How to avoid unhealthy reactions to unwanted emotions
Suppose we experience a craving that runs contrary to the principles we hold sacred. Faced with this unwanted emotion, we may react by becoming judgmental toward ourselves; we may affix on ourselves negative labels such as weak-willed, hopeless or hypocritical. However, these labels may just burden us with guilt without actually helping us decrease or prevent those emotions.
Gita wisdom recommends a more understanding attitude toward ourselves. The Bhagavad-gita (05.23) reminds us that as long as we have a physical body, we are prone to desire and anger — we need to tolerate their presence, learning to live with them without living for them.
How can we develop such tolerance? By seeking to understand the cause of those unwanted emotions. What made us feel that craving? Was it because we were exposed to something highly provocative? If yes, then we can plan to minimize our exposure to such stimuli. Or was it because we were already emotionally or physically drained due to having faced too many difficult situations on that day? If yes, then we can better organize our schedule to avoid overloading ourselves. Or was it because we are especially vulnerable to that temptation due to the inner impressions resulting from our past indulgences? If yes, then we can strive to strengthen ourselves intellectually and socially: intellectually by reminding ourselves regularly of the dangers of such indulgence, and socially by seeking accountability partners who can help us stay on track. Or had we been lax in our spiritual practices that increase our immunity to such cravings? If yes, we can work on sticking to those practices with greater discipline.
Understand our emotions before we judge them — by such understanding, we can find their causes and work on their cures.
Think it over:
- When we experience an unwanted emotion, what reaction is unhealthy? Why?
- What are the four major causes and cures for unwanted emotions?
- Do you regularly experience any unwanted emotion? Seek to understand its cause and cure.
05.23: Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.