This Dharma Glimpse was originally presented on 1/1/2020 as part of my participation in the Lay Ministry Program of the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism.
As a young child, I had a lot of issues processing and expressing “negative” emotions. While some of this could certainly be identified as a product of not having developed enough to process emotions in a positive or otherwise acceptable way, I tend to think that I had a more difficult time than others, falling into outbursts at times. As I got older, I learned to more skillfully take care of these emotions, and by extension, myself. Lately, I’ve been feeling really frustrated, agitated, even angry much more than usual.
I’m certain that I’m not alone with this challenge I’m facing with these emotions. We live in extremely divisive times, likely the most divisive in modern history. We may find that our values are extremely opposed by those of others, regardless of the topic in question. Through encounters – whether subtle or not – that arise out of the various current issues, what is one to do with the thoughts and feelings that arise? For a long time, I thought suppressing the anger, frustration and agitation was the best way. Now more than ever, I certainly feel that this is not the case.
I do not feel that attempts to simply suppress or “push down” our emotions are skillful in any way, shape or form. Although we might find thet this provides us some brief relief, I feel that this contributes to the likelihood of us having a greater outburst or backlash in the future, as our anger and frustration continues to build up. We might also recognize the fact that in attempting to abandon our emotions to that moment, we also seek to invalidate them, rather than seeking to treat them and ourselves in their time of need. Is this the reaction we wish to offer? Personally, I certainly don’t think so.
I feel that a challenge that all people have laid before them by religious traditions, and by extension daily life if they choose to accept it, is to learn how to effectively work with and process feelings and emotions which we might identify as being unpleasant in nature. After all, if we simply push these away, are we really striving to follow teachings such as the Eightfold Path, the path of the Bodhisattva, among others?