Dealing with Thoughts and Emotions
“Denial does not change reality for everyone else. Only for the one denying and those who are foolish enough to believe the fantasy.”
- Elle Casey
I think that it's safe to say most human beings suffer with thoughts and emotions that they don't particularly enjoy. And for most people, they generally don't know exactly what to do, or how to deal with them. Not only humans but animals seem to suffer with thoughts and emotions as well. For instance, when I leave my house to run errands my dogs pout and whine because they don't want that to happen. I can only imagine that they're thinking I might not come back. But with humans its a lot more complicated. We can suffer with depression, or thoughts and emotions that stick around longer than usual. Learning to deal with these experiences is a big step towards awakening to our true nature. Because after all, what we really are isn't doing the suffering. What we really are is perfectly ok with anything that could possibly happen.
Have you ever noticed that when animals suffer with emotions and thoughts they get over it rather quickly? Why cant we do that? How do they do that? When I come home to my dogs after running errands they're always so happy to see me. If you do something to another human that they don't like they'll throw it back in your face for a lifetime. So the thing is, humans just don't know how to let go. Humans form strong attachments quickly. And with a strong attachment, the detachment, most likely, wont be pretty, or easy for that matter. If we didn't form these attachments in the first place we could let go a lot easier and our suffering wouldn't linger. There is also a lack of acceptance. With a complex human mind comes a lot of ideas. With a lot of ideas comes preferred ways in which we want reality to play out. And when reality contradicts your ideas of how it should be, you get angry, sad, frustrated, etc. It is the belief in ones own thoughts that brings virtually all of our anguish.
If I'm not mistaken, the first truth the Buddha stated goes something like; with life comes suffering. Suffering is just a natural part of life. Sometimes it seems as though most people think spirituality and enlightenment is all about being happy all of the time. Only dealing with those positive vibes. But this is not the case. First of all, we don't really have control over anything. A first time meditator usually gets frustrated that they cant calm their thoughts. And that meditator fails to recognize the significance of that discovery. We cant control our own thoughts and emotions, which means we cant control our actions, which means we cant control the world. When we try to control anything, that is exactly what makes us out of control. If we had control over our thoughts and emotions wouldn't you choose to be happy all of the time? We will never be able to stop suffering. But what we can do is learn to deal with negative phenomena so we don't suffer as much from the suffering. And if permanently stopping suffering were possible wouldn't you think it would've already been done? And by now it would just be common knowledge. But it isn't and thats the reality of our situation. Enlightenment has nothing to do with your emotions, it has everything to with embracing and accepting reality the way it is. Im not saying be a doormat and not do anything about your life because thats the reality of the situation. Learning to balance “egoic consciousness” and “enlightenment consciousness” is a part of the process. But this is a little advanced because first we need to transcend the ego and experience enlightenment in order to have something to balance. Learning when to take action to make yourself happy, and use the ego when necessary is crucial. And when you transcend ego, and have that new point of view, we can learn to know when to sit back, relax and accept the uncontrollable.
I find it interesting that humans, or perhaps all life, are hard wired to be happy or at least content. When we feel anger, stress, anxiety, frustration, etc. we literally become physically unhealthy. You could have a heart attack and die from too much of it. So it might be beneficial for us to learn to cope with these thoughts and emotions for the sake of our lives. Plus, who wants to live a life full of intense suffering. Even if you don't suffer with thoughts and emotions very often, it would be nice to know what to do when the time comes.
When we experience great joy we naturally embrace it. Because that is what we crave. Who would resist that right? And with this natural embrace and acceptance our joyful experiences flea quite quickly. Sometimes the emotion leaves as soon as whatever caused it does. So this is our first insight. When we experience thoughts and emotions that we don't want to experience we naturally resist them. The two most common reactions are to hide from them. I.e. keeping your mind off of it and distract yourself from suffering. And the other, letting ourselves be controlled by it. I.e. curse someone out for cutting you off on the road while driving. These are two types of resisting. It seems that “negative” thoughts and emotions are actually fueled by resistance. Or, perhaps, resistance itself is creating the negative emotion and thought. And Positive ones seem to intensify with embrace. So with this you can make your choice. Live life full of contentment, or unnecessary anguish. Because now we know how to live these lives. Embrace everything or resist everything.
So with this we need to learn to come out of hiding and embrace the negativity, without being controlled by it.
When you experience thoughts and emotions that you don't want to experience, first notice them. Accept that this is your present reality. Allow yourself to fully experience them without letting it control you. Let go of your desire control the situation, allow your thoughts to be and hold on to that pure emotion. And you can even question them and trace it back to its roots. For example, “why am I experiencing these thoughts and emotions?” Well, it will always come to the ego. So you can say, I experience this because I don't want this to happen. “Why don't I want this to happen?” Well, it will always come back to the ego.
The nature of all thoughts and emotions (all senses in general) is to come and go. Or better yet, “pass through” our field of awareness. When we resist the unwanted truth, we actually are holding on to it. And we fail to realize that if we just allow this experience to take its course, we can see that its very nature is to free itself. We just need to be vulnerable and open so it all can pass through like every other sensation. When we experience depression we tend to resist it in some way. But there usually comes that day when you just get tired of clinching that inner fist and decide to let it all go. Let go of trying to fix it, control it, or try to figure it out. You just accept it and experience it. That is usually when we get through our tough times.
Dealing with our emotions is kind of like doing laundry. When we have clean clothes, we embrace them fully and wear them. But when those clothes become dirty we ignore them. We don't want to get our hands dirty and do some unwanted chores of maintenance. So we toss our dirty clothes in the corner of our room and call it good. But when more clothes get dirty, the pile gets bigger. Constantly ignoring the dirty work comes back and really gets in the way. It becomes a nuisance. So eventually we have to do some laundry. And for the sake of this metaphor, some people will go to psychotherapy to get to the roots of the thoughts and emotions they have been ignoring and suppressing for so long. But if we can do the laundry now, then it wont get in the way later and we wont have so much work to do. We can let go, allow the suffering to be, and pass through us now, instead of holding on to them and letting it effect us more than what is necessary.
It really is so simple. What it all comes down to is simply letting yourself experience what is present. Just accept reality the way that it is. Allow yourself to experience everything.
This practice is all about maintaining our mental equilibrium. In order to do this we have to become a bit vulnerable. We must learn to open up and embrace experiences that we tend to not want. Because our true nature involves everything. We are everything positive, everything negative, and also neither. It is all apart of what we truly are. To deepen our understanding of reality and ourselves we need to embrace, and get to know it all. Most people see negative thoughts and emotions as obstacles. But ultimately there are no obstacles in life or spiritual work, just more things to learn how to embrace. And when we can learn to get through some of our toughest times, to embrace things the we previously weren’t, we usually see the most profound growth. And with consistent practice we can learn to live with constant embrace all of the time. Then, finally we wont suffer as much from our suffering. We will have more time on our hands to take up new practices for further evolution.
So never stop growing and learning. Let's live a profound life.
Thank you for reading.