Mindfulness: Managing Negative Emotional And Psychological States.

I just wanted to clarify something that we spoke about at last night’s mindfulness group. Of course I can only speak about what I have experienced personally and what I have witnessed in others who have been practicing mindfulness for quite some time. Also during my psychology training this issue was spoken about a good amount.

Like we discussed last night, the negative (difficult) emotional/psychological states that we struggles with (anger, anxiety, depression to name a few) are often apart of the fabric of who we are- like our blood type, height, hair color, sound of our voice, etc. These negative emotional and psychological states are not only multi-generational (passed down from generation to generation) but they are also a part of our initial conditioning. So often the anxiety, worry, restlessness, depression, unhappiness, etc, that you deal with today has been there for a very long time and will most likely be there for the rest of your life because these personality traits are a part of who you are. They never entirely go away.

The desire to make these personality traits (emotions/psychological states) go away often creates a great deal of struggle, frustration and difficulty for people. With mindfulness practice the idea is that we learn how to become aware of our anxiety, our anger, our depression, our boredom, our loneliness the moment it arises and then fully accept it by not-identifying with it as strongly as we tend to do when we are unaware of it. By just being aware of our anxiety or depression and accepting it fully (I know I am depressed now but I know this too will pass. I am aware of my breathing, feet on the ground and sounds that I am hearing. I continue to bring myself back to the present moment where everything is ok) we can begin to step back from it and it will no longer last as long. Through mindfulness practice we learn how to accept and manage these difficult emotions and psychological states rather than trying to fix or annihilate them.

But here is the catch. Mindfulness is the integration of a new personality trait. The result of adding this more mindful (self-aware) aspect to your personality, greatly reduces the intensity and duration of negative emotional and psychological states that may have once dominated your entire life. (You can “snap out of” these habitual negative emotional and psychological states much quicker.) Through being able to be aware of your depression and then step back from it (accept it as it is) and allow it to run its course, your depression or anxiety or anger no longer lasts as long and it no longer takes you into the depths of despair, self-judgement and/or panic as it once may have.

So by becoming aware, accepting and dis-identifying from these negative emotional/psychological states you no longer suffer from them as much. They take up a much smaller part of your personality. So in this sense the intense and all consuming way that you once experienced anxiety, panic, anger, depression does gradually go away through the integration of mindfulness into your moment to moment life and what you are left with is a more mild, watered down and manageable form of these negative emotional/psychological states. The kind of depression, anger or anxiety that you lived with before mindfulness does go away but you will most likely always live with some degree of depression, anger and/or anxiety. Mindfulness (self-awareness) just gives us the ability to manage these more difficult emotional/psychological states (rather than the difficult states controlling us) that are often a part of who we are.

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