Home > mindfulist > Mindfulist 1/27: Strong Emotion

Mindfulist 1/27: Strong Emotion

DSC_0467-1 When a strong emotion arises, how do you respond? Click on “Participate” to download a guide on how to breathe through it, from Mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

  • I sit back and analyze.
  • I get eloquent when I’m angry. As my boss would attest.

I’ve had years of practice at stoking my anger (about something or other specific) until it burns off quick.

  • Alternatively, a good loud scream and possible hitting something (not alive; a big trash can does the job) do, in fact, help.

Of course, not all strong emotion is anger. Many strong emotions are far more subtle.

“But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.”  –Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

I agree with large portions of this poem. Although, references to God (with the capitalization) make me suspicious of the author’s “morality”. Like when people say “Oh, the universe has a place for everyone” or something along those lines, I think, “Oh quit it. The universe has no purpose of its own. It just is. Good luck with that.”

You create your own purpose. That includes finding out the deeper needs that you can’t necessarily change about yourself. Go spend a week in the desert, then tell me the universe loves you.

The psychological elements of this poem are perfect, however.

I’m a thinker. I generally don’t visualize things; what I do visualize is more a general idea, connected to the concept expressed in words. So my demons come at me with what appears to be logic and reason.

It’s just strong emotion given my own voice, of course, and almost everything seems logical from the inside. So that’s one hell of a double whammy. And they keep circling around, over and over.

I’ve trained myself.

I recognize the patterns when they come. Like with my dreams. When I say that I don’t trust myself, perhaps you can see what I mean now.

As an introvert, I experience my emotions as especially strong. Overanalyzing just routes the emotions back and forth in little internal constructs.

So I short circuit the process. I recognize what’s happening, and do whatever the resistance is in response to. Recognizing the emotions helps the words to fall away.

This is not anti-language, or anti-intellectual. I think most people need to spend more time analyzing themselves. I tend too much towards one side. You need both sides: emotion and reason.

Descartes was wrong, you see. Reason is based on emotion. Reason is the manipulation of experience. Of symbols. Of language. When you see the gaps between the two and learn to juggle which is appropriate, you gain far more control.

This is how I deal with strong emotions.

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