ASK ABDI: IS THERE A WAY NOT TO EXPERIENCE NEGATIVE EMOTIONS?

QUESTION: It seems that people like Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama don’t experience negative emotions at all, and that they have even surpassed negative emotions ignited within themselves. Is this possible?

I have negative emotions, and I am usually able to sit with them. Most of the time, I don’t act on them and instead, I just let them fade away. However, sometimes I feel that they don’t actually fade away. I feel like they build up, and then when the opportunity comes, they all spill out, usually on my husband.

I would like to know if there is a way to not experience negative emotions or if they are here to stay? How do Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama do it?

ANSWER: Why compare yourself with an 80-year-old monk? How do you know that he does not experience negative emotions? He and his tradition have spoken much about the ways that one deals with these negative emotions as they come up. I encourage you to read up on these teachings; they are easily accessible. 

Emotions, positive or negative, are a part of this realm that we navigate. As such, they can be used to gauge our lives. They are tools that can be used for awareness and can be markers to tell us where we are off, either internally or externally. For example, if we are too tired or engaged in activities that are toxic to us, we might be prone to biting people’s heads off. So this unpleasant experience can remind us that something else is amiss that needs tending to, namely behaviors that are not conducive to self-care. These behaviors can run the gamut: unresolved emotional baggage, surrounding oneself with toxic people, and practicing unhealthy eating habits and addictive behaviors.

It is wonderful that you have the self-awareness to allow some of these emotions to work their way out of you without acting them out. Sitting with ourselves bears many fruits, the softening or awareness of behaviors that lead to negative emotions can be one of them. 

On a side note, good that you are aware that your husband gets the brunt of your negative emotions. There is a reason for the fact that the people closest to us tend to get the sharpest end of the stick. The masks that we wear with others (and project as niceness, gentleness, etc., as a defense mechanism) are not as strong or nonexistent with our immediate circle. They see all of us, not only the pieces that we carefully choose to show others. So our filter is removed and the discharge can be full on. 

Let yourself be human, accept your humanness. This is not a license to act out, but rather encouragement to continue evaluating yourself and your life without escaping into wishful or magical thinking. Investigate your distant past and day-to-day life to find if there is emotional healing needed or if you practice behaviors that are harmful to yourself and which may lead you to experience negative emotions. Find connections between your negative emotions and your daily life. See what emotions creep up more often than others. These emotions can point to specific areas that need your care.