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Thesis

Mindfulness and emotion regulation: The unique contributions to the treatment of anger

14 April 2006

Abstract

Mindfulness is an ancient Eastern meditative practice that plays an important role in the alleviation of suffering within Buddhist philosophy. Most recently the practice of mindfulness meditation has been contemplated and implemented by Western scientist and practitioners for its utility in the treatment of several psychological disorders. The scientific literature on mindfulness has grown over the past 25 years resulting in a boom of work over the past 5 years. In 2004, a group of researchers (Bishop et aI, 2004) advanced the first operational definition to be used as the standard for the future study of mindfulness. In this thesis I use a recently developed process model of emotion regulation (Gross, 1998) to describe how the practice of mindfulness as presented by Bishop et al. (2004) works as an emotion regulation process from a Western scientific perspective. I describe the way in which the central components of mindfulness practice operate at different points in the generation of an emotion and thus function as a unique form of emotion regulation. The results show that mindfulness operates at several points before an emotion is formed. The theoretical proposal of mindfulness practice as an emotion regulation process is applied to the problem of disordered anger. A review of the current standard for treating anger (cognitive behavior therapy) is presented and an argument for the added benefit of mindfulness practices is advanced. The conclusion of this paper is that mindfulness practice works to fill the gaps in current anger treatment strategies. Therefore, combining'mindfulness practice with cognitive behavior therapy will prove to be an advanced approach to the treatment of disordered anger. Direction for integrating the practice of mindfulness with existing treatment strategies is provided and concerns regarding research and practice are addressed.


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