I had a realisation today. Being a long-term anxiety sufferer, I have an automatic tendency to over-analyse practically everything. I am aware I do it, and am actively working on trying not to do it so much, using mindfulness to breathe, let go of the thoughts and be more present in what’s happening now. It’s quite funny then, (and it’s OK to find it funny, I find humour a wonderful way of managing and understanding my interactions with the world) that the practice of mindfulness itself should spark a raging internal debate as far as emotions are concerned. Now, bear with me whilst I try and make these thoughts into readable words that you will understand.
My last post addressed the nature of being; being present and accepting and not dwelling on events, thoughts or feelings in the past or future. My inner monologue, upon addressing emotions and their positive and negative effect on one’s feelings, went pretty much as such;
“So, the idea isn’t to let any emotions have any affect on your state of being?”
“Yes, I think so,”
“Good ones as well as bad ones?”
“From what I gather… being is living in the now and so that would mean not dwelling on the past, including happy feelings.”
“That doesn’t sound right. Are you quite sure?”
“No. I think I need to think about this a bit more,”
So I thought, and thought, and thought a bit more. I had over-analysed to the point I had (wrongly) drawn the conclusion that in order to practice mindfulness, I would have to become distant and cold and avoid all emotions, both positive and negative. After some further careful pondering, I realised the error of my ways, the first being that I had over-thought it!
It’s not about avoiding emotions, whether they are positive or negative. A popular analogy, one I try and implicate myself, is to observe my emotions as an outsider, or like a train passing through a station. It’s bloody difficult and I am still working on it, but being aware of the emotions I am feeling and the effect they are having on my body. Being aware that the emotion will pass; just as the train is passing through the station and that I just have to ride it out for now. It’s about accepting.
It seems bit wrong, having to accept anything that leads to unpleasant feelings both mentally and physically. To me though, acceptance doesn’t mean the same as putting up with. To me, acceptance of negative emotions means accepting that they are happening, being aware of how they are affecting me and trying to use mindfulness to centre myself and relax so that the effects aren’t as harrowing. With positive emotions and feelings, I endeavour to use mindfulness to really make myself aware of what I am feeling, and the physical and mental effects it’s having on me. Gosh I hope this makes sense and doesn’t seem to wishy-washy!
Would it be too cheesy to add “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it?” in this case, the experience of emotion?
In summary: mindfulness isn’t detachment from or avoidance of emotions. Otherwise we would be just like zombies and never have any kind of fun and that isn’t cool. Mindfulness is about accepting emotions for what they are without letting them have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing.