Emotions are natural reactions to events that happen in our lives daily. Sometimes they can be fleeting and other times they can be raw and powerful, lasting for much longer episodes.
These emotions are important indicators to how our brains are processing the events they’ve been exposed to, however it might not always be so clear what the trigger was. For instance a random picture of a landscape, a picture or clip of strangers depicting a life situation, or even a piece of music we’ve not heard before might stir up some emotions that can be difficult to pin down where it came from. All of these emotional responses, however easy it may be to determine the trigger, have their route in our subconscious mind. So a great way to begin deciphering our emotions is to first notice it, along with the story or thoughts our brains are telling us. This is an internal process that’s going on, so even though we sometimes project these emotions onto others, we should take some time to complete the process by analysing what our subconscious mind is reacting to. Once we become aware of the underlying cause or causes we can begin to start taking some actions in order to manage our emotional responses appropriately. This is not about shutting off our emotions, particularly the negative ones, but just recognising where they come from and not getting overwhelmed by them. Doing this takes practise and can vary in length as to how long the analysis process may last. What’s important though, is to move to the analytical process rather than getting stuck in the emotional reaction. The analytical portion may sound either scientific or psychiatric, like some kind of counseling process. It’s not as complicated as that. It just means we have to give ourselves the time to reflect on things a bit longer, but being mindful to not get caught into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. Again this takes practise to ensure we have a strategy to break out of any negative pothole we might slip into.
To summarise the whole process, here’s a short flowchart.
1. Emotional response
2. Recognise response
3. Decipher the trigger
4. Be aware of story or thoughts from subconscious mind
5. Decide on action/s to be taken to lessen the impact of the emotional response in the future
6. Take action/s and review if necessary if no improvement
Step 4 can be the time when we need to practise our mindfulness in order to not get trapped in a negative funk. So it’s crucial to enter this stage with awareness of when we might need to take a break by completely distracting the conscious mind with something else. A physical endeavour which requires a lot of attention can be useful, or speaking with one or more people about an unrelated subject can also be effective. I quite often watch something funny as it not only distracts my conscious mind but also raises my endorphins through laughter. Find what works best for you and use that strategy to preserve mental wellness.
It’s steps 3 or 4 where some people normally stop processing what their subconscious mind is asking their conscious mind to process, because it can take time and might require them to deal with situations which are uncomfortable. There’s nothing wrong with stopping at this point, but it’s worth recognising what it is that you’re not ready to tackle. Being honest with yourself about this will not only let the subconscious mind know that you’re now aware of the issue, but it will also allow it to put more energy into helping you get ready to take it on.