“We have to make a relationship with our emotional energy. Usually, when we speak of expressing our energies, we are more concerned with the expression than with the energy itself, which seems to be rushing too fast. We are afraid the energy will overwhelm us, so we try to get rid of it through action. However, once you develop a harmonious relationship with your energy, then you can actually express it, and the style of expression becomes very sane, right to the point.” — Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
One of the biggest misconceptions about Buddhism is that it is about getting rid of things: thoughts, feelings, the ego. It is not. If you focus your efforts on getting rid of things, all you do is spend even more energy caught up in the very thing you are trying to throw out. At first you might start out angry about something. If you try and resist that anger, all you end up with is anger AND guilt about being angry. If you try and make a thought go away, all you end up with is a new thought: I should not be thinking about that thing (which you then immediately think about again).
It’s like those Chinese finger toys–the harder you pull, the tighter it holds you.
What you can do is develop a higher level of awareness so you can watch these thoughts and emotions arise, rather than identify with them. I think about the process of disidentification very simply. The thoughts/emotions are visitors. I stay present and watch/hear them do their thing. I keep an open heart and a grounded presence, even as I feel/experience anger, sadness, mental jumpiness, ect. I give them my full attention, but I do NOT let them live inside me and start pulling my strings. And after a while, they run out of energy. Then, I let them go.
So the idea is not to get rid of stuff. The idea is to practice operating from another level that doesn’t get caught in the drama. Actually, our thoughts and feelings can be important and valued guides. If anything, I am working towards becoming even more open to my feelings and thoughts. This helps me develop kindness towards myself and others, and grow more spacious and grounded internally.
It also helps relationships. The more deeply I allow myself to feel sadness and pain around something, the less I need to create a story about why I feel this way (he is to blame, I am to blame, she is to blame). Sadness is just sadness. Anger is just anger. Both of them are just strong energy moving through me. Just feel them without pushing them away.
If , after feeling my emotions, it seems appropriate to express them, I can do so with a clear mind, taking full ownership of what I am feeling (see my last post on non-violent communication for more about owning your emotions). People are much more receptive to you when you come from this place. As Chogyam says, you can be sane, right to the point. If you hurl your emotions at someone and say: “This is your fault!” you can’t be too surprised when they throw that ball of sh*t right back at you. If you can approach someone and say: “I felt really hurt when you did this.” then you have created a safe space for them to empathize.
So, bottom line: don’t try and get rid of your feelings and thoughts. Just work on developing a better, saner relationship with them.
What is your relationship with your emotions? Do you believe them? Do you act on them? Do you try and ignore them becuase they scare you? Or are you strong enough to let feelings move through you without getting confused?