Most of our emotions can be traced back to two fundamental emotions – Joy and Sorrow OR Happiness and Sadness. Joy or Happiness is a feeling of expansion within us – this brings in the sensation of growth and well-being. Sorrow or Sadness is a feeling of contraction – a crushing feeling that brings us the sensation that we are getting diminished. So what is the thing in us that expands and contracts?
This is the ego. The ego is the false identification of “Me” with something that is not. What do we mean by this? Let’s take an example: let’s say that someone you are close to says something nasty about you. We immediately feel hurt. That means we automatically take their words or their action to be true and our sense of self diminishes. This is sadness. Rationally, how can someone’s opinion, words, actions or lack of the above reduce us in any way? They can’t. And this is the illusion. The same goes with happiness. We feel that someone or something externally can complete us, can make us grow. This is the feeling that couples have in love, or the feeling one gets when we obtain a valuable possession – a fancy car or a house. This increase and decrease of the sense of our self is the ego. We can imagine it as a ballon – growing and collapsing based on external people, events and situations.
But we can become aware of this underlying ego balloon. We can observe it. We can pay attention to it. And this is the beginning of self-awareness. When we can observe this expansion or crushing feeling in us – without judging, without blaming, without analysis, without any stories in the head – then we begin to gain perspective. The emotions are there and we are present fully. It isn’t as though the emotions completely disappear. On the contrary, since we are paying attention to it, they appear stronger. We truly feel them.
What most of us do, whenever we feel sad, or happy – is that we begin to attribute it to an external cause. Let’s take sadness. Something external triggers our sadness, which is already present within us. Let us say this is someone we love. The behave in a manner contrary to our expectations. This causes sadness. But the mind starts crafting stories around the event. “Oh. How can this person do such a thing?” or “See. Such a selfish person. Always thinking of himself” or “This is clearly due to poor upbringing” and so on. These stories, then detract us from facing our emotions directly. And then, sadness begins to ferment into irritability and then into anger. Why are some people always angry and on the edge? That is because they have deep wounds that have not been attended to. They have allowed sadness to ferment into anger. In fact, most people who get angry very quickly are deeply sensitive people – but they bury their emotions. This non addressal of sadness over time becomes a ticking time bomb and erupts as anger.
The same goes with joy. Some people do not express joy spontaneously. They mentalize it. It becomes “Oh my god!”. This is a form of excitement and not pure joy. This is aided by mass television and media that thrives on exaggerated display of emotions to grab people’s attention. When joy is not felt as joy, it ferments and becomes a peculiar form of heightened excitement. The kind you see in award ceremonies – where the joy becomes so great that the person is unable to bear the excitement and collapses in tears. This is no joy. This again is a volcano of suppressed emotions.
It isn’t as though these people are bad or this mode of expression needs to be condoned. No. We need to use this awareness to introspect and not use it as a label machine to judge others. Observe yourself. Are we addressing the root cause of our emotions? Are we being kind to them? Are we sitting with sorrow – patiently, with full acceptance and love? Are we experiencing joy in the full depth? Such an attitude requires vulnerability, which is the ability to sit naked, exposed to the emotion – to what we are feeling in the moment. This is true courage. Vulnerability is true courage. This makes a person honest and displays integrity of personality.
So, let us all learn to be vulnerable to ourselves. Be kind to our hearts, our mind. Let joy remain as joy. Let sadness remain sadness. And let us stay in the centre, observing all that comes and goes. This is the way to peace. This is the way to enlightenment.