Painful emotions often pass by in a fairly short time if you devote your attention to something else in the moment.
This isn’t always true, of course, but it’s true often enough to be useful.
We need to remember that if we dwell excessively on negative emotions, it’s like giving them energy that helps them to grow into what Dr. Russ Harris in The Happiness Trap calls ‘giant dangerous demons.’
So just remember: don’t feed the demons. Try shifting your awareness to something else and I think you’ll find that very often that helps the emotion to pass by much more quickly.
My True Friend self compassion online course can help you see yourself in a more tolerant way. It’s an online course and payment is by donation so it’s affordable to all. Learn more
Page image K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
“Becoming more patient involves opening your heart to the present moment, even if you don’t like it. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, late for an appointment, opening to the moment would mean catching yourself building a mental snowball before your thinking got out of hand and gently reminding yourself to relax.” Richard Carlson, Don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.
Building mental snowballs means putting one emotional thought on top of the other until the anxiety or fear seems overwhelming.
It works like this: Perhaps a student who has just started college might find a couple of the subjects more difficult than she expected. That might be her first thought. The second could be that everyone else seems better than her. The third could be that she’s going to be shown up throughout the year as a poor student. And so on until she finds it really difficult to concentrate on her work and considers dropping out.
It could take less than half a minute for her (or you or me) to snowball like this. It would be so much better for her emotional health to drop the snowballing and start again by asking: ‘This is tougher than I expected. What do I need to do next?’
You can also build mental snowballs about the past. When you get stuck in thoughts of the past you can build a whole mountain of ‘if onlys’ and ‘how could theys?’, making yourself feel miserable about something that is now out of your control.
Can you do anything about what happened? If you can do something that makes things better for you, then consider doing that instead of snowballing about it. If you can do nothing about it, acknowledge the painful feeling in your body and move your attention to the moment. Why your body? Because this allows the feeling to pass whereas getting lost in your thoughts just builds it up more and more.
With future events I find it helps to ask and answer three questions and to do so fairly quickly:
Our student might answer to the first, I want to pass the course with flying colours.
To the second she might answer: I fear I will do very badly.
And her answer to the third might be: I will probably struggle with parts of the course but overall I will do reasonably well during the year.
I find this exercise helps me to put my exaggerations to one side and to lower my stress. It’s like melting the snowball.
Mindfulness practices and attitudes are helpful in situations such as these by helping us to move away from the drama and exaggerations and into the clarity of the present moment. My Easy Mindfulness online course can help you to stop building that snowball. It has 15 lessons and you can pay whatever you like by donation.
Image by skeeze
Acceptance, as I keep saying, is the second half of mindfulness (the first is awareness). It means not rushing to judgment, pausing to take in the reality of situations and increasing your tolerance for experience.
By helping you to avoid knee-jerk reactions, acceptance improves your quality of life and that of those around you.
It increases your choices by helping you to pause long enough to see what those choices might be.
Mindfulness – awareness of the present moment – makes it easier to pause and to see things differently.
So try to build mindfulness and acceptance into your day – it will make a difference.
To learn more about acceptance and other aspects of mindfulness, do my online course Easy Mindfulness.
My Easy Mindfulness course can help you to live in a more purposeful way through the practice of mindfulness. It’s an online course and payment is by donation so it’s affordable to all. Learn more
Page image from Alevision on Unsplash
The concept of ‘channelling’ is one I first heard of in relation to psychics transmitting the thoughts and emotions of various spirits.
Most channelling involves the living, though – falling into the trap of judging yourself according to someone else’s expectations.
This is ok when you know what’s going on – then you can make choices about what’s good for you and what isn’t. For instance, ‘Make efforts to meet your goals’ is good for you but ‘Achieve your goals perfectly or you are a failure’ is bad for you.
It’s when you don’t know what’s going on that self-compassion can go out the window as you drive yourself forward to meet the demands of someone who’s dead or absent.
If you are critical of your performance even when you succeed are you ‘channelling’ a super-critical person from earlier in your life?
Maybe someone who never saw the good in what you did but was quick to point out your mistakes?
Or maybe you think you have to act in the same way as someone you admire and you feel you never measure up? Maybe you went into a career such as medicine because you thought you should emulate your father or your mother or even a grandparent?
All of these are examples of psychologically ‘channelling’ someone else. When you are being especially hard on yourself it’s helpful to ask if you are upset because you are failing to live someone else’s life. Or if the voice that’s condemning you is the remembered voice of someone else.
Self-compassion can cut through all this. If you decide that, no matter what, you are going to be a friend to yourself, then you can silence the voices or, at the very least, make them less powerful in your life. Mindfulness helps too.
That’s because mindfulness of what’s going on gives you the space in which to make a better, self compassionate, choice.
Instead of ‘channelling’ absent people, take their ideas not as instructions but as information which you are free to use or not, depending on what’s positive for you in your life. Mindfulness also helps
Learn more about being kind to yourself with my 15-lesson online course True Friend. Payment is by donation.
When you can think positively about things, this tends to increase your sense of well being and happiness. But sometimes it’s hard to do that. Maybe many aspects of a day are not so positive.
One approach you could try is what I would call positive version thinking. Here you say, well, the day looks pretty negative and I don’t see how I can feel at all positive about it. But maybe there is a positive version of today as well. Perhaps it will also include things that can make feel good, a favourite activity or talking to a favourite person for instance.
So that’s a positive version of today, and I can allow that into my awareness also. You don’t have to convince yourself that this is a really wonderful, fantastic day, but you are allowing yourself to see also the positive version of it.
And that can be true of relationships also – so-and-so is really annoying me at the moment but there are also lots of good things about him or her that I can include in my awareness, my judgment, my attitude.
Try it, especially when you are feeling down and/or grumpy.
Ask, what’s positive in the day that I can bring in alongside the negative?
Video edited from my one hour presentation on happiness in December 2021.
My True Friend course can help you to build compassion for yourself – to be a friend to yourself whatever happens. It’s an online course and payment is by donation so it’s affordable to all. Learn more
My book Acceptance – create change and move forward will be published in March 2023 and can be pre-ordered here.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.