7 Steps to Emotional Freedom!
7 STEPS TO MASTERING EMOTIONAL HABITS
What would life be like if you mastered your emotional habits? Many of us feel like helpless victims, when it comes to our emotions. By recognizing the hidden patterns behind the habits of the mind, we can change the perception of a situation and so free ourselves as to how we respond. Yes, we can then exercise the power of choice in our life.
"To a lover a beautiful woman is a delight, To a monk she is a distraction To a mosquito a good meal"- Zen aphorism
The habits of the mind or "schema", based on the work of Tara Bennet-Goldman in her book "Emotional Alchemy", are a framework for what we perceive at one time to have been useful coping strategies. However to keep them as core beliefs when they no longer work, means we are acting from our subconscious, and not from our awareness. We are then a victim to our emotions and our regrettable reactions are not under our control.. . These core beliefs include abandonment, mistrust, deprivation, unlovability and subjugation and are shaped by the early years of ones' childhood, and are manifested in our close relationships.
Other core beliefs emerge later as we grow to meet the social standards of independence and capability and include social exclusion, vulnerability, failure, perfectionism and entitlement.
The solution? Mindfulness! Mindful awareness, as opposed to mindlessness, brings freedom, and creates a work space to deal with our automatic habits. By getting in touch with our own feelings and needs, we get a more accurate perception of how things are, and this keeps us honest as well as creates alternative neural pathways to the brain! And this enables new messages to find their way rather than the old habits.
Mindfulness practice hones our intuition, sharpens our mental faculties, improves our memory and brings an understanding from a mature viewpoint, thus developing the intelligence of the emotional brain.
"As human beings our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world ....as being able to remake ourselves."- Gandhi How to use Mindfulness to master emotional habits:
1. Acknowledge the stimulus 2. Explore the feelings and needs 3. Notice your thoughts 4. Empathise with self and others 5. Equanimity Practice 6. Catching the magic quarter-second 7. Applying antidotes
1. Acknowledge Recognise what you are observing about yourself. Acknowledge that you are pre-occupied, overreacting or doing something inappropriate. There is no judgement or rejection here, only an allowing of what is. Separate the stimulus (the perceived cause) of your emotion from the "should thinking" (the real cause) of what you assume is happening. For example by letting go of the specifics of what made us angry- we enlarge our awareness to encompass the whole process of anger-oh, so that's anger, the thoughts, feelings, sensations and actions that go with it.
Mindfulness can be like this soulful embrace… intimately connecting us with our raw senses and tender feelings, allowing them to naturally move through us, embraced by empathic awareness" -Tara Bennett-Goldman, Emotional Alchemy
2. Explore your feelings
What are you feeling? And have you had that feeling before? Do you see a pattern? Here are some clues for you ie. particular feelings associated with various "schemas"
Abandonment-anxiety, deep sadness, feeling of isolation
Mistrust-rage, hostility at the least sign of betrayal, suspiciousness, history of being belittled
Deprivation-deep sadness, lack of boundaries, inability to meet own needs
Subjugation-non-committal, chronic lateness, or the compulsion to please others, resentment and frustration at being controlled.
Social exclusion-withdrawal, defiant, acting as an outcast, or overly conscientious
Vulnerability-panic, anxiety, anticipating disaster, phobia, paranoia.
Failure- self doubt, anxious, sadness regarding their career and achievements, uses 'always' and 'never' a lot.
Perfectionism-high expectations and standards, push too hard, critical parents who don't accept you as you are.
Entitlement- 'rules don't apply to me', feel special, above the rest, deprived of attention as a child or spoilt.
"When we can just live at the level of feeling, where we are mindfully responding to pleasure and pain not just acting on desire, then we can live in a content and harmonious way"- Achan Amaro
3. Notice your thoughts Challenge your assumptions! Are you "should thinking" ? Has judgement taken a hold of you? How are you interpreting the situation? Are you perceiving your thoughts as mere ideas or overwhelming truths? What is the reality? Are the thoughts merely part of your belief system and mental construct?
Mindfulness allows you to see that we do not have to believe our thoughts, they are not reality. Old mental habits like 'I'm hopeless" are like smoothed out grooves in the mind. Recognizing them for what they are breaks their hold. "Oh, I'm having those thoughts again!" A thought is merely a small voice and you don't have to listen to it!
" It is not things themselves that trouble us, but our thoughts about those things"-Epictetus.
4. Empathic reframing
a. For Self
Empathise with your feelings by giving them a nod, then acknowledge your needs
"Of course I am feeling rage right now, my schema fears of not being trusted makes me assume I am going to be betrayed,………. and what I need is reassurance.(recognizing needs)
Self talk: "I am not depriving you(myself ) if I don't eat this ice cream…….I am creating a new ideal of myself"(applying antidote)
b. For Others
Becoming aware of your partner's schema cultivates empathy for them. Understanding that we all have these "wounds" and mental habits gives way to compassion. Create safe space by empathizing with what is behind someone's actions, listening and mirroring back what you have heard them say, and tuning in to their feelings and needs. This then allows a greater platform for your feelings and needs to be heard and met. Blame has not entered the picture at all, so angry defenses which fuel arguments, do not need to be put in place.
"When I didn't call last night you thought I had been hurt, and so you were afraid because you needed reassurance"
5. Equanimity Practice
Equanimity practice can help us out with those moments, when it is difficult to be impartial with others, and we become agitated and under the influence of other disturbing emotions. By observing our thoughts and feelings with equanimity, we neither react or judge them, we simply witness them . The practice is repeated silently to oneself while reflecting on the phrase:
'May I accept things as they are… I wish you happiness and well-being, but I cannot make your choices for you or control the way things are'
6. Catching the magic quarter-second The brain begins to activate an electrical impulse prior to the dawning in our awareness of the intent to make that very action. Once we are aware, we have a quarter second in which we can choose whether to go along with the impulse or to reject it. This is where one could say the will resides. Practice catching some quarter seconds!
Mindfulness breaks the chain of emotional habit by allowing reflective awareness to take place between the emotional impulse and the action. We then can just say no. We have the power not to act.
7. Applying antidotes
Changing the pattern of habitual responses takes intention and effort in order to make a real difference. Here are various ways:
a. Cultivating a positive state of mind acts like an antidote. Anger can be eased by reflecting on loving kindness, arrogance by reflecting on humility, fear by dwelling on trust.
b. Counter-thoughts rehearsed beforehand are a powerful ally in breaking the chain of habitual response: For example when the inner critic tells you that you are incompetent, say " I am competent and accomplish things with grace and ease"
c. The greatest antidote to a persistent "schema" or habit is a Spirit of Playfulness. Practice using words like "possibly"," perhaps", "maybe" or "is that so" and be light hearted, but be sensitive to your partner as well as to right timing!
d. Just saying "Thank you" for whatever has arisen allows humility to flow and a return to the here and now. It allows an acknowledgement of what is, and invites more fulfilling relationships into your life.
e. Above all, take time to be by yourself and cultivate silence. Tune into the wisdom of the heart, take inspiration and tell yourself you are mastering yourself more and more each day. See every opportunity that arises to trigger your emotions, as the universe supplying you with a practice session!
"Life does not need to be about 100% change all at one. It is more about one hundred 1% changes!"
Remember the more you practice mindfulness, the more free you will feel in yourself!