Your Inner Thorn
There’s nothing inherently bad about feeling the “bad” emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness. I believe we’re worse off trying to avoid these emotions and labeling them as bad things that we don’t want to feel.
When we try avoiding these emotions we give them power over our life. Singer puts it well in his book The Untethered Soul with an example talking about if you had to live with a thorn in you. Imagine if you had a thorn stuck in your arm and any time anything touched it, it caused you pain, and so you decided to live your life avoiding things that would cause the thorn to hurt you.
You would have to put a hole in all of your clothes where the thorn is. You would have to always keep alert as to not bump your arm into anything. You would have to make sure to sleep in your bed the right way so you didn’t brush the thorn. Every time you went to hug your significant other you’d always be a bit distracted because you’d have to put focus into not bumping the thorn.
The other option would be to remove the thorn. It’d hurt for a bit, and then it’d be done with. I believe the thorn can be compared to our aversion of bad feelings. You can either let yourself feel sorrow, fear, anxiety, and anger, or you can choose to avoid situations that cause these feelings.
When you avoid these emotions you have to set up your whole life as not to provoke them. You’ll end up avoiding countless situations to avoid the bad emotions.
Letting Bad Emotions Pass Through You
You can instead stop averting these emotions and learn to let these emotions peacefully pass through you. I’m beginning to believe stress is caused from these emotions mostly due to our reactions to the emotions, rather than the emotions themselves.
First off, we often tend to hold onto these emotions rather than let them pass through us. When a car cuts you off on the freeway you might get pissed off initially, but the only reason you stay angry is because of how you keep thinking about it. You keep telling yourself why you didn’t deserve that, how careless they were, how they’re a complete piece of shit.
If you let yourself feel the emotion when it first struck, and moved on knowing it most likely wasn’t personal, you could have avoided the rest of that anger that you stirred up. The same goes for if you were in a breakup. You’ll have the initial sadness and heartbreak, but the dwelling on it and asking what you could have done different just brings up more sadness, making things worse for yourself.
Not only do you bring up more of the initial emotion, but you bring up a whole new wave of thoughts and emotions about why you’re feeling this way, or how you can stop feeling this way. Now you’re getting angry at feeling sadness, or stressed out because you can’t push it away. You start planning what you can do to get rid of this feeling, but focusing this much on the feeling is only going to make it worse.
The next thing you may do is try to not feel the emotion at all. You may try suppressing the emotion. Forcing it down to avoid feeling it. The difference between this, and bringing your attention elsewhere as the emotion passes through you, is that when you force it down you’re putting more time and energy into it. You’re focusing on it.
You’re trying to fight your emotions, and so you’re tensing up and bracing against these emotions. This means you’re stressing yourself out more than you would be if you just let the emotion pass through you.
Singer speaks of relaxing any time you feel these emotions. If you do this you will begin to see your emotions as what they truly are. Just shifts in the way your flow of emotions feels.
When you do this you can allow yourself to feel an unpleasant emotion, but still feel ok because you know that it’s just a change in your emotions. You know that your emotions are always flowing, changing, morphing into other emotions. It’s not going to stay there forever, and it’s not a sign that it’s the end of the world. It’s just a certain sensation occurring in you.
It may be uncomfortable to allow the feelings to pass through you, but it’s far better than stewing up more of the uncomfortable emotion. It’s far better than bringing more tension in your life. Instead you can replace that tension with peace.
This also makes your unpleasant emotions more of a force of good. Now every time you feel these emotions they become a reminder to focus on your breath. They become a reminder to relax your shoulders, and stop bracing against life.
Next time you find yourself trying to avoid a feeling just try relaxing and letting it pass through you. You may find this is the more calming of the responses you could make. Thank you for reading my post. Have a lovely day :).