August 25, 2012

The Chemistry of Joy: The Mind Pathways. ~ Henry Emmons, MD

Part Three of “The Chemistry of Joy Series.”

In the previous post, we explored some of the approaches to joy through the body pathways which we outline in-depth in our 10-week resilience-training protocol, “The Chemistry of Joy.”

Once we’ve established physical balance, the program leads us to explore the mind pathways of settling, opening and knowing.

This helps the mind to achieve heightened levels of calmness and clarity. Openness to experience and facing whatever issues may arise in life will be met with greater wisdom and equanimity. Through the pathways which tend to the mind, we continue to lay the groundwork for joy to flourish.

One of the ways we work with the mind to balance the chemistry of joy is by developing emotional resilience.

Emotional resilience allows us to move freely throughout the internal world of emotional experience—regardless of how constrained it may feel from moment to moment. The freedom to feel everything fully is one of the most important skills for rebuilding and sustaining resilience.

Emotions function naturally as the moment-to-moment response to the happenings of every day life. They are like the weather. They arrive, remain for some time, and move on.

When the untrained mind (whose qualities are so often the source of our suffering) experiences emotions it may lead you to believe that your thoughts are reality, mounding layers of additional stress upon our raw emotional experiences.

We can experience emotions in a variety of ways ranging from being disconnected and unaware of them, to flooded and overwhelmed by them. The key to emotional resilience is remaining open, turning toward and embracing your feelings, no matter how joyful or difficult.

What patterns have you established?

The first step toward developing emotional resilience is understanding the patterns present in how you experience emotions as they arise. You may have tendencies to react with certain behaviors or secondary emotions. Over time you’ve developed an emotional comfort zone—there are comfortable and soothing feelings you welcome or seek out, and there are those more difficult and painful feelings you avoid when at all possible.

To better understand your patterns, you may ask yourself which emotions you find yourself resisting or disconnecting from, and what are the reasons for this? Which of these difficult emotions might you be willing to open up to a bit?

Learned patterns can certainly cause problems in your life and create barriers to resilience and joy. But just as over time your brain has learned them you can unlearn harmful emotional response patterns and replace them with new, healthy habits to move toward a more open mode of responding to the regular ebb and flow of feelings.

Feel more alive!

If you are open to all emotions, including those you’ve learned to avoid, you will begin to develop new abilities. You’ll be more able to provide attention to situations that require response rather than avoiding them until they get worse or unmanageable; you’ll discover renewed creative energy that has been shut down with the blocking of painful emotions even in your darker moments.

When you’re able to mindfully open to the full range of your emotional experience, you’ll be more able to surf the natural emotional ups and downs of daily life. Even the lows will be easier to tolerate. Perhaps you will discover that when you welcome the cycle of emotions with mindfulness (through nonjudging and acceptance) you will experience great relief and catharsis.

Stay tuned for the next post: The Chemistry of Joy: The Heart Pathways

Read the previous articles here:

The Chemistry of Joy & the Nine Pathways to Resilience.

The Chemistry of Joy: The Body Pathways.


Henry Emmons, MD, is an integrative psychiatrist and author of The Chemistry of Joy Workbook. He developed and runs the resilience training program, offered at one of the nation’s leading integrative health centers, the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis, MN. Resilience training has undergone extensive research and proven to help nearly everyone who follows the program. More than 60 percent of participants achieved full remission from depression, including some diagnosed with the severest form known as major depression. For more information about the resilience training program, visit here.


Editor: ShaMecha Simms

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