Thursday, July 28, 2011

Six Questions About Emotions

In the midst of a pleasant walk through the park, something my friend said changed my mood from sweet to unpleasantly hot. I had the presence of mind to acknowledge the anger rising, and its disastrous effect on my happiness. Not good, I thought. No need to linger in this state. Quick, wise mind traced back the chain of causes and effects, down to the real culprit, inside. I had been down that road with him many, many times before, and the options were clear. To feed the anger some more with unwise thoughts, or to cool it with what would do me good. I chose the latter, with great difficulties, I must admit . . . 

When dealing with emotions, U Tejaniya suggests that we ask ourselves the following questions:

"When I am having this emotion, does it make my body and mind feel good or bad? "
In this case, bad. Nothing pleasant about having this anger.

"What is the emotion about, what is it directed towards?"
Anger had to do with expectations I had about how my friend should behave towards me. 

"Why am I having this emotion?"
'Shoulds' have a bad rap in cognitive therapy, and for a good reason. Expectations are a sure recipe for unhappiness, and its cohort of miserable emotions. Here, anger.

"Is having this emotion necessary or unnecessary?"
Unnecessary. I often think of, what if this was the moment of my last breath, would I want to spend it that way. 

"Who is angry?"
This idea of me as a person with a whole lot of baggage. Mind burdened with expectations (see above), cravings, clinging, insecurities, foolishness . . . 

"What is anger?"
A creation of the mind. Mind turning on itself, and taking the body along with a host of unpleasant sensations - shallow breath, hotness and aches in the head, tight throat, knots in stomach . . . 

If too much to remember at once, start with just the first one. It will take you far in the investigation of emotions. Nothing like finding out for ourselves what works, and what doesn't, to make the right choice.

Anger = unpleasantness = not worth clinging to.

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