We all have emotional reactions that we know aren’t rational or productive. That doesn’t stop them from interrupting our lives. To keep them under control, given those reactions their own names and identify when that familiar tune starts playing.
Photo by Tim Samoff
As advice blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree points out, identifying when a familiar response is playing in your mind can help normalise it. Rather than assuming that your external circumstances are totally to blame for your frustrating reaction, you can recognise that your anger, fear or bitterness are part of a routine response on your part. Once you know how your brain is likely to respond, you can deal with your own reactions separately:
Rather than dodging, disputing, or distracting (which can all lead to you just wrestling with those ideas further) acknowledge the thoughts. “Note” them. You’re not avoiding your thoughts. You acknowledge them… and then turn your attention back to your senses. To your breath. To the feel of the chair beneath your butt. To the person next to you. For thoughts that keep playing like a broken record, try “labelling” them. Siegel suggests giving the thought a funny name that trivialises it: Oh, that “it’s not going to work out” tape is playing in my head again.
Of course, acknowledging your emotions shouldn’t mean dismissing them. It simply means categorically recognising how you’re likely to respond. Sometimes external circumstances mandate a strong emotional response. Sometimes, small things can make us fly off the handle. By acknowledging when you have responses, how rare or common your feelings are, and identifying these separately from your circumstances, you can better judge when you’re applying the right mindset to the situation.
How To Stop Worrying [Barking Up the Wrong Tree]