Pitfalls on the Path: Ignoring Emotions
One thing about traveling on the spiritual path is that there is no lack in books, teachers and teachings, but not all of it is going to be helpful, and definitely not all the time. The path, I suspect, is winding, and very, very individual; the good thing is that pushing on no matter what means that every “mistake” made along the way brings a lesson–some mistakes bring several!
And while I don’t consider the time I spent as a “serious Buddhist” a mistake, I do see clearly that some of the lessons I took from it didn’t serve me the way I understood them. And that others (I provide links below) have outlined very clearly what these false lessons are: In a nutshell, you don’t completely ignore your emotions, or sweep them under the carpet even when they’re negative. Emotions can be a huge clue of What Needs to Be Tackled, Right Now, and you ignore them at your own peril.
Your Law of Attraction books tell you to focus on the positive. Buddhist teachings talk about everything being illusory and transient (although, there’s nothing like something infuriating in your midst giving you the feeling that they are not transient enough). Books that tell you to live in the moment and the now will call anger living in the past–even if the object irking you is in the present moment!
Taking all this a face value, to me, was part of the reason I spent so many confrontations as a doormat–always trying to agree, to find common ground or “consensus” (ie. to give into the other person even though I knew I was right), trying to ignore the transgressions against me, my time or my boundaries. It’s worse when I had people around me telling me the same thing because they’d read the same books or heard the same teachings. I was to find out (on Buddhist forums!) that those teachings helped very few people–at least in the way we were given to understand them. It took thinking on a subtler, clearer level to realise that emotions are part of being human, they are part of our inner guidance for what we need to do for ourselves, and once we tackle that needed action, we can release the emotions as they are no longer needed. Hiding them or ignoring emotions from the very start does not work. It just makes doormats or tools of ourselves, runs down our own sovereignty, and steals our time and energy. It takes a lot of effort to stuff down emotions that will not go away.
Emotions are transient. But the ones that come up again and again are trying to tell you something important.
I have not run into these teachings in certain spiritual traditions–I have no idea why. I can only be grateful that I expanded my own search and understanding.
Can our thoughts direct our emotions? Undoubtedly. But you still do not ignore your recurring emotions–they could well be telling you something is wrong.