A Preemptive Strike ...
If we're able to label (think "one word;" think succinct file or drawer label) our feelings, without discourse, it has an impact on both our feelings and thoughts - potentially reducing the magnitude of a feeling, and short-circuiting an unhelpful thought monologue. And, it works for either positive or negative feelings/thoughts although we tend to want to disconnect from things that don't feel so good.
Could it really be that easy? There's only one way to find out - try it. The next time you're feeling angry, stop to insert your label "ANGRY" then check in with yourself. Or, if you're feeling anxious or panicky, declare yourself "ANXIOUS." As I run these scenarios through my head in writing this, I can sensel the shift in feeling. The trick is to stick to the label and not go into the details, the story.
Your Next Best Steps
- When you have any sort of emotional flooding, take the first step to stem the arousal by labeling the emotion. This should then allow you more space to sit with a difficult emotion at a later time.
- Remember to use just a label (stick to just one word to keep yourself on track). If you hook to a story or explanation then this will have the opposite impact of revving up your unhelpful thoughts and uncomfortable emotions.
- The label is an in-the-moment pause/reset button. You most likely will need to sit with uncomfortable feelings at a later time, and disconnect from unhelpful thoughts when they arise. Sort of a label-now, ACT-later one-two punch.
Photo - Creative Commons (Wayne Stadler "Feelings")