we can be afraid of something that is not dangerous. The proofs are the different images of anxiety, where the feared stimuli will not kill us, but they will activate the fear response, which can often be unpleasant.

    A person who is afraid of the exams knows that the exam will not kill them and that the more anxious they are, the worse the performance will be, but the closer the date of the evaluation approaches, the more fearful they will feel and want to avoid this event.

    A person with panic attacks may know that they will not die from it because they have experienced these symptoms on several occasions, but they may still be afraid of having an episode again and may avoid going into any more. places where she considers this to be more likely to happen. Other examples are phobias or social anxiety, where this mechanism of self-protection against non-harmful stimuli is also activated.

      Thoughts that scare

      Many external events can generate fear even if they are not dangerous. Likewise, there are internal events that do the same thing: thoughts and emotions.

      No matter how hard you think in an aversive situation (“I have cancer”, for example), it will never cause that just by thinking about it.: not biologically possible. No matter how intense an image is and how strong a thought is presented, none of it will make its content more likely to happen.

      But thoughts are often annoying, as are the emotions associated with them, so expect the person who fears these thoughts to try to avoid or suppress them.

      This can lead to what is called “cognitive fusion”, i.e. base our behaviors on our thoughts rather than what is happening in the context and respond to them as if it were reality.

      The news is that external stimuli can often be avoided or it is possible to escape, but the same is not the case with internal events. Paradoxically, thoughts take on more importance when you try to avoid them, control them, escape them or suppress them.

      This is one of the reasons that gives meaning to the practice of mindfulness both as part of clinical treatment and for people without a psychopathological image who practice the practice to achieve a better quality of life. , contemplating their own internal experiences and not fighting them will bring us benefits.

      To learn more about this topic, read the course “Psychological Bases of Mindfulness Practice”.

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