Feeling tones are constructed (made up in our own mind) and are not a given. There are three basic components to any emotion that arises within us; the thoughts or the stories behind the emotion, the physical sensations that reflect how the emotion manifests itself in the body and the emotional moods or feeling tones in the mind.
A pleasant feeling tone is associated with something we like and lends to our attachment to it. As soon as an emotion arises that has a pleasant feeling tone (like the thought of planning for your next vacation), we will sense the excitement of energy in our body as it prepares to take action based solely on the pleasant feeling tone.
Unpleasant feeling tone often brings on the action of aversion and avoidance. As soon as an emotional mood arises that has an unpleasant feeling tone (like a thought of something stressful at work or a past memory that hurt us), we will sense a rise in the energy in our body as it prepares to take action based solely on the unpleasant feeling tone. (Which is why so many people say they can not sit still).
We think that we must quickly take action to ward against an unpleasant tone! We want to “do” something that takes us away from, or masks, the underlying unpleasant feeling tone with something we believe is pleasant. This can become an automatic reaction and could be in the form of an ice cream, alcohol, drugs or an interaction with another person. After a couple of times, this action-reaction pattern can become automatic, thereby leading to a pattern of behavior, an addiction or habit.
Consequently, we take actions based on our likes and dislikes. When experience is pleasant, we want to hold on to; when it is unpleasant, we push it away. Most often we are unaware of anything that has a neutral feeling tone.
By paying attention to feeling tones, we can become more aware of our range of experiences and begin to see how the tones change throughout the day. We just observe this phenomenon and see how soon it subsides by not taking any action. This is a mindfulness practice.
A key insight that comes from this practice is that when we have a bad experience, we often believe that we can not let it go. We believe we can never change. However, a bad/unpleasant tone experience(s) should not equate to suffering. It can be scensed to just that experience and not be built into something much larger. We can practice bringing our tone to a neutral and even inch into pleasant tone, within the same experience.. Mindfulness practice of feeling tones can help us notice our behavior patterns, and can give us some space within each experience. In turn, we can practice skillful, healthy actions with clarity. Thus, empowering us to become our own very best self.
Lisa Cobb is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and is currently accepting new patients at PrivaMD’s flagship location in Grand Haven, MI. Contact the office at 616.213.0253 to schedule an appointment today and learn how Lisa can help you master the art of mindfulness.