Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mindfulness of feelings

I woke up feeling sad this morning and wasn't immediately sure why.  As I stood in the shower I decided to observe the physical sensation of that sadness in my body -- where in my body I felt it, the quality and intensity of the sensation (a little pressure on my chest and shoulders, not extremely heavy or intense, slightly unpleasant), etc.  I spent about a minute paying attention to these sensations.  I allowed myself to experience the sensations without trying to change them or push them away. 

After acknowledging and attending to the physical sensations associated with my emotional state I attempted to name what I was feeling.  "I'm feeling sad," I thought to myself.  "Disappointed," I thought again.  "Disappointed?" I thought.  "What has happened recently or is happening now that would cause me to feel disappointed?" I asked.  I'm a little embarassed by the answer -- I was feeling disappointed because the special someone in my life was supposed to call last night but never did.  I was a bit frustrated with myself for being upset over something so silly.  I knew he was helping his sister move last night and probably didn't call because he was out later than expected.  There was no reason to be upset.  I didn't beat myself up though.  Instead, I was compassionate towards myself.  "It's normal to feel disappointed," I told myself.  "It's okay to feel that way."

I think that when most people experience an unpleasant emotion their automatic response is to try to get rid of it by, for example, pushing it away or doing something to make themselves feel better.  If I'd done that this morning I might have ended up being in a bad mood all day.  I might have snapped at my special someone or been angry with him the next time we talked.  Instead, I allowed myself to experience my emotions; in doing so, I better understood what I was feeling and why I felt that way.  Once I acknowledged and accepted my disappointment it became less intense.  I immediately felt a little better.  In turn, I was able to remain calm when my car overheated on the way to work and I had pull over and get out in the torrential rain to put antifreeze in it.  I was still calm when I missed my exit and had to go several miles out of my way.  Although it had been "one of those mornings" I was able to handle it because I wasn't carrying around unresolved emotional baggage. 

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