What do you do with negative feelings?
These feelings chew away slowly at the inside of my stomach. I mean, how is it that the cruelty and animosity toward Muslims in India is getting more and more normalized every day, and we can’t do anything about it? This feeling of helplessness affects the whole body – head to toe.
What about jealousy? That’s a common one, right? Jealousy is mostly a mild discomfort in the stomach – like you ate something a bit weird, but not bad enough for you to actually fall ill.
Anger? This one is mostly in the face. It’s a red flame burning up your cheeks and face from the inside. Also, the airflow is a bit restricted and your breathing is forced and a bit painful. If you don’t breathe, you suffocate. But when you’re angry, you’re suffocating anyway.
The weight of the world is also a negative feeling, if you think about it. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s those days when you wake up and waking up is a pain because it feels like someone’s applying a small, but significant force pushing you down. Walking is a pain because it feels like either there’s a chain around your leg, or you’ve gained five kilograms while sleeping.
And so on, and so forth. Negative feelings come in all these shapes and sizes, so we should know how to deal with them.
Well, one way forward is to disassociate yourself from the feeling. There are now two yous. One is feeling the feeling, and one is watching that one. One of Buddha’s first teachings was that you should do this for all feelings, not just negative ones. But it’s most useful for the negative ones, I guess.
Another way is to see whether the negative feeling actually is useful. What purpose does it serve? If you’re angry with work, and it stops you from doing everything else as well, what is the point? If you’re jealous, and so you find yourself stiff and sick, wouldn’t you be more productive if you just stopped being jealous? This way, if you’re the kind that your anger drives you to awesomeness, you can use it.
Neither of things is easy. The meditation way is very good, but very hard. This detachment is also a bit disturbing. If there are two of you, are you even feeling your feelings, or are you an anthropologist studying yourself? The utilitarian view of emotions is interesting, but…it makes you a robot.
The third way is to give in. Feel the feeling. Accept that the weight is too heavy. Accept that the anger is too much. Accept that your stomach hurts so much that you can’t eat. Feel the feeling, and feel it fully.
God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference between the times when I can do one of the first two, and when I have to give in.