How do we educate our emotions, train our minds effectively? “Effectively”, as in implying actual change so that destructive emotions and thoughts are no longer produced in the contexts processed. Find a well-understood, holistic and verifiable approach that can be applied based on our individual emotional proclivities, secular or spiritual outlook, etc? Not as a quick-fix, mere temporary emotional symptoms relief in controlled conditions, but as a long-term solution that withstands the test of meaningful real-life events.
Mindfulness – worldview – practice
The process of tackling specific destructive emotion or an undesired state of mind usually involves the following repetitive phases:
- We notice unwanted reaction or state of mind (e.g. via mindfulness),
- We find views, stories that provide no causes for the reaction (ecological worldview),
- We train our minds, adopt new views and reactions until they replace the unwanted ones (practice).
We may use other names or split these evolving cycles into different phases – they have to make sense, we have to understand how we progress from locating the issue to actually fixing it (its non-production). If the process is unsuccessful, where we need to look for missing or ineffective pieces.
Let’s take a closer look at the proposed breakdown of emotional regulation cycle:
Mindfulness: our awareness of arising phenomena (emotions, feelings, thoughts, physical signals, sensory information, incl. our perception of the “external” situation).
Worldview: a target set of holistic ecological views, cause-and-effect links providing acceptable and sufficient reasons to interact with the world gracefully, e.g. discard destructive activity despite its “obvious” justification by the “old” views.
Practice: the process of adopting ecological worldview, working with undesired reactions, changing them to new, harmonic ones.
If either of the three components is overlooked that reduces the chances of tackling undesired reactions successfully:
- mindfulness without an ecological worldview interprets phenomena based on obsolete notions and reactions (skewed perception)
- if it lacks other practices to adopt the worldview, it simply witnesses repetitions of reactions that don’t change
- if mindfulness is lacking, we are flying blind, keeping ourselves busy solving non-existing problems and missing the signals of actual issues
Learning from those who embody principles advocated
Obviously, we can learn from anyone. However, it is worth considering two things:
- valid reasoning (explicit meaning)
- implicit functional outlook inadvertently mediated by the author’s actually embodied views and reactions, including emotional contagion.
The effectiveness of a text, video, in-person session or guided meditation is much higher if these are offered by individuals who have reached the non-production of destructive emotions for the contexts they offer help with. If, on the contrary, the individual reacts to problems with agitation — their message may mediate their actual implicit outlook, not the explicit theoretical meaning. Ultimately, sharing their problems, not a solution (since they may not really embody one).
Basically, even if something sounds OK, entertains, or calms us down for a while, we have to stay alert and verify the long term impact outside sessions, when the usual triggers are involved. Especially, if it is a “miracle worker” solution that:
- does not require much time and effort, offers quick and guaranteed results
- does not deal with the causes/views, but only suppresses or distracts us from emotional symptoms
- someone else does it for us
- external means are sufficient – use a substance, ritual, etc.
- “hack” approach
- mysterious means (no understanding of how it works and fits the worldview)
- promise of material gains, health, money, relationships, higher states, mental powers, etc.
Evolving choice of instruments
It usually takes a number of attempts to find and master the tools that actually work, to obtain successful experiences of ceasing destructive states and the personal roadmap of getting there. As we reduce destructive interference, the reach and sensitiveness of our mindfulness increases. The tensions and destructive mental activity we could neglect yesterday, become palpable discomforts we can no longer ignore. As we evolve, so does the set of emotional regulation instruments.
However, this also means the more “advanced” any practice is, the more prepared we are to become to avoid misuse and wasting time. A common pitfall of theoretic knowledgeability in the information era . 🙂