Discover your true coping skills by not labelling your feelings
‘Super-Vision’ permits you to go beyond simple classification of things as good or bad, says Carmel Wynne
Mixed signals: dropping labels such as positive and negative, good and bad, will change how you look at yourself and others. Photograph: Thinkstock
There is a popular belief that mindfulness can wipe away the day’s stress, giving you positive experiences of feeling inner peace, physically relaxed and calm. When you try to reduce stress and find peace using mindfulness, you will find that it is an approach that can make you feel better for a while.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It has been examined scientifically and there are thousands of research studies that list the amazing benefits of consistent daily practice.
The evidence is compelling. Neuroscientists have found that mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking and sense of self.
The benefits sound amazing but it takes self-discipline and determination to make the time to sit in silence, to pay attention to what is going on in you without judgment. For most people who practise for 10-20 minutes a day, mindfulness brings about change at a surface level when things are going well.
When relationships are difficult and life seems to be falling apart, questions about how you to cope will disturb your peace of mind. When things are going badly, the good feelings from mindfulness rarely last. The inner turmoil can be so stressful that some people just give up.
There are many reasons why people do not persist with the practice. It is physically uncomfortable to sit still for even a short period of time. It is difficult to pay attention to what you are thinking without making judgments. And it is incredibly difficult to stay with the emotions that surface, to allow yourself to fully experience feelings of frustration, depression or happiness.
Nobody gets through life without meeting adversity. It is normal to feel stressed and upset when life is difficult. Everyone has bad days, those times when we feel disappointed, unhappy and miserable. We are not clinically depressed but we experience feelings of depression until something happens to put us in a better mood.
A Lancet report says mindfulness-based therapy could offer a new choice for millions of people with depression. The suggestion is the therapy trains people to focus their minds and understand that negative thoughts may come and go.
Words such as positive and negative have an impact on self-esteem. It is sad there is a widespread belief that positive thinking is good and to be encouraged, and so- called negative thinking is bad and to be avoided.
How we cope with life situations is powerfully affected by what we believe, even when what we believe to be true is inaccurate. If you think that having a positive outlook is more desirable than having a negative one, you have blinkered vision.
Labels such as good and bad, positive and negative blind you from seeing the coping skills you have to deal with intolerance. Hardly anyone recognises how much unnecessary stress and damage to self-esteem is caused to people who put a high value on a positive outlook.
How many people who believe they have a negative outlook put in an enormous effort to alter their natural way of thinking? Motivated to change because of perceived intolerance, they find their efforts work for only a while. Usually the stress involved in changing the habitual thinking of a lifetime is too much. They very soon revert to their familiar ways.
Dropping labels such as positive and negative, good and bad, will change how you look at yourself and others. If you view a person who has a tendency to look for what could go wrong as a negative thinker, you will have one reaction.
You will have a different response if you see the person as a problem solver who has an ability to identify potential difficulties in advance.
It takes a new way of looking, what I call Super-Vision, to look beyond other people’s opinions of you, to value and appreciate your own efforts to function and survive tough times. It takes courage and determination to function when you feel depressed.
You have patience when you feel disappointed and don’t complain. You show appreciation when you say thank you; kindness when you show consideration; empathy when you listen.
Your ability to cope with any problem is powerfully affected by your perception. Super-Vision changes your perception, boosts your self-esteem and shows you that you have the resources to cope.
Naming your qualities builds self-esteem and enhances self-worth. Super-Vision gives you the clarity of perception that allows you to see that you have coping skills and resources.
This is neither good nor bad, it simply is.
Carmel Wynne is a life and work skill coach and lives in Dublin. For more information go to Carmelwynne.org