Negative emotions are not bad. There is actually no such thing as a bad emotion. Emotions are all just sensations that course through our body. We judge things in our mind. Our ego says something is bad and our thoughts cloud the truth.
The solution to dealing with negative emotions is to fully feel the emotion. This is counterintuitive. Like most things having to do with psychological or spiritual development, we often have to do things that are counterintuitive.
Why is it counterintuitive to let the negative emotions wash over us? Because we don’t want to be vulnerable. We think this somehow makes us weak and exposes us to danger/hurt, when in fact the opposite is true. It’s hard for our ego to see this, though. The ego wants to feel pleasant and good. We’ve spent most of our lives allowing our ego to control things.
We have to start to become okay with allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This doesn’t make you small or weak. In our past we may have opened ourselves up and been vulnerable and gotten hurt. So, we put up shields and erected defenses. However, these defenses are all a sham. It seems like they protect us, but they actually just weigh us down. Do we need these defenses to protect us? No. The truth is that we are vulnerable. No matter how many defenses we put up, we’re still vulnerable. We can get hurt and can even die. Those are the stakes of life.
So how do we allow all emotions to move through us without resistance?
Here’s the process:
- Sit upright in your seat.
- Conjure up whatever emotion you’re trying to work with.
Say it’s betrayal. Someone lied to you and you felt betrayed.
- Relax your body. Take some deep breaths.
- Get in to the present moment. Get in touch with all of your senses right now.
- Connect with your body. Feel into your body and feel where that negative emotion is. Feel how it feels. Is there a tingling sensation in your belly? A warm ball in your chest? A tightness in your throat? Just notice it.
- Fully feel what is there. Allow it. Open to it and fully feel it. Let it in. Even welcome it. Give it permission to expand. Open the gate and keep it open.
- Observe with curiosity what’s flowing through your body. Without judging it or labeling it, just observe it and be curious. What does hurt feel like? Notice it but don’t get into a story about it.
You’re so used to resisting that it will be hard to keep the gate open. It’ll close without you even realizing it, so keep allowing, welcoming.
- The final step is to do nothing. Just sit there and do nothing. Just continue to sit and allow.
Our job is not to play defense, but to become a superconductor. Just like a wire that conducts energy. Instead of resisting negative emotions, open yourself up and allow the energy to pass through you without resistance.
The ego has difficulty being a superconductor. It likes to be in control. But to be a superconductor is a passive role. Just sit and be. Allow the emotion to move through you.
When we get a little taste of any negative emotion, our ego has many types of reactions - it wants to deny, distract, hide, suppress, suck it up - tense up all our muscles and hold it in. That resistance is what actually causes all of our suffering.
When we let down our guard, we think it’s going to hurt, but the hurt comes because we hold back. Negative emotions usually come in waves. The event happens, you feel hurt, and then it will subside for a bit. Then, you think about it again and it returns. Whenever one of these waves comes, sit and allow.
If you’re suffering a negative emotion, it’s because you’re resisting it. That’s why it’s important to relax all the muscles in your body during this process. Relax your shoulders. Relax your jaw. Relax your hands. Take deep, full breaths.
We’re not going to get rid of negative emotions. Suffering is caused by resisting the present moment and going into our mind. Into fairytale land. Mindfulness is staying in the present moment - being aware of all sensations - all our senses.
By examining emotions with curiosity, you’ll see that you don’t have to label emotions. Notice that they are just sensations. When the fairytales of our mind call things “bad”, that’s just a thought, and not actually true. Think about it - the feeling of hurt does not actually hurt you. It’s just a bodily sensation. What causes pain is the resistance to those sensations, and the things our mind tells us about them. If you notice pain from an emotion, that should remind you that you must be resisting it.
Time will pass and you’ll forget. Something else will happen and your body will tense up and resist, because that’s what it’s done for years. That’s why it’s a practice. Just try to remember next time and keep practicing. Let me know how it goes!
I write about human behavior, meditation, body awareness, and a variety of other things that pique my interest.