Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Identifying emotions

I have been intermittently reading a book on Buddhism written by an American Buddhist woman. I find it to be very heavy reading, so I end up putting it down periodically and going for something lighter. I am enjoying the process of thinking differently about several key concepts about life and religion. Something the author talks about is insight meditation. This is the process by which the practitioner questions the emotions they experience. Similar to the dream interpretation techniques I've learned recently, I would identify that I feel angry, then ask myself "what is anger?" and follow the answers to a root motivator.

Because of the way my mom raised me, and all the therapy I've had in my life, I feel like I'm very well in touch with my emotions; I don't question my feelings. If I'm angry or sad or depressed, I generally operate under the assumption that I have a right to be so and that those emotions make sense based on what is happening to and around me. As such, this exercise felt a little silly to me when I first read about it. After indulging it a few times, however, it started to change the way I think about my emotions, to question the right-ness or validity of what I'm feeling. I think by just accepting the feelings I have without delving deeper into them, I'm missing out on opportunities to get to know myself better, and possibly change unenlightened behaviour.

With this practice I have been able to identify some of the wasteful emotions I have. Anger at traffic, for example, seems to take a lot of my energy. When I really stop and think about it this is the single stupidest emotion I have. Being so angry at traffic tends to put me in a bad mood. I'm working on identifying a few key things about the emotions I have: what purpose they serve me, whether or not they are 'productive', how they affect others around me.

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