3 stepping stones to fully process an emotion

[+audio version]
3 stepping stones to fully process an emotion

How do we fully process an unwanted emotion so it is replaced with the freedom to choose a response? Actually, prevent anger or fear from happening. Make a sustainable change so that balanced, constructive responses arise naturally instead.

Besides using an effective systems framework we are to progress over three essential stepping stones:

    1. Get started, “unroll the mat” (1% progress)
    2. Gain momentum (30% progress)
    3. Finalize (100% progress)

Each of these steps is required to make a lasting change to our reactions. Otherwise, the causes we left unprocessed will trigger the unwanted emotion again, continue managing our reactions, and choices.

Get started, “unroll the mat” (1% progress)

The hardest part of yoga is unrolling the mat, getting started. Much more so is making the first step to undo a change-resistant habit. As if we were fighting ourselves. The good news is we are not. On the contrary, we strive to uncover the real selves from under the artificial layers we are to peel off.

A reach of mindfulness is limited, obscured by active emotions

It is easier to begin if we “use a mat”, conducive conditions: seclusion, walk outside, exercise, creative hobby, monotonous task, talking to a balanced person, or even washing dishes. Such a temporary cushion allows us to distance from the emotion, its triggers, and internal causes. So that we can take a better look at them thanks to improved mindfulness reach. Investigate, break down into manageable pieces, and start making real progress.

Our next stepping stone: gaining enough momentum to overcome internal resistance.

Gain momentum (30% progress)

Now we have to prove to our own mind we are willing to change. Despite the resistance of our habits and emotionally charged: “it is not going to work, it is a waste of time, drop it, better watch a movie!” We are to keep pushing until we process the initial ~30%. Repetitively apply effort so that we gain enough momentum to overcome the internal resistance. Get our train moving in the direction we want.

As we start making real progress we can experience our emotional state changing. Get a glimpse, a taste of how we can feel.  The chosen (e.g. systems, compassionate) perspective on events and people becomes functional and bears the first fruits.

Nice work, but we are not out of the woods yet. The emotion still repeats if provoked. We are yet to finalize what we started, bring in our endgame.

Finalize (100% progress)

Can we make it to the finishing line? Not to turn back halfway and allow the unprocessed causes and habits to continue ruling?

Indeed, 100% is a challenge. Every time we experience a moment of relief, our habits try to switch us to “more important and interesting things”, “all done, good job, enough!”

However, if in a few days (or weeks) the emotion repeats and remains strong (not residual), — there’s still work to be done. Until the causes are fully processed. Otherwise, we are caving under their covert pressure and allow them to repeat, govern, lead to consequences.

The moment of achieving 100% is very noticeable. It is like taking the weight of the world off your shoulders, the pain/discomfort of the tension goes away. The intense contrast between who we were and who we become may even cause tears. We feel joy, compassion, gratitude.

The old emotion can no longer be triggered. We are different now.

All done. Congrats!

Residual emotions

If the emotion still repeats, but “dissolves”, has no impact on us as soon as we have noticed it, — it is a residual reaction. It is not supported by internal causes.


Listen to the audio version of this article: