When an uncomfortable emotion such as anger, jealousy, or fear arises, there are a few steps we can take to manage it mindfully.
First, we simply acknowledge that the feeling is (temporarily) there. “Ah ha, I’ve been triggered. My heart is pounding; my cheeks are hot – this feels like jealousy.”
Then, we accept the emotion. We’re not judging ourselves for feeling that way or labeling the emotion as “bad,” or trying to dismiss, deny, or wallow in it – we allow it to be without our resistance. “I can sit with this for a moment; it won’t kill me and it won’t last forever.”
Finally, we soothe and release the emotion. “This person triggered my old fears of being betrayed and abandoned. But there really is no threat here, it’s just in my head. I’m going to keep breathing deeply – my heart is already settling and I’m starting to feel calmer.”
It takes practice for all of our lives to just let it be; the acceptance of discomfort is the key to our freedom.
There is a space between myself and my thoughts, and in that place, I observe with curiosity.
I’m aware of the patterns and loops; the fixations and stories. Rather than automatically believe them, what I’m striving to do is pause, notice the mental habit, and remind myself that a thought isn’t a fact or an accurate representation of reality.
It’s not helpful for me to believe a mental construct, often created by my ego to serve its needs.
And when comparative criticism starts to creep in, I interrupt the process and ask myself if I’d want someone thinking that way about my daughter. Taking that approach further, I remind myself that everyone has a child inside, and I think about that child’s fears, needs, and feelings.
This practice of pausing, observing, and replacing judgment with empathy helps to open my heart.
I saw a woman’s recent reflection that “violence is never ‘proof of love’.” She then updated her post to share that she was told by other women that this was “not [her] conversation to have.” This has sparked a fire of indignance within me.
Gatekeeping is the antithesis of inclusion.
Everyone deserves a seat at the table and the respect of being seen and heard. We all bear the scars of the institutions and individuals who have abused their power to discredit, disqualify, shame, and silence those perceived to be beneath them. We are still actively working to heal and reform these injustices in our societies, schools, workplaces, homes, and hearts – there is no end to this fight to flip the power dynamic and ensure that all are included.
This includes taking the “horseshoe” approach to community and conversation, keeping a space that is open and inviting to all with no exceptions. No one is granted divine authority to judge and dictate who should be allowed to participate, speak up, and share their mind – especially about a topic such as violence that impacts every human being.
If a person tries to silence another, they are attempting to exercise power over that individual. This is weaponized ego, and has no justification or place in the framework of empathy and inclusion.
The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is dukkha which means “difficult to face.”
This refers not only to the suffering that is an inevitable part of life, but also to our uncomfortable emotions and troubling thoughts.
Too often we take detours – we avoid, deny, numb, repress, or lash out rather than live in the experiences and feel the feelings that cause us fear and pain.
If we summon the courage that is inside all of us, we can remain open and curious about what our emotions and mental loops are trying to tell us, and we can face life itself in all its unpredictability and impermanence.
Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to live mindfully, paying attention to and giving thanks for the good things in our lives. Gratitude can provide a shift in perspective and help us find purpose and hope.
It’s important to understand that gratitude cannot exist until we validate and process our uncomfortable emotions.
When we’re experiencing frustration, grief, or uncertainty, common responses are sentiments like “Who am I to complain when there are people who have it so much worse than me?” (this is comparative suffering, a system of ranking pain that only makes us feel worse) or “It’s selfish to feel like this when I have so much to be thankful for.”
Dismissing emotions is a form of gaslighting, and it compounds the pain. Accepting what we’re feeling without trying to deny, numb, or run from it will allow us to move through the emotion and get to a place of clarity where we see that we can feel something difficult AND we can feel thankful.
We are strong enough to straddle this paradox.
Our brains create emotions as immediate reactions to environmental stimuli.
Emotions are based on sensory input and memories, and only last 90 seconds – anything longer than that is not the emotion anymore but the story we are making up about it; dwelling in our feeling about the trigger, like when we stew in self-righteous anger.
Emotions are neither positive nor negative, and we can’t control how our brains produce these reactions – but we can control how we respond to them.
We can get curious, label the emotion, notice how it feels in our body, and choose what to do next.
This prevents us from getting hijacked and falling into habitual patterns, and gives us the agency to make productive choices that create new neural pathways in the brain.
When we pause, we harness our power.
We insulate ourselves in so many ways.
We defer, deflect, deny. It’s “not our problem” when others suffer; we use difference as a justification and distance as a buffer.
All of this is armor, as we try to protect ourselves from acknowledging fear and feeling pain.
But we all share the same needs: autonomy, belonging, safety, to love and be loved.
We can summon the courage to open our hearts and lean into our shared vulnerability, offering empathy and compassion to those in need.
We can tap into our truth: we are inextricably connected.
The past cannot be restored.
But we can repair, adapt, redeem.
We can hold both grief and gratitude in our heart – the grief for what is no more will deepen the gratitude for what is now.
Loss and suffering birth a perspective of awareness and understanding that all things are temporary; change is inevitable.
This is the very nature of all life and it beckons us to awaken in presence; to connect in kindness with the world, ourselves, and each other.
We can use this wisdom to share our light, offering empathy and hope.
It’s a misguided fallacy to view another person as our “half” who “completes” us.
We are whole right now, just as we are.
Autonomy and independence are crucial to connection, and cultivating a healthy relationship with ourselves is the key.
Invest in yourself with myriad forms of self-care and, most importantly, treating yourself with kindness.
Love is within us, and we are worthy.
We are storytellers.
Our brains parse impressions, form opinions, fill in the gaps with presumptions, and create products sold to us as data without ever proving them as facts.
There is an insatiable energy behind this storymaking – a driving need for certainty, justification, and self-preservation.
Stories hold sway, and the judgments we create based on our stories determine whether we condemn or forgive; fear or love.
Stories can hold us hostage or set us free; they can split or suture.
What would happen if we changed the narrative of the stories to which we cling?
What are your values?
Authenticity, empathy, honesty?
Cooperation, respect, teamwork?
Identifying our core values can help us create a standard for how we move through the world with our intentions, words, and behaviors. It can help us identify what makes us feel connected or what makes us feel “off.” Living in alignment with our core values empowers us to act from the heart of integrity and also to work with humility when we stumble and have to pick ourselves up, learn, and try again. And again.
When we are courageous with our vulnerability, forgiving with our fallibility, patient with our progress, and compassionate with ourselves and others, we embody values that connect us all.
What’s the real story when we feel jealousy flare? Could it be the fear that we are inadequate in comparison?
What’s driving our insecurity? Could it be shame, that insidious lie that we are unworthy of belonging and love?
What’s beneath our impatient temper? Could it be our forceful resistance when people or situations don’t ascribe to the way we think they should be?
Is our anxiety really just the fear that we have no control, and our terror of the unknown?
Our emotions are clues; signposts that guide us to go beyond the surface and deeper into the terrain of our inner worlds. When we follow this map, we discover in our minds the gnarled twists of old programming that we can acknowledge without believing and rewrite in new ways to empower us to pause, reflect, and respond judiciously rather than react instinctively when we’re hooked by old patterns.
If we can hold our anger, our sorrow, and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering.
Thich Nhat Hanh