Your emotions are often the most obvious sign that something is wrong. For this reason, you can always use uncomfortable emotions – fear, hurt, worry, discomfort, anxiety, etc. – as indicators that you have moved out of your flow zone state (the state in which you are most alive and productive) and into a stressful one. You don’t have to watch every thought; just pay attention to your feelings. Good feelings indicate that you’re viewing your life in a positive light. As long as you’re feeling uplifted and empowered, you don’t need to monitor your thoughts because they’re clearly serving you well.
By contrast, when you notice that you’ve started to feel bad, you can find out why by identifying the negative emotion. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling, and why am I feeling that way?” If you can give the emotion a precise label – hurt, anger, sadness, depression, jealousy, rejection, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, worry or apprehension – you will have a clue to how you may be perceiving a particular situation. Then you can follow this clue to its trigger. Here are some common emotions with the perceptions that often accompany them:
Hurt – You probably perceive someone’s words or actions as intended to hurt or betray you. Worried – There’s a good chance you’re thinking about some future event that you either do not look forward to or fear might happen.
Angry – You may believe that someone has done something you do not approve of or strongly disagree with. Defensive – You may believe that someone doesn’t understand you or is trying to attack you.Resistant – You may perceive something as undesirable and are trying to avoid it.
You may not be certain which event triggered your negative feelings, but labeling the emotion can help you trace it back to its source: your perspective. However, don’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out exactly which emotion you’re experiencing. Sometimes it’s sufficient just to notice that you don’t feel good or you feel “off” or “lousy.” Since the goal is to feel better, focus instead on ways to change the perceptions that have triggered your emotional response. A quick way to do that is to question the truth of your perception because perceptions are frequently nothing more than assumptions or speculations.
Of course, the more adept you become at catching yourself as you transition from feeling good to feeling bad, the more quickly and easily you can identify the trigger that caused you to feel bad. Naturally, as with any new skill, mindful awareness must be practiced and reinforced before it can become a habit. Be patient with yourself, and know that each time you use this process, you’re improving your self-awareness.