Emotion Regulation 1.3: Fully Participate


We continue a series on how to effectively manage emotions, so that we can engage more thoughtfully in relationship. All of the skills we discuss are designed to support the ultimate goal of wisdom (see post titled, “Emotion Regulation 1.0”).

Today’s skill is as easy to understand as those we’ve discussed so far, and just as difficult to put into practice: Participate…fully–Just do it; throw yourself into it. And do this with full awareness of wisdom.

Yes, just like the other skills, participating fully is intended to support wisdom, and requires awareness. It’s easy to participate without awareness; it’s much more difficult to participate with it. Even now, are you participating fully in experiencing this post? Bring awareness to your experience of this moment.

The Zone

In Positive Psychology, participating fully is often called being “in the zone” or “flow.” It refers to being fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. When one is completely absorbed in what one is doing, the world around blurs, and the activity itself comes into full focus.

Such a moment often requires unawareness. When we’re absorbed into “the zone,” we lose contact with being aware that we’re in “the zone.” Full participation sometimes demands reckless abandon–a time when we’re so captured by the moment that we lose sight that we’re captured by the moment.

Choosing Activities with Awareness

To stay in wisdom at those times, the kind of activity can play a role. In other words, being fully absorbed in an addiction or a heated argument can feel zone-like, but it doesn’t serve the ultimate goal of wisdom.

In addition, fully participating sometimes means actively involving oneself in something one would really prefer not to do. At times, wisdom requires us to fully participate in taking the high road or delaying gratification, when we’d really rather succumb to the low road and instant gratification.

Why not try it on for size today? Identify those “zones” that support wisdom–that combination of thought and feeling that rings true in the soul. Then identify those processes that “flow” but that actually prevent you from acting wisely.

Regulating our emotions can be a lot harder than it seems, can’t it?


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