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Radical Happiness Blog

Being with Stressful Feelings

From From Stress to Stillness: Tools for Inner Peace: http://www.radicalhappiness.com/from-stress-to-stillness
 
In addition to investigating a particular feeling by asking yourself what you just said to yourself to create that feeling, you may need to take some time to be with a feeling to find out more about it and to calm it down. When the same types of feelings come up repeatedly, that means we need to spend some time with them.
 
Many of our feelings come from the hurt child that lives within us in our unconscious, and they come up whenever something triggers that emotional complex in the unconscious. Such feelings are healed by being with them with acceptance and curiosity, just as a good and loving parent might be with a hurt child. Without such a relationship to these feelings, they’ll continue to be triggered and are likely to be reinforced and even strengthened rather than healed, as we act them out in the usual dysfunctional ways.
 
Just as children need a patient, attentive, loving, and compassionate parent to soothe them when they are hurting, our feelings need us to listen to them patiently, compassionately, and lovingly. To heal and evolve, our feelings need us to just sit with them quietly, experience them, accept them, listen to them, and send love to them. This acceptance and receptivity toward feelings is often provided by a therapist or other healer or even a very good friend. But in many cases, we can provide this for ourselves.
 

Can Negative Emotions Be Helpful Guides in One's Life?

Someone wrote me recently and asked some very good questions about negative emotions, so I'm sharing my answer in this blogpost.
 
Question: I have some confusion about the role of negative emotions. On the one hand, it seems that negative emotions aren't good guides in life, and it is preferable to move through life from an inner wisdom, from what we could call Heart wisdom. On the other hand, so-called negative emotions seem to play an important part in my interacting with others.
 
The other day I was driving my car, and I got to a bend and suddenly felt a surge of fear, as I clearly was going a bit too fast. I listened to the fear and slowed down. I believe it was good to experience the negative emotion, as it contributed to warning me and helped with the survival of this body and character.
 
Another example is that I viewed a property to rent and left feeling uncomfortable after talking to the landlord, but I rented it anyway. Three months later, I discovered that the landlord had opened my mail, entered the property when I was absent, and was hostile. It became so distressing that I had to move. Once again, it would have been useful if I had listened to that negative emotion initially.
 
On another occasion, I didn't listen to anger when people took advantage of me. I saw anger as a negative emotion and not a good guide. Those people continued to take advantage of me. One day I allowed the anger to express itself, and I stated firmly and confidently to those people that their actions were unacceptable. Afterwards, their behaviors stopped. I expressed my needs, and the angry energy gave me strength. Of course, I had to direct the energy constructively. But the “negative emotion” was actually helpful to me.
 
I'm confused. How do I decide which negative emotion is actually helpful and which isn't? It seems to me that a negative emotion that serves me is more like a positive emotion.
 

Why Slow Is Better

With so much interest these days in mindfulness and being present, I want to put in a good word for moving slowly, for not hurrying though life. Being present is nearly impossible when we are in a hurry. Furthermore, we find that when we are present, we rarely choose to be in a hurry. Hurrying is generally motivated by the ego, by the thoughts that run through our mind. That voice pushes us to get things done asap—no matter what. The “no matter what” is the problem, because if we make life about getting things done, we are going to miss out on a lot of life.

As we hurry through our day, it’s easy to forget that being is just as important as doing, as being needs to inform our doing or life will begin to feel dry, lifeless, and joyless. If we listen solely to the egoic mind (the voice in our head), we will begin to feel like an automaton, and we will find ourselves consumed with doing things that don’t bring us joy, but only more things, more money, more power—more of what the ego wants but less of what is truly meaningful.

Slowing down our pace and just being for moments throughout our day gives us access to our true nature and its innate wisdom. Hurrying, on the other hand, keeps us tied to the ego, which barks its commands, pushes us harder, and shames us. The ego views life from a lens of fear and scarcity. It doesn’t trust life because it isn’t in touch with the truth about life. It copes with its fears and insecurities by pushing us to constantly be doing. When we are caught in the ego’s world, we can never rest and just be, and we lose touch with the deep sense that all is well.

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