The Role of Affect in Self-Transforming Change Within the Context of Long-Term Practice of Mindfulness Meditation Open Access
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The Role of Affect in Self-Transforming Change Within the Context of Long-Term Practice of Mindfulness MeditationThis phenomenological study addresses the human problem of achieving self-transformation and the gaps in the literature on understanding the essence of the self-transformation process and the role of affect. To be self-transforming, a change must be deliberately sought and alter the way one views the world. This study is about what happened to the participants who learned and practiced mindfulness meditation for longer than 3 years, with some practicing up to 40 years. The study participants experienced several self-transforming changes beyond the first one of learning mindfulness meditation. Because mindfulness meditation encourages its practitioners to pay attention in a sustained manner, on purpose, and nonjudgmentally (Kabat-Zinn, 2012), all affect, whether negative, positive, or ambivalent, is to be accepted, examined, and released. Negative affect was not rejected out of hand; on the contrary, it served as the catalyst for the participants to examine their lives and their values. In that examination, they chose values that were more meaningful to them, which generated positive affect. This positive affect energized them to change their lives to match those more meaningful values. So, one of the findings is that all affect—negative, positive, and ambivalent—is necessary for self-transforming change.The main implication for theory is that self-transformation is a continual process of changes in affect (A), changes in behavior (B), and changes in cognition (C) within a nurturing and safe environment (Winnicott, 1965). These are the ABC’s of self-transformation. This study connects affect as described by Begley and Davidson (2012) and Siegel (2013) to affective neuroscience as outlined by Panksepp (1998) and Davidson (2003). It brings in behavior, which is learning through experience (Maturana & Varela, 1980; Croswell, 1996) as well as cognition via Kegan’s (1982) constructive-development model and represents the growing self-understanding that is a result of learning and practicing mindfulness meditation.