Friday, May 27, 2011

The Dalai Lama - Distinguishing Between Constructive and Destructive Emotions

How Can We Overcome Them?
A Scientific Dialogue
with the Dalai Lama

narrated by Daniel Goleman
foreword by the Dalai Lama


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

Distinguishing between constructive and destructive emotions is right there to be observed in the moment when a destructive emotion arises--the calmness, the tranquility, the balance of the mind are immediately disrupted. Other emotions do not destroy equilibrium or the sense of well-being as soon as they arise, but in fact enhance it--so they would be called constructive.

Also there are emotions that are aroused by intelligence. For example, compassion can be aroused by pondering people who are suffering. When the compassion is actually experienced, it is true that the mind is somewhat disturbed, but that is more on the surface. Deep down there is a sense of confidence, and so on a deeper level there is no disturbance. A consequence of such compassion, aroused by intelligent reflection, is that the mind becomes calm.

The consequences of anger--especially its long-term effects--are that the mind is disturbed. Typically, when compassion moves from simply being a mental state to behavior, it tends to manifest in ways that are of service to others, whereas when anger goes to the point of enactment it generally, of course, becomes destructive. Even if it doesn't manifest as violence, if you have the capacity to help, you would refrain from helping. That too would be a kind of destructive emotion. (p.158)

--from Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama narrated by Daniel Goleman, foreword by the Dalai Lama

Destructive Emotions • Now at 2O% off
(Good until June 3rd).

This is good information for men - we can have a lot of trouble (either some of the time or most of the time) identifying exactly what emotion we are feeling if it's not anger. It takes practice to learn to identify our feelings, and it's helpful to know which are helpful and which are hurtful.

Which is not to say that we need to make the hurtful or harmful emotions go away (or "overcome" them as the piece above mentions) - exactly the opposite. We need to learn how to sit with them, befriend them, learn what they are trying to tell us when the come up. For example, while anger is sometimes appropriate and justified, there are many other times when we will feel angry rather than hurt or sad - because anger is more culturally acceptable for men, we sometimes (often?) use it to bury painful emotions.

But it's those painful emotions that have the power to act as our teachers - for example, I used to get angry with my girlfriend every time she told me to drive safely. When I looked into the anger, however, I realized it was about my mother.

She used to say the same thing (and 1,001 similar things) even after I was long moved-out and living on my own, and when she said it she was telling me (based on my history), "I don't trust you - I think you're going to get in trouble." It hurt me that she kept holding that expectation of me long after I had quit doing drugs, but I didn't allow myself to feel hurt back then, so I got angry. And then that same pattern picked right up in my current relationship, even though all Jami means is, "drive safe."

When we are unclear about our feelings, we tend to hurt other people who do not deserve it.

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