"Kung Fu for Emotions" a free workshop with Dr. Jabari Jones

On May 14th, 2016, Shaolin Kung Fu Training Center had its very first western-style mental health workshop entitled: Kung Fu for Emotions, hosted by Jabari Jones, MD, Board Certified Psychiatrist. The atmosphere was enlivened, enriched, and invigorated by Dr. Jones. He was energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging, beginning the workshop with an exciting balloon exercise. He separated us into two groups, then threw one balloon up into the air for each group, as we were told not to let it hit the ground. As our two groups slapped, poked, and pushed the single balloon around amongst ourselves, Dr. Jones threw in one more. And then another, and another, and he kept throwing in more balloons until we struggled to keep them from falling. We kept this up for a couple minutes until, mercifully (and with a sincere smile), Dr. Jones told us we could stop, as the balloons hit the floor. According to Dr. Jones, the point of this active exercise was to illustrate how we each deal with our emotions on a daily basis. He says that often we are unaware of the many emotions we are feeling and that we are just passively feeling, instead of recognizing and understanding what we are feeling. They may at the beginning seem manageable, but they can quickly overwhelm us as myriad emotions begin to occur at once. So, he proposed that the first step to managing our emotions, is to increase our emotional awareness and understanding. To do so, Dr. Jones asked us to take out our phones and simply search “feeling vocabulary” on Google. He suggests looking at these lists 3 times a day for five minutes each, and identify at least five of the emotions you may feel. By simply doing this small exercise, you can develop a deeper awareness of what you are feeling at any given time, cultivating your Feeling Fluency. He called this the “basics”, which he likened to the basic movements in kung fu training. Without a better understanding of these basics, he said, you will find it difficult to practice feeling management. So, much like kung fu training, an understanding of the basics is necessary to practice the more complex forms. So, after he told us how to increase our feeling fluency by expanding our feeling vocabulary, Dr. Jones took us to the next step in managing our emotions that he likened to a ‘Shaolin form’. He outlined the Ten Steps for Feeling Management:

• Pause for Time Out- which Dr. Jones says is very important so that we can act accordingly, instead of just reacting. However, he did point out that sometimes we don't have the luxury of time, and that sometimes we must act right away. But if we have started learning how to recognize what we are feeling, then we can better manage these impulsive situations.
• Analyze the entire event in chronological order so that you can “distinguish cause and effect”. He said that this is the time to list facts about the event, including how you felt at the time.
• Name all your feelings, and be sure not to censor yourself because later on it will result in actions or plans that are flawed.
• Sort your feelings- you should sort them into category: “relevant, anachronistic, and irrelevant”.
• Face all your feelings “by exploring and examining them”.
• Choose the best result for now and later, and if you have the time discuss these plans with another person.
• Plan how to make the “best result” you came up with, become reality.
• Follow your plan.
• Evaluate your results from your actions.
• Accept the results and move on.

The second “form” that Dr. Jones recommended was Journaling, which he suggested we do for 20 minutes, three times per week. Doing this, will give us added clarity and help us develop action plans for the future. He also said that much like Shaolin forms are applied basics, journaling helps you develop your feeling fluency, and will help you better maintain your feelings. Lastly, Shimu, and one of our students recounted their experiences with the process. Dr. Jones previously sat with them both to process stressful events they had recently endured. They expressed a deep satisfaction with the process as it left them with a better understanding of their emotions, as well as emotions in general. It gave them a sense of strength to realize how much control they can have when managing their feelings. This technique, much like kung fu, Dr. Jones said, requires a lot of work. But if you work hard, practice your basics and forms of feeling management, you will become better at recognizing and dealing with your emotions. You will not be left struggling to juggle multiple emotions at once. You will have made plans for the future, and will have learned how to act according to the situation. Definitely, Dr. Jones left us all in that room feeling inspired and empowered by his passion for our well-being. He activated an awareness in us, of our own abilities. Abilities we all were capable of, but unaware that they existed. He was able to clearly and precisely define the steps needed for our personal growth. However, like Dr. Jones stressed, we are all capable of managing our feelings, but it will take practice.

We hope that even if you were not able to attend, you make an effort to empower yourself by managing your emotions! So practice, practice, practice!


   Photo by Joe Pickard
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