The bulk of our suffering doesn’t derive from external events, such as wars or lost relationships and abandonments ic comes from our delusional desire to avoid life’s inevitable emotional discomforts.
We crave an escape route from difficult feelings and moods. We all work from the same universal, basic emotional palette: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, disgust, contempt, surprise.
Negative emotions are as essential as the positive.
Many of us are trained, in the formative years of childhood, that some of these inevitable emotional states aren’t particularly safe to express, such as sadness and anger and they must be avoided at all costs.
When emotions are suppressed they don’t go quietly away; they sit in the body, like the know in our stomach or the ache in our shoulders, waiting for the first opportunity express themselves. If we suppress our anger at work, it will find a way to express itself at home, in outbursts against startled loved ones.
Many of us try to feel good all the time, which results in desperate measures to avoid any emotional discomfort.
We may choose unskillful strategies, such as drugs or alcohol, to alter our emotional states. When these fail, we may find ourselves turning to far more skillful strategies, such as yoga, meditation, fasting and so on.
In other words, we may seek escapes routes, or spiritual bypasses.
Any attempt to bypass emotions is simply an escapist, avoidance tendency. While it might be more pallatable to attend a meditation group than to slam back a few drinks, all forms of bypass have the same ultimate goal, which is to disconnect us from feeling and holding difficult emotions. Essentially, this is avoidance and it just leads to even greater suffering.
We must learn to open to the sadness or grief that seeks our attention.
Eventually, attending to difficult emotions isn’t as painful as it may seem; emotions are only monstrous when they’re not welcomed.
And, note that liberation is not a state without emotion; it’s a state where emotions and sensations can be held and tolerated without adding needless thoughts, which only create reactivity or suffering.
It’s not really about being above it all; it’s about being with it all.
Jan Diaz Penfold Pgdip – Counsellor