Changing the Machinery of Upset
Let’s consider ways to cultivate more peace of mind – and even its consummation in profound equanimity – by working with the eight gears of the machine of suffering that we explored in this earlier post.
This list is by no means exclusive: it just points to how many great tools are available these days for managing our emotional reactions.
Methods for Appraisals
- Stay mindful of the whole.
- Be mindful of the meanings, the framings, we give things.
- Challenge the significance the mind gives something. Is it really an 8 on the 10- point Ugh scale? If it’s really a 2, why is my anger an 8?
- Challenge the intentions we attribute to others; realize we are usually a bit player in their drama.
- What beliefs are implicit about others, world? Try cognitive therapy methods for challenging inaccurate, negative beliefs.
Methods for Self-Referencing
- Recognize the suffering that comes from selfing.
- Practice mindfulness of the sense of “I”
- What are the implicit representations of self: Strong? Weak? Mistreated? How does this underlying framing affect your experience of situations?
- How much are we taking things personally? (“Negative grandiosity,” I’m so important that they’re deliberately hassling me.)
- How does getting upset intensify or shade self?
- See the interconnectedness of things in the situation, including yourself.
- Identify legitimate rights and needs, and take care of them.
Methods for Vulnerabilities
- Hold a frame of compassion for yourself and self-acceptance
- Do an honest self-appraisal of physiology/health, temperament, and psychology: Weak spots? Hot buttons?
- Protect vulnerabilities in situations: e.g., eat before talking about what upset you; ask people to slow down if you tend to be rigid; push through possible inhibitions in assertiveness due to culture, gender.
- Shore up vulnerabilities over time: e.g., medical care, vitamins, 5-HTP, antidepressants; build up greater control over your attention; take in positive experiences that slowly fill the hole in your heart.
Methods for Memory
- Be aware of the “pre-amp” turbo-charging of memory and sensitization.
- Increase positive emotional memories by “taking in the good.”
- Shift emotional memories in positive directions over time by recalling old painful experiences while simultaneously bringing positive thoughts and feelings prominently to mind.
- With a therapist, consider other methods for painful experiences or traumas (e.g., EMDR)
Methods for Aversion
- Understand the central place in psychology and in spiritual growth of working with aversion; use that to motivate yourself to not act aversively.
- Meditate on the Second Foundation of Mindfulness (feeling).
- Focus on neutral feeling tones.
- Dwell on the conditioned, compounded, and impermanent nature of the unpleasant.
- Find compassion for people who are aversive to you.
Methods for Bodily Activation
- Understand the mechanical, animal nature of activation.
- Regard stressful activation as an affliction (as the health consequences of chronic stress)
- Use one of the many methods for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to down-regulate the SNS.
- Get in the habit of rapidly activating a damping cascade when the body activates.
- Regard bodily activation as just another compounded, “meaningless,” and impermanent phenomenon.
Methods for Negative Emotions
- Practice mindfulness of how thoughts shape emotions...and emotions shape thoughts.
- Explore the many practices for letting go of negative emotions (e.g., visualize them leaving the body through valves in the tips of the fingers and the toes).
- Cultivate rapture and joy – and the dopaminergic neurological benefits of those states, including for steadying the mind.
Methods for Loss of Executive Control
- Slow down; buy yourself time.
- Cultivate steadiness of mind.
- Describe your experiences in words (noting).
- Actively enlist internal resources, e.g., the felt sense of others who love you,
recollection of what happened the last time you lost your temper.
- Enlist external resources, e.g., call a friend, do therapy, go to a meditation group.
- Stay embodied, which helps dampen runaway emotional-visual reactions.