The Wisdom of the Dark Emotions—

We all retreat at the thought of fear, grief, despair. Even the words themselves evoke a semblance of the experience of the emotions they describe. I believe that fear is the primal emotion from which all others spring.

What is so insidious and destructive about fear is its capacity to rapidly build upon itself.  Fear engenders further fear. That fear becomes the source of emotional and physical discomfort, dis-ease, which then builds further fear. This is a truly vicious cycle which leads one into panic and anxiety.

Yet we possess these emotions for a reason. They have evolved to be apart of our emotional nature because they endowed our ancestors with some survival value. Fear can be our teacher rather than the ultimate tormentor. Fear is essential for safety. Without it we would run headlong off a cliff or into oncoming traffic. Fear warns us not to venture into unknown territories, or to leave our young children alone and unprotected.  Fear can be our best friend—-along as it stays within bounds.

When fear becomes excessive, this friend becomes the fiend we fear. In context grief and despair are natural and expected. When we love deeply, we are susceptible to feeling pain with any loss of that connection. This darkness merely reflects the intensity of the light we previously knew.

We need to cultivate this awareness. When we feel sadness, grief and despair, we need to remind ourselves that we are deeply feeling beings. Rather than try to submerge these feelings because our society enforces this behavior, we should fully experience them. This is the path to healing.

Women cry more easily than men. This is a cultural phenomenon. The few times that I was brought to tears [usually alone with my thoughts] I found it to be cathartic. I literally felt as if I had discharged a load of negative energy.  For a moment I understood the therapeutic value of facing and experiencing this pain.  Too many men, young and old, force these feelings down. When repressed, they do not disappear, but are resurrected as hate and violence. These are more socially acceptable expressions of the dark emotions.

We need to be aware that the powerfully negative emotions can be experienced through mindfulness meditation. They can be confronted and viewed from the point of view of the witness. We can become aware of the truth that we  our self or soul which views the emotional state is separate from the dark emotions.

We need to think about this truth before the experience overwhelms us. It is much more difficult to recover from a deep pit than a shallow one. So maintain awareness that the next experience with fear will be an opportunity to learn and to survive.

Recognizing the universality of these emotions can allow us to feel compassion for all who suffer. It is a potential way to bridge the artificial differences of race and religion which remain a powerful source of conflict and suffering. 

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