Last week we covered Noting:
- Valence: pleasant/unpleasant
- Arousal: high/low energy
- Emotion words
Once we have learned to notice what is happening, we learn to welcome it. Perhaps counterintuitively, if we can welcome unpleasant experience, it becomes easier to handle. Being able to experience difficult emotion, can, in itself, make a difference.
Think of something you don’t like about yourself. Best to pick something not hugely serious, just something perhaps somewhat annoying. What we do in this exercise is we bring this aspect of ourselves to mind, then we pay attention to what happens in our body when we do so. Likely, it won’t be pleasant.
Once we’ve found it in our body, can we let it be there? What is it like to say to ourselves something like, “I don’t like this about myself, but I can be okay with it being here?”
Now think of something you like about yourself. Notice what is happening in your body. Can you welcome this too?
How do we welcome something we don’t like? Typically, when we bring to mind something we don’t like about ourselves, we are actually invoking two things: awareness of the aspect we don’t like, and resistance to that aspect of ourselves.
Welcoming involves noticing the resistance too, and exploring whether we can let that go. If we can’t let it go, can we be okay with that being there?
Exercise: The Observer
In this exercise, we again bring something to mind that we don’t like. Then, once we’ve identified that, we ask ourselves how we feel about that. Then, we can ask how we feel about how we feel about it. It can be curious to notice these ‘meta’ feelings.
Next, notice the thing we don’t like. Now, check, who is it that is observing this? Can you get a sense of the ‘observer’, who it is that is looking at this aspect of ourselves? If you manage to get a sense of where the observer is, ask yourself, “how does the observer feel about this thing you don’t like?”
If we bring to mind something we don’t like, let’s ask ourselves, how often has resisting this actually got rid of it? The psychological truth is, unfortunately, as natural as resisting feels, it actually has the opposite effect, it solidifies the thing we are trying to avoid.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, if we can turn towards our experience, including the unpleasant and difficult, we can slowly start to realise it isn’t as bad as our resistance makes out.
Exercise: The Fist
In this exercise, we hold our hand up in front of us. We tighten our hand into a fist, and then clench it so that the finger nails dig into the palm of our hand. That is likely unpleasant. We give our hand a good squeeze for maybe 15/20 seconds. We ask ourselves how this is. Is it pleasant? Do we want it to stop? Then, when the instructor says so, we instantly release the clenching. Again, we check in with our hand. How is it now? Has the pain or discomfort stopped?
Then, after exploring that, the instructor asks: “is it the same hand?”
Exercise: The Fist - explanation
Participants will likely say, “Of course it is”. We can then draw a parallel here between the hand in a painful state and negative emotion. That negative or unpleasant experience is just our own energy tightened in an unpleasant form. In the same way that we didn’t need to sever our hand to stop the pain, we don’t need to sever our emotions.
Rather, if we engage with our negative emotion, listen to it, feel it, it starts to feel more heard, and can start to relax. Our energy becomes more available to us.