By Bruce Craig, Resident in Counseling in Northern Virginia
Emotions can become overwhelming in the blink of an eye and it can sometimes feel like there is no way to prevent them from feeling insurmountable. It may seem like everywhere you turn someone is doing something that is mean, frustrating or disrespectful. Every time you turn around there is something that was not done by someone that should have been or not done in the correct way and you feel anger or frustration. In this three part series, I will discuss some of the emotional pitfalls most of us fall into and offer some Mindful ways we can practice in our daily lives to alleviate some of this difficulty.
Thoughts Are Not Facts
I would first like to clarify some concepts and reiterate some Mindfulness practices I have discussed in previous articles. As a review, I have said thoughts are not facts and this is important to keep in mind when we start working with emotions. Thoughts are not facts but thoughts often lead to emotions. Thoughts are made up of our conceptualizations of things based on past experiences, beliefs, opinions, moment to moment moods and many other factors. It is important that we use the practice of “noticing” to look at what our mind is doing and how it is leading to the emotions we are experiencing.
Our mind is designed to automate processes we do habitually. This automation often leads us to very automatic processes of difficult emotion that we become reactive to in the moment. Our mind naturally develops a sense of self. When someone does something that we don’t appreciate, we often see it as they offended me, or they did this to disrespect me. This thought that things are against us can lead to deep emotions as we are then unable to view others with compassion and see that whatever they are doing likely has nothing to do with us. But rather from a different perspective or some difficulties they are encoring that we don’t understand.
This tuning into the thought / emotion process is what I ask you to focus back in on to continue your practice or to get back to it if it has fallen aside. Maybe even take time to go back and reread the previous articles I have written to refresh. It is quite common for the practice to fall away and we regress back into our old automated habit energies. Once you notice this has happened, see it as a great opportunity to try once again to implement this practice into your daily life. Practice your self-compassion by telling yourself it is alright; you are human, and it takes time to implement a new way of being.
Over the next few articles we will simply add to the previously mentioned processes that you have hopefully been able to make somewhat habitual. The next step will be learning how to notice emotions as early as possible and in a more objective way. I will suggest ways of remaining grounded, regulated and rational as well as some mental exercises you can do to get back in touch with how each emotion feels in your gut. In the third article we will focus on specific ways of working with thoughts now that you have gotten the overwhelming emotions under control. In the final article of this series we will talk about how to exploit this new ability to notice and work with thoughts by cultivating a more positive focus.
Previous Articles to Reference:
About Bruce Craig:
Bruce is a resident in counseling providing counseling services at our Fredericksburg location. Bruce is a recent graduate from Eastern Mennonite University with a MA in Counseling, following a B.S. in Social Psychology from Park University.
Bruce completed a rigorous internship working with individuals, couples, families and groups. Bruce also finds Mindfulness to be useful in helping clients be in the present moment. For clients who are receptive to it, he teaches them ways of controlling their thoughts instead of becoming anxious about things that might happen or focusing on aspects they cannot change.
He is currently in a course to become certified in the use of Mindfulness in therapy but already has experience and success applying Mindfulness with clients. Bruce provides a warm, empathetic, and non-judgmental space for all people to bring whatever issues they need to work through. To learn more about Bruce, visit here.