Emotional Mastery: Surfing Unpleasant Emotions

I was watching a TED Talk on YouTube about Emotional Mastery: The Gifted Wisdom of Unpleasant Feelings. Emotional mastery of these feeling states is a timely question as we deal with a Pandemic, teaching children from home, and struggling with the uncertainty of our social, financial future. Knowing how to manage unpleasant emotions is always a key question for our mental health and success in life.

Unpleasant emotions include feelings of shame, guilt, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, fear, and grief, to name a few.

The TED Talk speaker explores how emotional mastery is demonstrated by our ability to move past/through these unpleasant emotions and not be shut down or run from them.

By “move through,” she refers to the neuroscience idea that when an emotional feeling gets triggered, chemicals flood the body, activating bodily sensations that can put into a survival state of fight, flight, and freeze. Interestingly, we experience these unpleasant emotions in our bodies before we cognitively understand them. The body always reacts first, fast, and defensively. If unpleasant feelings come from a traumatic event, we will develop emotional programs that will be set in the body to protect us from other unpleasant feelings or situations. We may make a conscious vow to never “trust people again,” be put “into an embarrassing situation ever again,” or “never take such a risk like that again” to further protect ourselves from such unpleasantness. Emotional programs (from the unconscious body-mind) and cognitive vows (from the conscious thinking-mind) paint us into a corner. Although they protect, they also prevent us from growth and success.

The goal is to “move through” unpleasant emotions and not avoid or dissociate from them. To do this, we have to “surf” the wave of bodily chemical sensations and stand up on the board of our own conscious choices. That unpleasant wave of chemicals only lasts 60-90 seconds. That is less time that a song on the radio, explains the psychologist from the TED Talk. Unpleasant emotions rush and then flush from the body.

It is the fight or flight from unpleasant emotions that make the waves more significant and more threatening than they are, and the vicious cycle of the more chemical reaction and mental obsessions continue.

How do we “move through” emotionally unpleasant feelings? The psychologists claim that the uncomfortable sensations are like a wave of chemicals that go through us like a wave. It lasts only 60-90 seconds and then dissipates. Rush and then flushed by the body.

Different unpleasant emotions have different patterns of waves: Grief has waves after waves. Anger is perhaps a big roaring wave. Sadness is a slow, lingering wave. Shame a sneaky, rip curl of a wave. But all of them come and go. We can get back on the beach and feel stable again. The beach is the place of acceptance in this metaphor.

The speaker’s recommendation is to learn to surf the unpleasant waves, let them rise, and then let them retreat. Stop fighting them, fleeing them, or freezing in the middle of them. With consistent practice, insights into life and your character will develop. The speaker describes how we will be better able to pursue the goals you dreamed about, have courageous conversations, and feel more conformable in your skin. Surfing them won’t take a lifetime. It only takes a moment. The present now where change always starts.

If you would like more information on how to surf the waves of unpleasant emotions, schedule a one-on-one session with Ron here or take a FamilyHealer.tv course at your convenience.

Are you Parenting a Prince or a Pauper?

Previously posted on Parenting Toolbox November 2014 by Ron Huxley, LMFT

There are areas in our parenting where we think like princes or princesses. We are fully confident in our abilities to handle a situation. There are also areas where we think like paupers, poor in attitude and low in confidence. A prince is rich in resources and doesn’t worry about a positive future. They know respect and honor from those around them. A pauper lives by survival skills and manipulation and secrecy is the game of life. A prince feels deserving of worthy and is valued and feels valuable. A pauper feels worthlessness, shame, and guilt.

Are you a consciously parenting a prince or a pauper? Do you feel confident and worthy to the task? Are you controlled by guilt, manipulation, and shame? Do you experience respect or disdain from your family members? Is your household ruled by love or fear?

It is possible to think like a prince in some areas of our lives and like a pauper in others at the same time. It may not be all of our parenting that suffers but there may be some key areas that are creating some big trouble. Take time to honestly evaluate where you are thinking like a prince or a pauper. Allow yourself to find new value and think differently about your family relationships. Create a self-care plan. Read, watch, listen or hang out with people who believe they are a prince and princess. They will model how to have a different mindset for parenting and life.

A parenting pauper has few or no tools to build a family of their dreams. A parenting prince or princess has many tools in their parenting toolbox. Get more parenting tools by using our online parenting ecourses in our Family Healer School!

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 6.09.30 AM

Fasting from Guilt…

Lent is just a day away and while I don’t always observe this Holy Day, I do find it a powerful discipline. I wonder what would happen if instead of fasting from food or drink, parents gave up some unnecessary guilt? Recently, I was looking at the beautiful clouds and had this thought: 

It was one of those lazy Sunday afternoons and the sky was beautiful blue. White, billowy clouds were floating by as I sat and watched them on my front porch. The only problem with this day was I felt guilty about not being more productive. I felt like I “should” be doing something. Pulling weeds, reading some important journal paper or updating my blog. I remember this feeling as a parent too. There always seem like there is so much to do and I was always so far behind on something. Shouldn’t I be doing laundry instead of playing catch in the backyard with my kids or working on some craft?
There were many times my guilt drove me to try and do household chores and play with the kids at the same time. Let’s just say, it wasn’t very effective in either area. Many of us NEED to listen to that inner voice. That bathroom really does need some more attention but for the majority of parents, guilt is a constant critic. It is driven by the need for perfection. It fears what others will think of us. It causes us to forget that our children are more important than a clean dish put away into the dishwasher. As a grandparent, you realize that the moments slip away into days into years into decades and then there are gone. When you realize all the magical moments missed with your child because you just had to prune the rose bush or scrub the shower (or for you working parents, work an extra hour or two in your home office), that is when the real guilt settles in. It is for what you could have done with your child if I wasn’t just so tightly wound up over the little things.
Here’s my parenting (and grandfatherly) advice:  Spend an entire weekend just interacting with your children and let guilt go for two entire days! Just two days mind you. That means the beds don’t get made, the dishes may stay in the sink (OK, you can put them away after they go to bed) and the home office door stays shut. Oh yeah, and the electronic devices are off.
Yes, off! 

Parenting Guilt is a Waste of Time

It was one of those lazy Sunday afternoons and the sky was beautiful blue. White, billowy clouds were floating by as I sat and watched them on my front porch. The only problem with this day was I felt guilty about not being more productive. I felt like I “should” be doing something. Pulling weeds, reading some important journal paper or updating my blog. I remember this feeling as a parent too. There always seem like there is so much to do and I was always so far behind on something. Shouldn’t I be doing laundry instead of playing catch in the backyard with my kids or working on some craft? There were many times my guilt drove me to try and do household chores and play with the kids at the same time. Let’s just say, it wasn’t very effective in either area.

Many of us NEED to listen to that inner voice. That bathroom really does need some more attention but for the majority of parents, guilt is a constant critic. It is driven by the need for perfection. It fears what others will think of us. It causes us to forget that our children are more important than a clean dish put away into the dishwasher.

As a grandparent, you realize that the moments slip away into days into years into decades and then there are gone. When you realize all the magical moments missed with your child because you just had to prune the rose bush or scrub the shower (or for you working parents, work an extra hour or two in your home office), that is when the real guilt settles in. It is for what you could have done with your child if I wasn’t just so tightly wound up over the little things.

Here’s my parenting expert, grandfatherly advice:  Spend an entire weekend just interacting with your children and let guilt go for two entire days! Just two days mind you. That means the beds don’t get made, the dishes may stay in the sink (OK, you can put them away after they go to bed) and the home office door stays shut. Oh yeah, and the electronic devices are off. Yes, off!

Tell me how the experience goes by posting a comment here or sharing on twitter or facebook.