Facing the unpleasant

“They bit off more than they could chew, and then they chewed it.”
 Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, The Longevity Project:
Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life
from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study

It helps to face rather than avoid unpleasant experiences
It helps to face rather than avoid unpleasant experiences

In this exercise, we attend to our unpleasant thoughts, feelings,memories or physiological states by harnessing the power of our gentle and observant mind.  It turns out that if we identify and make room for the unpleasant, it loses some of its hold on us!


  • When you first notice an unpleasant thought or feeling or body sensation, invite it to be present while you focus on it.  Simply allow it to exist… without any judgments or evaluations… without denial or resistance. After all, if you notice it, it already exists!
  • Next, assign a light and loose label to the unpleasant state.  Give it a name like “pain” or “irritation” or “stomach ache”… even “Ouch.”  Frequently, naming an unpleasant experience frees us from being stuck with it demanding our attention.  Remember, our brain likes closure… and naming provides a bit of closure.
  • After you recognize and name your unpleasant state, explore its impact on you.  How does the unpleasant state feel in your body?  How does it move you to think…  feel… or act?  What does it  teach you about YOU?
  • Finally, recognize that unpleasant states are part of our human existence and “Of course” we don’t have to like them!  Breathe in and out as you say to yourself something like, “It’s okay” or “I’m okay” or “This, too, shall pass” … any mantra that brings you greater ease.

Remind yourself that you have tolerated unpleasant states before and will tolerate them again. In fact, there is growing evidence to support that you are stronger for having faced them.

According to psychologists Friedman and Martin, it’s one of the ways we build the strength to live the life that matters to us!

© Copyright 2014 Maria Hunt


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