The Four Foundations of Mindfulness: Contemplation of the Body

Most current definitions of mindfulness refer to, “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement,” or “the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”  However, when we take a closer look at the cultural and historical roots of mindfulness, we find a rich and nuanced teaching outlined in The Discourse on the Establishing of Mindfulness or The Satipatthana Sutta.

Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha was both an investigator of the mind and a teacher. In many ways, he was the first psychologist. The majority of his teachings are instructions based on his own experiences as he left his life as a sheltered prince in search for an end to suffering. Today, the teachings are all around us as modern psychology meets with ancient wisdom. This is most apparent in the extensive interest and research supporting mindfulness-based psychological interventions. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and several core components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are just two examples. Likewise, the Discourse on the Establishing of Mindfulness has been incorporated into several research based-interventions and training programs, such as Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction created by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Mindfulness is an essential practice in the Buddhist tradition. In fact, it is viewed a necessary condition on the path to awakening, without which awakening or enlightenment is not possible. The discourse includes four elements of practice focused on the body, feeling states, consciousness, and mental objects, including the most basic teachings of the Buddha. 

Four Foundations of Mindfulness

  1. Contemplation of the Body – Being mindful of the body
  2. Contemplation of Feeling – Being mindful of feeling states
  3. Contemplation of Consciousness – Being mindful of thoughts
  4. Contemplation of Mental Objects – Being mindful of the present quality of mind

The first foundation is an excellent place to start expanding your understanding and practice of mindfulness.

Foundation One: Contemplation of the Body

  • Become aware of your body and each posture as you rise from bed. 
  • Be mindful of walking and standing.
  • Be mindful of sitting and laying down.
  • When bending or reaching, be fully mindful.
  • When eating, drinking, or savoring food, be fully mindful.
  • When talking or silent, be fully mindful.
  • Pause and take a mindful breath to reconnect with your body before you begin to write or speak.
  • In any function, be mindful and practice repeating the phrase “there is a body.”

Mindfulness of the body offers a key benefit by providing a type of anchoring that supports the continuity of mindfulness without requiring a narrow focus. Because it does not require a narrow focus, such as the breath, whole-body awareness allows for us to avoid being caught up in a single object of attention and provides the opportunity to maintain awareness of our overall experience. This aspect of mindfulness of the body serves an essential role in broadening our practice into our daily lived experience.

Mindfulness of our body is available at any moment and helps us to bridge the gap from our meditation or yoga practice into our everyday experience. As we establish a foundation of mindfulness, it can become easier to return to mindfulness throughout the day.

The mind can become so active and involved in our activities, as a mind does. Yet, it requires only a moment of turning inward and becoming aware of our body to ground ourselves once again. Carrying this fullness of being and sense of embodiment into our daily life has considerable potential to help us become more alive as we learn to cultivate the joy of being in the present moment.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Working Through Our Hindrances

We all manage challenges as we navigate daily life. Most of these challenges are part of life and involve problem-solving and resilience as we move forward toward our personal goals at home or at work. However, there are additional challenges or obstacles that are somewhat more internal in nature. The Buddha highlighted a list of five hindrances or adverse mental states that interfere with our cultivation of inner peace or an awakened mind. These five hindrances are generally interpreted as sense desire, ill will or anger, sloth and torpor, restlessness, and doubt. Perhaps you can identify some of these hindrances in your own life?  

Such hindrances are fairly common and universal to our human experience. In psychology, we often see the hindrance of sense desire manifested in addictions or poor coping strategies. We also see the hindrances of restless and doubt manifested in chronic states of anxiety and fear as we struggle with uncertainty and self-doubt. Likewise, ill will often takes a toll on relationships as well as self-esteem as we turn on ourselves with anger and judgement or act out in anger and resentment toward others. Sloth often relates to energy or effort, which is evident in self-defeating behaviors, negative views of self and others, and a lack of personal agency.  

In addition to inner peace and awakening, the hindrances can be understood as obstacles to our mental wellness and resilience. Just as the Buddha taught, becoming aware of our hindrances or aversive mind states is the first step to loosening the grip they have on our experience. 

We can approach the hindrances as well as any obstacle with mindfulness and work through our aversive states to arrive at a place of greater acceptance and peace.  

Steps to engaging and working through the hindrances:

  1. What is this hindrance?  How did this state arise?  What am I feeling?

2. Notice rather than push away or judge. This is where I am right now.

3. Reflect upon and investigate. This is anger. This is sadness. This is fear.

4. Befriend rather than fight or suppress. Recognize the changing nature of emotions. What information does this state provide? Work towards acceptance and letting go.

5. What conditions support the passing of this state? What happened before this? What am I doing now?  What helps me feel better?

6. What conditions prevent it from arising again?  What helps me cope? Where is my mind when I am feeling calm? What helps me feel grounded and confident?

The Buddha, in one of his many metaphors, uses a bowl of water to describe the impact of the hindrances on our mind. For example, he describes sense desire as a dye that discolors a clear bowl of water. Likewise, ill will is characterized by water that bubbling or boiling, sloth as a bowl of water overgrown with moss and algae, restlessness as a bowl of water stirred by the wind into ripples and waves, and doubt as a bowl of water that is murky and cloudy. In all of these cases, the hindrances prevent us from seeing things are they are or cultivating a clear mind. We can practice these steps and bring to mind the bowl of water as we check in with our internal states and work toward experiencing a clear bowl of water that truly reflects a clear mind with a clear view of our experiences. Here we may find greater self-confidence, acceptance, spaciousness, and equanimity.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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The Freedom of Equanimity

“Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.”

-Anthony de Mello, S.J.

We dwell in a human body that is susceptible to illness, old age, and eventual death. I was recently reminded of this basic truth as I faced a brief period of illness with acute pain in my hands and feet lasting for several days. As I recover now, I find myself looking toward this period as a gift. It called upon a deeper sensibility and provided a more complete understanding of acceptance, which further clarified my understanding for the gift of equanimity.  

Equanimity can be defined as mental and emotional calmness, non-reactivity, or an even-tempered state of mind in the face challenges. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.” Translated from Pali, “equanimity” means “to look over” and refers to the ability to see without being caught up in what we are observing. Another translation becomes, “to stand in the middle of all this.” It is a cessation of fighting that which cannot be fought.  

The powerful peace and steadiness of equanimity arises from our effort to see life as it is or accept life on life’s terms as containing both joy and sorry, pleasure and pain, or success and failure, while not becoming overidentified with any single experience. In contrast to passivity, the awareness and letting go process inherent in cultivating equanimity involves an active stance as we gently work to rise above the suffering fueled from our own struggle to control life or cling to expectations. 

Trying to change what we cannot change often only makes things worse. As we loosen our grip, slow down our reactivity, and relinquish the struggle, we may discover greater freedom and possibilities. No fighting with the past, no resistance to the future, it is just like this right now. 

The moment I accepted my illness and pain it was transformed. I was no longer suffering in the same way as the pain became a source of inquiry and understanding for this moment on my human journey. I felt steady and calm as I shifted to observing my mind and my emotional states. I looked fondly upon my family and connected with the joy of watching my children play. I felt the cool autumn breeze on my face and listened to the birds on the hillside behind our house.  

I am thankful to be healthier as I write today. However, I also remain grateful for the truth and understanding that this experience provided, leaving a greater spaciousness in my heart and a deeper understanding for the importance of cultivating an awakened mind. As a wise teacher recently reminded us, “things are as they should be and are only as they are. It cannot be any other way because it is not.”

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Nothing Happens Next

“If you cannot learn to enjoy doing the mundane things in life, you will never truly be able to enjoy what you are looking forward to doing.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

I recently read an old New Yorker cartoon depicting two monks in robes with shaved heads. One monk is young, and one monk is old. They are sitting together with legs crossed on the floor. The younger monk is looking quizzically at the older monk, who has turned toward him saying, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”

Rushing is a habit that is at the core of a stressful life and prevents us from fully arriving in the present moment. How often do you find yourself thinking about what comes next or rehearsing the future? 

Make a habit of being in the now. Calm and deliberate actions can be a useful way to practice slowing down connecting to the present moment.  

Slowing down

Recognize when you are doing versus being.

Practice slowing down by connecting with your body.

Imagine yourself moving in slow motion.

Listen to the sounds in your environment.

Ground yourself with the steady pace of your breath.

Practice taking brief meditation breaks throughout the day.

Give yourself permission to do less.

Practice watching the present moment without trying to change it or do anything.  What is happening? What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you see? When we slow down long enough, we can connect with a sense of witnessing our life, rather than being swept up in worries and rushing to the next item on our agenda.  When we let go of needing or wanting something to happen next, we take a profound step towards living in the present and fully experiencing the moment-to-moment unfolding of our lives. 

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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The Wisdom of Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler was a remarkable visionary and played a central role in the development of modern psychology. In fact, many of the today’s popular therapeutic approaches can be traced back to his foundational ideas. Adler brought forth the central role of social context and belonging as foundational to mental wellbeing. Unlike most, he worked from a place of optimism, empowerment, and a belief in the creative potential of all human beings. For Adler, psychology was as much about community health and social connection as it was about individual well-being.  

Freud, Jung, and Adler form the ‘big three’ in the history of psychology. Sigmund Freud first posited the unconscious, originated drive theory, and outlined the structural model of the mind that later formed a foundation for ego psychology. He is also widely known as the founder of psychology as a discipline and the practice of talk therapy. 

Carl Jung researched the unconscious through the early use of the implicit word association test, outlined our early understanding of the personality types commonly used today, and introduced elements of the numinous and spiritual into psychology. He also posited the existence of the collective unconscious and believed in the power of creative imagination for personal development or what he referred to as individuation. Early on, Carl Jung hoped to relate to Freud as a father figure and mentor, although they later began to diverge in their views.

Adler was a contemporary of Freud and Jung. However, Adler had little interest in Freud as a mentor. Rather, he hoped to collaborate in developing early psychoanalytic theory. Freud found an early ally and defender in Adler, who wrote in Freud’s defense around many central concepts that were often controversial in his day. Nevertheless, Adler held several conflicting views. Adler was eventually voted out of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society after pushing for more inclusive membership and a neutral meeting location (the group was meeting in Freud’s home at the time). Adler subsequently founded the Society of Individual (i.e., Indivisible/Holistic) Psychology with several of his followers.  

One difference that led to the final break with Freud was Adler’s view of repression.  Rather than viewing psychological disturbance as resulting from the repression of instinctual drives, Adler viewed such disturbances as the result of poor adjustment to society. For Adler, repression was one of many safeguarding mechanisms employed in attempts to compensate for distress and disturbance that results from feelings of inferiority within a broader social context.  

Basic Assumptions

Adler believed that we all develop a lifestyle or personality based on the interpretation of life events derived from our subjective private logic as we strive to find a place in a social context. We first strive for significance in our family as we compete with siblings to belong and form our early beliefs and a sense of self-worth.  

Adler viewed the lifestyle as the individual’s “rule of rules” or basic beliefs about how to belong and navigate life. We develop a lifestyle that helps to guide us (both consciously and unconsciously) through life. It gives us some ability to predict life and anticipate the future as it lends some sense of control. Within the road map of our lifestyle we find our basic views of self-concept, self-ideal, view of others, view of the world and ethical convictions.    

Adler viewed every lifestyle as adequate until it comes up against a task for which it was not prepared. Under such stress the lifestyle or personality struggles. Here, our self-concept may begin to fall short of our self-ideal and we may begin to experience feelings of inferiority. Likewise, if we fall short of the ways in which we believe we should be functioning in the world or our perceived expectations of others, we may feel inadequate, guilty, and deeply discouraged. We attempt to compensate in various ways to manage this position. Ultimately, the lifestyle is oriented towards the final goal, which is to gain a sense of significance and belonging. 

Adlerian psychology is optimistic. An Adlerian believes that mental health is tied to an individual’s feelings of belonging and contribution to society and an Adlerian therapist strongly believes in the power of encouragement. Adlerian therapy aims at helping individuals better understand the origin and function of the lifestyle with attention to the ways that it is both adaptive and at times limiting. It gently questions lifestyle convictions or core beliefs about self, others and the world (yes, Adlerian therapy precedes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT). Adlerian therapy also aims to encourage prosocial behavior and engagement with others based on the assumption that Gemeinschaftsgefühl or community feeling and feelings of belonging are central to mental wellbeing.   

The goal of Adler’s individual psychology is to grow beyond dysfunctional self-directed beliefs within the lifestyle and replace these with new adaptations and behaviors oriented towards the greater good. Much of modern psychology, including the more recent developments of positive psychology, can be traced to the pioneering work of this early visionary. 

Adler was the first community psychologist and viewed the health of the individual as intimately tied to a sense of belonging within the community, starting with the family and leading outward to all of society and the entire world. Adler was one of the first psychologists to provide group counseling, public or open forum counseling and education, family counseling, and child guidance as he pioneered efforts to help teach the general public about psychology. Ultimately, Adler believed that educating the public about psychology could improve the human condition and move us forward as a species. 

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Cultivating Present-Moment Attitudes

Many of us can easily get lost thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Yet, being present minded or mindful of the “here and now” is important for reducing stress and staying healthy. Moreover, strengthening present-moment awareness helps to reduce anxiety and rumination, while allowing space for a deeper connection to our lived experience.

Present-moment attitudes have the potential to color and shape our everyday experience in ways that promote our overall resilience. We can practice present-moment attitudes as we connect to the present and experience more intention in our daily life.  

Present-Moment Attitudes

Beginner’s mind involves seeing from a fresh perspective; as if you were seeing or experiencing something for the first time.  

Kindness is an attitude and quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

Nonjudgment means experiencing the present moment without the lens of evaluation.

Compassion is the attitude and quality of meeting others and yourself with kindness.  

Non-striving is the quality of being willing to meet any experience as it is, without trying to change it.

Joy is the attitude and experience of taking pleasure that awakens more fully as we connect more deeply to our awareness in the present-moment. 

Self-reliance is an important quality for developing inner confidence. With practice, we can learn to trust ourselves and our capacity to cope with whatever arises. 

Equanimity is an attitude that fosters wisdom and provides a broader perspective so that we can see things more clearly and feel greater confidence and reassurance.  

Letting go or letting be is a quality that gives space to whatever we encounter in the moment.

Cultivating present-moment attitudes is a useful way to practice mindfulness and shift towards greater intention and engagement. As we develop a greater consciousness of the present, we may find it easier to stay grounded, rather than swept up in the ups and downs of daily living. We may also begin to see the bigger picture of our lives more clearly. Challenges may become less stressful and setbacks less devastating. As we feel more grounded through present-moment attitudes, we may feel less daunted and more enlivened by whatever arises around us.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Archetypes

Archetypes were introduced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who suggested that archetypes were archaic forms of innate human knowledge passed down from our ancestors. He also believed that archetypes represent universal patterns and images that are part of the collective unconscious or shared reservoir of unconscious human experience. Although this may sound abstract, consider how ideas and images are shared and repeated across cultures and over the course of human history in art, mythology and ritual.

Jung believed that archetypes are inherited or passed down through the generations in a similar way that instincts are passed down through human evolution.   

Several primary female archetypes include:

Maiden

Mother

Queen

Enchantress

Several primary male archetypes include: 

Warrior

King

Lover

Magician

Jung believed that the archaic and mythic characters present in archetypes are accessible to all of us as part of our shared human history. As a result, there are several ways we can use the theory of architypes to increase self-awareness and promote personal growth. 

In terms of self-awareness, we can reflect upon how our behavior may or may not align with various archetypes. We can then decide to move in a different direction or shift toward the positive/ full expression of the architype. A good example of this would involve moving toward the characteristics of courage and fearlessness, central to the Warrior archetype, when faced with adversity or when we experience a loss of passion and motivation. 

There are many ways we can connect to the image and characteristics of an architype that we wish to more fully embody. Let’s consider how we might connect with the King or the Mother architype by reviewing the core characteristics or principles of these archetypes.

The characteristics of the King archetype include being centered, decisive, living with integrity, protecting the realm, providing order, and creating or inspiring creativity in others. In the case of the Mother archetype, characteristics include the qualities of persistence, strength, patience, and nurturing. We can reflect on these qualities and bring forth the image of the King or the Mother to support or reinforce these qualities in our lives. It is important to mention that Jung believed we can all access both male and female archetypes regardless of our gender identity or sex. Likewise, Jung believed that we all have both masculine and feminine attributes, characteristics, and archetypes within our psyche.

We can also connect with architypes through images using a process called active imagination. Active imagination is a technique that Jung created for actively evoking images from the unconscious and then engaging those images in a dialogue or other creative process. The basic process involves bringing the image to mind and allowing the image to begin to have a life of its own in our creative minds. The active imagination process can thereby provide a sense of inspiration or meaning as we connect with archetypical images.  

In whatever way seems fit, we can access the image and characteristics of basic architypes to promote our self-awareness, live according to our values, and connect with an underlying sense of strength and inspiration as we link up to this archaic form of innate human knowledge passed down from our ancestors.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D. 

Licensed Psychologist

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Understanding Confirmation Bias and Groupthink

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

– Rollo May

We are all susceptible to bias. Generally, people display bias when they gather or recall information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for information or interpret evidence in ways that support, rather than reject, one’s preconceptions or existing beliefs. It is one of the strongest and most influential forms of bias in psychology, largely because it operates outside of our awareness and becomes more pronounced for emotionally charged issues and deeply held beliefs.

Groupthink is a related concept first researched and discussed in the 1970’s by the social psychologist, Irving L. Janis. Groupthink refers to the tendency of individuals to refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus. Groupthink can be seen in anything ranging from poor decisions by a teenager in an effort to go along with the crowd to major corporations or governments ignoring ethical consequences of decisions. Much like confirmation bias, this phenomenon can operate largely outside of awareness and is often intensified by the degree of in-group out-group dynamics or when the identity of a group is perceived to be threatened by others. Stress and intense emotion can likewise lead to heighted conformity. Ultimately, groupthink can cause us to ignore critical information and trigger decisions that are less ideal, shortsighted, and possibly even harmful to others. 

In addition to confirmation bias and group think, the format and context of information is an important factor when consuming information. Research shows that people are more likely to accept false statements as true if they are easy to hear or read. Likewise, people are more likely to fall for misinformation when they fail to carefully deliberate over the material, whether or not it is aligned with their political views (Bago, B., et al., 2020). 

Tips for Managing Confirmation Bias & Group Think

Take time to consider where the ideas came from

Look for evidence in opposition to your views

Listen to understand how and why other people hold certain opinions and views

Pause to think before reacting and be aware of emotional reasoning

Work on being more comfortable with disagreements

Prove yourself wrong 

Maintain a broad range of sources when gathering information

Ask questions

Don’t discourage dissent or challenges to the prevailing or popular opinion

Since the 1970’s, psychologists have found that even after misinformation is corrected, false beliefs can still persist (Anderson, C. A., et al., 1980). Therefore, it is important to step back and understand why we hold certain views and notice if we are narrowly focusing on certain types or sources of information. Likewise, it is important to be aware of any pressure to confirm or jump to conclusions if we feel threatened.  

If we can work to be more flexible by considering alternatives and more aware of how underlying biases and group dynamics influence our views and behaviors, we can arrive at a place of greater confidence in our views and greater cooperation within our communities. Furthermore, if we practice working to understand the thought process of those with differing views, we can not only better understand the depth and breadth of the issues at hand, we can also cultivate greater compassion towards our fellow citizens.   

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Anderson, C. A., Lepper, M., Ross, L. (1980). Perseverance of social theories: The role of explanation in the persistence of discredited information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(6), 1037–1049.

Bago, B., Rand, D. G., & Pennycook, G. (2020). Fake news, fast and slow: Deliberation reduces belief in false (but not true) news headlines. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000729

Emotional Granularity

We often ask others how they are doing. Most often, people remark that they are “fine” or “doing well.” Occasionally, if we know the person a bit better or ask how they are feeling, they may admit to feeling stressed or anxious and share a few details about their challenges.   

How do you typically respond when others ask about you? Even if you answer with the habitual “I’m fine,” are you aware of feeling anything else? What comes up for you when you stop to ask yourself how you are feeling?  

Researchers have been exploring the ability to translate feelings into specific words and increasingly precise descriptions or what is referred to as emotional granularity (Kashdan, Feldman Barrett, & McKnight, 2015). Essentially, emotional granularity is the ability to break down our emotions into smaller distinguishable parts.    

There is compelling evidence that the ability to apply emotional granularity to negative emotions can be adaptive. Specifically, the ability to put negative feelings into words with greater precision is associated with more positive daily actives and better coping skills. In contrast, low negative emotional granularity, or difficulty labeling negative emotions with a high degree of specificity, has been associated with stronger reactivity to negative affect and lower psychological wellness (Starr R., Hershenberg R., Li. I, & Shaw, A., 2017). In summary, the better we are able to articulate our emotions, the better we are able to understand ourselves and take positive steps to cope.     

Practice

The goal of emotional granularity is to be able to accurately articulate what you are feeling using a detailed description.

Instead of thinking, “I’m stressed and tired,” whenever you feel down, take a moment to pause and understand what might be going on beyond feeling stressed and tired. For example, “I don’t feel supported,” or “I’m sad about my friend moving away,” or “I’m unhappy with my job and feel underappreciated.”  

Being more specific about how we feel helps us to get in touch with the underlying causes of our emotions and puts us in a better position to act or work on acceptance and other coping skills. It also allows us to shape experiences of emotions that are richer and more diverse. 

Ultimately, we are less likely to be controlled by our emotions as we increase our ability to notice and label how we feel with greater specificity. Let yourself feel your emotions with compassion and curiosity, even when those emotions are uncomfortable, and take an important step toward greater resilience and satisfaction as you come to understand yourself more fully.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Kashdan, T. B., Barrett, L.F., & McKnight, P. E. (2015). Unpacking emotion differentiation: Transforming unpleasant experience by perceiving distinctions in negativity. Current Directions in Psychological Science 24(1): 10-16.

Starr, L. R., Hershenberg, R., Y. Irina, L., & Shaw, Z. A. (2017). When feelings lack precision: Low positive and negative emotion differentiation and depressive symptoms in daily life. Clinical Psychological Science 5(4): 613-631.

Searching for Birds

Our minds see patterns and create meaning automatically as we navigate the world. We draw on a vast network of memories, images, and associations as we sift through experiences and appraise our environment to form meaningful impressions. In addition to patterns of memories and experiences, our emotional states heavily influence how our mind makes meaning of any given situation.  

At times, emotional states can take a driver’s seat and become fused with our cognitive appraisals, making it difficult to differentiate between how we feel and the facts on the ground. Emotional reasoning is a term used to describe this experience. Examples of emotional reasoning include, “I feel inadequate, so my performance at work must be poor,” “I feel guilty, so I must have behaved badly,” or “I feel worthless, so I must not be a good friend.”  

It is useful to practice differentiating between how we feel and what we think as we appraise and make sense out of our experiences. Going into a big presentation and feeling anxious may cause us to experience doubt and think, “I’m horrible at giving presentations,” when in fact, we may just be experiencing fear related to a genuine desire to do a good job. Perhaps we also forget the past times when we gave successful presentations. It is useful to ask yourself if you are focusing on a fact or a feeling. 

It is also useful to practice observing and labeling our emotions. Most of us did not receive a thorough education around emotions or learn a rich vocabulary to describe feeling states. How do you feel right now? How many feeling words come to mind?

Think of yourself as an ornithologist walking through a vast and complex forest searching for rare species of birds. At times, you must be very still to listen for movements and sounds. You need to look closely and be patient. Once you find a bird, you must examine it and compare it to other known birds so that you can identify if it is a known species or a new discovery.  

In a similar way, we must slow down and patiently look into our inner world to identify and label our emotional experiences. We all have a vast array of emotional tones beyond our core emotions. As we learn to find and identify our subtler emotional states and discriminate between our feelings, we can more fully experience ourselves and react in healthier ways. We are also more likely to better understand why we may feel certain ways and differentiate between a feeling state and a negative thought pattern or habitual way of appraising of our environment.   

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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