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How do I learn the difference between letting go/allowing emotions to pass versus suppressing/ignoring them?


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Hello all,

My previous attempts at letting go and allowing emotions to pass almost always result in suppression. 

Example: I would get mildly annoyed at something at my mother would ask of me and instead of my usual outburst and gruffness I would attempt to change my response to the situation by changing my behaviour. The result was always that several minutes later I would be even more angry than before.

Example 2: Sensitivity to noise. In the lying meditations, there are many examples of "letting a sound pass through the body and not leaving a trace" yet my attempts to do so result in an even stronger response than if I completely ignored the instruction. I currently have hyper sensitivity to noise when attempting to sleep and any medium loud sound will provoke an anxiety response in my body which makes it incredibly difficult to sleep. My current strategy is to distract myself enough with one of the recorded lying meditations to cause me to fall asleep so that the anxiety response is temporary rather than recurring through the night.

Having tried allowing and letting go and being not only unsuccessful but even negative, I guess the first step would be how do I recognise that I'm suppressing? Then the next step would be, how do I actually let go?

Sai

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  • 1 month later...

In the body, sensations (always in the present) can give rise to what we call emotions (sensations plus thought forms, always past or future, even if very close to the unfolding present). Thinking can create the same sensations in the body. The mind cannot usually actively change these well-practised processes directly—it's a bit like stretching. No amount of knowledge about stretching, methods, science behind, etc. will change your flexibility. If your body has set itself up for anger, it is such a practised response, intervention will be too late, usually, if you have not been aware enough to pick up the earliest changes.

This is why we need to practise being more and more present, and have at least a second attention on what's happening in the body, especially in situations where certain responses may be expected (like spending time with your Mother). This precisely is why the great Rudi once said, "You think you're enlightened? Go and spend a week with your family!"

As soon as you feel the body setting itself up to do anger, let your tummy relax completely—I mean, let it go completely soft, if you can. If you can't, practise this regularly, away from that situation. Then, take in a breath, and pause with it in for a few seconds, then let it out, keeping the tummy relaxed. After practising this a few (hundred/thousand) times, you will find you can pivot: you can choose what you want to do next. Until that moment, you will tend to jump on that train, and you know where it goes.

Re. loud sounds: the anxiety is in your body all the time, presently; the sounds only make manifest what's there. Keep doing the lying relaxations, doing your best to actually feel what that feels like—not as a concept (with its attendant problems) but as a suite of sensations, where there is little to no thought. This requires you to put your awareness in the body, not have it in the mind thinking about the body.

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I should add: it is not possible to "suppress" emotions; this is as futile as the direction of telling yourself to "stop thinking" when trying to meditate. Seek serenity in the body, as an active experience, and all these "problems" will melt away. They are only concepts, or thought forms.

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  • 11 months later...

Thank you for the response Kit and apologies for my very late response! I recall at the time I posted the question checking in often but finding no response but I am glad that you have taken the time and effort to respond.

 

On 5/17/2018 at 12:06 AM, Kit_L said:

Keep doing the lying relaxations, doing your best to actually feel what that feels like—not as a concept (with its attendant problems) but as a suite of sensations, where there is little to no thought. This requires you to put your awareness in the body, not have it in the mind thinking about the body.

By "feel what that feels like" by "that" do you mean the sensations and experience of doing the lying relaxations regardless of whether there is anxiety or relaxation or both? How do I distinguish between "awareness in the body" versus "the mind thinking about the body"?

As for my sleep since I posted the question, the routine became closer and closer to neuroticism. Recent events, which I will not going into now (maybe later), has improved my sleep, but I still have the unfortunate experience quite often of anxiety of "needing to get enough sleep/get up early for tomorrow", which results in absolutely no sleep at all. I still have the sensitivity to sound and will aim to practice what you have suggested. I think for me currently with both of these anxieties, it would be best for me to do the lying meditations well before sleep instead of doing it during bedtime, which currently exacerbates the issue.

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14 hours ago, Sai said:

How do I distinguish between "awareness in the body" versus "the mind thinking about the body"?

Location and feeling: thoughts, for most people, happen in the head, or the sense of them happening in front of the head—if you reflect on this when next practising, this may become clear. Sensations are properties of the body, and are feelings: this feels like that, and so on. Very different creatures. Thoughts are neutral, too, physcially speaking; sensations usually have a temperature associated with them. If you direct your attention to the movements in the body we label "breathing" (or hold the attention at the nostrils and ask, 'hot, cold, wet, dry') this will become clear, as sensations, and not thoughts.

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And yes to doing the lying mediations well before sleep; mid afternoon is good, usually, or first thing in the morning while still in bed.

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One way to let go is to do what you are doing - focus on a different stimulus, so your attention is distracted from the one you want to let go of. Every time you focus on something that annoys you, you are telling yourself that it is an important stimulus. Naturally, the brain adapts to become more responsive to what is important, so the neural connections between the stimulus and your consciousness and the resulting arousal become stronger (generating the fight or flight reaction, in the extreme). If you distract yourself with another stimulus, over time the neural connections with the annoying stimulus will get weaker and maybe even eventually disappear, so you are no longer aware of it. Every time your arousal level is raised (maybe by the effort of trying to relax!) you are preparing your body for action (fight or flight again) and you will increase the importance of the annoying stimulus for you. That is why relaxing by focussing on your breathing is good, because (1) it is a distraction, distracting you away from the annoying stimulus or situation, and (2) long slow out-breaths help relaxation. As for sensitivity to sound interrupting sleep, use earplugs PLUS a noise generator in the room, to help mask outside noises (it can be white noise, or something relaxing like birdsong, depending what sort of noises you want to mask).

With practice, the conscious control of your relaxation will become easier. The brain is set up for learning!

 

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