An emotionally resilient person is an effective leader, a good caretaker, and a wise decision-maker. In this article, we’ll discuss how to build emotional resilience by breaking the chain of negative thinking?
Life is not so hard as we believe it to be. Life appears hard because our mind is juggling multiple thoughts simultaneously, and we don’t realize how much of an impact this unconscious behavior has on our life.
We cannot control our emotions and give in to the reactive situations in life that cause us to suffer. To get this power to not react blindly to a given situation, one should do deep inner work and exploration.
Many times the cause of our discontent lies deep within ourselves and not in the outer world. However, due to years of conditioning and unconscious behaviors, we acquire this habit of instantly exploding into rage or anger when the circumstances are unfavorable.
We get trained to deal with external situations and challenges very well. All our life, we have trained ourselves to deal with such situations. But when it comes to dealing with our inner self, we don’t know what to do.
It’s the inner world which causes turbulence in our life. Because all of the present conventional education and learning does not teach us how to deal with the inner self and process emotions associated with them.
We feel helpless and don’t pay any attention to the existence of our thoughts, feeling, and emotions.
We live under the illusion that we can manage whatever is happening in the outside world, and that is sufficient to survive and stay happy, but there is no solution to what is happening inside.
But on the contrary, it is the inside world which can be managed and not the outside world.
You have no control over what is happening outside.
For example, imagine a situation where you worked hard on an assignment for about a year, but it didn’t give you the desired result. You sweated it out like crazy, even sacrificing your family time, and in the end, all of it went down the drain.
How would you feel in such a situation? Naturally, you would be angry and disappointed. And these kinds of things happen to the best of us.
If you carefully analyze this situation, you will see that you have no control over the outcome of your work.
We cannot control the dynamics of what’s going on on the outside. But try and see the emotions that arise inside you because of the external situation. That is something we can manage.
It is ok to feel disappointed, sad, angry, or depressed for a short time. But the problem is when we allow these feelings to take over. We started building a chain of negative thoughts and get carried away within them.
Our expectations give rise to our thoughts, which in turn gives rise to our emotions.
One of my friends had suffered a massive loss in his business and told me how that one event made his life miserable. The reason he felt like a failure was that he was carrying huge expectations on his shoulders.
He wanted to be the savior of the family.
He felt that he was responsible for how others felt for him. And as a result, he was undergoing a roller costar of emotions inside.
He started with an expectation of achieving something big in life, at least to what his forefathers achieved. But because of this loss in business, he felt like a failure. He was sad and depressed. At times, he even thought of ending his life.
Eventually, he came out of that situation, and his business recovered over time. Still, the pain he gave himself during that time cost him his health and many severed relationships.
It is our ego that continually feeds on our negative thinking and creates pain and suffering. It is the ego that makes us feel like a failure. Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help us to deal with our inner demons.
We must realize that most of the thoughts we generate throughout the day are useless and unproductive. Therefore, it’s necessary to keep our minds calm and composed.
When we practice mindfulness, we can identify the patterns of these afflicting thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness gives us the ability to witness these thoughts without creating any judgment or reaction. It helps our minds to calm down and make better decisions.
When we learn to regulate our thoughts and emotions, we become more joyful and productive in our daily life. External circumstances and their outcomes are not in our control, but what’s happening inside is manageable.
One of the essential mindfulness exercises is meditation. In mindfulness meditation, we sit down with eyes closed and focus on our movement of breath in and out of our nostrils.
We continue this exercise for about 10 to 15 minutes. After the time passes, we open our eyes and get on with the usual work.
Situations are only difficult because we have not trained ourselves to deal with them. For example, if you have never done mountain climbing, you will find it incredibly hard the first time, whereas, for someone who practices this daily, it’s effortless.
Similarly, if you have trained your mind to deal with the inner thoughts and emotions, no situation would be tough for you.
Whenever you face an unpleasant situation, just ground yourself in this very moment and bring your awareness to what is going on within you. If you are getting irritated or angry because of some external situations, the first thing you require is emotional stability.
One way to deal with it is by being mindful of the thoughts we are generating at that moment. The very act of witnessing your inner thoughts and emotions will bring a sense of calm within you. Very soon, you will understand that these thoughts are unproductive and will lead you nowhere.
In this world of high expectations and skyrocketing competition, it’s essential to take a pause and get in touch with your inner self to see what’s going on. It is vital for your mental health and general well-being.
Being strong is all about dealing with the inside, and once you learn to do that, your life will become joyful.
Break the Chain of Negative Thinking
The chain of negative thinking is something like a daydream but happens in quick successions. When stressed or anxious, we often form a chain of negative thoughts one after the other, we get entangled in those thoughts and losing touch with reality.
This kind of behavior creates a lot of pain and unhappiness. We start imagining situations that are not likely to take place at all.
For example, consider a situation where you could not complete a small task on time. Now your thought process starts something like this, “Oh, I could not finish that task on time.
Now I’ll be fired from my job”, “What if something happens to me. Who will take care of my family”, “What if my spouse leaves me”, and just like that, we keep going on and on.
Now it’s highly unlikely that you will lose your job or that your spouse will leave you just because you couldn’t complete one small talk. But notice how our mind tricks us, traps us in this vicious chain of negativity, and creates unpleasantness.
Most of the events that take place in this chain are entirely unrelated and have no possibility of manifesting in reality. They just make us worried and anxious.
Practicing mindfulness, we become more aware of this chain of negative thinking and break it as soon as it begins to form. It requires regular practice to become effective at this.
We realize that these thoughts have no meaning, and the mind is playing tricks. The more we practice this, the better we get at breaking the chain.
Meditation is a great practice that can help us be more aware of our emotional body. If you’d like more information, check out my Ultimate Meditation Guide.
Don’t Suppress Your Emotions: This Too Shall Pass
Understand that whatever you are thinking today at this very moment is temporary, and it is most likely that these feelings will disappear after a day to two.
Today you might feel mixed emotions such as anger, anxiousness, and sadness. But tomorrow is going to be another story altogether, and after a day or two, you might even totally forget about what happened today.
These emotions are like waves in the ocean. At times they feel scary and overwhelming, but they soon disappear. Through meditation practice, we learn to calm our minds, and these troubling thoughts and emotions do not affect us. They come and go just like the waves in the ocean.
Don’t try to suppress and block these thoughts and the emotions arising out of them. These could be something like a bad divorce, or death of a loved one, or public humiliation, etc. Allow them to surface and deal with them head-on.
It might feel very uncomfortable initially, but slowly as time progresses, you will feel much relief. Don’t try to suppress your emotions.
We should never try to suppress anything in life. Suppression is terrible for our health. Accept whatever is welling up inside you and allow it to come out of your system.
Slowly, the frequency of these afflicting thoughts will reduce, and even if they do come up, they will not affect you in any way. Identification and acceptance of afflicting emotions is your first step to recovery.
Don’t Try to Avoid Challenging Circumstances
Let me share my own experience with you on this one. There was a time when I wanted to move away from the city hustle and settle down in a quiet area in the countryside.
Everything about the city I live in used to irritate me, the people, long hours in traffic, chaotic lifestyle, stressful work environment, and much more.
I got this idea that settling away from the hub of this metropolitan city will give me peace and calm. I thought I would be able to concentrate better on work and meditate for hours without getting disturbed. No long commutes to work, and that I will also get to meet nice and friendly folks.
But as they say, “you cannot run away from your problems. Your problems will chase you anywhere you go”. And that’s what exactly happened with me.
My wife was not happy with my decision, and she didn’t want to leave the city. I tried giving her all the rosy pictures of country life, the calm, peace, and how much money we would be able to save. Somehow, I convinced her to move there, but she was miserable.
We spent about a month there and then finally moved back to the city. Living in the countryside was tough. There were lots of issues. Roads were terrible, electricity was erratic, and even the people there were not very welcoming, and some of the basic amenities were completely missing. Very soon, I realized what a blunder I had made.
I started questioning myself in the following manner:
- What is it that you are trying to run away from?
- What is it that is bothering you?
- Why are you so mean and just thinking about yourself?
These questions led me to do some introspection, and I realized that I was just trying to run away from difficult situations, thinking that somehow it will make life easier. But my problems never left me.
When I started meditating, I could see the connection between my thoughts and the emotions that resulted from them.
I decided to come back to the city and start all over again. My wife and kids were happy. I’m proud that I had the courage to accept my shortcomings and make this decision.
The problem was all with my inner world. With repeated mindfulness practice, I could see the negative patterns of thoughts I was generating. It was uncomfortable and ‘ego’ shattering, but I felt so much relief afterward.
Why Do We Need Emotional Resilience Ever More Than Before?
I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation for about four years now, and I see the changes within me. I have become happier, calm, and more accepting of my thoughts and emotions.
I don’t try to fight my thoughts anymore. I allow them to surface with all love and kindness, simply witness them without generating any kind of reaction, and finally, let them go.
I’m mindful that whatever emotions I generate are temporary and based on the momentary situation. I don’t allow them to take control of me.
Once you have that kind of power, nothing in this world can disturb you. And even if it does, the effects won’t last long. Even your mind doesn’t have the right to control you. Don’t be a slave to it.
I’m not saying that I’m always happy and joyful and that nothing disturbs me anymore. I’m a human being, and there are times when I do feel stressed out.
But being mindful, I know that whatever I’m feeling right now is just my mind playing games, and after a while, this discomfort will go away on its own. This kind of approach allows for quick recovery, and I start feeling better within a couple of hours.
Building emotional resilience takes time and patience. You are not going to build it in a month or two. So set appropriate expectations and start working on it today.
Modern times are challenging – mentally, not physically. Unlike past, today, we do not have purely physical challenges. Many of them are psychological.
However, many of us struggle with these psychological challenges because mental health is becoming more of a problem every day.
At the time of writing this article, we are going through a pandemic that has threatened the very fabric of human existence. Although this virus’s mortality rate is low, the adverse psychological effects like worry, stress, anxiety, and depression, are a concern.
But that said, we can protect ourselves from worry and anxiety by building emotional resilience. When we keep ourselves emotionally stable, we radiate positive energy to people around us, which in turn helps in preventing panic and chaos.