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spiritual essayEssay 8/2011

Emotions

 

Many western seekers spend years of their lives getting in touch their emotions. In Western industrial nations authentic emotions are basically considered to be a nuisance; related to this often one‘s connection to one‘s own roots, to one’s mother and family, is often disturbed as well. Whoever finally managed to reconnect with his emotional world, considers himself lucky. Life has become more colourful, heights are higher, depths are deeper, our responses to the ups and downs of life are direct, authentic and alive

So feelings (here synonymous with emotions) can considerably enrich life. Problems come about only if I identify with a feeling, i.e. when I am convinced that emotional stirrings area basic ingredient of myself, almost same as „me“. Then I have lost my freedom; if I think that the worry, the affection or aversion, the compassion or pleasure that I feel is more than an emotion in my mind (according to the Advaita Vedanta feelings originate in the mind), then something essential gets lost: The Latin verb movere (to move) forms the basis of the word emotion; so emotions by their very nature are constantly in motion. Therefore, we feel more alive and in a flow if we are in contact with our emotions.

What happens, however, if one identifies with an emotion? The feeling is held onto, it is "mine"; it is no longer allowed to move freely: emerge, submerge or change. Along with identification my life seizes to be in a flow. I am stuck. And usually being stuck will soon give rise to a reaction in the form of another emotion (with which I will also most probably identify).

Let’s look at it step by step namely by the example of a trivial fear.

The situation
Situation: I must take an exam and am badly prepared.
The thought: doubt whether I can pass the exam.
The feeling: fear of failing the exam.
The perception: doubt and fear.

Identification
Identification 1: I see the fear as a basic component of myself, it necessarily belongs to me.
What follows: The fear is justified, if it was not, I would not be any more who I am.
To guarantee it the right to exist, I keep my mind glued to it, I am constantly occupied with it. I imagine possible frightful scenarios that prove how justified it is (I could get the infamous examiner X, questions could be put to me about subject Y, which I did not understand at all, I will probably be completely tongue-tied, as I was at the time in Z).

I get the increasing impression that the fear does not let go me.

Reaction
Now usually a chain reaction starts:
The first reaction to identification 1 (with the fear): I suffer.
The second reaction to the first reaction (suffering): identification with the suffering („Of course I suffer, there is no other way when one is afraid that much“).
The third reaction to the second reaction: I reject the suffering
Now it really becomes complicated because once I identify with this refusal („Suffering is bad therefore I must do everything to get rid of it“), then my first both identifications get in danger („I necessarily have to be afraid and/or suffer“).
The result is a mind running amok, endlessly chasing after itself in panic.

All this gains momentum with more emotions getting involved with which I identify (fear, suffering, resistance, hot, cold, paralyzed, heart racing etc.etc.). Yet, by no means I feel in a flow; I rather feel driven before a Tsunami or totally swallowed up by it.

What then happens if I do not identify?
The situation remains the same (see above).

If I do not "catch hold" of the emotion, meaning I do not identify with it, then the emotion will do what it naturally does: move. It comes, remains a while, changes or not, goes, comes back, becomes stronger, becomes weaker etc.

And I? I notice it but as I am not identified with it, I need neither constantly keep an eye on it nor do something with/about it. It can do what it wants to do, because it is not "me", cannot possibly be „me“, because I can perceive it; it is an object of my perception, I am the subject.

The chain reaction described above does not come forth and either the emotional tsunami.

To not identify with one‘s emotions is a matter of practise. This practise is made more difficult by one fear, which we have appropriated when we laboriously reconnected with our emotions: Never ever suppress anything!

We consider our fixation to emotional states as natural. But it is as unnatural as its opposite, the denial of one‘s emotional world. Some psychologists even speak of dissociation, so that one actually might think that non-identification is a pathological reaction. It is not. I neither identify with the emerging feelings, nor do I push them away. I simply leave them alone. Then they will also leave me alone – which incidentally does not mean that they will disappear.

Obviously a person who as yet is hardly in contact with his emotional world is not ready for disidentification. After all from what should he disidentify if feelings are not yet accessible to him anyway? But for the feeling-stricken others disidentification is the key. By the way meditation is an important instrument to support disidentification.

Now, there are some people for who disidentification is easy because they have truly realized that they are not their feelings. Generally they let feelings pass through their mind like waves, therefore, neither positive nor negative emotions dwell on them for long; they are mostly in balance. In fact they do not need to dis-identify because they do not identify in the first place. Still it can happen that one or another emotion turns out to be exceptionally intense and persevering. It is nothing but an especially powerful wave, which seems to come to no end. Basically this does not place a problem, you just go on disidentifying. But for these people – and only for them – there is another option.

They can encounter such massive feelings with concentrated willpower and call a halt to them. Now, for every fairly psychologically trained person this is an absolute taboo, something, which one may never ever do. Normally this is right. However, I do not speak of the normal case. I speak of those few people who know their true nature. For all others application of willpower against their own feelings means nothing but their suppression. Not so for someone who has recognized his true Self.

He can and may distance himself sharply and unambiguously from such strong emotions. They are nothing but ancient habits. Possibly there are therapeutic or other methods with which one can bring about relief or real change. However, for those who have recognised themselves, the easiest and most rapid solution is in rigorously switching off such patterns with willpower.

Obviously this will work only if one is ready to uncompromisingly turn away from the old emotional pattern. As soon as even the slightest internal whim in the old direction makes itself felt it must be stopped right away, nip them in the bud. The key word for such a radical paradigm change is "stop".

The interesting thing is: It works like a charm! If it does not work even though one has the feeling of having unreserved determination within oneself, i.e. if one does not feel more powerful, more dignified and more clear after one has declared war on the old feeling pattern, this is a sign that the necessary condition (to have awoken to one‘s true nature) is not in place.

As mentioned, this last measure I recommend only to those who know about their true nature and even to them only in the case when an emotional pattern turns out to be extremely fierce and tough.




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