Saturday, May 7, 9955

Emotional Reactivity

We know that we need to stop thinking too much in order to find peace. But thinking is not the only thing that needs to stop. We also need to stop emoting. That is, we need to stop torturing ourselves with negative emotional reactions. Emotional reactivity causes 99% of our suffering. In fact, the only reason that thinking makes us suffer is that we react negatively to it.

There is unconscious suffering and there is conscious suffering. Most of our suffering is unconscious. What happens is that something unpleasant happens: an item breaks, someone says an unkind word, a traffic jam occurs. We then have an egoic knee-jerk reaction of anger, frustration, irritation, or disappointment. We abhor the situation and insist on feeling bad until the situation ends. We make ourselves voluntary prisoners of this external circumstance. We let something that is beyond our control hold our sense of well-being hostage. We thus refuse responsibility for our mental state by remaining asleep in the nightmare of reactivity while blaming external events and people for “making us suffer”.

Conscious suffering involves choosing not to wallow in negativity. The fact that an unpleasant event occurred does not obligate us to create pain via an emotional reaction. If there is emotional pain, we choose to consciously contemplate why we are hurting; and not exacerbate matters by blaming, criticizing, resenting, or claiming to be a victim. We at least attempt to use our suffering in order to learn about ourselves and grow. For example, if we let something as trivial as an unkind word or traffic jam get the better of us, we can acknowledge that our ego is throwing a tantrum because the world is not exactly the way it wants it to be, and that we therefore need to stop feeding our ego.

When we emotionally react to everything that happens, we leave our sense of well-being at the mercy of outside events. Pleasant events might happen, causing positive reactions, but things don’t stay pleasant for very long. Everything is in flux, so we are guaranteed that unpleasant events will occur. Lasting well-being can come only from a lasting source. That lasting source is the true self.