“Stop talking about the things that are bothering you so much.”
“Buddhism teaches us not to try to run away from suffering. You have to confront suffering. You have to look deeply into the nature of suffering in order to recognize its cause, the making of the suffering.”
— Thich Nhat Hahn
There is a tension between the two types of advice that spiritual leaders, psychologists and friends give you. Many advise you to think positive, to focus on raising your vibration, to be happy so that good things will come to you. Others tell you not to avoid sad or angry feelings, but to immerse yourself in them to keep them from building up within you.
How do you reconcile those seemingly conflicting approaches to emotions?
Let’s talk about how they are both right, both can be overdone, and what a balance might look like.
If you suppress negative feelings and don’t process the causes of those feelings, they can burst out in terrible ways. The classic example is passively accepting abuse from you boss and then going home and kicking your dog. Don’t do that.
But if you dwell long in anger, it can obscure your view of the positive, effect your behavior towards others and make it difficult to move forward and enjoy life.
Focusing on gratitude and having a positive outlook will open you up to happier experiences in life. But what happens when something makes you angry? Should you ignore it? Should you let yourself be angry for a set amount of time?
That’s a trick question, because nothing makes you angry. You can naturally become angry in response to something, but that something isn’t in control of your emotions, you are. That doesn’t mean that the feeling aren’t real or important. Anger is there to teach us something. Nonviolent Communication (NVC), developed by Marshall Rosenberg, proposes that we have feelings because needs are either being or not being met. Those feelings help us to recognize what we need. Here’s an example:
You come home from and the house is a mess. Your roommate had a party and didn’t clean up. You feel angry. Your roommate didn’t make you have that feeling — if you…