I read a beautiful article the other day by Homaira Kabir (www.homairakabir.com) and one line jumped out at me "Intentions set by a conscious brain are often derailed by the momentary urges of an emotional one." As a CBT therapist clients come to me in times of struggle. Often there is chronic anxiety and worry, or low mood sliding into depression that they can't shift on their own. I describe the differences between our two very different minds - the emotional and rational one. An enlightening discussion always seems to follow as clients realise that the emotions are momentary and fleeting, and that activating our more rational mindset can be a helpful antidote to the overpowering overwhelm of negative emotions. The emotional mind is quick to react and is as its name suggests - governed by our emotions. It's the one that often holds hands with various physical sensations in the body. Tension and tightness so often accompany the emotional extremes like anger and anxiety. Emotional mind is immediate, strong and can be so overwhelming that we forget there's another side to our minds as well. When a child is having a tantrum it's emotional mind that is making an appearance, and as the adult we know that trying to reach that child and rationalise with them in this moment might not be the best idea. However, as adults it can be a really useful tool to learn how to stop our emotional mind taking over, and activate the more rational side of our brains. This is the side that can step back, see things differently, and bring in a sense of calm and reassure us whilst we take a breath. The rational mind can be a real friend in times of struggle because it often sees possibilities the emotional mind doesn't, and can shine the light of realism on the threatening world emotional mind can create.
So what can we do to access this more helpful rational mindset? I invite you to try and be aware of when the emotional mind has taken over. Sometimes it's simply the recognition that emotional mind has taken charge that can reduce it's control. So tune in and get to know when emotional mind pops up.
What triggers it? Is it particular people or situations? Be curious and get to know how you think and behave when you are in an emotional state. Can you write down what went through your mind (your thoughts) and how you reacted (our behaviours)? How does your body feel when you are feeling strong emotions? What emotions are you experiencing?
In writing things down you might notice some patterns that appear and be better equipped for the future. Plus writing is activating the more rational side of your brain and trying to make sense of the emotional experience. As your emotional mind is soothed and calmed - consider - what do I really need right now to look after myself? Is there anything I can do next time to prevent getting so overwhelmed? Emotions are fleeting after all, they come and they go - but so often we get swept up in them and are taken a long long way from where we want to be. Let's see if we can consciously bring ourselves back with good old rational mind.