Mindfulness is one of those vague terms.
Subject to many interpretations.
But others have interpreted it with their own bias, of evading emotions.
This is the double edge of mindfulness: it can either amplify or mute your emotional experience.
But of course, it doesn’t just stop there.
Working with your emotions enhances your chance for success.
Evading your emotions dampens it.
Because emotions signal important information about your life and your place in it — which you need to know in order to make informed, mindful decisions about what to do next.
Using mindfulness to amplify your emotional experience
Mindfulness is the sharpest tool you have to work with your emotions.
That’s because you need to accept that you are experiencing an emotion — in order to fully experience it. So that you can later learn from it, and apply what you learned constructively to your life.
Emotions are ephemeral — they’re easy to miss, or misinterpret. Which makes them really easy to avoid.
An emotion might stir up, but you have at least 10 ways to bypass actually experiencing it, by:
- Denying that you are feeling anything
- Ignoring your bodily reactions
- Intellectualizing your experience
- Putting on a smile and continuing the conversation
- Taking a deep breath, counting backwards from 10
- Saying to yourself that there’s nothing you “should” be reacting to
- Taking a jog instead
- Taking a bite of food instead
- Turning on the television
- Coming up with a really good “reason” to not “sink” into your feeling
And this is only the common repertoire of ways to avoid experiencing your emotions; the list goes on.
It’s really easy to ignore, suppress, rationalize away, or distract yourself from your emotions. But it’s not easy to keep them under bay for the rest of your life.
In fact, it’s easier to become mindful of your emotions.
To say to yourself:
“Yes, I am feeling this right now. I’m going to feel it for as long as I must. This feeling has an intelligence, and later on I can figure out how to work with it and let it mobilize me in constructive ways. For now though, I’m just going to feel it.”
Then feeling it, for as long as it takes for the emotion to pass.
When you use mindfulness to amplify your emotional experience, you move through emotions faster and more effectively. Meaning, you’re much more response able to your life.
Using mindfulness to mute your emotional experience
And then there’s the growing movement that takes a different stance.
This movement believes that you can “let go” of your negative emotions without ever having to feel them. By using forgiveness, the accurate push of an acupressure point, enough minutes of meditation, or the right positive reframe.
And these tactics may hide under the umbrella of mindfulness-based this, and mindfulness-based that, pitched mainstream with enough PhD endorsement for people to bypass taking a critical look at the issue and checking out the actual source studies.
Of course, the emotions don’t really “go” anywhere. The thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, and expectations (cognitive networks) that underpin them — just get buried deeper into subconsciousness or possibly abstracted in some way.
And for a time, they remain tame.
But later in life, they cause indirect problems in many subtle and devious ways.
Because the underlying cognitive networks don’t fully transform in the much-needed mindful and functional ways that working with your emotions facilitates. And because much of the mindfulness-based approaches treat symptoms rather than finding long-lasting solutions to the problems.
Using mindfulness against the Ego
And when this long-term success doesn’t pan out, the movement tells you that it’s not your fault.
No — it’s your Ego‘s fault.
And the solution is to kill it.
And if you do — try that is — the vicious cycle starts all over again.
Muting your emotional experience is not effective.
Which edge will you use?
As I see it, muting your emotional experience is not technically considered mindfulness at all — but the opposite of it: evasion.
But as it stands today, mindfulness does have a double-edge.
Just be mindful of which one you use.
And feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with mindfulness-as-it-relates-to-your-emotions below.