I love having my feet planted on the ground as well as being connected to the deepest wisdom. This kind of balance is rare, and yet I aspire to find this type of inspiration and effectiveness inside of myself. Affect Management Skills Training (AMST) has a key skill to help me become my best. It is called the Grounding Skill.
AMST enables a person to recognize and name a range of positive and negative emotions. Our emotions are not good and bad, but some emotions are more pleasant while others are more painful. My emotions give me important feedback about what is going on inside and outside myself. Outside of myself, there is an environment with people, places, things, and events. Inside me, I have reactions to my environment as well as overreactions which I call projections. When I can see objectively and stay aware of my emotions, I am able to navigate life with more grace and effectiveness.
We can confuse emotions or not know what were are feeling, even though we know we are upset. Alexithymia is the inability to recognize emotions as well as express emotions with words. Some people walk around unaware of how they are feeling. They are mad but do not know it. I ask my friend, “are you upset?”
And he answers, “No, but if you keep asking me questions like that, I’m going to get mad!”
AMST teaches us to uncover and name the physical sensations we feel as we experience specific emotions. When I am mad, I feel a rush of unpleasant hot energy in my arms and face. AMST skills enables us to link the emotion of anger with being grounded in our bodies. When we are rooted in our body, we can sense how we feel. Grounding enables us to remain aware of the present moment, including what is going on with people, place, things, and events outside us as well as our thoughts, feelings, and other sensations inside of us. As we us these AMST skills, we automatically link emotional responses with staying grounded and present. This keeps us in an adult state of mind and enables to be at our best.
The Grounding Skill gives me the tools to stay grounded and present when I feel anger. The AMST tools enable us to stay conscious, instead of unconsciously and compulsively “acting out behaviors such as bingeing or purging, substance abuse, and verbal or physical violence.” writes Dr. John Omaha who created AMST.
The Grounding Skill helps us learn to tolerate a range of emotions as well as regulate a range of intensities of emotions. Our emotions are like a heating and air conditioning system. Could you imagine living in a house with no thermostat? The air conditioning may come on in the middle of winter when there is snow outside. The heater may come on during the hottest day in summer. Wow, this makes life so difficult! When we can lower or raise our emotions with AMST skills, we feel empowered. When our emotions are beyond our ability to influence, we feel powerless.
These AMST skills enable us to heal from painful psychological symptoms of accidents or violence, sometime called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We can heal from the traumatic events, because we have the capacity to stay grounded and present while we recall upsetting events from the past. We are also able to identify how we are feeling and reacting in a variety of stressful situations and talk about these responses which enables us to heal more rapidly.
These AMST skills are like the skills we learn playing sports such as soccer, playing a music instrument like a guitar, or singing. The more we practice the skills, the better we refine our use of the skills. Practicing skills enables us to eventually apply the skills without thinking about them. We can become unconscious and competent – at the same time. “Repetition is an important element” in AMST, writes Dr. John Omaha. We learn “to construct new neural networks and that repetition facilitates the process” of learning.
We learn to change our physical brain with our willpower. As Dr. Daniel Siegel says, “our mind changes our brain.” That is encouraging! Please watch this video and learn how to stay grounded and present as you feel a variety of emotions, like anger and fear: