In Out of Control Part 1, we talked about the brain, and how that non-thinking, emotional part of our brain, right smack in the middle of our heads, can hijack us, and cause us to react in ways that tend to hurt others or ourselves.
In Out of Control Part 2, we discussed thinking errors, and how our feelings in childhood can affect the way we think. We also learned that the way we think can affect our feelings, and that our feelings can affect our behavior, and on and on!
In Out of Control Part 3, I want to discuss how learning to be mindful can help us, not only control our emotions, but also, in some ways, reshape how our brain works. It’s almost like a reboot.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Here’s an example to show how this can happen in real life.
Don’t Be A Jerk About It
You are waiting in line at the theatre. You are with friends. You are feeling happy and excited to see the movie. Suddenly, a young twenty-something comes walking up and takes his place in line two people ahead of you. You have two choices as to how you will react.
Our first tendency is to immediately judge that this guy’s motive is to take “cuts” and get into the movie before he would have had he just gotten in line behind the last person in line.
The very next thing that usually happens is that we take a shortcut and judge the person or event. We may say to ourselves, “What a jerk!” That is quick and easy. We have just labeled a person we have never met a “jerk,” which insinuates that he is not a nice person in any area of his life. We don’t stop to think about how we would feel if he were our brother, or a close friend.
Immediately, our upbeat mood takes a nosedive. We become irritated if not downright angry. The young man? He’s happy as a lark! He has no idea that some stranger he has never met has judged him to be a “jerk.”
Is that fair? No…we should not have to suffer emotionally and lose our good feelings because of the action of someone else. So what could we do instead?
2 Steps to Being Mindful
Be mindful. Two DBT skills of Core Mindfulness are called Observing and Describing. Simply observe that the guy got in front and describe to yourself what happened. Say to yourself something like, a young man just got in line two people in front of me. Then, if you have to think about it further, you can offer yourself alternative, more positive viewpoints, such as, maybe his friend was saving a place for him, or, maybe he didn’t realize that wasn’t the end of the line. At the very least remind yourself that one person ahead of you is not going to make or break the good time you are having.
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of ways to practice mindfulness. Stay tuned for more ideas in how to stay present and lower those out of control emotions.
Have you ever had to fight judgmental thoughts? Has the action of a stranger ever ruined your good mood? Leave a comment below and be part of the conversation.