Discomfort is painful;
Discomfort is liberating.
A more subtle (but possibly more profound) method to adjust one’s response to discomfort – be it emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, etc. – is to directly work with the discomfort itself. Again, there are many ways of doing this, but here is yet another…
First, before you decide to open-up and turn-toward discomfort (be it mental distress, intense emotional experiences, recurrent disturbing thoughts/views, etc. [it should be said that if thoughts, views, or memories are overwhelmingly intrusive, seeking the help of a trained therapist would be advisable]), determine in what way an anchor of comfort or peace can be accessed with relative ease in the event that you find yourself too far in the “territory” of distress. Some common examples include:
deep breathing (deeply inhaling, and slowly and completely exhaling 3-5 times); giving the overthinking mind something to do (called a cognitive redirection: e.g. counting down from 50 or so by 3’s, 7’s, or 9’s); or some variation of progressive muscle relaxation (maybe a topic for another post, but a quick “googling” will give you a good idea of what it is).
Secondly, as you continue to approach the experience of the identified discomfort, give it a name.
Naming or labeling a mental/emotional experience can lead to a taming of that experience – we become more aware of it and gain more control over our response to it.
This will also give you some way to consciously relate directly to the experience (“externalizing” it, in a sense) rather than unconsciously identifying with it.
Lastly, observing the experience in all of its detail: through the watchful examination of the spatial landscape and temporal landscape of experience…
As an experience arises, notice its size, shape, texture, color, speed, direction, expansion-contraction through space, and the location of its arising and passing [spatial landscape – how it’s “mapped” onto the psycho-physical system];
while also recognizing the threshold of its arising, the moment it emerges, the way it grows in intensity, its expansion-contraction over time, its diminishing, and its vanishing [temporal landscape – the “timeline“ of an experience’s birth, life, and expiration].
It may take some practice, but eventually the idea is that those pesky (and sometimes downright terrifying) discomforts-of-mind that block us from fully feeling the wonder of each moment will begin to be recognized as both sources of necessary pain and lenses through which we can access the background positive-potential inherent in every experience.