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Dealing With Uncomfortable Emotions


Life brings us obstacles. That is inevitable. Some people are more sensitive than others, and some are less capable of handling the emotions that arise from the obstacles we experience. In this handout I want to offer a way to deal with uncomfortable emotions so you don't feel overwhelmed by them.

The first thing to keep in mind is that all of our emotions occur in our minds and hearts, and are not just some force from the outside. Because of this they are susceptible to how we relate to them and therefore we will experience them differently according to where our mind is at. If we cultivate our minds a certain way, that will change how we relate to uncomfortable emotions, and can allow us to change how we feel and deal with our feelings.

The first step is to let go of resistance to uncomfortable emotions. Those emotions are difficult enough as it is, but to add to it a layer of emotional resistance to them makes it even worse by denying them, suppressing them, or even trying to ignore them. We can often seek out things to drown them out like drugs or alcohol. Not resisting your emotions is the first step to coming to terms with your experience, and letting yourself become whole again.

The second step is to allow yourself to feel what you feel, to let the emotions you have to arise as they want to naturally, but to not get lost in them, or in thoughts that perpetuate it. This is done by coming to terms with the situation and cultivating a sense of knowing in your heart that despite what is happening you are still ok, and that life is ok. You can use the breath to bring yourself to that understanding within you, even use some meditation practice to cultivate this feeling of being ok, allowing yourself to console yourself.

The third step is to talk to other people who you are close to or who you trust about what you are feeling and thinking, seeking advice or consolation that will help you heal. Most of us have someone around us who is willing to listen to our troubles and offer us some comfort. Talking about our feelings allows our experience of them to be less intense, since they become shared with another mind, and therefore expand to live in the world and not just in us, freeing us of some pressure.

Uncomfortable emotions are never permanent, they go away of their own accord if we are willing to give them space in us. Finding it in us to give them space without being lost in them is the practice of mindfulness. Presence that is unbiased and allowing all things to arise is the heart of mindfulness, and if we can have the presence of mind when uncomfortable emotions arise, we can not only feel upset, but we can also feel compassion and love for ourselves and others.

Uncomfortable emotions always only arise in the context of our own thoughts, therefore our perspective on what is happening is what shapes how we react to it, and not necessarily what happens in the world. Mindfulness is the practice of mastering how we relate to our experience, so that we feel all of the fullness of life, and do not get lost when obstacles arise. It is always helpful to check ourselves to see if what we think is happening, what our perspective is, is accurate or not. Communication and understanding the situation fully is the best way to know if what you think is true is actually true and not just a projection.

Meditation and mindfulness practice allows us to recognize states of mind that do not serve us and let them go, while cultivate the states of mind that do serve us, and to know the difference. In meditation we can truly deepen our relationship with a centered place in ourselves that knows that we are complete as we are and that we are innately ok, and that life is innately ok. In mindfulness practice in our daily life we maintain a constant presence to our mind to notice when difficult emotions arise so that we can let go of resistance, attachment, craving, clinging, and avoiding, while cultivating, acceptance, forgiveness, patience, love, compassion, and surrender.

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