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insight into emotions - Dhamma Wheel

insight into emotions

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
Freawaru
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insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:24 am

Hello All,

I practice insight into emotionally altered states of mind for about twenty years or so and I think it is a fascinating exercise. Not just because one learns a lot about the mind, but also about human social behaviour. The emotionally altered mind is more like an animal, more instinctive, than the calm, rational one. So I thought I open a thread on this topic to share insights into it and compare notes.

The way I practice this is either during sittings or everyday situations. When an emotion arises either due to a situation or a stimulating thought or memory I do not cut it before it arises but let it grow, let it take over the mind and body. I observe and analyse what happens while it happens to see the mechanisms and processes.

Some aspect that seems to be true for all emotionally altered states of mind are the increased concentration, alertness and redundancy. Another is the reduction of rationality (no surprise here).

When anger arises inside my mind and body (emotions always seem to influence the physical body, too) the mind concentrates automatically on the cause of the anger. The object whatever it is - say, some car driver behaves badly, just to give an everyday opportunity to practice - suddenly dominates the mind and it stops whatever dominating activity it had done before. Say, when I have been in a dialogue or listening to music or thinking, planing etc, all these are stoped within the second and thoughts based on anger and the object that caused it surface and dominate. But, oddly, it does not stay at that. Instead of moving on when the situation has passed, the mind repeats and repeats the situation in itself, arising memory after memory of it to feed the emotion to stay, to keep the anger altered mind active. And then even older, usually forgotten memories of anger inducing events years ago arise, again feeding the emotion to stay. And then "what if" thoughts and images, ideas of what bad could happen in the future related to the anger inducing situation. It is a kind of feedback loop: emotion triggers memories and thoughts and these feed the emotion that then initiates more emotional memories and thoughts. So, while concentration and alertness are increased by the emotion anger they are also limited to anger related mental processes and situations.

A physical aspect of anger is the increased alertness, pure strength, endurance and reaction time. The body clearly prepares for fight or flight. Physical pain is reduced. When I do not let go of the anger or do some sports I get painful tensions after three days of continual anger-altered mind (I only have a statistic of one regarding this, some years ago I kept my anger active during the whole wake time - got some interesting dreams, too - just to analyse the state. After three days my legs started to hurt so much I decided to end the experiment).

To me most surprising of the analysis of anger altered mind are the social implications. Anger seems to get the mind into a more instinctive state that judges people's behaviour and reactions differently than the calm, rational mind. In my experience there are only two well accepted social responses to anger: fear and anger. Fear is judged as "lower social status" and accepted as such - by the person who experiences the fear, too. A social structure is established on the instinctive level. The response of anger however is considered as not yet established social structure, which prepares the body and mind to fight for it, reactivating rationality. The worst response to anger is calm. I was very surprised to see this as I had been taught to response to anger of another person with calm. But I checked this over and over again: calm signals the anger altered mind that the other person does not take me and my problems seriously. It leads to feeling insulted, ignored and generally not accepted.

I also checked this result on other persons. When other persons got angry with me I tried both responses: calm and anger (not both at the same time of course). It turned out that anger is the best reaction in dealing with others, too. Calm either increased their anger or made them retreat without solving the problem, worsening their self-esteem. The reaction of anger, signalling both "I take you seriously" and "stop, no further than this" had the result of them pausing to reflect on what they do and think and turning the mind to rationality again (even if only to fight more rational at first). I can only add that since I chose this response to anger I get along with people much better socially. (I am talking about other adults, with children the instincts work differently).

What are your observations into emotions? Anger? Fear? Ambition? Jealousy? ...

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Guy
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby Guy » Mon Mar 08, 2010 12:23 pm

Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm

Freawaru
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:13 am


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Kim OHara
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:47 am


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effort
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby effort » Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:53 pm


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Guy
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Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Guy » Wed Mar 10, 2010 12:12 am

Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm

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christopher:::
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby christopher::: » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:09 am

Great discussion topic and opening post. It's cool how mindfulness of this sort leads to insights. Unless we observe how these mental states arise, strengthen and fall away it's pretty much impossible to understand them, and let them go.

Concerning calm vs. anger as a response, i think it depends on the situation, and the form of calm or anger. Anger that is combined with kindness, metta and concern can be helpful. As Freawaru described, people feel that you do "care." Calm that is combined with the other brahmaviharas can be even more effective, helping others to calm down and feel heard.

But calm that is too "cool" and detached doesn't always help. People may feel that you are judging them, or not taking their suffering seriously. It depends though, on the situation.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

Freawaru
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:59 am


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Kim OHara
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:31 am


Freawaru
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:45 pm


Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:59 pm


Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:01 pm


Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:28 pm


Freawaru
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Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:57 am

Hi All,

there is something else I want to ask regarding meditating on emotions. Another kind of experience I experienced both in every-day situation as well as during sittings.

The experience is that I observe my mind and body during the emotionally altered state but in addition something else, seemingly unrelated is happening in my mind. I mean, unrelated to the external situation and the emotional processes, but still somewhat connected. Or, using an analogy, if we compare the emotional processes in mind and body as the drums/rhythm in music the "something else" is like a melody, not related but not completely disconnected either. This "something else" or the "melody" can differ, it can be intense boredom, or joy, amusement, bliss, physical ecstasy of the kind I only know from jhana, a vast empty space, or the experience of a heart bursting impression of beauty (and some others I don't know the words for).

I am not yet quite sure what exactly happens or why and how. I suspect that the concentration that arises due to the emotion in combination with me observing it somehow triggers this - in any case I would like to know more about this strange and unexpected effect.

Has anybody else experienced this or heard about it or knows the name of these kind of experiences in Theravada?

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Kim OHara
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Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 13, 2010 11:35 am


Freawaru
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Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:26 pm


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christopher:::
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby christopher::: » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:35 pm

"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

rowyourboat
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Re: insight into emotions

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:32 pm

Hi Freewaru

It does seem you may be missing a part of the practice:

"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Right view as you know is the first step of the Noble Eightfold Path- everything follows on from that, as per the Mahacattasarika sutta. The idea that aversion (the broader umbrella term under which anger falls under -dosa, patigha call it what you will) is to be abandoned is rooted in this right view- under kamma (roots), under rebirth (causes), under devas (and how not to get get there) under the idea that enlightenment is to be had (what is to be abandoned).

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "Abandon one quality, monks, and I guarantee you non-return. Which one quality? Abandon aversion as the one quality, and I guarantee you non-return."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#iti-001

Anger is IMO an instinct- but as all instincts go they are useful in animals that lack higher brain function- (call it panna) because it provides automatic motivation- you dont have to think. However in human beings this function is now outdated - and indeed superfluous. The instinct to eat and store food now creates vast amounts of suffering and obesity for example- better to use your thinking brain. A person who worries to get things done will think that worrying is essential- but the person who gets things done without worry knows that it is not. Similarly a person who gets angry will think that it is essential- but it is not. In fact all these instincts/emotions get in the way of panna and the quest for Buddhist enlightenment.

Another way of looking at Right view is using the four noble truths- The first being that five aggregate (ie- read everything) is unsatisfactory- hence nibbana is the only ultimately worthwhile goal. This is a truth to be arrived at- not something that is understood through common logic. Finding utility in anger in furthering samsaric existence is a statement of ignorance. It almost goes without saying that a use can be found for anything in this world. There is good and bad in everything in this realm (quoting ven sariputta there). Its a bit like saying cancer is good because it creates jobs for doctor- but it causes uncountable deaths. In case of anger- mostly our own.

RYB
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Sun Apr 25, 2010 7:14 pm


Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: insight into emotions

Postby Freawaru » Sun Apr 25, 2010 7:19 pm



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