Sometimes I get in a strange mood for no obvious reason and can’t seem to shift it. Vague moods like melancholy, low level anxiety, the blahs.
When I get like this—out of sorts—I use a technique I found in one of Michael Neill’s books, and it goes like this:
- I’m feeling X…
- And that means X…
That’s it. Simple. And so effective for identifying the actual emotion, what triggers it, and the story built up around it. Silly, unimportant—gone!
Getting to grips with what’s really bugging us, what we’re actually feeling, can do wonders. For instance, the emotion of anger could actually be resentment, which could actually be fear of humiliation.
Then the ‘Because…’ illuminates. Someone raised an eyebrow and it reminded you of a teacher who used to do that and made you feel inadequate or humiliated. Triggered!
‘And that means…’ We build up stories around everything that happens to us. They can be supportive, or unsupportive. Usually not true. We can change the story. Delete!
Or frequently some small event sets off a chain of thinking that culminates in a sour mood. It was that weird film I watched last night that put me in this state. Reminded me of someone I used to know. What happened to him? Oh, he died in a car crash. Mood! Gone!
A missing piece?
At times however, there seems to be something missing, a further step needed for those stubborn emotions that won’t let go.
I found the missing piece, the elusive next step, in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, the well known Vietnamese monk and teacher.
Thich says we first need to identify, acknowledge, and recognize what is causing our suffering.
Here’s the key (that made me sit up). We need to look deeply at the emotion and discover “the kinds of nutriments that have helped it come to be and continue to feed it.”
Ah. Bingo. There we are. How am I feeding and nourishing this negative story? Until I stop feeding it, the emotion’s not going anywhere.
How do we nourish emotions? That part is easy—TV, Internet, social media, books, people we hang out with, gossip, politics, news.
But also there’s our constant self-talk that reinforces the negative story and keeps it alive and kicking. Just waiting to be triggered.
Next time you notice that story repeating itself in your mind, simply say, Not now! And bring something more positive to mind.
Cut off the feed and the emotion cannot thrive.
This always works for me.
So, to recap:
- I’m feeling X… (emotion, really drill down)
- Because X… (trigger)
- And that means X …(story you tell yourself about it)
- And I am nourishing this by X… (What is keeping this story alive)
Try it and let me know how it works for you.
PS If you would like help dealing with negative emotions then I can help! I have over 20 years’ experience coaching people to let go of stuff (technical term) that’s not helping them.
Contact me here and we can discuss booking a 1 hour, online session. Easy, no fuss, affordable.
If you live in San Miguel de Allende we can meet one-to-one in a private, open air setting.