Why You Can Take Effective Decisions and Achieve Dynamic Implementation?
Mindfulness – Making your emotions your allies
This is the first in the series Effective Decisions and Dynamic Implementation. In each instalment you will acquire implementable-friendly ideas and tools to assist you in your decision processes.
Den Stil verbessern, das heißt den Gedanken verbessern.
Improving style means improving thought.
Our decisions are a direct result of our thoughts. When we act out our thoughts as we interpret them, we become an embodiment of, not only our thoughts, but also of our decisions. Have you ever considered what causes you to have a certain thought instead of another? What about emotions? Where do emotions fit into the equation we call “being human?”
Think about how we, as humans, function. What comes first, the thought or the emotion? Does the emotion you are feeling right now exist because of what you are thinking or, does the emotion cause you to have your thought? Does it matter? (Hint: Yes, it does!)
In this article you will learn how to strategically influence your emotions, which in turn will assist you in having more beneficial thoughts. These beneficial thoughts will work to your advantage so that you can take better decisions and thereby positively influence your life.
What is an emotion? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica an emotion is: a complex experience of consciousness, bodily sensation, and behaviour that reflects the personal significance of a thing, an event, or a state of affairs.
In other words, the influence of an emotion on behaviour is a result of our subjective analysis of a situation, event or perception. Our emotions are a reaction to a situation. We express this meaning we give to a situation via our thoughts and the resulting behaviour and the decisions we take. Our decisions reflect our intention on how we wish to affect our environment.
According to Dr Thomas Marra, author of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy a Practical & Comprehensive Guide, the intensity of emotion discomfort is caused by, among other variables, “conflict between self and environment, defined as inadequate compromises between competing needs, and wants”. The consequence is, according to Dr Marra: “Emotions are more likely to spur certain thoughts rather than thoughts growing emotions.”
In DBT, a dialectic involves the “opposites, opposing forces, paradoxes, conflicts or catch-22s life inevitably brings.” For example, some dialectics are acceptance vs. change, flexibility vs. stability, or skills and capabilities vs. limitations and deficits.
Emotional discomfort results in negative thoughts which, in turn, result in unfavourable decisions. Unfavourable decisions, as we all know, result in detrimental behaviour.
Naturally, concentrating on emotional control is the first logical step. If you can influence an emotion at the beginning, you might be able prevent it from adversely influencing your behaviour. (the thought –decision-behaviour link). Regulating this emotion now may prevent it from being as strong, powerful or overwhelming in the future. However, trying to avoid or escape negative emotions is not the solution: attempting to avoid or shut down your emotions will actually increase the emotional issue! “Withdrawal deprives the person of opportunities to learn adaptive strategies for conflict resolution and can interfere with the development of social skills.”
If we learn to recognise and label our emotion we will be able to better regulate them. Acceptance and mindfulness of the emotion decrease it.
Our neurological wiring is perhaps not especially beneficial when it comes being able to influence our emotions.
First of all, to paraphrase Marra, there does not appear to be a continuous feedback loop between the rational and the emotional sections of the brain. Feedback systems help us to adapt and the lack of feedback loops account for many emotional disorders.
Secondly, “negative emotion and emotional memory are programmed for permanence. And for good reason, as this arrangement promotes survival in instinctual ways.”
Fortunately, there is an array of coaching tools you can learn to help you in achieving your objectives. One of the initial tactics to tame and rein in unwanted emotional arousal is mindfulness, based on the methods of Dr Kabat-Zinn.
Doing Mind and Being Mind
Two basic concepts of mindfulness, as formulated by Dr Zindel V. Segal, are themselves dialectics: Doing Mind and Being Mind.
Doing Mind is probably the mode you are in right now as you are consuming this information. Doing Mind is cerebral. It specialises in observing and collecting information, reflecting, planning, achieving, analysing and focusing.
Being Mind also observes and records data but does not analyse the situation. Rather, in Being Mind, we absorb the moment. In Being Mind, observing is the end in itself. No analysis is done and no judgements are made. The purpose is to be fully present and allow osmosis between you and your experiences proceed. In Being Mind you incorporate all five senses and become part of them as they become a part of you.
The concepts are actually easy to understand but most of us are so railroaded into the Doing Mind mode by our daily routines that we may think that mindfulness is too simple to work.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Doing Mind. Indeed, using this skill is a matter of survival. It becomes detrimental when we are pushed too far and lose touch with the counter balancing dialectic: Being Mind. Mindfulness is watching, observing, experiencing. Mindfulness is thoughtless. There is no past and no future….only this experience right now.
As an introduction to mindfulness, let’s try this quick exercise.
Focus on one thing. Remain with the observation of this one thing as long as possible. Keep focused only on this one thing. You will notice your mind trying to wander to thoughts or other objects. This is okay. This is normal. Simply gently bring your attention back to the one thing.
Observe what is “out there”? “Out there” is something you are mindful to. Perhaps a feeling, perhaps a colour, perhaps a melody, perhaps a beam of light. Your attention is immersed by something and you are observing it with complete neutrality.
Let in all in. Observe and perceive only here and only now. Each new moment provides you the opportunity to experience how the event or object is. Do not omit anything. Let it all in.
Increase your sense perception. Experience now with all five senses, seeing, hearing, touching/feeling, tasting, and smelling; what does your perception look like? Does its appearance change after a while or when you look at it from a different perspective? Where is the sound coming from? Where do you hear it in your head? How does it feel? Cold, wet, dry, coarse, smooth? Let the flood gates of your perception open.
When you are ready return and become aware of your environment, listen for sounds, movement. Notice how your body feels. Become aware of your body and emotions. Offer yourself appreciation for becoming mindful and finding a sense of effortlessness and well-being.
Mindfulness does not problem solve or plan things. Mindfulness has no opinions or ideas. Mindfulness only observes. Mindfulness does not think. It observes.
Being aware of and accepting of our emotions is the first step in being able to influence them. Once we are able to influence our emotions we can better influence our thoughts and the decisions we take. These synergetic links can improve our quality of life and help us to achieve fulfilment.
We have just begun our effective decisions quest by learning something about and practicing mindfulness. During our time together in future articles we will acquire additional effective decision skills.
Until then, be mindful, be happy.
The above exercise is an adaptation of information included in Dr Marra’s Powerpoint presentation which accompanies his DBT A Practical & Comprehensive Guide Copyright 2005 by Thomas Marra
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy in Private Practice, Dr. Thomas Marra, 2005, New Harbinger Publications, Inc. https://www.mindful.org/difference-between-being-and-doing/