Life’s ups and downs and emotional states

Instability of life

Life is change, we know it. Things happen around us at very fast speed, and those things are not always good ones. On the other side, life needs stability for flourish: our body has basic needs that have to be fulfilled every day, even every minute, so living beings have to adapt to a ever changing environment.

Human beings are the most unstable of all living beings: not only our bodies are weaker (civilization effects) as other beings, but additionally we have the most developed nervous system of all creation on Earth; such system is able to change from stability to high instability in seconds, responding to external triggers, or even internal ones: a thought can change our mood almost instantly.

Instability of emotions

As a result, emotions usually changes very fast: we can move from positivity to negativity in one minute; that’s the case when something goes really wrong, but also sometimes happens without any external event, it simply happens. While the change in reaction to external circumstances is normal, even good, because a negative emotional state is information our body-mind gives us (like: hey! pay attention! something is going really wrong!), on the other side changes without any external trigger may be counterproductive.

Anyway, instability always must be a stimuli for adaptation to the events, this is their natural function. Emotions not are an exception: is normal experience emotional changes, but such instability must be brief, the person must recover their stability as fast as possible; otherwise, suffering will visit us, for a lasting unstable state is not healthy.

Due to our highly unstable nervous system, is very important for us to know coping techniques; coping with emotional instability has different variants, depending on the causes. Such techniques fall in two categories: psychological ones and spiritual ones, although there is some overlap between them.

Coping with emotional instability through psychological techniques

Without going into the field of therapy, simply being in the self-help, the techniques of Positive  Psychology are highly recommended for coping with “bad emotions”; most of such techniques are existentialist: recommend to full live your emotions, accepting them as part of life. Other recommendations and techniques are designed for improve our positive emotions, our ability for generate them voluntarily. This is a key point: emotional states usually are automatic, they come and go without our intervention; here we have a cognitive work for to do: 1) understand the mechanism of our emotional states, and become full aware of it,  2) intelligently use such understanding for become able of have the choice, for stopping the automatic mechanism, and choose how emotions will last and how will not.

The roots of Positive Psychology go back to Aristotle’s Practical Ethics based on the concepts: ‘Optimal functioning’, ‘Friendliness towards self’ and ‘Pursuit of a blossoming life’. Modern-day leading Positive Psychology researchers are noted. For further lecture, see, for example, Positive psychology: An overview (Mia Leijssen).

Coping with emotional instability through spiritual traditions

Spiritual traditions recommend meditation for overcome the difficulties of life and also for achieve peace of mind and a wise sense of life. Now a days, scientific approach and traditional ones are starting to be entangled: the effect of meditation have been widely study for scientists, who are checked it. The most studied traditional technique is the so named Mindfulness, although is not any  technique but a stable and peaceful state of mind, which you are reached by applying various techniques. The traditional techniques have a point in common with Positive psychology: they invite you to explore yourself, like a benevolent observer, discovering the mechanisms that are running automatically on you. When you become full aware of such mechanisms, the you start to become able of control it. 

Moreover, beyond the emotional states, spiritual development through meditation can be seen as a purging process in which you gradually root out the obstacles that keep you from your essence. In this sense, treading the spiritual path is not usually the easiest road to follow. In doing so you might be confronted with your darkest corners and your not so attractive traits. But in this process of growing awareness you also strengthen your life foundations. For further reflect on this path, you can read Spiritual Development, Surrender and Sacred Ground (Mia Leijssen).


In this short post we have seen the source of emotional ups and downs, the need of stabilize emotional states for live a healthy life, and two big categories of techniques for do it, such categories now a days are not longer opposed, instead, are full compatibles, so we can follow only one of them or both at the same time.



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