Both/and of emotions

This is something I read recently which I’ve found really helpful so wanted to share in case anyone else finds it helpful.

From Rob Burbea’s ‘Seeing that frees: meditations on emptiness and dependent arising’.

I feel like this particular aspect is an insight which would correlate with the green stage - holding multiple things simultaneously. And with that I wonder if maybe people can’t have true emotional stability until their emotional line is at stage green - because at amber there would be a suppression of emotion to fit in with the group, and at orange there might be suppression to get on with being ‘someone’ in the world and achieving (and suppression is really not a good form of emotion regulation; there’s also reappraisal which is said to be healthier, and I think that this can be very helpful, but I think it can also be a potential form of suppression of certain aspects), or there might be an embrace of all one’s emotions as a celebration of individuality, but one at a time which could lead to emotional extremes.

Actually, I would say this is an integral insight, as there’s also a prioritisation on the difficult emotions when they need it while holding them all simultaneously.

But still, I think that green aspect of being able to hold them all simultaneously is extremely helpful for emotional regulation.

I love the idea to “hold simultaneously” and to “play” with all of it. This should get us out of the purely intellectual space of trying to “figure it out” and “rationalize” everything.
It doesn’t matter if it’s okay, or not, to be happy, sad, angry, joyful, depressed, scared, bold, brash, meek, judgmental, forgiving. This IS what I think it’s like to enjoy the human condition :slight_smile: In my experience everyone is peddling their bicycle of life as fast as they can - this is what “doing our best” looks like at the moment.

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I love this dialog and agree with you and @FermentedAgave. :slight_smile: I’d like to weigh in with my spiritual tint. I think all internal sensations of emotions are what I call the spiritual quest. I liken the internal quest to exploring in the woods or the forest. We feel/see all the diversity, all the majestic power and the tiny little things of beauty … we can feel/look at the whole of it internally like a lush valley of green just begging us to explore.

As we explore within with focused attention we discover a vast place of feeling experiences. There are items of danger that can trigger fears, like large animals hunting prey or slipping near the edge of a cliff.

We see the vast beauty of the green foliage … but up close we see the majority are little plants struggling to hold onto life through their shallow root system, yet they are the lucky few seeds of millions that have been blessed with a life force that birthed them into existence.

An up close examination shows a life of struggle for every part of vegetative life … competing with other rooted plants to keep hold of it’s tiny piece of earth. Each plant always looking up for a piece of sunlight as it’s reward … perhaps a few will advance to germinate and flower in an array of glory.

There is majestic beauty and a balance that creates a wholeness that it is utterly amazing from the “both/and” view of the whole. In our inner spiritual space we have flowing through our DNA a conscious biological rhythm … inside ourselves we discover that we are the entire forest and we can experience every little piece of the tapestry of life.

We feel it all … is it unjust and unfair as a place of evil unequal outcomes where everything suffers? Can we feel/see/experience it all with a spiritual holistic view of love, joy and happiness? We can see all the individual parts of struggle and feel the suffering or we can love it all from the holistic realization that this is “ALL there is” … we feel/experience it ALL minute by minute as we connect to it consciously.

My conclusion … we can experience life from the dark view below or we can reach for the majestic light and attain the view from above to enjoy the journey with amazement and a love for all of life. :slight_smile:

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@excecutive, beautifully written. I really like the nature imagery and the spiritual view regarding it.

I would add the both/and again to this last part - not excluding any of it - including all wholes and all individual holons, including within that ‘dark view below’.

Utilising the zones to describe this - from the view above we can observe the external (from zone 6), but it’s from being within the forest below that we can observe the internal (zone 5), though the internal can be observed while infused with the light from above, and it’s also possible to view both zone 6 and 5 simultaneously.

Edit: meant zone 6 rather than 4 and 5 rather than 3 - changed in text.

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@FermentedAgave, agreed :slight_smile:

I like this. And then also people might want to take some breaks along the way and have picnics, and feel like they don’t need to do their best anymore.

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You are right on in your descriptions and in understanding the mapping. A deeper thought I invite you to entertain. A really deep question to contemplate and analyze. Think about this deeply.

Is there really anything external in our reality or is everything internally subjective? Meaning if your eyes do not receive light and bring it inside for analysis is there anything to see? Same applies to hearing anything without ear drums to deliver the sensory input internally?

It’s only inside of you … that you are interrupting data that comes inside of your consciousness, which is where exactly?

Hhhmmm think about that for a while and please share your insights as you’re so inclined. ~ Peace :slight_smile:

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I honestly think modern humans need to take a week or two off every year and engage their “sadness”. We might call it a “purge” or we might call it something else more glossy.

I think in preindustrual societies in temperate zones this was taken care of by winter and being indoors in darkness for several months every year. Many Tropical cultures have various purging rituals.

I think many people have a fear that they might get “stuck” in negative emotions and sadness, or they have other reasons to fear engaging those emotions.

But I think allowing and accepting those emotions and establishing a place and time for them allows us to later rejoin our lives with a renewed sense of freedom and strength.

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I agree although I think it’s also important to do so in a way which will help, and be aware of potential dangers, though perhaps engaging all the emotions will always inevitably be helpful in the end.

I used to be all about catharsis and the idea that engaging negative emotions as fully as possible was very helpful, and I still do to an extent. But there’ve also been studies in psychology that show that falling into these negative emotions fully actually means it’s more likely you’ll feel them again in the future - also because of the strengthening of their corresponding neural pathways - and as Aristotle said “we become harpists by playing the harp”.

However, I also believe that emotions do get stuck, or their corresponding memories filed in a swampy and visual way in the brain rather than filed properly (paraphrasing ptsd theory), and that revisiting them can enable them to be processed and then stored in a more logical way - also moved from the unconscious to the conscious (psychoanalytic theory).

Then within vipassana theory, it’s said that when revisiting the emotions they should be felt while having a view of equanimity, because that’s what will process and release them, and without the equanimity the sankharas (volitions) will multiply.

There’s also been research finding that people can become addicted to sadness, including listening to sad music, I think partly because we have a need for congruence, having things that match our feelings and views, and that stepping away from suddenly can be quite jarring/pretending to be happy can be exhausting and has a feeling of not being true to the authentic self. I think without the right tools or strength of mind it can be very easy to get stuck in sadness, but with the right tools, or strength of mind, or support from therapists, tribal rituals etc. visiting all these emotions can be incredibly helpful and unifying.

People talk of dark nights of the soul, or their therapeutic journeys, or many such things, and of course that they are by no means easy processes, but I agree that people come out the other side far stronger and healthier.

Thanks @Julia248 you’re absolutely right on with that comment. We can enjoy life on our terms with ownership of our identity.

Just like our blood circulates and our digestion system functions our thoughts too run on autopilot. Our thoughts are not reality … they’re just descriptions of our reality and our thoughts are running endlessly day and night. While we often see our thoughts as who we are … they‘re not. We are the awareness behind our thoughts.

Spirituality is an internal thing. It’s deep inside of you beyond your thinking … including prayers which are just more words. When you can go deep inside to a place where you watch yourself think and watch how your thoughts can effect how you feel. This is the spiritual dive that’s deeper and more healing than all the information you can accumulate in a life time of exploring through books. ~ Peace :slight_smile:

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I think one of the issues with me is that I don’t actually think psychologists understand emotions as well as they want to think. (Yes, that’s a bold statement, lol). I don’t think we have a word in English for an emotion that is covered up except “shadow”. If a person takes antidepressants, they no longer feel that emotion in a measurable way - but it doesn’t really disappear. Psychologists will prescribe antidepressants left and right to everyone and people might think it’s ignorant of me to question if that’s doing more harm than good. Maybe if the person is suicidal or trying to harm themselves or others I agree it’s better than not giving them medication, but in most cases it’s my opinion that the person is still experiencing the negative emotion of sadness, but just the symptoms are covered up.
I think in a lot of psychological studies and conclusions there is a strong confirmation bias and they make conclusions that are not actually scientific in the same way physical science requires proof.
Or maybe that’s just my own story I’m making up about psychologists as an excuse why I don’t want to work for 3 years and spend another $75k for yet another Masters Degree (Clinical Psychology).
I think the Vipassana theory has logical and experiential validity that many “spiritual” theories express in various ways. (Ekharte Tolle’s “Observer”, etc)

I’m curious about this and if addiction is an accurate word. I’ve spent a period of several months reveling in sadness and sucking the marrow out of it, but that was after 40 years of denying it existed at all. In other people I often observe it as an effect of a cause, and they might be addicted to the cause such as “I’m not enough”, feeling out of control or disempowered, or similar - sadness is the effect of those habitual lines of thinking.

I have this idea that a dark night of the soul is the faster but riskier way to achieve a similar state as lets say several years of a more guided and cautious approach (such as Vipassana you mention). I see this as a collective experience as well, where failure to do consistent “work” (showing up) can lead to an “unwinding” period and then to a “crisis” that the individual or collective might or might not “solve” to move on to a higher state.
On the other side, I see many individuals and collectives have a kind of fear of sadness, and they create judgements about it.

This is a good question and one I’ve thought about occasionally. I kind of think if we believe that nothing outside our consciousness is real, that can be like solipsism, which seems to me like it could lead to a lack of care about people (potentially, not necessarily), if they’re only figments of our imagination. I’m not sure how I would feel if the world wasn’t real and it was only me, unless I was in connection with everything else and then I feel like nothing would be lost, only more would be there. I kind of think everything is real and not real at the same time, and also neither of those things are true. I really like the heart sutra and the diamond in relation to this. “Emptiness is none other than form and form is none other than emptiness” - the heart sutra. This was the first thing I read that really described how I feel reality to be.

There’s also the possibility that subjectivity is the illusion and in fact you are not real.
People often call this the “Ego” or whatever and the idea is that this “me” perspective is what is the illusion.
Edit / add: Part of this illusion is also judgements about positive / negative, good / evil, and relativism. Perspective is an illusion in this line of thought because there is no me to have a perspective.

I agree. I’m not a fan of just giving people antidepressants. They’re also given for anxiety though they’ve been studies showing that people with anxiety actually have far higher levels of serotonin on average (what antidepressants block the reuptake of so increase the amount in the system). I agree that one shouldn’t take every finding from studies at face value. I think there’s also a danger of people thinking psychology is THE authority on the human psyche, because the science can be flawed, and science can be flawed in general. But when it’s in regards to human emotions, the mind, society in general, believing something has the authority on a subject can be extremely dangerous.

I’d say both can be true. You could say revelling and sucking the marrow from sadness could also happen in addiction. I have experienced addictions to sadness, as it’s such an overwhelming emotion which can be beautiful. I also spent years numbing myself, with my mind rather than medication, and when I got to a period of embracing all my emotions again it was incredibly freeing and enriching.

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A beautiful song about shadows

That’s fear and that’s not what I am advocating. Confirmation bias is a sound science … we search outside resources to validate our views or confirm our fears. I am suggesting the opposite.

What I suggest as the spiritual quest … is to discover that it is “exclusively” inside ourselves that we define our external world and that everything needed to fix it is under our direct control to manage.

When we discover our own internal higher/deeper perspective, it paints the external world with love and light … leading us to care deeply for it because it is actually directly tied to us or we to it. ~ Peace :slight_smile:

@excecutive, I do agree our perspectives colour the world around us, and benign tree branches on a dark night could seem terrifying if viewing them in a state of fear, but in a state of bravery could seem completely fine, or a sunset that could seem ordinary in a bored state of mind could seem enchanted if viewing it after a period of meditation or in a state of peace.

I agree. I guess this is a similar way of saying everything is us and we are everything. But I think what you are describing would be being the observer witnessing the painting, and what I am describing would be looking from the perspectives of everything within the painting as well, and I think both are equally valid, and people can prefer or have more of a knack for one over the other.

I really like Ken Wilber’s descriptions of these in Religion of Tomorrow and would recommend this book in case you haven’t read it.

Edit: I guess the only problem would be if thinking everything outside you didn’t really exist would be if you viewed it in a state of fear or anger etc, whereas if you think it is real, you’re still likely to care about it even if you are scared or angry, and this is probably the original reason this kind of view had a bad reputation.

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Bingo! The entire picture and every actor in it exist inside of you … as well as outside too!

Exactly!! :slight_smile: … or whatever else you decide. You are ultimately experiencing everything within yourself. All the data that enters your conscious awareness is only through your five senses from an outside world that you experience exclusively inside interrupting it to your satisfaction or dissatisfaction or any combination you choose.