We can all act in ways we are later ashamed of, including me!
It is not only the famous and powerful who struggle with the capacity to pause and consider before acting.
As a new graduate social worker, I worked in a woman's refuge and a friend worked as a social worker for Department of Social Security. I lambasted him in a fiery letter when I judged that he had responded to a woman living in the refuge in an unhelpful way. Writing the letter felt great until the moment after I sealed, stamped and posted it. That was 1988 and I'm glad there was no social media or even email available to the inexperienced me.
I did not pause to ask why I was so angry with him, nor consider his perspective and the limits of the system he worked in. Now, I can clearly see that I was overwhelmed by the unfairness and trauma I was exposed to at the refuge and that I did not have the support or the skills to pause and reflect before writing. I dumped.
If Roseanne had been able to pause before tweeting, she may have become aware that her emotions were in the ‘driver’s seat’. This small pause may have allowed her the space to respond rather than react and to choose a different course of action. The researchon the 8-week MBSR course that I teach affirms that participation in the course will often increase emotional regulation. I see this demonstrated all the time.
As we progress through an MBSR course many students say, "regular mindfulness practice lets me see my habitual worry/self- criticism/depression/rage /thinking about pain etc., earlier; and even though I’m more aware of the habitual thoughts and feelings they no longer feel as true and compelling”.This mindful awareness is a circuit breaker, it helps emotional regulation.
If Roseanne had been aware of her thinking process, and just noticed it as a thought rather than a truth she may have been able to allow it to pass by without feeling compelled to share it and averted trouble.
The importance of compassion and empathy.
Twice a year I teach on a teenager’s secular mindfulness retreat. I was once bowled over when a lovely, creative, articulate and socially delightful teen Amy bounded up to her mother at the end of the retreat and said, " mum, I have learned so much about my mind. I didn't know my brain was so judgemental to myself and others. I now know that I should not believe everything my mind tells me".
Amy had begun to learn to take her thoughts less literally and was experiencing more self-awareness and a greater capacity to be self-compassionate and empathic, to both feel and know the experience of herself and others.
Greater empathy and compassion may have saved Roseanne. She may not have tweeted if her perspective had been broader and she'd paused to feel into and understand the impact of her words on others. The MBSR research shows that after an 8-week course participants rate higher for both empathy and compassion
In the last night of an MBSR course, we all share something of what the course has meant to us.
James said," I told you in the beginning that I don't believe this stuff and that I'm here because my wife and son sent me to be less angry. I gave it a go, and I'm still a sceptic, but they are telling me I'm less angry and I am having more fun. I might come back again".
Kim a parent said, "I just don't yell at the kids as much and we are laughing more. I take their behaviour less personally, so I can sort of step back and I'm not as stressed.".
Back to Roseanne Barr
I'm not sure that I'd be brave to have Roseanne in my MBSR class but if she willingly came along, I reckon she might discover some surprising new ways of being. She might begin to pause before tweeting, realise that her thoughts are not facts, touch into a sense of empath and compassion. At this point, she might realise that her thoughts might harm others and herself, be more emotionally regulated, calm down and not post that damaging tweet.
How to book a HeadRest MBSR course and develop a daily mindfulness meditation practice.
HeadRest run MBSR courses in Marrickville in Sydney's inner west, as well as in-school and workplace-based mindfulness courses. Come, join us and we will support you in developing a mindfulness meditation practice - to reduce stress and increase well-being. The next course begins Wed Aug 8.
Disclaimer: Please note that none of the people described in this article really exist. The things they have said are reak, but the quotes are often composite quotes and their names have all been changed.