Unconscious emotions are what drive us to act in ways we later regret. We may not even realize why we acted that way something until after. Emotions that over take us can cause us to act in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others.
This is not saying emotions are bad, the issue is the unconscious part of them them propel is to do things irrationally.
Emotions when they are unconscious possess us for no rational reasons. They can quickly take over our experience and become disproportionate to the situations that provoked them.
Unfortunately, most of us have never learned how to deal with what we are feeling or thing and so we spend much of our lives without ever knowing whats going on.
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Emotion Repression & Expression
We have learned to deal with our emotions one of two ways: repressing or expressing them.
Repression means that the emotion, for example, anger, is there, but we are trying to avoid being angry.
We control it, push it down and don’t just let it slip away; instead, we drive it deeper into our unconscious minds, where it accumulates for next time.
Repression is like a poison that eats away at our soul. We become sicker and sicker until we finally explode.
Repression is like a volcano that sits beneath us, waiting to erupt. When we suppress our feelings we feed the volcano – until it explodes.
The other way that we have taught to deal with our emotions is through expression.
However, expressing and dumping these emotions onto someone else is not the answer. In fact, it is even more destructive, then repressing.
It brings great misery to us, and to anyone else who has to listen.
It creates ugly situations, which later turns into guilt as we realize how awful we acted.
From this perspective both expression and repression – both are not good for us.
If we have come to this point in our lives – we might ask.
How can I understand the nature of emotions?
Understand the unconscious
Emotions are just energies. For example, fear and love, anger and compassion, hatred and friendliness, are all two sides of the same coin. Both carry the same seed of potential creativity. It is all the same energy.
We need to learn to accept these unconscious energies, not reject them. They are a part of us; they are our energy, so to fight against them is like fighting a piece of ourselves.
When we fight, be become further divided.
Fighting is simply one part of the mind fighting with another part. Fighting with yourself, taking revenge upon yourself, being defeated by yourself – all fractured battles within different spheres of the mind.
Instead of trying to change the energy, we should learn to accept it and understand what is happening. Once we understand the mechanism, the energy is tapped and can be fuel for our life.
If we can accept anger, as it arises, it releases great passion, great bubbling raw potential.
This only happens when we are able to stop rejecting a part ourself that we do not like.
Reject anger, and you are rejecting a part of yourself. We do this because we feel it is not who I am – it doesn’t fit with the image that I have created about myself – that I am not an angry person.
However, if instead, we do not reject anything, all energy that you feel is yours. Then we have tremendous energy.
How does it work?
Acceptance is the first step. When you accept something, you stop fighting against it. You let go of your resistance.
You cannot be angry if you are aware of what is happening. The moment you are aware of you are feeling anger, you can’t really be said to be angry. You can say that you feel anger, but not “I am Angry”.
That shift is the beginning of insight.
You cannot be violent if you are aware of the violence rising inside of you. If you are aware of any of these things, then you cannot fully be them.
The act of witnessing is not judging anything that arises but simply acknowledging whatever comes.
Seeing and acknowledging what is – without judgment is an art form.
Meditation allows us to access dimensions of ourselves which are beyond our minds. To see with awareness, we can let go of judgment and we can experience life from a different perspective.
Can Meditation help?
Meditation allows you to observe the workings of the unconscious mind objectively.
It gives us the opportunity to understand our subconscious energies – how they work and what their functions are.
If we can really watch all the different ways the mind moves, whether it is greed, lust, power – one day we will find that they are not there. They have no other reality outside of the unconscious part of you. Once we shine the light of awareness onto them – they disappear.
Meditation is needed because we usually don’t want to look at our own reality. Acceptance means acknowledging that something is true, even if you don’t like it.
Anger is there, and you can see it. You watch it, without naming or judging. If you can watch it then it can no longer take you.
If you see the world through the eyes of anger everyone becomes an enemy. When you see the world through eyes of love, everything is heaven. When you hate everything is hell.
It is all about what you think. You are your thoughts projected onto the world - If you are not aware of whats happening.
If we understand anger, we can harness its power. Anger is great energy. If you do not understand that, then you become mad.
But the sensation of it, the pure raw emotion is a great possibility.
Anger depends on your cooperation. In observing, in allowing yourself to be the anger, it is broken; you are no more supporting it.
Without your complicity, nothing can remain. As difficult as it is to accept, we are our own reason why we feel pain. We are the cause.
It is easy to begin to blame others, as it is easier to blame an outside agent for your own misery. Any emotion you feel is caused because we are attached to it in some way.
The moment you bring your attention to it, nothing can stay. Like the movement of water along a stream, the thought, feeling, and emotion can not stay.
Annica, (impermanence) as the Buddha called it.
If we begin to accept our current situation and not try and get out of it – because all ways of getting out of something is a rejection, a pushing away – is the moment that we can actually be attentive to what we are experiencing.
Our continual avoidance of what we are experiencing happens in subtle ways. We always wish to make it better, more pleasant, not as painful and in doing so we only perpetuate the experience because we give it more life – by the simple fact that we wish it to be something else.
The story never ends. The only way to break the cycle is to bring your attention to whatever it is that is there. Have you noticed that the moment you look intimately at something, everything begins to fade.
In that moment, attention becomes attentive. Attention needs no object to exist. This becomes noticeable the moment we bring our attention to the tip of the pencil, or the movement of the ladybug on a blade of grass.
Yes, we are aware of the object in front of us, but in that moment, we may begin to see intimations of something else.
That something else is awareness. That quiet screen in which all phenomena appear.
Get to the root of things
We often want to do away with what we don’t like. We don’t like anger, and when it arises, we feel it shouldn’t be there, or we wish we were peaceful. In order to go beyond that emotion, we must understand what is actually happening.
We must get to the root cause of anger.
People want to drop anger, without understanding that they are wanting to drop a symptom – anger is only a symptom.
One never gets over a symptom by addressing the symptom, you must come to the cause. You must find the cause.
The cause is always in plain sight.
The desire/aversion you have for that object is always the issue. It is never the object’s fault. It has never done anything.
We blame the object as if it is the cause of our frustration. But it’s not the object’s fault – it’s the subjects’.
The subject is the only one with the problem. Whenever there is a problem, it’s because something came up that isn’t what the subject wants; find the subject and there is no more problem.
The subject is always the one that has its opinions about the anger. It will tell you a hundred and one stories about the anger, where it came from, what it’s doing, why its justified, but all of that is just a reaction of the anger itself.
There are no two things here really. There is no anger outside of your feelings for it.
In other words, your reaction to your own feelings is the cause of anger – not the object.
You are the cause.
What to do about it?
When it the midst of a storm, never take any action when the negative emotion is possessing you; just wait.
Don’t act when anger has taken over, as you will create a chain of reactions to which there will be no end. Anger begets more of itself.
Anger can also be a great opportunity. It is great energy. That same energy can destroy and can be creative.
This is not repressing the negative, but just watching it. There is a big difference.
It’s also not about ignoring it. It’s not about needing to force a smile when you are angry.
It’s all about understanding.
Anger, comes and goes, unhappiness comes and goes. Everything changes, all the time, with nothing remaining the same.
Anger has come – it will be going. Just wait.
Don’t force; wait for it to come down on its own.
This is the secret, this is the true alchemy, the true transformation of lead into gold.
Where poison becomes nectar.
That is what the ancients called it amrita.
Transforming your poisons into nectar. Changing your greed, anger, or fear – into the base metal. The same thing that was once your disease becomes your medicine.
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Jake is a yoga and meditation teacher. He loves stream-of-consciousness writing, good coffee, and a quiet mind. Not necessarily in that order. You can find him pursuing that wherever he goes.