upset2

Changing the Machinery of Upset

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upset2

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. (There are other methods, too, that are more specifically Buddhist, and you might like to explore the Access to Insight website for more information.)

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.
  • See “21 Ways to Turn Ill Will into Good Will.

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.

Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, Dr. Hanson is offering his incredible program The Foundations of Well-Being program at an unbelievable discount for those who choose the one time payment option, so if you were on the fence before now’s the time to act!

About the Author

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and a New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. He has several audio programs and his free Just One Thing newsletter has over 100,000 subscribers.

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