Changing Habitual Emotional Reactions


(From Terry Fralich: The Five Core Skills of Mindfulness)

Each time you encounter a negative emotion (irritation, impatience, anxiety, anger, etc) that threatens to dominate your awareness, try practicing the following:

STOP – Recognize the warning signs of the emotional reaction as soon as possible, and remind yourself to pay attention to them immediately.

BREATHE – Become sensitive to the natural softening quality of your breathe, and send a mental message to your body to release and let go, allowing the negative emotion to soften.

REFLECT – Appraise the situation: Is your reaction supported by old patterns or stories or past experiences? What resources and options do you have in the present moment? Can you change your perspective about how you see yourself in this situation? What are your best insights from this situation and what do you want to remember?

CHOOSE – Having become more aware of your negative emotion and possible patterned response, settled yourself a bit, and tapped into your insights, consider other possible reactions. Remember that you have the power to choose your reaction; can you shift an old pattern and make a creative choice towards another possible reaction? What might be your best choice under all of the circumstances?

This 4-step mindfulness practice can be a powerful tool.

For me (if the situation allows), listening to my body, and perhaps moving my body or relocating myself to a natural and safe place, can help the breathing process and help make my reflections clearer and more in tune with my natural instincts and my deeper intuition.

I try to remember that I am human – bad things happen and I make mistakes – but I also have the ability (and responsibility) to choose my response. If I practice these steps, and pay attention to my positive intentions in life, cultivating positive states (delight, joy, calm, confident, loving, etc) in mind and body, I will eventually change habitual negative emotional reactions to more positive responses, responses which will also be more in tune with my true nature.

Leave a Reply