The Struggle of Staying with Toxic Emotions when all you want to do is Leave: An exploration of the idea of mindfulness in fostering negative capability

Lotte Svalgaard

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    Much has been debated about the importance of negative capability for managers as well as employees in meeting with organisational turbulence and demands. Negative capability is defined as the ability to stay with disturbing and toxic emotions, tolerate anxiety, fear, not-knowing and uncertainty. This is a critical - though not an easily achievable - capability. Whereas there is much agreement on the importance of this capability, the actual struggle of fostering negative capability is less debated and tends to be underexposed in psychodynamic theory as well as practice. The purpose of this paper is to enter and expose this debate.
    With the aim of adding to theoretical offerings within psychodynamics, this paper introduces potential additional key notions from the mindfulness philosophy (attention, awareness, detachment, compassion and self-compassion), as possible entry points to and enablers of negative capability. The paper is less occupied with the mindfulness practice, but is curiously looking into the philosophy of awareness underlying this practice - and the potential potent offerings in this philosophy. It is suggested that the mindfulness philosophy holds key notions, which may facilitate ‘embracing of’ and ‘staying with’ what is perceived as disturbing or toxic.
    It is argued that - in fostering negative capability - an increased awareness on balancing ‘embracing’ and ‘exploring’, as well as well-functioning and dys-functioning, may be needed. An exemplary case from a research project is introduced and drawn upon to illustrate this argument. Finally implications for theory and practice are explored.
    Sider (fra-til)43-63
    Antal sider20
    StatusUdgivet - 17 dec. 2015

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