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What we choose to promote and what we choose to regulate will reveal what we value

Updated: Nov 16, 2019

When Scott Pruitt was the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency one of the main controversies was the lack of regulation and actual promotion of big business at the cost of human and environmental health.

What we choose to promote and what we choose to regulate will reveal what we value.

What we value drives us in a particular direction.

We can get lost to our impulse to control our experience, (environment), to demand a sense of reward or pleasure, (money/power), over long-term sustainability.

If we take time to reflect on the real cost, we can weed out those addictive patterns of immediate gratification to clear the way for the cultivation of long-term meaning.

We can roll in the dough now but have no earth to spend it on.

So, let me play with this idea of promotion and regulation. In the science of mindfulness emotion regulation is a well-known outcome. I want to highlight that it is How we regulate that determines just what we Promote. If we seek a cognitive strategy to mitigate the experience of unwanted emotions, we promote resistance which is at the core of suffering.

Moreover, we block the full nutritive power of an emotion. This for another article, but for now, realize that our emotions are here to be known – tasted, chewed, swallowed, digested, metabolized – to retain the wisdom that fortifies our humanness and interconnection. Essential in this is the ability to stay long enough for the meal. To know which meal is non-nutritive. And to be sure we don’t foist our leftovers onto our neighbors. But I digress, and worse, mix my metaphors, but let’s carry on.

I assert we need to promote our emotions, that this is the More than Mindfulness I hope to wake up in the current trends, and hopefully offer a corrective on the misapplications of the current science that tells us mindfulness helps us regulate emotions.

See below the process for the ‘How’ of regulation which can lead to the promotion of healthy environments:

The model is ‘the promotion of experiencing emotion’ found in the six Rs:

Remember – what’s happening, in body, in mind -Label it (Affect Labeling, Lieberman, 2007)

ReCognize – this is normal (emotion not as problem to solve)

ReInterpret – see the challenge v threat (not cognitive strategy, but visceral)

ReOrder – new value at the top (discomfort as benefit)

ReTurn – new view (new memory)

Regulate – keep expectations reality based

First principle – there is value for emotion, not something in the way to be regulated, but a primary agency.

Cost analysis review: as perceived by biology, brain may interpret emotion as threat. As perceived by culture, emotion is threat, cognitive control is valued. The risk is perceived as outweighing any benefit. Actual outcomes of the avoidance of experience can be found on the continuum of our addiction from Netflix to Narcotics. Emotions unintegrated leave us fragmented and disabled by our constant pursuit to cover and control.

Whether you buy the value for emotion or not, they are here. We don’t get to choose when, why, or what type of emotion will arise, they will. Now what do we do? We get to disCover the How.

As you know already, I am biased in favor of developing the competency to actual experience them. That starts with Relating v regulating. Don’t get me wrong here, we do need to balance our interpretation of, impulse toward a subsequent action. Just because I am angry does not mean I get to spew that on the next person I see, or ‘Twitter’ away my time by projecting my confusion out.

How I “regulate” determines just what I ‘promote’ – integration or disintegration

The meaning of Integration is health, the meaning of health is return to wholeness, and this all means a system that has a robust vibrant communication system where the different parts get to be different but are linked to each other allowing for each part to add to the health of the system. Hmm, could take this as template for all systems – of you, your body, your brain – of relationships between you and others – of any organization – of government – society – environment . . .

Let’s get specific. Take a look at the RRRs from Jane’s point of view, and see if you can take it out in the field for your own research:

Imagine Jane who has just finished her third interview in a high-powered company where they have offered her a position with a salary that exceeds her expectations. What do you imagine she feels?

Happy, excited, overwhelmed, anxious . . .

She is not sure of her decision. Based on her history, her value, her expectations, she fears whether she can have the autonomy she has known as a freelancer. She wonders if she can meet the company’s expectations, she feels a myriad of emotions that seem to be blocking her ability to decide in what direction to go.

R1: remember what is going on right now. In Body. In Mind. Label the most immediate emotion. Fear. (to label an emotion down-regulates the amygdala up-regulates middle prefrontal cortex – from reaction to responsive)

Jane has a chance to remember a part of herself that is not lost at sea. This has a stabilizing impact for her to continue to experience her emotions to extract the information.

R2: recognize this is normal. ReCognize – to think again. There really is something going on that’s new – ah, brain doesn’t like unfamiliar. There really is something new, brain assumes threat and looks for negativity. Ah, change feels uncomfortable. Oh, I am not so strange, this experience, not so strange, can be here without pushing it away

R3: reinterpret from threat to opportunity. This one is not easy, and takes some practice, and most importantly is not a cognitive strategy but an embodied relationship to the sensory impression the current emotion has on you. Jane notices heart beats faster, tightness in the chest, neck, shoulders, jaw, her breath shorter, feels like the system just getting very narrow and one-pointed. Great. Now how might these sensations be interpreted differently than the default threat detection? (think amusement park ride) – oh yes, something exciting is happening.

R4: ReOrder a value for change. Here Jane has to take a look at what her learning curve is, what her desired direction for growth is. Yes, she values autonomy, but wants to learn from working with an organization’s mission and collaborative teams. She then can let her new value lead versus the familiar.

R5: ReTurn a view from her limitation to her possibility. No easy thing to see differently. To 'Re' (again) 'Turn' (move in new position to see from new perspective). The brain only has history to rely upon. It is normal to feel anxious with change because the newness can’t be understood in historical context, and once we place it back into a familiar perspective based on our historical past we have already lost any change. So, this is a big leap. It takes practice. To really be present so that new memory can be formed. Rather than lost to limited ideas about herself or about organizations, she can be curious about the perspectives of others. She needs to be on the lookout for automatic judgments, assumptions, attitudes of defense that look like arrogance in order to master this 5th R.

R6: regulate expectations. Expectations can lead to a crash in the brain. It is often our anticipation and imagination of something to come that creates the excitement of anticipated reward that already is the feeling of reward. We get pumped up. Rising too fast in the mind, brain, body, and what rises must fall. When our expectations meet a reality that does not concur this can lead us to doubt ourselves or the ‘other’ and lead to landing lower than we began. Here Jane needs to be clear about her intention for growth and change, the reality of how long growth and change really takes, the limits of any construct like the organization and their view on her Role, job title, tasks, and be ready to fail! Yes. When we can see the ‘failure’ ahead of time, we have a chance to regulate how we might meet that with a renewed attitude that this is a new value for how we create excellence.

Try on all or some of the RRRs with your next big emotion. See what makes sense of for you.

We do want a way to direct our minds (regulate) toward health, but we need to know, get familiar with, the pieces of our experience to process instead of proscribe. Getting dis-ordered can lead to order. One piece denied denies the whole system. As in any complex system, our emotional world is non-linear, recursive, capable of chaos, but holds an implicit ability to self-organize given the enough room to find its way, otherwise we are lost to the symptoms found in the fighting against.

See if you can give a promotion to emotion and change up how you regulate the experience of being human so it can lead to your most intelligent living guided by a long-lasting value.

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