Working with Destructive Emotions

Last weekend, I attended the second residential weekend for the MSc Insight module at Samye Ling. The main focus of the weekend was working with the destructive emotions of anger and desire- and I walked away from the weekend with a whole new set of skills.

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Daniel Goleman defines destructive emotions as “those that cause harm to ourselves and to others” (p.xx). It is no large feat to figure out how anger and desire can be called destructive. However, what was interesting to see was the many other sub-emotions that cling to anger and desire. In many cases, alongside anger, I caught glimpses of frustration and disappointment; desire was accompanied by anger and jealousy. Moreover, there is an interconnection between thought arising and emotional and bodily response which affect our holistic experience. So, how do we soften around these destructive emotions that affect our whole being?

The Dalai Lama explains that “powerful antidotes exist that allow us to counter these afflictions and their underlying basis. These antidotes are qualities of mind, which implies that if you enhance and cultivate them, you can develop them further. So, if you take these premises collectively, the argument is that in principle these afflictions are removable” (p.95). These antidotes that the Dalai Lama speaks of are precisely the tools that we were given on our MSc weekend.

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When dealing with anger, it is important to activate the quality of loving-kindness. It might help to practice loving-kindness towards yourself, first. Then, see if you can bring to mind someone you love and practice loving kindness towards them. Lastly, see if you can extend this loving-kindness towards the person or situation that has fuelled your anger.

Some loving kindness phrases to repeat with hands placed on heart are:

May I be Happy, May I be well, May I be free from suffering

May you be happy, May you be well, May you be free from suffering.

For more information on loving kindness meditation: Check out our Words of Compassion Book Club blog, as we are discussing Sharon Salzberg’s book: Loving Kindness:The Revolutionary Art of Happiness.

When dealing with desire, compassion eases the suffering it can bring. Simply bring to mind someone who you care about who happens to be suffering. Breathing in their suffering and transforming it at your heart centre as you breathe out love, kindness and relief from their suffering. This is called Tonglen.

Then, bring to mind the person/object that you desire and do the same for them/it. Breathing in your own suffering and the emotions that surround desire, transform it in your heart centre and breathe out kindness, spaciousness towards the whole situation and the people within it. (MSc Handbook 2014).

For more information on how to do Tonglen see this video:

GoleMan,Daniel. Destructive Emotions and how we overcome them. London: Bloomsbury Publishing 2003.

For more information on our Insight courses see:

http://www.mindfulnessassociation.org/Courses4.aspx

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