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Facing Our Emotions with Equanimity

Dr Sam Tan, Clinical Psychologist Centre for Human Potential

One of the immediate reactions to our strong negative emotions is to reject them. We might do our best to “think positively”, to argue with ourselves, to suppress our emotions or to avoid situations that evoke these emotions in the first place. In short we try to “fix” them and often the outcome is that the emotions come back stronger than before.

Suppose we were to do things slightly differently; imagine that you are experiencing these strong emotions. Instead of fixing them, you become curious and start observing them – noticing how they arise, stay or change and cease. Additionally, you tell yourself “for this moment, I’m going to make room for these difficult emotions to be inside me”. You might go further and say “I don’t have to like them or agree with them, I’m just watching them”. See what happens then.

 

A few things are likely to happen when we adopt this mindful attitude:

  • We feel less of an internal battle
  • We ironically feel calmer and less reactive to our emotions
  • With time, we become used to our emotions and their presence no longer affects us
  • With time, we start to see deeper patterns and recognize important psychological needs that are unmet
  • We have more energy and mental capacity to focus on other things in our lives that are important and meaningful to us

Give this a try. Start with less intense negative emotions and gradually work your way up to using this approach with increasingly more challenging emotions.