Working with Difficult Emotions

Have you ever experienced this? You’re humming along, thinking you’re doing a pretty good job at being aware, cultivating kindness and even exhibiting compassion more times than not … and then someone — or better yet something — comes along to completely test that?

I love it when that happens.

OK, maybe not in the moment. I get irritated. I get reactive. I think why is that person doing that to me? and then, because I’ve been doing this for so long, in the next moment I usually laugh. I mean, who the hell am I, that so many people are trying to personally screw me up? Surely they must hold secret meetings to mess with my life.


The other day I was surprised when feeling of irritation came up around someone I really like. They just had something happen in their own life that pushed some of my own buttons. Easy, right? Just separate what’s mine from what’s not mine. But two days later, I’m still frantically reframing (:) — OK, maybe not frantically — so I can get away from the difficult emotions of fear, anger and frustration, with maybe a little jealousy thrown in for good measure.

So instead, I tried following the instructions of a Buddhist teacher I know, who urged us to soften around the pain in our lives, to welcome it as you would a good friend. So I invited my emotions for a pow-wow. We sat around the dining room table for a bit, airing our grievances. I asked them what they wanted and they said, “Dinner.” But if I refused to fed them, I thought maybe they’d go away.

So I sat back in my chair. And after a while, all the feelings fell silent. When they realized they weren’t getting dinner, they got up quietly and left. Pretty damn cool.