How to Break Out of a Hysterical Episode

When people first begin to apply mindfulness practices to their life, they usually begin with small, easy steps. When they’re alone, in a quiet room, with very little distractions. This is ideal for the beginner because the mind has less of a hold on your attention and is easily coaxed into a calm state in such settings.

However, one of the first challenges new practitioners face is holding onto the same calmness whilst in a highly charged emotional episode. When things go drastically wrong, or a situation arises that reveals a betrayal, deep loss or event that invokes a strong rage in response, all your progress seems to fly out the window. Suddenly, the peaceful inner guru has vanished and we’re taken over completely by our reactions. After the episode passes, we’re left with feelings of guilt and shame, wondering if we’ll ever be able to break free of the negative consequences of our own making. This is the nature of our karmic influences.

In order to begin breaking down the processes that initiate these irrational emotional states, you first need to make an agreement with yourself; to not judge your reactions at those times in any way. You were simply unconscious and responding in a way that your past conditioning has manifested. See the reaction as this instead of feeling guilty because you “know better”. Under the surface, this guilt is actually the same energy in disguise; they share a common root of being dissatisfied with the present moment. They are both a state of resistance, however the latter is more sneaky since our rational selves are able to consciously think before they act. It would seem that feeling guilty about it is a rational “penance” for the mistakes or misjudgements we make while in that state. However, this is counter-productive in the long run.

The next step is to give more of this non-judgemental awareness (or focus) on the way your body feels immediately before, or during, the episode. It will be like confronting an inner monsoon; very powerful and teetering as if balancing off the edge of a cliff. You will not be able to “snap” out of it for quite some time. Much practice will be needed before you begin to have more presence throughout these episodes. The first sign will be you noticing a change, even a very small one, in your reactions and the manner you conduct yourself. It will usually begin as a small voice or intuition warning you not to get too crazy. You won’t want to listen to it. This is especially prominent in our close family relationships or romantic relationships. The rigidity of your mental-emotional pattern is intensified with those we share an extensive past with, and their unconsciousness will amplify your own unconsciousness.

However, being aware of this fact alone is often enough of a rationalization that it initiates it’s own degree of presence within you as you’re experiencing the conflict.

The ultimate goal is to one day have enough presence practice built up so that you experience a total collapse of ego in the midst of the argument or episode. It will suddenly drop as if a cinder block fell from your arms. You won’t want to fight anymore. Whatever is happening around you will be viewed with intense presence and you will have total access to the fullest extent of your brain power to solve the problem. You are literally blasting open the neuro-pathways that we’re unavailable before because you were then in a state of fight or flight, where all areas of the brain that the “lizard” mind deemed unnecessary for survival were shut down.

Over time, this will become a naturally occurring phenomenon. Once you have established the habit of drawing more presence to these situations the easier it will become to remain that way in those states. You’ll begin to show yourself more kindness and compassion in regards to your irrational reactions, and will see yourself even lovingly in that light. You’ll find yourself forgiving others as well for their adverse reactions and won’t take the things they do personally. YOU become the presence for THEM.