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Flipping the Willingness Switch With Psychologist Dr. Jason Ediger: Coping With Strong, Unwanted Emotions

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Life invariably serves up periods of profound sadness, anger, anxiety or discomfort. When faced with these unpleasant emotional storms, a common temptation is to seek distraction or suppression to make feelings disappear. However, this often backfires over time according to Psychologist Dr. Jason Ediger in Manitoba.

“These emotions can provide insight into our underlying needs and personal truths,” explains Dr. Ediger. “Rather than running from discomfort, leaning into unwanted feelings can help prevent greater pain down the line.” This counterintuitive approach forms the basis for an acceptance concept Dr. Ediger calls it “flipping the willingness switch.”

The Trouble With Avoidance

When overwhelmed by unwelcome emotions, many reflexively try to suppress or avoid distress signals from within. “We may immediately distract ourselves or even turn to harmful behaviors seeking relief,” says Dr. Ediger. However, these tactics offer only illusion and delay.

Suppressed emotions inevitably resurface later with reinforced intensity after festering internally. Psychologist Dr. Jason Ediger warns that avoidance behaviors like emotional eating or drinking for mood alteration often lead to shame or regret afterwards too. And each cycle of suppression and reaction feeds the next. Rather than learning emotional lessons early on, people who persistently dodge discomfort end up suffering amplified symptoms over time.

Compounding Pain

In a hurried quest to dodge discomfort, many instead end up needlessly prolonging their suffering, explains Dr. Ediger. “The less willing we are to feel something, the more likely we are to feel more of that feeling. If we are unwilling to feel sad, then normal sadness gets increased by our sadness about being sad. Likewise, fear of anxiety makes anxiety even more scary and being unwilling to be angry just results in more anger about the feeling we are having.” Avoidance fuels a self-perpetuating failure to process the underlying lessons behind emotional experiences. Like attempting to outrun one’s own shadow, the effort inevitably fails.

Rather than enabling sustainable relief, distraction and suppression tactics only postpone symptoms until their amplified return. Each cycle piles on unnecessary layers of extra turmoil. The temporary illusion of escape thus gives way to avoid issues growing ever more painful and severe over time.

Flipping Perspective

To break this self-defeating cycle, Dr. Ediger advocates for radical acceptance using an approach he calls “flipping the willingness switch.” This means consciously turning toward intense emotions with open presence instead of reflexively trying to numb them or run away on autopilot.

“Rather than forcing feelings away, we can explore them with compassionate curiosity,” explains Dr. Ediger. “How long has this sadness, anger or anxiety persisted? Where do we feel it physically? What’s the mental story behind why it started?” Directly contacting the sensations and messages opens potential for responding intelligently rather than reacting rashly.

While deeply uncomfortable at first, leaning into emotional discomfort gradually eases its grip. Making space for all human experiences without getting stuck or defined by any single passing feeling proves profoundly liberating over time. Each instance of radical acceptance builds courage, resilience and wisdom.

Emotions and Wisdom Together Can Lead the Way

“Strong feelings don’t necessarily align with clear logic,” Dr. Jason Ediger notes, “as we have all been angry at someone blameless or feared something benign.” Our short term sensations and stories often misrepresent reality.

Left unchecked, fear can breed cowardice instead of prudence. Anger may kindle spite more than righteous dissent. Cravings push excess rather than fulfillment. Emotions alone make for unstable guides.

Yet while not reliable directors by themselves, exploring feelings unveils critical insights, believes Dr. Jason Ediger. “Observing sensations, inquiring why they arose, noticing how reactions change provides keys for responding consciously.”

Investigating the emotional landscape cultivates presence and agency, gradually revealing our habitual patterns. With radical acceptance, even suffering holds teachings for those willing to sit with discomfort long enough to listen.

But dangers persist when emotions eclipse reason. Impulsive reactivity risks justifying laziness, avoidance, selfishness and hatred. Rage, lust or terror unrestrained by conscience courts disaster.

For optimal integration of transient feelings with timeless virtues, Dr. Ediger suggests integrating? Or questioning? the lessons behind each arising emotion before taking action. What viable needs and growth edges hide in anger’s urgency? What principles should govern fear’s call for safety? Through dialogue between head and heart, better choices emerge.

“By patiently uncovering the meaning within unwanted emotions, then acting in alignment with our values, we can surpass trapped reactivity.” Distress transitions into fuel for living nobly. Wisdom blossoms from inside even perceived imperfections, and life reveals itself as an unfolding teacher. Thus Psychologist, Dr. Jason Ediger concludes, “The key becomes letting no single feeling absolutely define nor totally control you.”

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