BY: Troy Murphy | September 2018
When emotionally flooded, it is difficult to cognitively inject thoughts to escape the moment. We need habitual practices that we automatically integrate into these moments that calm the system first, then we can cognitively join adapt, thinking of the future.
We struggle to imagine a different emotion than the current one we are enmeshed in. When I am sad, I think sad thoughts. When I am happy, I think happy thoughts. When I am sad and think of the future, it looks depressing. Our current mood influence perceptions and our perceptions influence our moods. When we are down, it’s difficult to envision joy. This inability to envision happiness during dreary days leaves us feeling stuck.
"Our current mood influence perceptions and our perceptions influence our moods."
Much of the well-being advice is very antidotal, ignoring this real dilemma of mood altering perceptions. Anxiety and fear can flood the functions of the brain, inhibiting the deliberate focusing of the pre-frontal cortex where well-meaning advice from enthusiastic happiness coaches reside. What we do draw from these reservoirs of words is choked of feeling and blurred by overwhelming emotions.
We must first engage a safety practice to calm our nerves. An activity that becomes so automatic, we don’t need much cognitive coaxing to initiate action. These practices can be mindful breathing, restorative meditation, healthy exercise, or a cool glass of tea with sunshine and a cool breeze. We calm our system, establish safety, and open the mind for a more top-down approach to addressing a vexing problem.
Successfully working through stressful and overwhelming emotions requires a conscious combining of top down approaches with bottom-up methods. (The Body keeps Score).
“The Challenge of recovery is to reestablish ownership of your body and your mind—of your self.” ~Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Life’s full of ups and downs, successes and failures, pleasure and sorrows, happy beginnings and sad endings. It’s the nature of the rich experience of living. Hold on with patience when life’s not going so well, calm your mind, and implement change. Even sadness, we can maintain hope of a better future—even though we can’t envision exactly how the future will be.
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