Learned Mindfulness is achieving Authentic Integrity.
Understanding this Integrity Mindfulness model and using it as a tool in clinical practice helps prevent job burnout and, moreover, broadens quality of life to promote well-being. Entrainment to the natural cycle of emotion restores thought to reason.
“Learned Mindfulness: Achieving Authentic Integrity” Model
“Learned Mindfulness” is the emotional hygiene technique in the Making Sense of Emotion model of emotional intelligence. (1) This intention promotes a significant sense of emotional knowing to reclaim a mind of emotional insufficiency toward one of wholeness and integrity. The underlying anxieties generated by feelings of inadequacy thereby diminish. As emotions materialize into graspable knowledge, motivation invigorates thinking toward executive action in real life. Attuning keen attention to embrace emotion restores the natural cycle launched by the primacy of emotion.
Mindfulness here defines awareness of knowing the presence of one’s experiencing. Intentionally inducing this mental frame creates an active, paused space---neutral yet dynamically complete including bodily sensation, breath, perception, emotion, burgeoning narratives, and all else.
This "pause" is a biomental state accompanied by degrees of equipoised tranquility. In such states of active relaxation, mental processing opens itself to a clearer awareness of emotion engaged with thought---burgeoning insights. Inherent abilities of intuition are unleashed.
Authentic emotional intelligence develops in degrees over a lifetime. The “Integrity Mindfulness” model discussed here,” Learned Mindfulness,” is both a theoretical construct and tool to describe the ideas that are facets of sound emotional intelligence. The practices and techniques that may be used are only broadly suggested.
Two types of Learned Mindfulness practice are:
1.) Formal, structured application and
2.) Informal “meditative awareness:” everyday active noticing.
Both practices require detailed instruction in a person-centered context with face-to-face real-time feedback. The model and its meaning rather than details of its practice are presented here in Part I. A future article, Part II, will amplify these ideas in the context of traditional mindfulness meditation and examine their roots in Hindu and Buddhist perspectives.
“Learned Mindfulness”: The Process of Achieving “Authentic Integrity”
This unbroken condition, a human birthright, aims toward breaking through a zero point of merely surviving toward reaching the innate potential ability of wholeness core to human nature. This genuine depth of inner character strengths pivots on “Integral Empathy,” that is, cognitive perspective-taking and emotionally grasping and responding to another’s sentient inner experience.
Learned Mindfulness goes beyond being a strategy for breaking the cycle of burnout prevalent today. Learned Mindfulness and achieving Authentic Integrity aims toward the gold standard of health and well-being comprising physical wellness, experiencing a balance of emotions toward positivity, and the belonging felt with satisfying social engagement. Progress in this not only prevents problems but enables impulses toward thriving and even flourishing.
Thriving in one’s quality of life is expanding you’re here and now by flowing in each moment seeing that the unfolding world can be appreciated with a sense of gratitude both alone and as shared in the company of others.
Work-life balance is crucial, but life management is more than avoiding unhappiness, it is evoking the elusive emotion of joy. Learned Mindfulness and Authentic Integrity values the spectrum of nuanced human strengths, weaknesses, and, above all, potentials, notably reclaiming forgotten emotion, including joy.
Joy is the enjoyment that includes but goes far beyond pleasurable happiness. Joy, the core of subjective well-being, is aesthetic self-wonder in the presence of appreciating being with others in an environment felt full of engagement. Learned Mindfulness creates a framed space giving each the opportunity to unbiasedly explore their mental contents, then step back, and actively choose “emotion-full” ideas appealing enough to be pursued.
Authentic Integrity is a Peakless Mountain
Authentic Integrity as wholeness is a personal freedom from self-deceit because hitherto hidden parts can now be accessed and brought to the light of mindful awareness. Integrity brings entirety, soundness, transparency, and a sense of being undiminished.
The wholeness of Authentic Integrity involves being true to yourself; honestly detecting what you genuinely sense and know to be part of your inner being, even if previously underdeveloped or out of synchrony with what you had experienced. Integrity is a quality of life virtually unimpaired. Quality of life (QOL) and dynamic value-creation substantially expand. This summary is the essence of the Making Sense of Emotion model.
Integrity in this emotional intelligence model also suggests a biomental integration. The neurocircuitry of emotion, feeling, and thought is delineated in that model’s perspective. Practices such as Learned Mindfulness may foster stronger connections among these neural pathways. The concept and reality of neuroplasticity is a proven fact; the brain is capable of new growth and positive change. Specifically, episodic memory builds records of sensory-perceptual-conceptual-affective processing.
Episodic memory is the memory of autobiographical events (i.e., times, places, associated emotions, and other contextual ‘who, what, when, where, and why’ knowledge) that can be explicitly stated or accessed, mainly by visual images. It is the collection of past personal experiences that occurred at a particular time and place. Episodic memory supports orientation in space and time. This strengthening of episodic memory by mindful awareness is an expansion of integral self-awareness. For example, the two top-rated subdomains of highest value in the USA National Institute of Health Toolbox for the assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function are Executive Function and Episodic Memory. (7)
Growth and change in the hippocampus’ dentate gyrus compensate for age-related declines when a biomentally positive strength building lifestyle is part of one’s routine. This generative protocol includes nutrition, exercise, active engagement, and other positive activities.
“Learned Mindfulness”: Entering the ‘Into Integrity Zone’
Authentic Integrity is an achievement of self-determination, self-activism, and conscious self-agency over time bringing consistency to one’s temperament, personality, and character. This unity of character strength is a normative, here and now phenomenon. Using the tool of “Learned Mindfulness,” emotion engages with thought and together these generate “emotion performance utilization,” successful and effective performance in real life.
Self-development, self-integration, and emotional intelligence advance together. All these strengths stabilize the self-constancy of implicit emotional modulation and explicit emotional expression: general self-regulation. They are actionable pathways to becoming whole and complete with oneself, an integrated person.
Learned Mindfulness is the active tool using intentional self-dialogue to enter an “into integrity” zone. Personal accountability and shared responsibility become buzzwords for personal initiatives and a sense of belonging to teams. Negative states of mind that thwart such positive initiatives are “out of integrity” attitudes. Prime examples are attitudes of envy and ruthless competitiveness where one sees others becoming better off; misperceived as being at his and her expense, then feeling bitter and confused. This adverse reaction spoils going forward constructively and feeling happy.
"Into Integrity" attitudes see a fresh world full of opportunity and adventure. Appreciating this vision inevitably evokes responses of gratitude that build on one another and resonate with others.
“Learned Mindfulness” is Emotional Hygiene
As part of the biomental perspective in positive psychiatry, Learned Mindfulness grounds itself on the biological and neurological dimensions of emotional intelligence (e.g., the limbic system interacting with the prefrontal cortex), yet sees and highlights their person-centered, subjective experiences. Identifying positive psychosocial character strengths and using these to promote well-being, resilience, and foster optimism are crucial to this intention.
Learned Mindfulness keeps attention dynamically alive. Cynicism—emotional distrust vehemently blocking learning—shatters values. This devaluing attitude puts empathy to sleep and depersonalizes one into callousness both to self and others.
Integrity Mindfulness, however, continuously disables this deception and self-cleanses the fluid alignment of emotion with thought. Reconfiguring your mind in this way creates a newly experienced “mindfulness readiness.” This readiness graciously allows curiosity, openness, and acceptance to the natural flow of sensation, perception, emotion, and thought.
Learned Mindfulness is also self-regulation because it enables “controlled” attention to be present to each moment as it unfolds, but does not restrictively linger in a rigidly fixed way on any one experience.
In this chamber of a mind full of emotion that welcomes and embraces thinking, experiences are gently savored, tasted, appreciated, felt with awe, then effortlessly freed. One deliberately learns to choose to face and mitigate forced and discordant trends toward effortful pushes in feeling, thought, and action. For example, rather than fear and repel negative experiences, newly felt sensory clarity, less unruly focus and attention, and a gentler ability to let go rather than harshly hold on becomes more routine. Intuitive knowing awakens a renewal of creative self-awareness.
Emotional hygiene is both awareness and literacy promoting the active engagement of emotion, decision-making, and its implementation in real life. The intention and dynamic act of welcoming emotion to become optimally humanized by thinking is precision self-medicine. This alignment of feeling with thought and its application in effective ways does not come naturally; its steps must be learned. Emotion must be discovered, recovered, and joined with ideas.
“Learned Mindfulness” is a psychological perspective and tool with steps that outline the process of enacting this engagement of emotional intelligence. This approach aims to expand emotional awareness by teaching the conscious awareness of the identification of 1.) sensation, 2.) perception, and 3.) the readiness of conception. These three preparatory stages to emotional intelligence of noting, labeling, and embracing one’s biomental capacities are the foundation for effective action in real life. These three stages of emotional intelligence become a prelude to their target: emotion performance utilization. This decision-making performance may happen at the moment or typically at a later time when circumstances call for more intensive critical thinking, executive functioning, and “doing” in real life.
For example, discovering and understanding what emotional intelligence is, then intentionally using a formal practice to optimize it as Learned Mindfulness sets up biomental pathways making conflict and confusion easier to manage. Learned Mindfulness gradually helps one to detect problems in the making and to start problem-solving before its stress becomes toxic and inhibiting. Keeping your eye on the car’s gas tank gauge to prevent inadvertently running out, and managing daily spending to be prepared for the end of the month’s financial obligations are routine examples of mindful living.
While Learned Mindfulness aims to increase emotional awareness, its ultimate aim is emotional literacy. This cognitive-affective reconfiguration is promoting, building, and sustaining health and well-being via achieving the character strength of Authentic Integrity.
This sentient, emotional fluency results in an expansion of Integral Empathy: cognitive perspective-taking of beliefs and intentions integrated with effectively emotional grasping of and responding to another’s feelings, hopes, wishes, needs, and anticipations.
“Learned Mindfulness”: Character, Character Strengths, and Positive Psychosocial Characteristics
Character comprises the nuanced super-refinements of one’s personality. Upon basic temperamental predispositions, one's character develops from the consciously chosen values one actively espouses. The simple formulation of a ‘hedonic set point’ or fixed reference point of well-being inducing strengths and predispositions comprised from both 1) genetic constraints and 2) learned habits from social and environmental experience may have merit. Nevertheless, other as yet undetermined factors probably are significantly involved in orienting values and behaviors toward these broad set points. Motivation, learning from the environment, and random occurrences can change our “fixedness” in remarkable ways, especially if we are determined to change.
Striving to become autonomous is needed to induce self-change. This upsurge in personal efficacy consists in becoming a self-activist: one who is self-directed has self-initiative and is intrinsically motivated. Self-activists typically thrive in team settings where the sense of belonging and resonating with others both supports and challenges personal values (that may differ from others) and styles of feeling, thinking, and behaving.
Character strengths are positive psychological characteristics based on consciously chosen values. These preferred beliefs guide life goals, choice of personal and social affiliations, occupation, and how one conducts their life in these pursuits. Character strengths have been called values in action when they are carried out and performed as part of routine daily living. Other less pronounced character strengths that a person may possess can be significant but as yet under-developed.
Typically, character includes one’s moral sense of what is understood as good and bad and a code of ethical standards of behavior held to be correct and honest; interpersonally sincere. “Good” in the Authentic Integrity model suggests healthy, life-promoting, supporting and engendering feelings, ideas, and behaviors. The most abstract, ideal, humanistic level of values aims to approach degrees of excellence. At this level, multiple values consolidate under broader frames of reference called “virtue.” Positive psychiatry captures such a broad array of ideas by the phrase “positive psychosocial characteristics.” This clustering encompasses one’s individual character strengths and traits and their social/environmental components. Active social engagement is vital to one’s characterological well-being.
Authentic Integrity correlates with high-value character strengths. Such positive psychosocial characteristics have empathy and communicative transparency as top values. Authentic Integrity is exemplified by “keeping your word” both verbally and in performance.
Top Character Strengths: Resilience, Optimism, and Positive Social Engagement
Distinguished researchers in the fields of positive psychology and psychiatry have described the essential qualities that characterize people who show the underlying resiliency that pervades all character strengths, not only in the face of stress and trauma but also in successful everyday living. (3, 4, 5, 5a, 6) Some outstanding features include the following character qualities:
1.) Self-directed: a meaningful, value-laden life with purpose despite mistakes and errors; persistence; achievement; and resourcefulness.
2.) Positive emotions balanced with negative emotions, i.e., optimism.
3.) Relationships with others: empathy (cognitive & emotional); and leadership.
4.) Personal growth and engagement; and self-development aspirations.
5.) To the above, I propose that one's character---adequately resilient, optimistic, and socially engaged, is also reliable, accountable, can forgive, is profoundly empathetic, and embodies the wholeness of genuine Authentic Integrity.
“Learned Mindfulness”: Remembering to Remain Actively Awake
Remembering to remain awake to oneself enables the process of active self-remembering. Becoming sensitized to the personal experience of flesh, blood, sensations, feelings, thoughts, and contact with others made up in similar ways takes on vibrant meaningfulness. The intention of Learned Mindfulness is a self-regulating orientation of receptive curiosity and nuanced noticing; a restoration of the primacy of emotion in the natural cycle of rational thinking.
Active self-remembering fosters turning invisible emotion to palpable perception transforming to evaluative thought and intelligent decision-making. One’s moral compass then spins toward personally relevant and socially beneficial performance. The lucidity brought by refined emotional intelligence refreshes one’s eagerness to work. The prospects of a task elicit excitement in engaging steps advancing to completion.
Mindful engagement reflects Authentic Integrity: becoming whole and complete with oneself, an integrated person. Hidden emotions can now be accessed and brought to the light of mindful awareness. Personal freedom from self-deceit, Authentic Integrity, brings entirety, soundness, and a sense of being undiminished and unimpaired. Consistency and harmony in such wholeness is the essence of self-aware self-regulation.
The practice of Learned Mindfulness forges emotions that become linked to thoughts that then test and shape meaning. Meaning involves making sense of experience: meaningfulness and intended purpose. As Learned Mindfulness becomes skillful, its impact factor leverages success to remaining attentive, receptive, and awake to active self-exploration. Everyday awareness becomes subtly infused with the expansion provided by “meditative awareness.” (2) Integrity Mindfulness as an emotional intelligence strength builds optimal performance in daily living, an essential life management optimizing skill.
Learned Mindfulness supports the modulated engagement of sensation, perception, conception, decision-making, and their implementation in real life. Since this alignment of feeling with thought and their application in practical ways does not come naturally, its strength building alignment must be learned. This Part I article has been a first attempt to address psychological awareness and practices detailed in and at the core of Making Sense of Emotion: Innovating Emotional Intelligence.
The application of Learned Mindfulness is an example of “translational medicine,” i.e., from bench side (theory) to bedside (individual application), and ultimately to community well-being. Learned Mindfulness and achieving Authentic Integrity can be integrated into any existing psychotherapy, counseling, or organizational training format on a one-to-one or group basis. Learned Mindfulness practice is a slightly more formalized, task-focused application of learning the anchoring steps of the Making Sense of Emotion model. Pilot studies are being planned to test its applicability as a stand-alone practice. A future article, Part II, will amplify these ideas in the context of traditional mindfulness meditation.
1.) Ninivaggi, FJ. (2017) Making Sense of Emotion: Innovating Emotional Intelligence. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. [amazon.com]
2.) Ninivaggi, FJ. (2013) Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide to Tradition Indian Medicine for the West. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. [p.234] [amazon.com]
3.) Cloninger, CR, Zohar AH. (2011), “Personality and the perception of health and happiness.” J. Affective Disorders, 2011; 129 (1-2): 24-32.
Cloninger CR. (2012), “Healthy personality development and well-being.” World Psychiatry 2012; 11(2):103-104.
4.) Niemiec, R. (2017) Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners. Boston: MA, Hogrefe Press.
5.) Seligman, M. (2012) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. NY: NY, Atria.
5a.) Reivich, K, Shatte, A. (2003) The Resilience Factor. PA: Harmony.
6.) Jeste, DV, Palmer, BP. (2015) Positive Psychiatry: A Clinical Handbook. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
7.) “Cognition assessment using the NIH Toolbox,” (2013) Neurology, 80(March 12, supplement 3), S54-S64.