Dealing with Intense Emotions and Moods in Ordinary Daily Life

Let’s recall how we create more misery out of misery.

Often in daily life we have to deal with intense and painful emotions. They may last but a while or they can carry on for days, for years.

I remember once I walked across a bus station and the station master set upon me. I was in no mood for a fight so I meekly listened to his criticisms. I remember he went on about how drivers weep when they back into people and injure them. I had thought myself in private with him, but when I turned to go, there was a quite a queue in the shelter who had overheard the whole one way conversation. The look of breathless pity an elderly woman gave me said it all. Well, that shame hung around for years!!! And so did the replays of my indignant retorts. What the French call ‘esprit d’escalier’ – staircase wit or repost!

And there are moods too. Those longer lasting emotional states that seem to run subterranean and surface every so often like horror ghouls - the usual culprits of depressive, anxious and aversive moods.

The first thing to remind ourselves is not to let the mind start off on the story … yet again. For we can be sure that it’s cranking up the emotion all over again and adding a little more power to it. It’s the path to despair, suicide or murder. If we catch ourselves lost in the same old narrative, we must come out of it at once and sink into the body and stay with the feeling.

But there are occasions when there’s no time to do that. Or there are times when they so persist, we need a break from it all. That’s when we tend to fall into the error of suppression. We let aversion or fear push it out of our minds and we seek distraction. But the more we push it away, the more energy we unwittingly give it for now it has the energy also of our aversion. It’s similar to pushing a spring down. When we let go, it springs back with more force than it had when uncoiled.

But there is a way we can ‘park’ an emotion or mood. We can talk to it and say, ‘I will attend to you later, but now I need/would like to attend to this.’ Notice the word attend which can mean to pay attention to and to wait upon. And gently put it to one side and turn our attention to something else.

Even should we sense it lurking in the background, we can occasionally turn a gentle smile towards it and assure it that we will attend in time.

Then, of course, we have to find the time to attend.

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