Buffering 101

Aug 24, 2022

Have you ever gotten home from a stressful day of work and automatically pour a glass of wine and grab something sweet to eat?  Maybe you have the thought, “I deserve this!” If so, you may be buffering.

Buffering is when we use external things to change how we feel emotionally. When we buffer our emotions, we are choosing to do something to resist or avoid our emotions instead of experiencing them.  We usually buffer because we don’t want to experience any type of negative emotion; we feel entitled to feel pleasure and happiness. 

We live in a world where we are told that we should seek pleasure and happiness, and our brain evolved to seek pleasure.  However, so much of what we have now is “concentrated” pleasure which makes us ultimately seek even more pleasure.  Buffers only provide temporary relief from negative emotion, and the negative emotion often comes back more intensely.

Some ways we buffer include:

  1. Overdrinking,
  2. Overeating,
  3. Overspending,
  4. Over-Facebooking (insert any other social media platform),
  5. Over-exercising.

If you notice you are distracting yourself in any of these ways, you can observe yourself to learn about why. Do not be self-critical or judgmental. You can explore your reasons why by:

  1.  Watching your thoughts. Write down or notice if you are feeling bored, stressed, angry, etc.
  2. Asking yourself why you are feeling this way: “What emotions am I trying to avoid?”  “What thought is triggering this feeling.” 
  3. Considering the short-term and long-term result of buffering. Will this allow you to reach your ultimate goals? Will buffering solve the problem you are trying to fix?
  4. Trying to allow the negative feeling to be present. What is the worst that will happen if you allow this discomfort?  

Buffering does not make your emotions go away; it simply helps you to avoid the feeling in the short run.  If you try to stop buffering, you can feel this discomfort and live a conscious and intentional life.