Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Are you a drama queen?

The ability to accept a feeling without judgment is one of the most important skills we can learn from the meditative process. This point is expanded upon in a marvelous paragraph from Beginning Mindfulness by Andrew Weiss:

Most of us find it difficult to be present with our feelings. When a feeling is one we label "good," like joy or pleasure, we want to grab onto it and fix it permanently in time and space. When the feeling is one we label "bad," we want to avoid it. As ways to avoid the reality of what we are feeling, we usually engage either in dramatizing the feeling - acting it out - or in suppressing it. Neither approach really allows us to stay steady with our feelings. When we act our feelings out, we may think we're getting rid of them, when all we're doing is making the seeds of those feelings stronger by feeding them. When we deny or suppress our feelings, we may think they will not bother us. In fact we're creating a big pressure cooker. Sooner or later the feelings we didn't want to know about will explode and we will end up acting them out anyway. When a friend asks you if you are having a nice day and gets a tirade of everything that's gone wrong for the last ten years, you can be sure you've suppressed some strong anger, hurt, or resentment, and that you are acting it out on your friend. Even if you don't act the feeling out, the drama you create around the feeling - the story you tell yourself about what caused it, why you feel the way you do, who is responsible, and so on - creates far more suffering for you than the feeling itself does. In Shakespeare's play by the same name, Othello creates a terrible drama out of his inability to tolerate his feelings of jealousy; ultimately he destroys himself and his beloved Desdemona. We create dramas of our own all the time; drama is a habit of avoidance just as potent as suppression.

These are some very powerful observations. Be willing to accept whatever feeling you have but don't feed the feeling by either condemning it or justifying it. (It's possible to over-dramatize either one.) And do remember impermanence. You've never before had a feeling that was permanent so the one you're having now is not the one. Accept. Let time pass. Then accept again. This is a system that will work for you for the long haul.

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