Mindfulness centered on the body as we are suffering from negative emotions

The recent death of the world-renowned artist Coco Lee saddened and shocked many of us.  Her sister stated that Coco had been suffering from depression for a few years.  It is beyond dispute that Coco had been tolerating her psychological pain throughout the years.  No matter what would be the findings in autopsy, it is important for us to reflect on coping strategies to face our sufferings and negative emotions. 

As a human being, I have many experiences in facing pain and sufferings in life.  I personally have something that I could not accept in my life and cause me pain.  These issues may include facing loss of loved ones, finding out betrayal by close friends, or tolerating pain from an illness.  When the sufferings are excruciating, it is our natural tendency to try out some strategies to escape from them.  For instance, I may choose to find many ways to reduce or stop my pain in my back due to an injury.  However, when our sufferings are inevitable and inescapable, we feel sad, angry, or frustrated.  These negative emotions may further exacerbate our sufferrings as it is very uncomfortable when we have these feelings.  If we tend to cope with these negative emotions with strategies to suppress or reduce them, these feelings could backfire to stay even longer.  In this way, we are trapped in a vicious cycle of chasing our tail like a dog.  Our reactivity to cope with our negative emotions and pain actually perpetuates our sufferings.

According to Tara Brach, a clinical psychologist, we need to bring radical acceptance into our life by centering our awareness to our bodily sensations.  It is this acceptance of our sufferings and negative emotions that can transform our pain and bring us the joy of being fully present.  For example, those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) have difficulty in regulating their emotions.  They suffer a lot from their emotional instability.  Some of them may try to cope with their sufferrings of emotional fluctuation by self-harming behaviours.  Many of them told me that they feel less pain in relation to their emotional fluctuation when they inflict physical pain on themselves.  However, self-harming behavious are temporary strategies that could do more harm in the long run.  As time goes by, they find themselves even more incapable of tolerating their negative emotions.

On the contrary, the basis of coping with our sufferings and negative emotions is to ground ourselves by becoming aware of the sensations arising in our body.  For instance, when my client with BPD had a surge of sadess when being alone in the evening, it is important for him or her to learn to bring the awareness back to the bodily sensations of sadness.  He or she may have sensations such as watery eyes, tightness in chest or heaviness in heart.  As a result, one may get in touch with the urge of reactivity.  He or she may be able to feel her urge to engage in self-harming behaviours.  When one is being able to discover the reactivity, it is easy to stay with the negative emotions and not reacting.  Gradually, the bodily sensations related to sadness may loosen up and the sadness may also subside.  In this way, our sufferrings may paradoxically reduce even when our negative emotions or pain have not subsided.

Let us learn how to free ourselves from our inevitable pain and negative emotions in our life through mindfulness of our body.

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