Let’s learn a secret ninja/jedi/superhero move for managing difficult emotions. We know you’re there emotions we find tricky and we know that we can develop a super power to counteract them.
The problem with difficult emotions such as anger, fear, and anxiety is that they can very easily propel us into a whirlwind of guilt, shame and self-critical thinking. This then has an impact on our thoughts and actions (we might eat more, smoke, worry, self-harm, deepen suicidal thoughts etc.). These thinking patterns can really get us caught up in a difficult place in life.
One of the most powerful ways to combat this is to practice creating a new and more helpful version of ourselves. Science is telling us without doubt that this is possible. Our brains have the ability to change, the fancy word for this is neuroplasticity. It’s interesting stuff. Especially if we are looking for change in our lives.
The reason why my therapeutic practice is deeply rooted in Compassionate Mind Training is because this is the most powerful way clients find of creating the most helpful version of us. I know, the word compassion conjures up all kinds of fluffy bunny type images. Or even makes people recoil, especially seeing as over here in Ireland it has a link with Religion and for some this is an uneasy connection.
However, Compassionate Focused Therapy and Compassionate Mind Training has nothing to do with either of the above. Phew! It is a way of working with people that brings the science of being human into people’s lives. The science helps us to understand why it is we do the things we do, because of the way our brain is constructed. This helps us to understand our motivations and how they organise our minds and actions in a particular way. If a person’s angry, this will motivate and organise the mind to think and act in a certain way, usually a pretty unhelpful way. When we are angry we have certain thoughts (punishing, harming, self-critical etc.) and this narrows our minds and dictates our actions (screaming, clenching, hitting etc.).
So if a person is angry they will only think and act in an angry way. And it is possible to contain this and even short-circuit and re-direct it before the full force of anger kicks in.
Where compassion comes in is that it does two things:
1. Helps us create a more helpful version of ourselves that we can bring to the foreground and help run the show. We practice this version of us – how might we stand, sit, talk, think and express ourselves? How might we be if we didn’t judge, could tolerate pain, were kind, warm and caring?
2. This version of us can then relate to the more difficult emotions we experience. This way our difficult emotions can be contained. Because the difficult emotions are powerful emotions and can escalate.
If you would like to practice learning an anti-dote to these, here is a meditation I often share with clients.
The more we practice these kinds of exercise, the more we are re-programming our brain so our helpful emotions can be switched on with more ease. Jedi move or what?