Day: December 18, 2010

Dealing with negative emotions

I have to confess that I am not a person with patience, especially in my role as a mother. I am easily upset, annoyed, distressed by what my kids did or did not do. 

The problem is not that my kids have or cause any problems. They are actually good kids. The problem is I have high expectation, but low tolerance for bad behavior. And I don’t know how to be patient when my expectation is not met.

I know I inherited my temper from my father.

When my father was young, he was very short-tempered. Judging from today’s standards in this country, my father would be labeled as physically and emotionally abusive. Though he never hurt me, he did pass on some of his short temper in me that I have to deal with.

Sometimes I find myself feeling resentful, angry, sad towards people in my family because of past events. The negative emotions and the stories associated with them keep circulating in my mind. The past occupies my mind, while the present of the moment slips away.

Learning to be mindful and living in the present is something I need to work on. 

Mindfulness means our mind is focused on the present, not on the past or the future. Mindfulness is being in the present moment, having our mind and body in the same place at the same time. We live in the present without judgment and expectation, without being in the fight or flight, reactive mode which causes stress in life.

The Chinese character “nian” for mindfulness is composed of “jin” (now) and “xin” (heart, mind). It means to “reflect, think; to study, learn by heart, remember; recite, read” – to live in the now, with heart and mind.

I am reading the book “Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness” by Susan Smalley and Diana Winston. The book has a chapter on dealing with negative emotions and the basics of working mindfully with emotions. It talks about a technique often taught in Buddhist meditation circles, with RAIN as its acronym, which stand sfor recognition, acceptance, investigation and non-identification.

R = Recognition is the first step to being mindful in the midst of your emotion. With recognition, you gently recognize and label your emotions. Labeling a feeling is a means of regulating it. In labeling your emotions, you begin to distance yourself from the emotions, step out and see what is happening.

A = Acceptance allows or acknowledges the emotions. From the perspective of mindfulness, whatever you are experiencing is okay. Emotions are natural, what you do with the emotions determines the result. Mindfulness encourages you to be present, without judgement, to what is truly happening.  Acceptance allows us to relax and be open to the facts.

I = Investigation of the emotions in your body. The key is not to keep dwelling on the story behind the emotions, but to feel the corresponding sensation of the emotions in your body. Become aware of emotions and see how they manifest through your body in the present moment.

N = Non-identification means not taking your emotions so personally, but having some space around them. Emotions come and go. Your emotions are not you. They are something that is just passing through you. Non-identification helps you see the changing nature of your emotions. You become able to reflect in the midst of an emotion and not react passively.

Practicing mindfulness with RAIN is a helpful tool in dealing with negative emotions.