PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Emotions and Living with Uncertainty

This post deals with difficult, crippling emotions which bring suffering with them: like anger, fear, pain, regret, sorrow. Other emotions like love, joy, happiness are a different story and do not bring suffering with them.

In My Stroke of Insight, the brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book about her recovery from a massive stroke, she explains the physiological mechanism behind emotion: an emotion like anger that’s an automatic response lasts just ninety seconds from the moment it’s triggered until it runs its course. One and a half minutes, that’s all. When it lasts any longer, which it usually does, it’s because we’ve chosen to rekindle it. (Again, Ms. Taylor is talking about difficult, painful emotions.)

Acknowledge the feeling, give it your full, compassionate, even welcoming attention, and even if it’s only for a few seconds, drop the story line (past fears, experiences, or expectations) about the feeling. This allows you to have a direct experience of it, free of interpretation. Don’t fuel it with concepts or opinions about whether it’s good or bad. Just be present with the sensation. Where is it located in your body? Does it remain the same for very long? Does it shift and change?

The challenge is to notice the emotional tug when it arises and to stay with it for one and a half minutes without the story line. Do this once a day or many times throughout the day as the emotions arise. This is the process of unmasking, letting go, opening the mind and heart.

Before long you be able to use your emotions as a barometer, a measure of where you are, what you are thinking, what you are dealing with. As you unmask the emotions you will be able to work through them and get on with your life instead of letting the difficult emotions cripple you.

When difficult emotions arise; welcome them, bless them, sit with them briefly and experience the pure emotion fully. Then send them on their way; hopefully with a feeling of peace and eventually with the feeling of a new gained ability to live your life without the suffering that emotions can bring if you hang on to them, rekindle them.

(P.S. Another thing I sometimes do is welcome the emotions but let them know that I do not have the time now to sit with them, and invite them to come back at another time. You'll be amazed at how quickly the minute and a half passes without your being swept up in the emotions so you can continue to experience and enjoy the more important parts of your life. But do remember to invite the emotions back at another time instead of just postponing and avoiding them!)

(Taken in part from Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chödrön.)

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely bang on Michael! I have found the key is to feel emotions fully, no matter what they are. When I laugh, I laugh out loud. When I cry, it's pockets of tears. Human beings are emotional creatures, I think it's best to let that emotion course through our veins and fuel our experience. Great post.

    Here are two posts about the emotions associated with my journey with Mom, one "positive" and the other "challenging":

    Love and hugs to you and Gregory on this fine spring day XOX


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