How mindfulness keeps your “dark-side” in check

The Psychological Answer to Post-Election Ugliness

We all have a “dark side”…everyone of us does. Under the right amount of stress or pain, we can all succumb to dark, pessimistic thinking that results in ugly  words or actions. Our biology sets us up for this. Negative (a.k.a. fear-based) thinking is a “safer” option in survival terms. It keeps us on own toes when we’re in real danger. But dark-side thinking and attitudes can become unhelpful habits triggered more by chronic stress than actual danger.

Objectively, the fact that our thinking can be skewed is good news for some of the stressful problems we may face…particularly relationship problems. Perhaps we have more options than our dark-side can conceive? That is often the case. Intense anger, hate or blame don’t come up when stress is low. Our dark-side comes out when we feel threatened, and it all happens very unconsciously. The good news is that hate, blame and grudges narrow our perception of what’s possible. If we can build skill to take better care of our emotional state (with you guessed it…more mindfulness), we really do have the capacity to perceive more options for our own happiness, think more creatively, and behave more compassionately.

The problem is, many of us are hurting more than we realize.  This is what self-visibility is all about. If you don’t recognize and respond to your needs or pain, your dark-side eventually takes over, and when it does, we become hyper-focused on the wrongness of others. We ruminate about it.

We can easily fall into the habit of minimizing how much things are bothering us: job frustration, financial stress or feelings of emotional insecurity in our close relationships. This leaves room for dark-side perception errors. Our attention jumps ship and spills into places that it can’t really be effective…we judge other people instead of our options to create relief and peace for ourselves.

Obsession with other’s “wrongness” is a sign that your needs aren’t met: not enough loving connection, not enough compassion, pain that isn’t even recognized, or inaction to address sadness or fear about needed change in your life.

When you aren’t visible and responsive to these needs, you can vilify others and over-focus on “what’s not right” to a stark result: You live in the exhausting and dark world of harsh judgment (instead of compassion), and you leave your needs unmet.

This abandons your power to be an individual change agent…And we all have that power in each moment.

 

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