Abstract and Figures

The present study explores the role of (1) “experiential avoidance” (being non-accepting towards mental events) and (2) “mindful awareness” (being attentive in the present moment) in the prediction of well-being. These established constructs are newly complemented with (3) “meta-emotions” (emotional reactions about one’s own emotions) that allow for a meaningful differentiation of processes in experiential avoidance. Psychometric properties of the newly developed Meta-Emotion Scale (MES) are presented. Psychological well-being is strongly predicted by all three facets. Of the six MES subscales, substantial predictive power could be confirmed for “contempt/shame”, “suppression”, “tough control” and “interest”, whereas “anger” and “compassionate care”, unexpectedly, exerted little influence in our non-clinical sample. The role of meta-emotions in emotion regulation is discussed.
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When you don’t like what you feel: Experiential avoidance, mindfulness
and meta-emotion in emotion regulation
Horst Mitmansgruber
*
, Thomas N. Beck, Stefan Höfer, Gerhard Schüßler
Medical University Innsbruck, Department of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Schöpfstraße 23a, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
article info
Article history:
Received 31 July 2007
Received in revised form 13 November 2008
Accepted 14 November 2008
Available online 3 January 2009
Keywords:
Mindfulness
Experiential avoidance
Meta-emotion
Emotion regulation
Psychological well-being
abstract
The present study explores the role of (1) ‘‘experiential avoidance” (being non-accepting towards mental
events) and (2) ‘‘mindful awareness” (being attentive in the present moment) in the prediction of well-
being. These established constructs are newly complemented with (3) ‘‘meta-emotions” (emotional reac-
tions about one’s own emotions) that allow for a meaningful differentiation of processes in experiential
avoidance. Psychometric properties of the newly developed Meta-Emotion Scale (MES) are presented.
Psychological well-being is strongly predicted by all three facets. Of the six MES subscales, substantial
predictive power could be confirmed for ‘‘contempt/shame”, ‘‘suppression”, ‘‘tough control” and ‘‘inter-
est”, whereas ‘‘anger” and ‘‘compassionate care”, unexpectedly, exerted little influence in our non-clinical
sample. The role of meta-emotions in emotion regulation is discussed.
Ó2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Emotion regulation has been conceived as processes that serve
to intensify, dampen, or maintain the behavioural, cognitive, expe-
riential, or physiological aspects of emotion depending on an indi-
vidual’s goals (Gross & Thompson, 2007). In this field of research,
habitual suppression of emotion has been found to be associated
with a less favourable balance of negative and positive affect, less
life satisfaction, self-esteem, and psychological well-being (Gross &
John, 2003).
Research on mindfulness offers a distinct but related
perspective on emotion regulation. In this domain, the dimension
spanning non-acceptance of mental events to acceptance is inves-
tigated. Experiential avoidance (EA; Hayes, Strohsahl, Wilson, et al.,
2004) is defined as unwillingness to experience feelings, thoughts
and sensations as well as attempts to alter them. Accumulating
evidence supports its central role in psychopathology (e.g., Zvolen-
sky, Feldner, Leen-Feldner, & Yartz, 2005). Mindfulness as its ben-
eficial counterpart is purposefully and non-judgmentally paying
attention in the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). ‘‘Being
non-judging/accepting” and ‘‘awareness/attentiveness in the pres-
ent moment” are central facets of mindfulness that are emphasized
in a variety of measures and negatively predict psychological
symptoms (e.g., Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney,
2006; Brown & Ryan, 2003).
The conceptual relationship between mindfulness and EA is
much debated. Despite considerable overlap in underlying pro-
cesses, the most salient differences in the constructs are the diver-
gent theoretical contexts from which they are drawn (Eastern
philosophy and functional contextualism, respectively; see Block-
Lerner, Salters-Pedneault, and Tull (2005) for a discussion).
EA and mindfulness represent constructs that influence the
experience of emotions. The central processes are yet to be nailed
down (Dimidjian & Linehan, 2003). Most studies on mindfulness
have focused solely on the effectiveness of interventions, but it is
not clear why people avoid thoughts and emotions in the first
place.
1.1. ‘‘Meta-emotion: emotion as regulation of emotion
We argue that the investigation of emotional reactions about
one’s emotions, i.e., ‘‘meta-emotions” (Gottman, Katz, and Hooven
(1997) coined the term to describe parental emotions on emotional
displays of their child), illuminates processes in (non-)acceptance
of emotions. Meta-emotions can be conceived as a subclass of ‘‘sec-
ondary emotions” (Greenberg, 2002) which is a temporal concept
(a secondary emotion like anxiety follows a primary emotion like
anger in time) but also implies that primary emotions can be the
‘‘object” of secondary emotions (i.e., anxiety about the angry self).
Thus, emotions like anxiety, anger, or compassion become meta-
emotions if their object is the emotional self (the ‘‘meta”-aspect
indicated henceforth with the prefix
m
).
As emotions, meta-emotions go beyond ‘‘meta-cognitions”
(Wells & Cartwright-Hatton, 2004) and might produce vicious
0191-8869/$ - see front matter Ó2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.11.013
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +43 512504 26120; fax: +43 512575185.
E-mail addresses: horst.mitmansgruber@i-med.ac.at,horst.mitmansgruber@
uki.at (H. Mitmansgruber).
Personality and Individual Differences 46 (2009) 448–453
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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/paid
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circles and rebound effects (Wegner, 1994). Approaches investigat-
ing ‘‘meta-mood-experiences” (Mayer & Stevens, 1994; Salovey,
Mayer, Goldman, Turvey, & Palfai, 1995), again, explore cognitions
about mood (e.g., ‘‘clarity”, ‘‘attention”, ‘‘acceptability”) with the
exception that ‘‘shame about one’s mood” is part of the ‘‘accept-
ability”-factor in Mayer and Stevens’ (1994) approach.
Several examples in clinical psychology can be conceived as
meta-emotional experiences (‘‘affect phobia”, Williams,
Chambless, & Ahrens, 1997; ‘‘fear of fear”, Reiss, Peterson, Gursky,
& McNally, 1986); however, these are concepts confined to a single
emotion (fear) within a wide array of possible emotion-about-
emotion phenomena.
Meta-emotions elucidate processes in EA/mindfulness in mean-
ingful ways: first, as emotions, they embed a judgment (cognitive
appraisal) that is in contrast to the definition of mindfulness by
Kabat-Zinn (1990). Whereas negative meta-emotions (e.g.,
m
anger,
m
anxiety) reflect EA and non-acceptance, positive meta-emotions
(e.g.,
m
compassion,
m
interest) support acceptance of one’s emo-
tions with possible positive effects on well-being (Neff, 2003) but
still involve a valenced appraisal.
Second, the quality of meta-emotions provides information on
regulatory processes operating on the target emotion. For example,
being angry about one’s anxiety will influence the experience of
that anxiety, and this process differs from experiencing compas-
sion about being anxious.
m
Anxiety about one’s emotions depicts
threat and uncertainty with the accompanying action tendency
(e.g., Lazarus, 1991), whereas
m
anger involves the perception of
blocked goals and the motivation to attack, etc. Perceived control
in handling the target emotion is different in
m
anxiety compared
to
m
anger; it is also different in
m
compassion compared to
m
interest.
We argue that recurrent meta-emotions reflect an important
part of a person’s emotion regulation with impact on the individ-
ual’s psychological well-being (PWB). PWB is related to but distinct
from ‘‘subjective well-being” that is more hedonic in character
(Keyes, Shmotkin, & Ryff, 2002; see also ‘‘hedonic” and ‘‘eudaimon-
ic” well-being; Ryan & Deci, 2001). PWB as ‘‘perception of engage-
ment with existential challenges of life” (Keyes et al., 2002) is more
readily compatible with a mindfulness/acceptance-frame where
(negative) emotions are allowed/accepted. Negative meta-
emotions indicate that this ‘‘engagement” does not run smoothly.
Apart from
m
anxiety, few empirical data on emotion-about-
emotion phenomena are available. Whelton and Greenberg
(2005) found self-contempt to be associated with depressive
symptoms. Leahy (2005) reported that people who expect others
to invalidate their feelings stick to a positive view of worrying
(not to get hurt). If people expect validation, they should
experience less guilt and shame about their emotions.
On the positive side, Neff (2003) has shown positive correla-
tions between ‘‘self-compassion”, mindfulness, and well-being.
Gilbert and colleagues (2006) have investigated ‘‘self-warmth”
which is conceived as interpersonal strategy that is projected onto
the self.
In this study, we investigated the relative contribution of the
above-mentioned factors to well-being: (1) ‘‘experiential avoid-
ance” is conceived as an important metacognitive frame for han-
dling mental events in a judging/non-accepting way with
negative impact on well-being; (2) we expected a positive contri-
bution of ‘‘mindful awareness” as ‘‘being attentive in the present
moment”; and (3) with the newly developed Meta-Emotion Scale
(MES) we included emotion-about-emotion experiences in the
model to further illuminate ongoing processes in emotion regula-
tion. We expected factors to emerge that represent discrete emo-
tional reactions about one’s emotions (interest-about-emotions,
anger-about-emotions, etc.) and explain additional variance in
well-being. Whereas negative meta-emotions should reveal
negative correlations, the opposite was expected for positive
meta-emotions.
2. Study 1: development of the Meta-Emotion Scale and
predictive power regarding psychological well-being
Factor structure and psychometric properties of the MES were
explored in a non-clinical sample.
2.1. Method
2.1.1. Participants
Sample A: Out of 339 students attending a course on communi-
cation skills (spring 2005) at the Medical University Innsbruck, 334
agreed to participate in this study earning no credits for participa-
tion (age mean = 22.37, SD = 2.81; Min = 19, Max = 42; 54.1%
female; 36.3% single, 11.1% lived alone). After giving informed
consent, subjects completed questionnaires during the course.
2.1.2. Measures
Meta-Emotion Scale (MES): A pool of meta-emotion experi-
ences was generated through interviews with three clinical psy-
chologists, four lay people and three patients (‘‘What sort of
negative and positive emotional reactions to your own emotions
do you know from your own experience/your work with patient-
s?”). Forty items were phrased which are rated from 1 = ‘‘is not
at all true for me” to 6 = ‘‘is completely true for me”. Items included
negative meta-emotions like anger, contempt, anxiety, sadness,
shame or guilt, and positive meta-emotions like interest and com-
passionate care. Participants were instructed to rate statements
‘‘not as they think they should react but as their actual experiences
are” (Table 1).
Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (AAQ; Hayes et al., 2004):
This scale measures EA as the unwillingness to get or stay in con-
tact with internal experiences. The German translation of Sonntag
(2005 personal communication) was back-translated and corrected
for problematic phrases. Cronbach’s alpha of the English original is
acceptable with .70 (Hayes et al., 2004).
Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS; Brown & Ryan,
2003; German translation, Heidenreich & Michalak, personal com-
munication): This 15-item scale measures awareness in everyday
contexts and shows connections to dispositional affectivity, well-
being, quality of life, etc. (German version alpha = .83; Ströhle, 2006).
Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen, &
Griffin, 1985; German version, Sölva, Baumann, & Lettner, 1995):
This commonly used scale consisting of five items assesses global
life satisfaction on a cognitive–judgmental basis and has good
internal reliability, test–retest reliability and validity.
Scales of Psychological well-being (SPWB; Ryff, 1989; German
version, Staudinger, Lopez, & Baltes, 1997): This scale consists of
18 items with every three items comprising six subscales (auton-
omy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relation-
ships, purpose in life, self-acceptance); it is well-established and
has acceptable psychometric properties.
2.2. Results
2.2.1. Exploratory factor analysis
Two items were eliminated because of undue skewness or kur-
tosis. With the remaining 38 items, principal axis factor analysis
(PFA) was performed (SPSS 15 for Windows, SPSS, IL: Chicago)
and was favoured over principal components analysis (PCA), be-
cause of its advantages when higher-order factor rotations are per-
formed (Floyd & Widaman, 1995). Varimax rotation was used to
get maximum independence of (discrete emotion) factors, and
H. Mitmansgruber et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 46 (2009) 448–453 449
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eight factors with eigen values >1 could be extracted. However, a
six-factor solution based on the scree plot was favoured (Floyd &
Widaman, 1995), and explained 56.1% of the variance. It was more
interpretable then the eight-factor solution, and 28 items
with loadings >0.40 were finally retained (Table 1; one item
with theoretically problematic content within factor 1 was
dropped).
Several factors could be designated with discrete emotion
words. Unexpectedly, though, two factors did not clearly represent
basic emotional reactions. For example,
m
tough control consists of
items that were expected to relate to anger and contempt; how-
ever, its main thrust is better conceived as a strict control of emo-
tions. Descriptives and internal consistency of subscales are given
in Table 2.
Table 2
Descriptives and Cronbach’s alpha for the subscales of the Meta-Emotion Scale, AAQ and MAAS in sample A (n= 334; alpha for clinical sample C in brackets).
Mean SD Alpha (sample C) Second-order factor loadings
(1) (2)
MES
‘‘Anger” 2.76 1.16 .86 (.86) .74 .16
‘‘Compassionate care” 3.64 0.86 .82 (.83) .13 .50
‘‘Interest” 4.21 1.00 .85 (.82) .06 .76
‘‘Contempt/shame” 3.53 1.01 .77 (.78) .73 .11
‘‘Tough control” 3.32 1.08 .83 (.77) .78 .01
‘‘Suppression” 2.35 1.10 .76 (.77) .64 .29
(1) ‘‘Negative meta-emotions” 3.00 0.88 .91 (.91)
(2) ‘‘Positive meta-emotions” 3.93 0.78 .85 (.87)
MAAS 4.33 .69 .85
AAQ 28.90 6.49 .59
Note: AAQ, acceptance and action questionnaire; MAAS, mindful attention and awareness scale; and MES, Meta-Emotion Scale.
Second-order factors extracted with principal axis factor analysis with Varimax rotation.
Table 1
Principal axis factor analysis with Varimax rotation for the Meta-Emotion Scale (MES) (descriptives and factor loadings; n= 334).
MSD F
1.
m
Anger
15. I often think my emotional reaction is wrong 2.80 1.34 .74
3. I repeatedly get angry about my emotional reactions 3.11 1.43 .73
5. Sometimes I could get really mad at myself about the way I react emotionally 2.54 1.42 .73
27. Repeatedly, I am irritated by my stupid emotional reactions 2.59 1.35 .66
2.
m
Compassionate care
9. When I am sad or anxious, I do myself something good to make things easier for myself 4.05 1.17 .78
11. I indulge myself when I feel bad 3.45 1.25 .71
2. When I feel stressed and I experience negative emotions, I treat myself with compassion 3.49 1.16 .65
24. When I experience strong negative emotions, I comfort and encourage myself 3.77 1.17 .65
22. I am kind to myself when I feel burdened by my emotions 3.19 1.13 .65
7. In stressful situations, I try to treat myself in a similar caring fashion as I would treat people who are close to me 3.75 1.32 .58
4. I downright cajole myself when I experience major emotional burden 3.78 1.36 .47
3.
m
Interest
23. I learn through my feelings 4.42 1.15 .76
18. Negative emotions provide me with interesting information about myself 4.40 1.22 .74
28. Time and again, my thoughts and emotions are fascinating and important to me 4.25 1.23 .74
16. My thoughts and my feelings are an inexhaustible source of information about myself 4.02 1.35 .71
13. Again and again, I discover new forms of experiences in myself 3.98 1.33 .66
4.
m
Contempt/shame
21. I cannot forgive myself for a long time when I have done something wrong 3.43 1.39 .67
17. When I feel guilty because I have made a mistake, I am quite unforgiving with myself 3.61 1.40 .61
12. When I am ashamed about my emotional reactions, I can hardly think of anything else 3.38 1.44 .53
14. Repeatedly, there are situations when I excoriate myself 3.22 1.47 .48
20. When I cannot live up to my own expectations in everyday life, I do not put myself down (inversely coded) 3.99 1.34 .44
5.
m
Tough control
1. When I am sad or anxious, I become demanding of myself 3.41 1.37 .71
8. When I see my emotions as inappropriate, I get very strict with myself 3.66 1.47 .66
26. I place high demands on myself to gain control over my feelings 3.24 1.42 .56
6. I repeatedly force myself to pull myself together 3.39 1.45 .54
19. When talking to myself in my thoughts, I am often harsh with myself 2.88 1.28 .48
6.
m
Suppression
25. I cannot come to grips with strong emotions 2.47 1.26 .62
10. I fight strongly against my emotions 2.23 1.20 .60
Note: Items with factor loadings >0.40 are depicted. Non-validated English translation of the German version that has been back-translated and corrected for problematic
phrases.
450 H. Mitmansgruber et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 46 (2009) 448–453
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Second-order PFA was performed on subscales and produced
two factors with eigen values >1 explaining 67.2% of the variance.
They were named ‘‘negative meta-emotions” (nMES; combining
four factors) and ‘‘positive meta-emotions” (pMES; combining
two factors) and were additionally analyzed (Table 2).
2.2.2. German version of AAQ
Psychometric properties of the German version of AAQ and
MAAS are given in Table 2 (r=.41*** between the two). PCA of
the AAQ revealed three factors with eigen values >1 (ei-
gen
F1
= 2.329; eigen
F2
= 1.288; eigen
F3
= 1.116) explaining 52.6%
of the variance and allowing the expected one-factor solution;
however, like the English version it has low alpha (Zvolensky
et al., 2005).
2.2.3. Predictive strength of mindfulness measures in PWB
To explore the predictive strength of the MES, we calculated
bivariate correlations of subscales with well-being measures
and found the expected negative and positive associations (Table
3). This was followed by regression analyses. After AAQ and
MAAS had been entered, meta-emotions were expected to ex-
plain significant additional portions of variance in well-being.
First, we entered MES scores as combined subscales of nMES
and pMES into the regression (Table 4a). The AAQ explained
30%, MAAS scores explained 7%, and meta-emotions explained
an additional 11% of the variance in SPWB (SWLS: AAQ 30%,
MAAS 0%, MES plus 7%).
To explore meta-emotion patterns, we also entered the six MES
subscales into regression analyses (Table 4b). In this model, ex-
plained variance rises to 53% for SPWB (AAQ 30%, MAAS, plus 7%,
MES plus 15%) and to 40% for the SWLS (AAQ 30%, MAAS 0%,
MES plus 10%). Multicollinearity analysis did not indicate reasons
for concern.
2.3. Discussion
In study 1, incremental validity of meta-emotions in differenti-
ating EA/mindfulness was investigated. Our results underscore the
predictive strength of EA and mindful awareness in well-being. We
also confirmed the predictive strength MES scores over and above
that of AAQ and MAAS. Overall explained variance is substantial.
Of the six MES-factors, most depict discrete emotional content
(
m
anger,
m
interest and
m
compassionate care), although
m
con-
tempt/shame represents the co-occurrence of two very different
emotional qualities. The two remaining factors do not depict dis-
tinct emotional content:
m
suppression can be perceived as related
to anxiety/uncontrollability; however, anxiety is not the promi-
nent emotional tone in this factor.
m
Tough control is characterized
by tight self-discipline that is not confined to any one single emo-
tional quality (but negative valence) and might represent non-
acceptance with high perceived control. The status of these factors
within meta-emotion experiences is not yet clear and needs fur-
ther investigation.
Whereas bivariate correlations of meta-emotions with well-
being met our expectations, the patterns changed for the subscales
in multiple regressions: posited effects were confirmed for
m
con-
tempt/shame,
m
suppression, and
m
interest, but
m
tough control
(negative valence) was positively associated with well-being. Thus,
it appears that there could be beneficial effects of non-acceptance,
which is contrary to contemporary theorizing, but is corroborated
by another study of our group (Mitmansgruber, Beck, & Schüßler,
2008) with experienced paramedics (see below).
Table 3
Bivariate correlations (Pearson) between MES subscales and well-being.
MES 2 3 4 5 6 SWLS SPWB
Anger .15
**
.15
**
.56
***
.55
***
.54
***
.40
***
.41
***
Comp. care .39
***
.19
***
.09 .20
***
.28
***
.28
***
Interest .11
*
.06 .26
***
.20
**
.30
***
Contempt/shame – .60
***
.46
***
.48
***
.50
***
Tough control .51
***
.29
***
.32
***
Suppression .44
***
.55
***
Note: MES, Meta-Emotion Scale; SLWS, satisfaction with life scale; and SPWB, scales of psychological well-being.
*
p< 0.05.
**
p< 0.01.
***
p< 0.001.
Table 4
Multiple regression (enter) with experiential avoidance, mindful awareness, and (a) positive and negative meta-emotions or (b) meta-emotion subscales as predictors
(standardized beta-weights) on well-being (n= 334 medical students; variables entered as depicted).
(a) AAQ MAAS MES R
2
nMES pMES
SWLS .39
***
.03 .27
***
.13
*
.37
***
SPWB Sum .25
***
.26
***
.26
***
.23
***
.49
***
SWLS: R
2
= .30 for step 1 (p< .001);
D
R
2
= .00 for step 2 (ns);
D
R
2
= .07 for step 3 (p< .001); SPWB Sum: R
2
= .30 for step 1 (p< .001);
D
R
2
= .07 for step 2 (p< .001);
D
R
2
= .11
for step 3 (p< .001)
(b) AAQ MAAS MES R
2
Anger Con-tempt Tough control Suppr. Comp. care Interest
SWLS .35
***
.02 .06 .24
**
.11 .17
*
.12
*
.01 .40
***
SPWB Sum .21
***
.27
***
.01 .23
***
.14
*
.28
***
.08 .15
**
.53
***
SWLS: R
2
= .30 for step 1 (p< .001);
D
R
2
= .00 for step 2 (ns);
D
R
2
= .10 for step 3 (p< .001); SPWB Sum: R
2
= .30 for step 1 (p< .001);
D
R
2
= .07 for step 2 (p< .001);
D
R
2
= .16
for step 3 (p< .001)
Note: AAQ, acceptance and action questionnaire; MAAS, mindful attention and awareness scale; MES, Meta-Emotion Scale; pMES, positive meta-emotions; nMES, negative
meta-emotions; SWLS, satisfaction with life scale; and SPWB, scales of psychological well-being.
*
p< 0.05.
**
p< 0.01.
***
p< 0.001.
H. Mitmansgruber et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 46 (2009) 448–453 451
Author's personal copy
3. Study 2: CFAs and convergent and discriminant correlations
To investigate the validity of the factor structure in the MES,
CFAs with two independent samples were performed on the
remaining 28 items, and correlations with related measures were
explored.
3.1. Method
3.1.1. Participants
Sample B: 222 medical students doing a course on communica-
tion skills participated in this study earning no credits for partici-
pation. After giving informed consent, participants completed
questionnaires (mean age = 22.8, SD = 3.8; Min = 19, Max = 50;
58.6% female; 3.2% married or stable relationship, 18.6% living
alone). Complete MES data sets amenable to CFA were available
from 213 students.
Sample C: 297 inpatients in a psychosomatic clinic in Germany
gave informed consent and completed assessment at admission
(mean age = 45.0; SD=11.4; 81.9% female; 46.4% married or stable
relationship, 28% living alone). Reported main problems were so-
matic/psychosomatic disorders (23.5%; e.g., diabetes, chronic pain
syndromes), affective disorders (20.1%), anxiety disorders (15.4%),
and eating disorders (13.3%). About 268 patients provided com-
plete MES data sets.
3.1.2. Measures
Meta-Emotion Scale (see study 1).
NEO personality inventory revised (NEO-PI-R; Costa & McCrae,
1992; German version, Borkenau & Ostendorf, 1993): The scale as-
sesses the dimensions neuroticism, extraversion, openness to
experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness and is a standard
instrument for personality assessment.
Positive Affectivity and Negative Affectivity Scale (PANAS;
Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988; German version, Krohne, Egloff,
Kohlmann, & Tausch, 1996): Positive and negative emotions are
assessed with varying time frames. In our study dispositional affec-
tivity was investigated.
Beck Depression Inventory (BDI; Beck & Steer, 1987; German
version, Hautzinger, Bailer, Worall, & Keller, 1994) and the Center
of Epidemiological Studies – depression (CES-D; Radloff, 1977;
German version, Hautzinger & Bailer, 1992) have been included
to assess depressive symptoms. The brief symptom inventory
(BSI; Derogatis, 1993; German version, Franke, 2000) assesses psy-
chological symptoms over the past week combined to form global
indices of symptom severity.
Meta-cognitions questionnaire (MCQ; Wells & Cartwright-
Hatton, 2004; German version, Maier, 2004): The scale assesses
meta-cognitions about worries on five subscales that are combined
into a composite index for cognitions that foster pathological
worrying.
3.2. Results
3.2.1. Confirmatory factor analysis
We performed CFAs of the six-factor-model using maximum-
likelihood estimation (AMOS7.0; Arbuckle, 2006). Correlations
have been allowed between factors with negative and positive va-
lence, respectively, and between error-variables within factors. On
sample B, the indices indicated acceptable fit with the data
(
v
2
= 504.736, df = 327, p= .000, NFI = .806, CFI = .920,
RMSEA = .051). All items were significantly correlated with the
respective factors (alphas of subscales from .70 to .88). We also
tested the model in our clinical sample with acceptable resulting
indices (
v
2
= 528.104, df = 323, p= .000, NFI = .797, CFI = .908,
RMSEA = .060). All items were significantly correlated (alphas in
brackets in Table 2).
In addition to these six first-order factors, we performed CFAs
with two higher-order factors: negative and positive meta-emo-
tions. Again, we found acceptable indices for this hierarchical mod-
el in patients (
v
2
= 636.274, df = 320, p= .000, NFI = .831,
CFI = .907, RMSEA = .061) and medical students (
v
2
= 508.223,
df = 318, p= .000, NFI = .804, CFI = .914, RMSEA = .053).
As both models seem to fit the data in two independent sam-
ples, factor structure will need further scrutiny.
3.2.2. Correlations with related measures
Finally, bivariate correlations of pMES and nMES with related con-
structs werecalculated (Table 5) and mostly moderatecorrelations in
the expecteddirections with mindfulness measures, negative and po-
sitive affectivity emerged: nMES was negatively related to extraver-
sion, MAAS, and PA and positively related to neuroticism, AAQ, NA,
and psychological symptoms (reverse pattern for pMES).
3.3. Discussion
In study2, the factor structure of the MES was confirmed with
acceptable fit in two independent samples, although it is not clear
from the data whether the simple six-factor-model is preferable to
the hierarchical model with two superordinate factors. Moderate
correlations with related measures underscore the posited dis-
tinctness of meta-emotions from related constructs. Interestingly,
expected positive correlations of nMES were found with all MCQ
Table 5
Zero-order correlations (Pearson) of MES scores with related scales.
Scale Sample nMES pMES
AAQ A, C .50
***
, .49
***
.25
***
,.48
***
MAAS A, C .40
***
,.62
***
.03, .32
***
MCQ B .51
***
.09
Cognitive confidence .32
***
.07
Positive beliefs .19
**
.25
***
Cognitive self-consciousness .27
***
.25
***
Uncontrollability/danger .48
***
.11
Need to control thoughts .44
***
.03
NEO-PI-R B
Neuroticism .54
***
.27
***
Extraversion .20
**
.32
***
Openness to experience .04 .39
***
Agreeableness .08 .20
**
Conscientiousness .08 .04
CES-D B .47
***
.11
BSI C
GSI .56
***
.41
***
PSDI .45
***
.36
***
BDI C .61
***
.47
***
PANAS C
Negative affectivity .60
***
.32
***
Positive affectivity .34
***
.51
***
SWLS A, C .49
***
,.43
***
.29
***
, .41
***
SPWB A, C .53
***
,.45
***
.36
***
, .53
***
Autonomy .23
***
,.28
***
.19
***
, .34
***
Environmental mastery .56
***
,.47
***
.20
***
, .44
***
Personal growth .23
***
,.07 .40
***
, .48
***
Positive relationships .31
***
,.35
***
.20
***
, .28
***
Purpose in life .13
*
, .00 .05, .06
Self-acceptance .46
***
,.49
***
.30
***
, .48
***
Note: Samples A (n= 334), B (n= 222), C (n= 297); pMES, positive meta-emotions;
nMES, negative meta-emotions; AAQ, acceptance and action questionnaire; MAAS,
mindful attention and awareness scale; MCQ, meta-cognitions questionnaire; NEO-
PI-R, neo personality inventory; SWLS, satisfaction with life scale; SPWB, scales of
psychological well-being; BSI, brief symptom inventory; CES-D, center of epide-
miological studies – depression; BDI, beck depression inventory; and PANAS,
positive affectivity and negative affectivity scale.
*
p< 0.05.
**
p< 0.01.
***
p< 0.001.
452 H. Mitmansgruber et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 46 (2009) 448–453
Author's personal copy
subscales (aspects of pathological worry) whereas pMES was
positively correlated with ‘‘positive beliefs” (about worrying)
and ‘‘cognitive self-consciousness” (tendency to monitor one’s
thoughts and focus attention inwards). Precisely these two dimen-
sions are inconsistently associated with psychological dysfunction
(Spada, Nikcevic, Moneta, & Wells, 2008). Supposedly, they could
contribute to potentially beneficial cognitive approach behaviour.
4. General discussion
In the present study, meta-emotions were found to exert a pow-
erful influence on well-being over and above EA/mindfulness. To
maintain well-being, it might be as rewarding to minimize nega-
tive meta-emotions and to have an accepting stance towards one’s
own emotions (i.e., mindfulness/acceptance and the ‘‘eudaimonic”
perspective; Ryan & Deci, 2001) as to minimize negative emotions
(the ‘‘hedonic” perspective).
Several MES subscales showed posited associations, but the low
predictive strength of
m
anger and
m
compassionate care is notewor-
thy. Neff (2003) and Gilbert, Baldwin, Irons, Baccus, and Palmer
(2006) confirm the role of self-compassion in well-being. Con-
versely, one might expect that anger about one’s emotions has
some negative influence on PWB. Possibly, our medical students
represent a sample with very special regulation strategies or lack
the experience of substantial emotional stress.
Furthermore, it is intriguing that
m
tough control seemingly had a
beneficial effect. This finding is in agreement with the results of our
study with experienced paramedics (Mitmansgruber, Beck & Schüß-
ler, 2008): besides expected associations (e.g.,
m
anger),highscoreson
m
tough control as also high scores on
m
contempt/shame and low
scores on
m
compassionate care were associated with increased
well-being (overall explained variance 62%). This regulation pattern
in paramedics might well reflect their role as helpers and indicates
a possible beneficial effect for non-acceptance of emotions.
Our results also underscore the relative independence of meta-
emotions from trait affectivity (which has still to be proven for EA;
Zvolensky et al., 2005) and the usefulness of the non-collapsed six-
factor model. This, together with variation of stressors and assess-
ment methods as well as experimental variation, has to be further
investigated in future studies to clarify causal direction and the
benefits/downsides of distinct meta-emotion strategies in relation
to PWB.
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There has been an increasing research on mindfulness in reducing psychological distress and promoting resilience and well-being. Mindfulness studies have primarily been conducted in the clinical and scientific settings, and research with university students is still in its infancy. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a preliminary review of empirical studies on trait mindfulness, and its associations with the Big Five personality traits and trait affect at the university level, which may contribute to better resilience in future workplace. Our review of 20 empirical papers suggests that trait mindfulness is positively related to certain personality traits – agreeableness and conscientiousness and negatively related to neuroticism; while its relationships with openness to experience and extraversion are non-conclusive. Additionally, trait mindfulness is also related to positive affect and resilience, and negatively related to negative affect. This chapter aims to provide insights on the role of trait mindfulness in promoting resilience in higher education and the future workplace.
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