“The Mindfulness Solution For Intense Emotions” is marketed specifically as useful for those with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, I think anyone looking to better manage emotions will benefit. It covers much more than what will be useful just for people with Borderline.
Difficulty to digest:
“The Mindfulness Solution for Intense Emotions” is moderately difficult to digest because of the dry way it often references studies. It can also be a bit clinical in some of its descriptions. For some, that will make it drag a bit at points. Luckily, it contains lots of stories and examples to help carry the concepts along.
Key Insights of The Mindfulness Solution:
“The Mindfulness Solution” subtitles itself as a guide for better handling Borderline Personality Disorder (or BPD) using DBT (or Dialectical Behavior Therapy). While this is the focus, the book delves into other useful mindfulness, therapeutic, and psychological concepts – providing a wide variety of options for better handling strong emotions and other challenges.
The book can be challenging, in that it often rattles off long chains of clinical terminology surrounded by citations. While this proves Koons researched the concepts well, it’s not the most engaging. As the book progresses, however, Koons blends these citations into stories and examples to bring the concepts home.
Koons organizes the book into a series of skills for better managing our emotions and driving us toward desired outcomes. Each section contains numerous stories, exercises, and thought experiments. It’s very detailed, and everyone should be able to understand each of the skills and how to build them.
The book also focuses some amount on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and how these skills relate to daily functioning. It also explains potential origins like how emotionally invalidating environments stop children from learning how to regulate or understand emotions. For example, children who are told to ‘stop being sad’ learn to mistrust their emotions and often develop poor strategies for regulation. This can lead to or worsen BPD.
Here are a few of the skills Koons discusses in “The Mindfulness Solution”:
Wise Mind & Emotion Mind
Koons discusses the differences between “Wise Mind” and “Emotion Mind”. Wise Mind is essentially a state where we are calm, collected, and able to think clearly. Emotion Mind is when emotions are high and it’s much harder to make clear, rational decisions. Koons provides techniques for lowering our emotional state by making space or grounding into Mindfulness so we can make choices in Wise Mind instead of Emotion Mind.
There are also a number of questions and exercises to help individuals better identify Emotion Mind and Wise Mind. Knowing the difference, and taking steps to regulate emotions allows us to avoid a number of thinking traps, which are fallacies that generally produce poor outcomes.
Observing & Describing
Another set of skills Koons discusses, which I’ve lumped together here, are observing and describing. In essence, these skills are about understanding and processing our experiences instead of getting sucked into them and becoming reactive. Many of these tools are about pointing attention inward, instead of outward. For example, describing our emotions and labeling them or otherwise describing inner experience.
These sorts of labels often make it much easier to process, sit with, and manage particular emotions. By putting our experience into words, or simply being more aware and present instead of reacting, it becomes much easier to make the choices with optimal outcomes.
Non-Judgement and Acceptance
Another set of skills are non-judgment and acceptance. These skills work in conjunction to help reduce the amount of time we spend fighting reality. We create a lot of suffering when we add judgment and refuse to accept what is going on. Reality won’t change, regardless of how we feel about it, so often it’s much more useful to assess (without judgment), accept, and then consider what actions to take moving forward.
Non-judgement comes in the form of things like missing an appointment. Instead of judging yourself with something like I’m stupid for forgetting my appointment Koons advocates for something like I missed my appointment because I slept in. One is a judgment, the other is a simple statement of fact. When we remove judgment, we move closer to acceptance (not to be confused with endorsement) and allow ourselves to process the situation effectively.
Another skill Koons mentions is participation. This technique involves managing emotions that tend to stop us from participating in activities and our lives. Without this participation, outcomes like depression and disconnection are likely to worsen. Participation, in essence, is seeing something like the fear of interacting with new people because of social anxiety, accepting that fear, and moving forward to take the action anyway. Taking these actions, counter to our feelings, can drastically improve our quality of life.
Final Opinion on The Mindfulness Solution:
Honestly, this book surprised me. Based on the title, I expected it to be a deep and heavy dive into dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder. Instead, it’s a series of skills that anyone can use to more effectively deal with emotions and make decisions that have optimal outcomes. Highly recommended for anyone.
The Mindfulness Solution– Other considerations:
As mentioned, there are quite a few citations throughout the book. This can make it feel very dry and clinical at some points. At one point, I almost gave up because there were so many citations in the audiobook form. In reading, it will probably be a bit more digestible, but don’t give up just because the book emphasizes the research behind it. There is tons of useful information within.
There are quite a few references to Buddhism scattered throughout the book. These references don’t take the center stage and Koons specifically points out how these skills are useful independent of any particular belief system. Mostly, Koons brings it up to draw parallels between the skills. Overall, I don’t think it detracts and was done very tastefully.
Finally, the book is full of really specific tactics, examples, questions, etc. for developing particular skills. Some may find the level of detail so watered down that it becomes repetitive or basic. I think this is useful as it allows everyone to digest the content regardless of their skill level. But others may want to speed through some of the exercises specifically to find novel or profound bits of information.
- How often do you get emotionally overwhelmed?
- What tactics do you use to move from Emotion Mind to Wise Mind?
- How would you describe your current emotional state and internal experience?
- What is one realm or situation where you could benefit by reducing judgment?