Thoughts and Emotions

Sometimes we feel unsafe or insecure because we encounter a genuine threat or danger (which could be physical, psychological and/or emotional). In these instances it is appropriate for us to experience difficult emotions and feelings such as fear, tension or anxiety so that we can take immediate action to avoid harm.

However, for different reasons, we may have this same experience when there is only the (mis)perception, rather than the reality of a genuine threat or danger.

There is a tendency for the feelings and emotions that arise from this (mis)perception to be so intense, distressing or painful that we remove ourselves very quickly from direct awareness of our bodies and our present experience as we retreat to the mind. This leads to judgements about the situation (ie good and bad, right and wrong, should and shouldn’t) that quickly shift our attention away from difficult feelings and emotions and distort reality through the biased lens of our past experiences, beliefs and habitual patterns.

Matching our current experience to previous experience from the past can create lengthy, ongoing cycles of distress if the match is not appropriate or accurate. Our brain and central nervous system can create these matches at great speed in reaction to the (mis)perception of threat or danger so we need skillful method to identify and release these patterns.

As we start to judge and blame we might experience further difficult emotions such as shame, disgust and rage. In turn, these lead to unskillful behaviours (ie manipulation, excessive control, aggression) that attempt to return us to feelings of safety or security but often lead to negative or damaging outcomes (ie isolation, rejection, illness).

When we start to notice these patterns we can explore our potential to remain aware of our bodies and our direct experience of the present - even when it feels very uncomfortable or painful. This allows room for the emergence of discernment rather than judgement, the exploration of accountability rather than blame, and the practice of skilful behaviours such as open expression and dialogue rather than unskilful acts such as aggression and manipulation.