The Power of Acceptance: Embracing Change for a Brighter Future
Negative emotions are a leading cause of relapse. 37% of alcoholic respondents in a research study by Marlatt and Gordon (1985) named negative emotions in recovery as their reason for relapse. Anxiety, stress, and anger are often what drive people to begin abusing alcohol and drugs in the first place, so it is not really too surprising that it is a major cause of relapse.
Just by becoming aware of what is occurring within and around us, we can begin to untangle ourselves from mental preoccupations and difficult emotions.~ Ronald D. Siegel, Christopher K. Germer, and Andrew Olendzki – Clinical HandBook of Mindfulness
When people say they are unable to handle their negative emotions in recovery, what they really mean is they struggle with the negative thoughts associated with these emotions. For example, it isn’t sadness that is the problem, but thoughts such as ‘I don’t want to be feeling sad’ or ‘I shouldn’t be feeling sad’. If we can just experience our feelings without the negative mental commentary, they are going to be much easier to manage.
Negative emotions are a part of being alive, and it is unreasonable to expect that you are going to be able to escape them just because you are in recovery. It is also important to keep in mind that happiness would be meaningless in a world where there was no sadness. Life serves you up a banquet of emotions, and being alive is about experiencing them all. T
here is an apt saying from the sixties that sums up the situation well– “you can’t get rid of the waves, but you can learn how to surf”.
…our thoughts, emotions, body and behaviour all interrelate. As we learn to respond to our experience mindfully, it is important to remember this. Focusing our response on our body will also influence our mood, and responding to our thoughts will affect our body and emotions, too. ~ Sarah Silverton – The Mindfulness Breakthrough
Mindfulness practice involves the development of certain mental skills including clarity and equanimity. Mental clarity means the ability to recognize emotions and separate them the thoughts they generate. Equanimity is the attribute of being able to sit comfortably with any feeling, sensation, or thought. Once you have developed these mindfulness skills sufficiently, you will no longer struggle to handle your emotions.Buddhists describe the relationship between feelings and negative thinking using the metaphor of the two arrows.
Experiencing an unpleasant feeling can be like being hit by a single arrow. When we allow these emotion to trigger negative thinking, it is like being hit by a second arrow – it more than doubles our suffering. The first arrow is unavoidable but the second one is something we do to ourselves, and it is what leads us to be unable to deal with our feelings.A mindful approach to negative emotions in recovery would be to develop deep curiosity about what is happening inside of you.
The problem is we all think we understand emotions already, so we react to them in habitual ways. Next time – don’t let this happen. Rather than trying to escape the emotion, just sit with it, and investigate it as if you are a scientist looking at a petri dish.
When you examine your feelings in this mindful way, you may begin to wonder what all the fuss was about.
Serenity Vista is an experiential addiction recovery program. There is a lot of information sharing but the key to sobriety is not knowledge. The key to sobriety is new ways of acting, thinking, and being.
Holistic healing of body, mind and spirit. Every moment is an opportunity to explore and grow, and practice! Learn more about a typical day of alcoholism and other addiction recovery at world class Serenity Vista.
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