The Taboo of Emotion and The Charity of Knowing Your Own Okay-ness.

Let us face ourselves and extend a hand to our brother or sister, our children, our parents, our neighbor. We’re all getting through this human experience together.

I was writing this as a response to a post that I saw from a favorite lecturer of mine on the rejection of so-called negative emotions within the American culture and the contribution of that towards what we call mental illness. The article I was responding to somehow disappeared and all I’m left with now is what I wrote about it. So, I’ll continue:

Based on my own observations, I do think it’s true, generally, that we really don’t know what to do with our own emotions, much less what we see reflected in others. Certainly this contributes in major ways towards pathologies in this fragile state of humanity.  If deep emotional pain hasn’t yet been resolved for yourself, in some way, then there’s no room for it when it’s seen in another. Then what tends to happen is identification with the pain, or rejection of it. Usually this pertains to emotions like fear, shame, anger, etc. which we tend to call negative because they can feel uncomfortable in the body. Our natural response is a desire to get rid of it.  That seems logical, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t work that way, because as it has been said, what you resist persists.

Rejections of emotions = fear of discomfort. Or, fear about what it means about “me”.  Am I weak? Am I crazy?  Am I unlovable?
Discomfort is a sensation in the body. A sensation. A physiological response. When you come into contact with this, something that keeps coming back and trying to get your attention——

What do I do? We always just want to know what to do about a situation that doesn’t feel good. But, what if we don’t know? What if the answer isn’t clear? And, what if the best thing is just not to know? Could that be? And maybe it’s even okay (depending on circumstances) to just not do anything for a little while. Can it be allowed to be just as it is, nameless, in whatever form or sensation that it comes? Is it possible to stay with the raw sensation / experience as closely as possible without divulging into thinking or trying to escape into habitual activities? Maybe all it’s asking for is a little loving kindness, a little space where it can be allowed its existence, and perhaps be held in your presence… for however long that takes, as often as that takes…. and then notice how it disappear all on its own into nothingness. Notice what remains unchanged.  The space that once held the raw emotion still remains. You still are. Just as you always have been.

Just allowing something to be just as it is helps so much to dissolve the ‘energy field’ of hurt and emotional pain which has accumulated from the past, and unchain your tender heart as it is meant to be. When, for whatever reason, we are unable to allow this process of dissolving through meeting the discomfort, we become unstable emotionally.  When we are emotionally unstable it is much more likely for us to be reactive to our environment. Things are more easily mis-interpreted through that pain and we often experience living our lives in a victim kind of mentality, which is essentially living life through an experience of unresolved past pain.

There’s always going to be work to do. And we’ll probably do it over and over again. But this first step can sometimes be the only one that we need. It’s the practice of true compassion, true self-empathy and caring that we so need. When you can do this for yourself, you can the offer it to someone else. You won’t need to change or fix them. You’ll be able to hear their story, and see beyond it. And that’s true giving, because you’re able to see clearly – not through feeling sorry-for someone or false empathy. You’ll be able to offer your own certainty of their okay-ness until they can find it within themselves. In this case, the more your give yourself, the more you’ll be able to give to others. And, in my opinion, that’s just about as charitable as any one of us can ever hope to be.