I want to introduce a new format for some of my communication blog posts for 2018. Each blog post will include a problem, a solution based on brain or body science, and possibly a tip to remember the solution and a quote.
BACKGROUND: A woman at a Zen center revealed during a student talk that she’d had a “total meltdown” and called herself, “a hothead”. She said, “I am supposed to behave skillfully”, revealing that she felt shame for having had a blow-up. She had trouble accepting that you can be angry and as a result behave badly. In detailing the moment she said that she “saw it coming” (her blowup) and decided to “go with it”. This was not congruent with her aspiration and she considered it a failure of the fruits of her long time practice in meditation.
PROBLEM: The speaker feels there is something wrong about being in the red zone, when the nervous system turns on the alarm and goes into the high alert of the agitated fight/flight response. But, whether you meditate regularly, live as a contemplative, or are a regular Joe, it is a false ideal that one can always be in the green zone of calm alertness.
SOLUTION: Accept as our human nature the anger, hurt, sadness, joy, jealousy, or fear in our body; that we all have moods, we all have varied feelings. Those feelings need to be noticed, and with awareness, attended to. Notice where in the body you feel the pressure or impulse to act out the emotion. Invite the feeling as a friend, not as a foe to resist. Pause, take a breath or five and notice any change. From there you will return to the calmer greener zone, where thinking is available. Decide whether to indulge that feeling or not.
TIP: Noticing a rising emotion, remember to invite the feeling and be accepting of its presence. Breathe into your body and notice any tension or impulse (to express the feeling). Breathe until your thinking brain engages and you feel compassion for yourself. Only then should you decide whether to express your feelings and how to express them.
QUOTE: “Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness