Emotions are disparaged in today’s world. Most ‘friends’ don’t divulge their innermost callings, their innermost fears, their intimate secrets, their pains, their trials and the dark recesses of their minds. Most so called friendships are shallow and superficial – sharing only self aggrandizing news ‘I bought a new phone’ or ‘I won a scholarship’ and so on. Or conversations descend to talking about others or discussions around the latest trends on social media. This per se isn’t bad and certainly has a place in our society. However, when most so called friendships descend to this plane of engagement, it is indeed a worry. We hide our emotions, especially the negative ones. And the positive one’s are usually restricted to excitement. Very few of us have the ability to beam in radiant peace and serenity with a good friend – not talking excitedly about ourselves. We have learned to hide even the beautiful positive emotions.
Why do we hide our emotions? Because we are afraid of vulnerability. Why are we afraid of being vulnerable to our closest people? Because we fear of being ‘misused’ – we fear being judged as bad. In order to be vulnerable we need a person who can give us the space to be ourselves – to be non-judgemental. And very few people have this ability. Often when we open up to people with our intimate problems – we are immediately given solutions. People have a tendency to quickly dismiss our feelings and solve our problem. The intention is good, but the delivery – poor.
As we have seen earlier emotions are critical to know ourselves. People who run away from emotions never find peace and joy in life. We need to feel our emotions because we need to develop the ability to be sensitive. Feeling all emotions on either side of the spectrum sharpens our sensitivity. And only through sensitivity comes the ability to appreciate love, beauty and truth. This triumvirate – Truth, Love and Beauty in ancient Indian parlance is called Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram. Love is our reality in feeling terms. When the same reality is expressed through our senses it becomes beauty. When this reality assumes the form of our intellect or our mind, it becomes truth. Therefore truth from the mind, beauty from the senses and love from the heart. These three aspects are among the highest achievements of being human. And the path to this is sensitivity.
In order for us to be sensitive, we must first learn to be sensitive to our emotions. Many people are afraid to look within and therefore they engage themselves in constant busyness. Observe yourself and see if you are using work, drugs, entertainment, friends, social media or anything compulsively. If yes, you are in all probability running away from feeling your emotions. The first step is to inculcate the courage to sit with our emotions in a non-judgemental manner. We need to learn to accept them and feeling their vibrations in the body. It may be unbearable, but we must push on, realizing that no feeling is unbearable. In all probability, a stomach cramp feels worse than a feeling.
Why then do feelings feel so bad? This is largely because of the mental train of thoughts that we have developed around the feeling. The minute we feel some squirming in us, the mind goes into overdrive, “Oh my god, this is terrible” or “How can such and such a person do this to me”. This mental commentary is the mind’s way of resolving the feeling. In reality, though, this only adds fuel to the fire – it perpetuates the emotion. When we get stuck in the mental train of thought, the stories and the ‘poor me’ rhetoric around the feeling, then this we call sentimentality. Sentimentality is not the same as being emotional. Emotions are healthy and make us human. Sentimentality, is a dysfunction of the mind. Sentimental people are often very quickly overwhelmed by their feelings. Such people are well-meaning and sensitive, but the majority of their focus and attention is on the story of ‘poor me’ as opposed to abiding in the raw emotion.
Both these extremes must be eschewed. Avoiding feelings makes us shallow, fleeting, overly logical, angry, irritable, indifferent to others needs and generally irascible. Drowning in sentimentality makes us stuck, inactive, unable to progress in life, depressed and negative. The middle path is that of being sensitive and aware. Becoming aware of our feelings is a doorway to knowing ourselves as the epicentre of peace and joy. When we turn our attention to our feelings and become a silent observer, we develop the ability to observe without getting embroiled in the content of our mind. This witnessing consciousness is the doorway to truth, beauty and love – something most of us are yearning for.
Therefore begin by making it a practice of sitting down with yourself. Sometimes when you felt a pang of emotion in your chest or your stomach, observe it. Perhaps it was in reaction to what somebody said or some happening at work or something in the family. This emotion has its impact in us, although we may not recognize it at that moment. Make it a practice to sit quietly at the end of the day and go through all the unresolved feelings. Replay the highlights of the day in your head. The events with the greatest emotional impact will automatically resurface. Give it loving attention, without partaking in any stories that the mind would want to create. Just be the space for your emotions. This helps us ground ourselves. It helps us understand that we are not just our emotions, but we are essentially that which can observe them. Only this way, we develop the courage to face the emotions and use them effectively – as survival tools – as subtle indicators from the external world.