Managing Control of Emotions
By Martín Reynoso
Emotions are present at all times. There is no experience that does not receive the impact, softer or more intense, of our affective life. What’s more, most emotions arise unconsciously as ways of adapting to changes in the environment or in our own mind.
Imagine that you leave your house and you cross a thought in relation to the possible shutdown of the transport that the television announced in the morning. Without looking for it, without intentionally activating it, a sensation of a certain anguish and fear appears. Maybe, that feeling mixes quickly with the feeling that today it can rain and do not bring umbrella … you worry, of course. So far you have a cocktail of fear, anguish and worry.
That’s right, we are emotional beings and everything is tinged with experiences of this type. However, as we said that most come from sources undetectable by our conscience, it is also true that we record only the most intense, those that disturb our momentary state of mind. It may also be that you are finishing a job in the office and that you are past lunchtime. You are very focused and anxious to finish your task, but without realizing it, you begin to feel annoyed because you experience hunger and your stomach demands food. So the cocktail here is one of anxiety and annoyance.
The Impact of Afflictive Emotions
We have already talked about this topic in this space, but we have to make a brief reference so that we can explain how to regulate them, which is the theme of today.
Afflictive emotions are, within the universe of Mindfulness (following Buddhism), those that arise in reaction to an experience of displeasure or discomfort in our life, and that make us react without more control of the mind. Afflictive emotions are not the basic ones of our human condition, like fear, anguish or the most primary anger, but what we do with them … that is, if from the experience of fear we make an inhibition, a phobia or A constant alert to possible dangers we can say that we have transformed an unpleasant emotion into afflictive emotion. If we go from anger to anger, to vengeance, we also speak of afflictive emotion.
We need to develop a capacity to regulate them when we feel flooded and overflowing our control.
6 facets of emotional regulation and mindfulness
Within the question of what are the aspects related to the loss of emotional regulation, we can find:
• Non-acceptance of emotional response (reacting to the expression of emotion)
• Difficulty to commit to planned goals (by the irruption of afflictive emotion)
• Difficulty in controlling impulses (not being able to inhibit) Lack of emotional awareness (not being able to name it, label it)
• Limited access to emotional regulation strategies (not knowing how to regain control over afflictive emotion)
• Lack of emotional clarity (not being able to discern the emotions that appear, in many cases manifesting in the form of “affective cocktails”.
In an ongoing research with 110 people who did the mindfulness program, our Ineco team reports the significant improvement of all these facets toward the end of training, except in the Lack of Emotional Awareness, where improvement is important but not significant.
Emotion appears, we observe it, we accompany it with the conscious breathing and the recognition of the sensations in our body, we take care to react and to want to manipulate it and we look for our center, the resilient and lasting nucleus of our being. For this, it does not reach with mere voluntarism, but there must be an intention rooted in practice, which impacted the brain’s on to allow us to find alternative ways to manage our afflictive emotions. Why? Because mindfulness helps develop an attitude of kindness, non-criticism and acceptance to the emergence of emotion and its progressive channeling towards neutrality.
As Daniel Goleman, who coined the concept of Emotional Intelligence, “the ability to pause and not act on the first impulse has become crucial learning in everyday life.” May we be masters of detail in the management of our emotions.
Martín Reynoso is a psychologist and coordinator of the graduate course of Mindfulness at UNIVERSITY OF FAVALORO.