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49. Equanimity: When an Emotional Storm Hits and Thoughts Start Spiraling (part 2)

In this episode, we're in the second part of our five-part series on equanimity. That may sound like a lot of parts... but we're working on how to navigate through emotional storms with equanimity (and that takes some parts). We're really digging into that phase of an emotional storm when the physical response fires up and our thoughts kick in. Most of the time, our thoughts are slower than our physical response, leaving us with a stressful surge of sensations that can add fuel to what are often negative, unconscious thoughts. Equanimity is a powerful tool to use to help us stay present with the physical sensations and avoid latching on to negative and intrusive thoughts that can keep us spiraling. 


Watch this episode on YouTube.


Key Takeaways:

  • Theories of emotion like embodied cognition and somatic marker suggest that our physical sensations often move faster than our conscious awareness of what's actually happening... AKA we "feel" things before we understand them. This means we need to create more space between sensation and response so our wiser self can assess the situation. That's where equanimity can come in!
  • You can't fight your physiology anymore (we're channeling REO Speedwagon for this). Suppressing our emotions, thoughts, or sensations is rarely helpful... but we also don't have to take the hook and let these things surge us into an emotional storm. As we practice equanimity, we get better at this.
  • One key strategy is to turn to the feeling and sensations. We can be present to our emotional vulnerability. Notice these feelings with self-compassion. With that awareness, we can catch these signs far earlier, allowing them to dissipate. We do this practice a lot in the Joy Lab program. 
  • If we miss these early signals, unconscious thoughts often surge in. This is when we tend to escalate the issue.
    • Unconscious thoughts are usually negative. They're often called "negative intrusive thoughts."
    • They are so common and you can't stop them from rising up... and that's not really the problem. The problem comes when we latch onto them. With equanimity, we can reduce the tendency to latch on, and in the future, possibly reduce their power when they arise.
  • Three layers of brain outlined by Dr. Emmons. Understanding these layers and how they interact can help us understand how our thoughts can accelerate or dampen an emotional storm.


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