How to Deal with Emotions in Being Mode

Emotions aren’t problems to be solved, but experiences to be accepted. When you use doing mode to try to manage your emotions, your challenging mood can deepen.

Living on autopilot can cause negative thoughts to sneak into your mind. You could be thinking negative thoughts such as ‘I’m lazy’, ‘I’m unlovable’ or ‘I can’t do that’ without even noticing. Thoughts have a huge effect on emotions, especially if you believe the thoughts to be true.

Automatic thoughts can lead to unhelpful emotions. All you notice is that you’re suddenly really tired, low or angry. However, if you’re conscious of these negative thoughts, you have the choice to believe them or not.

If you have an uncomfortable feeling like sadness, try this exercise to get into being mode and accept the emotion:

  1. Find a quiet, comfortable place and set your intention.

    Let your intention be to engage in being mode. Feel the emotion and its effects as best you can with a gentle curiosity. You’re not doing so as a clever way to get rid of it. You’re just giving yourself space to learn from the emotion instead of running away from it.

  2. Breathe.

    Simply feel your breath. Be with each in-breath and each out-breath. Notice how each breath is unique, different and vital for your health and wellbeing. Allow your breath to be natural, as best you can.

  3. Accept the emotion in your body.

    Feel the emotion with care, kindness and acceptance, as best you can. Open up to it. Move in close to the emotion if you can, within your body. Notice where the emotion manifests itself in your body. Breathe into that part of your body and stay with it. Allow the emotion to be as it is.

    You don’t need to fight or run away. Be with the experience as precisely as you can. It’s not easy, so just try your best.

  4. De-center from your thoughts and emotions.

    Simply notice that you’re having a thought or experiencing an emotion. As soon as you do this, you de-center from them. Notice that you can be aware of the emotion without being the emotion itself.

    Be aware of a space between you and the feeling. The same goes for your thoughts too. As you observe the thoughts or feelings, you’re separate from them in a sense, because you’re watching them. It’s like sitting on a riverbank as the water rushes by rather than being in the river itself.

    As you watch the water (emotion or thought) pass by, you may sometimes feel like you’ve been sucked into the river and washed downstream. But you’re not the river itself. You can simply step back out of the river again. De-centering is an important aspect of mindfulness.

  5. Breathe.

    Finish by feeling your breathing again. Notice if your breath has changed or stayed the same. Rest your attention on your breath for a few moments.

All emotions, no matter how strong, have a beginning and an end. Mindfulness teaches you to be with the emotion rather than push away, judge or fight it. Being with the emotion prevents a spiraling down into deeper, challenging emotions.

Notice the next time you feel angry, sad, anxious or lonely. Then, use doing or being mode to notice what effect they have on the emotion. Remember, doing mode is about avoiding or fixing the emotion whereas being mode is about allowing, accepting and being with it with a sense of kindness and curiosity.

Doing mode causes you to fall deeper into the emotion, whereas as being mode, although uncomfortable and counter-intuitive at first, leads you to stop fighting with the emotion and that it dissipates with time.

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