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regentrude

s/o Emotional Processing (Addition in OP)

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image.gif.455e3acadb58f6c5d4f76acd679cca25.gifIn the other thread, bolt wrote this awesome post about processing emotions:

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This is done by taking the time and space (usually alone) to let himself think about the situation deeply and vulnerably. Each feeling that occurs he should name and describe.

For example, "I feel angry at xyz about abc." / "I feel fear because..." / "I feel guilty..." / "I feel embarrassed when..." / "I feel powerless because..." -- but not in a list like that. One at a time, if possible.

He should focus his attention on each feeling (in turn) and repeat the descriptive sentence about it to himself, and also say, repeatedly, things like, "This feeling is called (embarrassed)." / "This is what (embarrassed) feels like." This is the time to strategically let the feeling get as big and as real as it needs to be inside himself. He wants to feel it in all of it's fullness. (I don't mean venting or ranting about the situation or the people. I mean letting the inner emotional sensations themselves grow and take space as he gives each one his inner attention.)

Then he should think things like, "It's perfectly normal to feel (name of feeling). Everybody feels (name of feeling) from time to time. This situation is a normal time to feel (name of feeling)." And also, "(Name of feeling) is a strong and uncomfortable feeling. I am strong enough to contain (feeling) and let it be real. All of my feelings belong in my life, even (feeling). (Feeling) will pass if I feel it fully. I can handle (feeling) for as long as I need to. I can take the time to feel (feeling) because I have all the time I need to process and integrate my (feeling) about this situation."

I have read similar advice before - but then today, I came across a lesson on a mental wellness app that recommended voicing the emotion (see above), but also snapping the rubber band and telling the emotion "No!" Anybody want to weigh in on that? Seems it can't both be "right" - if I tell the emotion "no", I can't fully embrace and give it time to process.
Would love for folks to weigh in what they found most helpful.

Addition: "you are not your thoughts"
I want to add another thought ( posted below, but I thought I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists. 
I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists, and of course everybody else, care to weigh in?

Edited by regentrude

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Bolt's advice seems spot on.  I think all emotions are valid - even the "bad" ones like anger or fear - it's only when they are able to grow unchecked and become something more that they become actually "bad".  So I think that recognizing the emotions and evaluating the situation and yourself is the ideal place to say "Ok, this is happening, this is what I'm feeling.  How am I going to process this?"  The rubber band, IMO, is the exact opposite of good mental health because it prevents any true introspection and processing.

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4 minutes ago, WendyAndMilo said:

Bolt's advice seems spot on.  I think all emotions are valid - even the "bad" ones like anger or fear - it's only when they are able to grow unchecked and become something more that they become actually "bad".  So I think that recognizing the emotions and evaluating the situation and yourself is the ideal place to say "Ok, this is happening, this is what I'm feeling.  How am I going to process this?"  The rubber band, IMO, is the exact opposite of good mental health because it prevents any true introspection and processing.

yeah, that was my feeling, too. I lean towards letting it wash over you and experiencing it fully before saying thank you and goodbye. That's why I was puzzled by the "no!" advice

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Interestingly, our church small group on Zoom just talked about this yesterday.  I think it goes along with what you're saying, in a way that both can be true.  We talked about how being in a bleak place presents to us an opportunity to lament.  And, that there is a danger if we DON'T allow ourselves to lament, because then we can become numb in the midst of pain.  I'm quoting a part in a text we discussed because it describes it better than I can:

(Lamentations is a book in the Bible.)   "The form of Lamentations is an acrostic, often used to facilitate memory, but here it is used to guarantee that the grief and despair are expressed completely. It arranges our grief, patiently going over the ground of grief step by step, requiring us to stay focused on the detail of the suffering."

Then it goes on to say that we could stop at lament, but are called to move beyond lament to hope.  Hope shows up after and in the midst of the lament.  So maybe an interpretation of what you heard is not really to just stop and tell the emotion no, but to not dwell there and instead move beyond it to the other side.

Edited by J-rap
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I know someone who used to get panic attacks who finally decided to deal with the strong emotions by acknowledging them and then choosing to ignore them and move on rationally.  She said it was hard at first, but it got easier, and eventually she actually stopped getting panic attacks. Obviously, that's not everyone's experience, but it did work for her.

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The emotional processing that bolt described is very much like what I learned over many years of doing DBT groups, and I find it very helpful. However, sometimes you are not in the right frame of mind or in the right place or in the right company to fully experience your emotions. When you are in extreme distress, and you just need to get through the moment, it could be better to go with a temporary "no."  The use of the snapping rubber band reminds me of group members who had issues with self-harm, and might use a mechanism like that to pause their thinking to stay safe.

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

image.gif.455e3acadb58f6c5d4f76acd679cca25.gifIn the other thread, bolt wrote this awesome post about processing emotions:

I have read similar advice before - but then today, I came across a lesson on a mental wellness app that recommended voicing the emotion (see above), but also snapping the rubber band and telling the emotion "No!" Anybody want to weigh in on that? Seems it can't both be "right" - if I tell the emotion "no", I can't fully embrace and give it time to process.
Would love for folks to weigh in what they found most helpful.
 

 

I do the "no" thing when I'm having intrusive thoughts about things that really don't need to be processed further.

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1 hour ago, klmama said:

I know someone who used to get panic attacks who finally decided to deal with the strong emotions by acknowledging them and then choosing to ignore them and move on rationally.  She said it was hard at first, but it got easier, and eventually she actually stopped getting panic attacks. Obviously, that's not everyone's experience, but it did work for her.

I think with panic attacks, this is often the way most people who overcome them do so. It’s pretty much necessary not to fight them in order for them to subside. So, you let the feeling come, but without giving any weight to it. That stops the physiologic feedback loop, and they subside. The more you do it, the better and quicker it works. For many people, they eventually stop after practicing that enough. 

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I think a rubber band snap and “no” or that sort of thing is Not at all a good way to deal with genuine emotions.

 

It might be helpful though to notice, pay attention to, and stop a habit one is trying to end. Like catching oneself mindlessly reaching for a handful of cookies, or some such thing (could be worse than that, like a cigarette, or could also be a mental rut—not genuine emotion to process, but some repetitive thought pattern that is more habit than emotion, including could be the thought that precedes action to a habit, like the image of a carton of ice cream...) 

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My understanding is that the rubber band snapping is a technique specifically meant to derail anxious or obsessive thoughts before they "take hold" and run your brain into the "chemical rut" that is created by repeatedly thinking anxious or obsessive or negative self-talk thoughts.

It's very important to acknowledge and process emotions, using something like the self-talk you quoted in your OP. I would think that the rubber band snapping technique would only be used if one was repeatedly "digging up old bones" of emotions that had been previously processed, and dwelling on or deliberately encouraging negative and unhealthy thought patterns around those emotions that have been previously processed and laid to rest in a healthy way.

Similar to the way OP described acknowledging and then saying goodbye, another technique is to give yourself a set time of the day -- say 30 minutes at a regular time you know you won't be interrupted, write out your feelings and frustrations in a notebook or journal, and when your 30 minutes is up, you tell yourself, "I have acknowledged these feelings and given them due thought; now it is time to set them aside as I close the journal, and move on with the rest of this day."

Edited by Lori D.
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Maybe they meant saying no to letting the emotion control you versus letting yourself experience and accept it?

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I'm a huge fan of the Buddhist way of recognizing emotions, sitting with them to process them, and (most importantly) of recognizing that they're impermanent. The impermanent part is the most important for me. When I can truly grasp and accept that what I'm feeling is just a feeling and that it will pass, then I can stop catastrophizing about it (which I'm hugely prone to do). I'm guessing the rubber band technique is a way to remind oneself to stop with a thought/emotion before an obsession starts, and hopefully before it leads to catastrophizing. I don't think the snapping would work for me at all--I'm not into self inflected pain, and would probably feel quite silly doing it--and I guess there's a fine line between allowing yourself to fully process something and starting to obsess about it. I have at times put a rubber band on my wrist in order to have a physical reminder to not obsess over things. I can't say it was helpful for me.

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6 hours ago, regentrude said:

yeah, that was my feeling, too. I lean towards letting it wash over you and experiencing it fully before saying thank you and goodbye. That's why I was puzzled by the "no!" advice

I too found bolt’s two posts so helpful I saved it to work on it. 

The “tell the emotion no” reminds me of dysfunction I grew up with. We were one of those “happy is the only acceptable emotion” families. IMO, this is why I struggled so much with a bunch of emotional problems in adulthood, such as finding it distressing if someone  disliked me or was mad about something I did/said; or thinking it was unChristian to feel ————. It’s only been fairly recently that I have learned that I’m not responsible for other people’s anger. 

I remember one time @Rosie_0801 gave similar advice to bolt’s, with respect to grief. She said when you feel the grief, just acknowledge it: “Oh, hello, grief. I see you there.” Something like that. I thought that was so helpful because I resisted grief for years, thinking those feelings were “bad” and I shouldn’t feel them. 

The acknowledgement way is better. 

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I have anxiety issues, so there are definitely times where ruminating, dissecting, and stewing in certain feelings are unhealthy and unproductive, so I have to shut them out.

That’s very different from having an emotional response to something real and in need of recognition so that an issue can be processed and coped with.

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When you tell the emotion 'no' , you have successfully sensed it rising, and are keeping control, not letting it overwhelm you and impair you.    A physical motion can help interrupt the mental train and allow the rational mind to keep control as it learns to regulate intense emotions.  Sometimes you do have to compartmentalize and process later.  Sometimes its just that your nutrition is off balance and emotions that would never normally be that intense rise.  As I went thru the process of balancing my B12 against my genetics, I became bored with the emotions....literally it was like watching a small child...no,brain...this isn't the time for anxiety, you've got it wrong.... and in about fifteen minutes the feeling would pass. It gave me good insight into my bpd relative. 

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On rubber-band snap, I don’t think it would need to be a pain thing.

 I have done something similar with clapping hands together for an interrupting noise, and then saying “cancel, cancel” rather than “no” in regard to a train of thought I did not want. 

Even on something like reaching for an unneeded cookie, snapping my fingers and moving into a little dance away from the cookie jar. Or alternatively, toward something I do want to do in a positive way. 

 

Edited by Pen
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10 hours ago, regentrude said:

yeah, that was my feeling, too. I lean towards letting it wash over you and experiencing it fully before saying thank you and goodbye. That's why I was puzzled by the "no!" advice

The only time I think the 'no!' approach is good is when it is something you want to stop thinking about.  I mean obviously.  But the one that comes to mind is advise I have seen on a marriage board to people trying to end an affair.  Affairs are often an addiction...so the advice is given to go 'no contact'.  Some really good pointers I remember reading were to cut everything out of your life that reminded you of that affair partner---music that reminds you of the person, get rid of gifts from the person, delete all emails and texts, erase their number and email from your phone etc.  And then if they come into your mind put up a mental 'stop sign' and remind yourself this is not a path you are going to go down.

 

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I think both can be correct but for different situations.

Processing your emotions as described above is a good thing. Continuing to process the same emotions over and over again obsessively until you are paralyzed by it, not so much. I have experienced severe emotional trauma in my past. I know that sometimes I can be obsessive with trying to process and re-process my emotions. But I know I can spin myself into a panic attack or deep depression that way so I have to tell myself, "No, you are not allow to process or reprocess that right now." Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but I don't believe it to be bad to tell myself no when I'm leading myself onto a path of self harm by torturing myself with my own emotions.

I am by no means an expert and I'm still learning how to claw my way out of my emotionally traumatic past but I don't think these two methods of dealing with emotions, processing and self limiting, are opposites and mutually exclusive. I think they are tools in a tool belt for dealing with emotions and each has situations where they are useful and situations where using the other tool would be better.

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10 hours ago, J-rap said:

Interestingly, our church small group on Zoom just talked about this yesterday.  I think it goes along with what you're saying, in a way that both can be true.  We talked about how being in a bleak place presents to us an opportunity to lament.  And, that there is a danger if we DON'T allow ourselves to lament, because then we can become numb in the midst of pain.  I'm quoting a part in a text we discussed because it describes it better than I can:

(Lamentations is a book in the Bible.)   "The form of Lamentations is an acrostic, often used to facilitate memory, but here it is used to guarantee that the grief and despair are expressed completely. It arranges our grief, patiently going over the ground of grief step by step, requiring us to stay focused on the detail of the suffering."

Then it goes on to say that we could stop at lament, but are called to move beyond lament to hope.  Hope shows up after and in the midst of the lament.  So maybe an interpretation of what you heard is not really to just stop and tell the emotion no, but to not dwell there and instead move beyond it to the other side.

I agree with this. 

We all are experiencing loss in this season and need to grieve. But we need hope too! 

As a Christian, I find that the Scripture gives me words for both when sometimes I find myself inarticulate or overwhelmed with anger or sadness or regret. 

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8 hours ago, Lori D. said:

My understanding is that the rubber band snapping is a technique specifically meant to derail anxious or obsessive thoughts before they "take hold" and run your brain into the "chemical rut" that is created by repeatedly thinking anxious or obsessive or negative self-talk thoughts.

I think your understanding of what it is meant to do is correct, but I think it's a terrible technique in general. For one, obsessive/intrusive thoughts often go hand-in-hand with OCD. I know that it can and does work for some people, but I think advising someone with OCD to snap a rubber band on their wrist in response to something is a spectacularly bad idea. I mean, a huge part of OCD is feeling compelled to perform certain rituals, let's not add another, lol. 

It's fine to tell an emotion "no" when it's already been processed. It's fine to tell an emotion "wait" if it's simply not a good time to deal with it. But mentally or even verbally acknowledging what's going on (these are intrusive thoughts, not emotions that need processing) and making a decision to say no/move on is a better choice, imo, particularly if there's even a hint of OCD in the mix. 

 

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1 hour ago, Pen said:

On rubber-band snap, I don’t think it would need to be a pain thing.

 I have done something similar with clapping hands together for an interrupting noise, and then saying “cancel, cancel” rather than “no” in regard to a train of thought I did not want. 

Even on something like reaching for an unneeded cookie, snapping my fingers and moving into a little dance away from the cookie jar. Or alternatively, toward something I do want to do in a positive way. 

 

I like this.  🙂  'Cancel, cancel.'  

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4 hours ago, Carrie12345 said:

I have anxiety issues, so there are definitely times where ruminating, dissecting, and stewing in certain feelings are unhealthy and unproductive, so I have to shut them out.

That’s very different from having an emotional response to something real and in need of recognition so that an issue can be processed and coped with.

I agree with this.  I've only experienced disturbing anxiety a few times in my life.  It came out of nowhere, during a period when a lot of difficult stuff was going on but through which I was slowly finding my way.  It was so sudden and dark, and scary.  I just felt that it was wrong and grossly distorted ~ like my brain was playing tricks on me, and I didn't want to go there.  I was able to shut it out pretty quickly.  I don't think it would have done me any good to give that emotion or chemical reaction or whatever it was any time at all.

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5 hours ago, Quill said:

I too found bolt’s two posts so helpful I saved it to work on it. 

The “tell the emotion no” reminds me of dysfunction I grew up with. We were one of those “happy is the only acceptable emotion” families. IMO, this is why I struggled so much with a bunch of emotional problems in adulthood, such as finding it distressing if someone  disliked me or was mad about something I did/said; or thinking it was unChristian to feel ————. It’s only been fairly recently that I have learned that I’m not responsible for other people’s anger. 

I remember one time @Rosie_0801 gave similar advice to bolt’s, with respect to grief. She said when you feel the grief, just acknowledge it: “Oh, hello, grief. I see you there.” Something like that. I thought that was so helpful because I resisted grief for years, thinking those feelings were “bad” and I shouldn’t feel them. 

The acknowledgement way is better. 

I don't know whee that 'happy is the only acceptable emotion' nonsense comes from in religious circles.  Did they not read about Jesus weeping for Lazarus? Or David in mourning for his dying child?  

I am so sorry you were taught that Quill.  I can see how it could mess you up. 

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Mmmm.   I didn't see the thread from which this one spun off, but lots of good insights on this one. 

I think I end up somewhere between

NOT HEALTHY:  Turn it Off!

 

HEALTHY:

5 hours ago, Quill said:

I too found bolt’s two posts so helpful I saved it to work on it. 

The “tell the emotion no” reminds me of dysfunction I grew up with. We were one of those “happy is the only acceptable emotion” families. IMO, this is why I struggled so much with a bunch of emotional problems in adulthood, such as finding it distressing if someone  disliked me or was mad about something I did/said; or thinking it was unChristian to feel ————. It’s only been fairly recently that I have learned that I’m not responsible for other people’s anger. 

I remember one time @Rosie_0801 gave similar advice to bolt’s, with respect to grief. She said when you feel the grief, just acknowledge it: “Oh, hello, grief. I see you there.” Something like that. I thought that was so helpful because I resisted grief for years, thinking those feelings were “bad” and I shouldn’t feel them. 

The acknowledgement way is better. 

 

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Adding another thought (I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists.

I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists, and of course anybody else, care to weigh in?

Edited by regentrude
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There are very few all or nothing scenarios in life. I have a difficult family dynamic and I have family members with mental illness where being more stoic on my end is actually useful when things flare up suddenly on their end. It's a way of avoiding being sucked in when an emotional state would make it easier to get sucked in or would contribute to escalating it.

I'm wondering if the rubber band snap approach might be useful in situations when it's not a good time to process emotion. Maybe a "no" in that kind of situation is shorthand for, "No, not right now." Then when you get get home or wherever to a peaceful, private place you can say "yes" to that emotion and process it with all the time and reflection needed. The only problem would be if someone didn't take the time to process and reflect the first chance they got later. 
 

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4 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Adding another thought (I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists.

I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists care to weigh in?

I agree that our thoughts are a part of what makes us ourselves.  Granted, it's not the only part and thoughts can be changed. 

But I'm not an artist.

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54 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Adding another thought (I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists.

I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists, and of course anybody else, care to weigh in?

For me, the art/writing helps me release those emotions. They end up all out there on paper so I don't have to have them swirling in my head and I can move on. If I don't get them out, or if I am unable to get past the emotions despite pouring them out multiple times over a period of time, I end up depressed, unable to feel anything.

ETA: The biggest moment of irony in my life was the day after a completely devastating event happened .(worse than a death...the harsh, personal, rejection of someone you care deeply about is, IME, worse than a death of a loved one) I wrote the most hilarious, beautiful piece of comedy I've ever presented. Everyone who's read any of my material agreed it was fabulous and the best I've ever done. I have no idea where it came from because I was not in a mood for light amusement. When my drama kids presented it, it was up till the dress rehearsal before anyone could do the whole thing without cracking up in laughter. But perhaps, my soul needed the deep belly laughs that that material provided. Maybe I was hysterical? Anyway, I've not yet duplicated that bit of writing. 

Edited by fairfarmhand
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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

Adding another thought (I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists.

I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists, and of course anybody else, care to weigh in?

Well, it is true that conflict makes the story; without tension, there is no story. It is also true for myself personally that when things have been really pretty excellent in my life, I don’t write much, but when things are difficult, I have quite a bit of fodder for writing. 

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49 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Adding another thought (I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists.

I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists, and of course anybody else, care to weigh in?

I think that's a very black and white way of looking at it, taking it very much to the extreme. It's healthy to have the ability to let go of thoughts and emotions when they are destructive and/or distressing you. No one is saying to go about life robotically, with no emotions or thoughts of your own, that wasn't even hinted at.   

I'm a writer. Writing can be a healthy way to help process your thoughts and emotions, but it's healthy because you are processing them, not just letting them take up negative space in your head and your life. Obsessively dwelling on negative emotions does not equal good writing, and ime and my observation, intrusive thoughts lead to a lack of writing because they take up a great deal of energy. Writing about a thought or emotion is nothing like dwelling on a thought or emotion without purpose and without end. You can work on the ability to make that emotion welcome when you want to use it in your writing, and not welcome it when it's only making you feel bad with no purpose. 

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1 minute ago, Quill said:

It is also true for myself personally that when things have been really pretty excellent in my life, I don’t write much, but when things are difficult, I have quite a bit of fodder for writing. 

oh yes! My best work has always been created in periods when I went through difficulties.
So I am very reluctant to sink back into what I like to label in my head as "fat contentment"

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6 minutes ago, katilac said:

I think that's a very black and white way of looking at it, taking it very much to the extreme. It's healthy to have the ability to let go of thoughts and emotions when they are destructive and/or distressing you. No one is saying to go about life robotically, with no emotions or thoughts of your own, that wasn't even hinted at.   

I was thinking more along the deeper philosophical implications of the "you are not your thoughts" teachings in DBT and the observing but not attaching to thoughts in Zen: what am I? If thoughts and emotions are not part of the real Self, but only expressions of the ego,  and only by letting go of them I can come to conscious awareness: what, then, is the place of art? If art is purest expression of Self, but thoughts/emotions are not part of the self, how does that all fit? 

Edited by regentrude

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45 minutes ago, regentrude said:

I was thinking more along the deeper philosophical implications of the "you are not your thoughts" teachings in DBT and the observing but not attaching to thoughts in Zen: what am I? If thoughts and emotions are not part of the real Self, but only expressions of the ego,  and only by letting go of them I can come to conscious awareness: what, then, is the place of art? If art is purest expression of Self, but thoughts/emotions are not part of the self, how does that all fit? 

"You are not your thoughts" is one sound bite from DBT and it does not equal "Thoughts and emotions are not part of the self" 

I think you are misinterpreting the "you are not your thoughts" idea in DBT and placing it very much out of context. Mindfulness is a huge part of DBT, and the way it's generally defined for that purpose is to focus on the here and now and really attend to what is going on around you. Any artist is going to benefit from being observant and truly experiencing the moment. Again, the contrast is against simply dwelling on unhappy thoughts over and over again, to the extent that you are missing out on new thoughts and experiences and feelings. DBT, taken as a whole, is pretty much the opposite of ignoring or hiding from your emotions and thoughts. 

It's also important to know that DBT was developed for extreme cases, people with suicidal ideation, people who self-harm, or people with personality development disorder (typically very resistant to treatment). When your thoughts make you want to kill yourself, the ability to send those thoughts away is a great thing. 

As far as Zen goes, the word has really come to mean a variety of things, so much so that it's not that useful of a term unless it's defined first (likewise with 'mindfulness' and 'meditation'. I think really considering the relationship between traditional Zen practices and the arts would require a very deep dive. 

Going back to telling the emotion 'no' vs. processing it: this can be a matter of timing, or, as someone (Rosie?) said, it can be a matter of having already processed the emotion and knowing that you are simply having intrusive thoughts that aren't going to process it further in any way. The thoughts are preventing you from experiencing and enjoying and creating; they aren't helping you create. 

 

Edited by katilac
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I don't know if any of this is relevant, but I have spent a life time battling thought, words and others opinions vs my desires. Sometimes I just could not even articulate or even identify why some words made me uncomfortable and others made me feel so good. Words like discontent vs ambitious, selfish vs being kind to yourself, forgiveness with boundaries vs unconditional forgiveness, self care vs selfish. I love the word independent so much. I will say without going into much personal detail or rambling on that reframing basically saved my mental health. Reframing the words selfish and forgiveness itself has been so healthy for me even as I battle guilt a lot in my head always.

The emotion that has helped me the most is anger. I've been called an angry person repeatedly because I would not conform to gender roles or push back at anything holding me back. Even if my parents were encouraging of my ambitions, it is others in my extended family who always used words like "setting a bad example" which always pushed my buttons. I've always been a mouthy kid who would push back against adults and called "disrespectful". Reframing words like respect, example, role model, responsibility, anger has helped me a lot. I was always a people pleaser and one of the first things someone taught me in passing in America is 'No is a complete sentence'. It profoundly changed how I saw the world because I was never able to say No. Now I excel in it. 😛. Trying to find a balance is what I am working at.

I think we need to face all emotion. One of the things that really makes me irritated is if people ask me to smile. I will not paste a smile and I smile only when I am happy. Women especially are always asked to smile and it really bugs me and I react badly always. Gratitude is another. I will always try to be grateful, but I reserve the right to whine. 

I am rambling already. But some of the words that have really helped me is by Maya Angelou. 'Still I rise' is a poem I say over and over again until I have memorized it. I can recite it from memory. The Psalms help me profoundly too and I have memorized many. Others that have helped me are strangely Rock and Roll songs. Those that were written in extreme personal circumstances really speak to me. I would literally die without music and poetry. Life is all colors, not just bright. Emotion is all emotion, not just positive. That is what makes us human in my mind. 

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11 minutes ago, katilac said:

"You are not your thoughts" is one sound bite from DBT and it does not equal "Thoughts and emotions are not part of the self" 

I think you are misinterpreting the "you are not your thoughts" idea in DBT and placing it very much out of context. Mindfulness is a huge part of DBT, and the way it's generally defined for that purpose is to focus on the here and now and really attend to what is going on around you. Any artist is going to benefit from being observant and truly experiencing the moment. Again, the contrast is against simply dwelling on unhappy thoughts over and over again, to the extent that you are missing out on new thoughts and experiences and feelings. DBT, taken as a whole, is pretty much the opposite of ignoring or hiding from your emotions and thoughts. 

It's also important to know that DBT was developed for extreme cases, people with suicidal ideation, people who self-harm, or people with personality development disorder (typically very resistant to treatment). When your thoughts make you want to kill yourself, the ability to send those thoughts away is a great thing. 

As far as Zen goes, the word has really come to mean a variety of things, so much so that it's not that useful of a term unless it's defined first (likewise with 'mindfulness' and 'meditation'. I think really considering the relationship between traditional Zen practices and the arts would require a very deep dive. 

Thank you for your thoughtful response, katilac.

But aren't most emotions and thoughts related to either the past (regret, guilt, shame) or the future (fear, anxiety)? So, feeling/thinking them means being not present in the moment.  And if we, for a moment, accept the thesis that suffering stems from attachment to either the past or the future, and the only solution is to be present in the now, aren't emotions merely the drama the ego plays to make us believe we are the image we have constructed of ourselves, from our past and projected onto our future? So, if we want to become present and aware, they are a hindrance?

Thanks for discussing this with me, folks; I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

Edited by regentrude
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3 hours ago, regentrude said:

Adding another thought (I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists.

I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists, and of course anybody else, care to weigh in?

 

You are more than your thoughts seems truer to me. Of course we are our thoughts. We are also our feelings, our beliefs, our actions, our relationships, and part of our environments, not to mention the influence of other people's views of us. 

Thoughts and emotions are human things and humans can't make art without using humanness. I just finished a painting illustrating happiness and am working on another about the happiness and pain of human connection, the same concept as Alexander Milov's 'Love' sculpture, but personalised to specific people. 

I think turning into a robot requires more than ignoring thoughts and emotions. I think you would have to have a personality disorder to manage it. Or, I've never seen anyone who hasn't able to do it at all. Anyone else I've seen who tried zombified themselves. They didn't empty themselves like a robot.

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2 hours ago, fairfarmhand said:

For me, the art/writing helps me release those emotions. They end up all out there on paper so I don't have to have them swirling in my head and I can move on.

 

It's like a pensieve from Harry Potter!

2 hours ago, regentrude said:

oh yes! My best work has always been created in periods when I went through difficulties.
So I am very reluctant to sink back into what I like to label in my head as "fat contentment"

 

Funny isn't it? This is what everyone seems to say, and I can't paint anything at all when I'm not okay.

What is "best work?" Does it mean complexity?

1 hour ago, regentrude said:

But aren't most emotions and thoughts related to either the past (regret, guilt, shame) or the future (fear, anxiety)? So, feeling/thinking them means being not present in the moment.  And if we, for a moment, accept the thesis that suffering stems from attachment to either the past or the future, and the only solution is to be present in the now, aren't emotions merely the drama the ego plays to make us believe we are the image we have constructed of ourselves, from our past and projected onto our future? So, if we want to become present and aware, they are a hindrance?

Thanks for discussing this with me, folks; I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

 

Is transcending the human experience a goal of yours?

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24 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

What is "best work?" Does it mean complexity?

No, for me, that does not necessarily mean complexity - some things can be simple. I am a minimalist and look for simplicity without being trite or trivial. Complexity for complexity's sake is not something I aspire to; obviously, it has its place where it is needed.  
For me personally, my best work is something that I would like to read: expressive without being wordy, imagery that speaks to the reader on a subconscious, emotional level without requiring sophisticated interpretation from the intellect, attention to detail, and somewhere in it something that's relatable about the experience. It is work I feel proud to share. Mediocre work does not give that satisfaction.

Not a very precise answer, I know. But I know it when I see it 🙂

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25 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

Is transcending the human experience a goal of yours?

No, it is not. But exploring these ideas has been very helpful for me to recognize dysfunctional attachments to emotions or states of mind that had me stuck on certain thought patterns. We can argue whether there really is an ego and a self; using this language as a metaphor was useful to describe and understand phenomena I observed. Ultimately, my goal is to dissolve unhelpful thought patterns that are unproductive and cause suffering.

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4 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

@regentrude, I was trying to pm you but you're not accepting at present?

Oops. Mailbox full. I just cleaned out - you can send pm now.

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18 hours ago, regentrude said:

Addition: "you are not your thoughts"
I want to add another thought ( posted below, but I thought I'll add this to the OP as well) to discuss: the whole "you are not your thoughts" business. Especially interested in hearing from other artists. 
I (kind of) see where the advice is coming from, but as a poet, it's precisely my thoughts and emotions that are vital for my creative work. Without them, there is no Art, and without that, there is no me. Not paying attention to thoughts and letting go of emotion, doesn't that turn us into robots?

Any artists, and of course everybody else, care to weigh in?

Again, I think this is a useful tool for those of us who have obsessive and intrusive thoughts. If you are able to use your emotions constructively and creatively, that is wonderful. But some people, especially those with deep emotional trauma, internalize things to the point that they are causing self harm with their emotions. Their emotions become so big that, without realizing it until it is too late, it fully consumes them. We are blinded by our big emotions because they have become so big that reality is lost. In these cases, it sometimes helps to be reminded that we are not our emotions and we can control them with constant practice. 

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1 hour ago, Dreamergal said:

One of the things that really makes me irritated is if people ask me to smile. I will not paste a smile and I smile only when I am happy. Women especially are always asked to smile and it really bugs me and I react badly always. 

Oh, that one drives me bonkers! I don't even think it's 'women especially,' I think it's women only, period. I can't think of a single time I've ever heard someone tell a man to smile or ask why they weren't smiling; a young boy, perhaps, but not grown men. It's something men say to women.

1 hour ago, regentrude said:

But aren't most emotions and thoughts related to either the past (regret, guilt, shame) or the future (fear, anxiety)? So, feeling/thinking them means being not present in the moment.  And if we, for a moment, accept the thesis that suffering stems from attachment to either the past or the future, and the only solution is to be present in the now, aren't emotions merely the drama the ego plays to make us believe we are the image we have constructed of ourselves, from our past and projected onto our future? So, if we want to become present and aware, they are a hindrance?

Thanks for discussing this with me, folks; I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

If you fully accept that thesis, then yes, I'd say they could be a hindrance to being present and aware. However, the main point I was trying to make is that, despite that one common phrase, DBT does not work on that complete thesis and neither do most non-therapeutic uses of mindfulness (which, again, can have varying meanings).  

This quote from Pride and Prejudice comes to mind: "Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure." If you read the quote out of context, it may seem to say that you should ignore negative feelings and thoughts from the past. When you read it in context, it clearly means nothing of the sort. The entire point of the book is that the main characters learn from the past and process their negative emotions so they can move past them. Elizabeth is merely telling Darcy to quit dwelling uselessly on past actions that he cannot change, and to not let intrusive thoughts of the past ruin a very happy present. She was way ahead of her time 😄

One intriguing point: in your post, you ask if most emotions do not come from either the past or the future. You list five examples . . . every single one is negative. 

32 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

Funny isn't it? This is what everyone seems to say, and I can't paint anything at all when I'm not okay.

What is "best work?" Does it mean complexity?

 I think confirmation bias has a lot to do with it. If you believe that suffering enhances creativity, you tend to notice when you do perform very well when unhappy and ignore the numerous times your suffering hurts your work or keeps you from working at all. And when something truly dramatic or traumatic happens, it's common to connect it to things that happened around the same time, even if there is no causation. 

I also think it's a very persistent idea because it's comforting to think that something positive will come from your suffering that wouldn't happen otherwise.

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8 minutes ago, katilac said:

One intriguing point: in your post, you ask if most emotions do not come from either the past or the future. You list five examples . . . every single one is negative. 

I guess those are the kind of emotions that come to mind in context of letting go of emotions. Certainly if somebody had a feeling of unbridled joy, it would not occur to them that it could be harmful, unhealthy,  and they should let go. Which was kind of the starting point of the conversation.

But even positive emotions could be dwelling in the past or looking to the future: both nostalgia and anticipation are not unpleasant, but are obstacles to being in the present. Identifying with the past or projecting onto the future are both ways to construct the persona we believe to be our identity. BUt is it?

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15 minutes ago, katilac said:

 I think confirmation bias has a lot to do with it. If you believe that suffering enhances creativity, you tend to notice when you do perform very well when unhappy and ignore the numerous times your suffering hurts your work or keeps you from working at all. And when something truly dramatic or traumatic happens, it's common to connect it to things that happened around the same time, even if there is no causation. 

If I measure by the volume of work I create, I have a clear record of the times when I am productive (I keep all notebooks and drafts), and those have always been the emotionally charged periods. The decades of satiated contentment and emotional equilibrium have yielded barely anything. And yes, there are periods that are so disorienting that I cannot write anything,  like the past two months; I was struggling to keep my head above water work wise and had no brain capacity left over for anything creative.

And there is a strong correlation between quality and quantity; if you work a lot, there's going to be some good ones in there. 

Edited by regentrude
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7 minutes ago, regentrude said:

But even positive emotions could be dwelling in the past or looking to the future: both nostalgia and anticipation are not unpleasant, but are obstacles to being in the present. Identifying with the past or projecting onto the future are both ways to construct the persona we believe to be our identity. BUt is it?

 

What art can be created from the present, though? It has to come from a memory of something to be anything, doesn't it? 

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3 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

What art can be created from the present, though? It has to come from a memory of something to be anything, doesn't it? 

No, I don't think so. I once spent an entire morning watching and chronicling the life of a spiderwort blossom (they only bloom for one morning and fold up at noon and die) and then wrote a poem about that. That was sheer presence any moment of the journey.

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1 minute ago, regentrude said:

No, I don't think so. I once spent an entire morning watching and chronicling the life of a spiderwort blossom (they only bloom for one morning and fold up at noon and die) and then wrote a poem about that. That was sheer presence any moment of the journey.

 

"Then" you wrote a poem about it. You couldn't write the poem during it, could you? Maybe people can with practice and the right inspiration, I don't know. It seems to me, though, there has to be some lapse of time to record anything.

Gonna google spiderwort flowers now...

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33 minutes ago, regentrude said:

And there is a strong correlation between quality and quantity; if you work a lot, there's going to be some good ones in there. 

I have proofread enough dreck from prolific writers to strongly disagree with this 😂

21 minutes ago, StellaM said:

 So if my thought is 'what if I stepped in front of that bus?', I can calmly remind myself 'interesting question, thought, but I don't plan on finding out' and refrain from stepping in front of the bus. 

I am unreasonably amused by this imaginary exchange. 

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4 minutes ago, katilac said:

I have proofread enough dreck from prolific writers to strongly disagree with this 😂

But isn't every writing advice to first take care of quantity and write regularly, as opposed to worrying about producing the one singular masterpiece? 
There is this delightful anecdote from Art&Fear:

Quote

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

 

 

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