Someone used the contact form to share the following:
Q: Some time ago I read a news article about a person in a religious organisation who felt like he had to step down from his role due to the fact that his son had been severely hurt by a criminal and he felt that he could not forgive the criminal. He felt that he could not do “the job” that was ascribed to him by the organisation, i.e. encourage love and forgiveness when he could not do it himself. I totally understand this person’s feelings, and if I were in his shoes, I probably would have done the same. But I wonder if, in a parallel universe, this person could have been honest about the pain and hurt and work through the forgiveness process in a public way.
I guess I feel similar to him in a lot of ways. I sometimes wonder how much I try to push my negative feelings down because I’m on a spiritual path. In other words: these feelings of hate, anger, etc – do I really have to see these things as the “bad guys”? Because they keep on reoccurring, no matter how much I do this or that spiritual exercise. Maybe I should just accept them as they come up and say “oh, hi, it’s you again?” Thanks.
I wrote them back as follows:
A: Thanks for your questions. As for the person who stepped down, I do admire his integrity for being so honest and also for questioning his own contradictions. However, I agree with you that perhaps he could have been just as honest and used his experience to become even more helpful to those who are struggling with forgiveness. As one of my teachers told me, honesty and integrity matter more than the degree to which we are fully spiritually developed or enlightened, even in the teacher or spiritual guide. By speaking openly about his difficulty with forgiveness, he showed that he was fully in integrity, and so I do not see why he should also need to step down from his job. But of course that was his decision to make.
As for your bigger question about how to deal with "negative" feelings including hatred, anger and the inability to forgive someone, you’re right when you suggest it’s possible to just accept these negative feelings when they come up. These feelings are totally normal and natural, and if they come up, then they come up. Once you allow them to just be there, it’s possible to discover that you don’t need to express them or take them out on anyone else. You can just let the feelings be there as strongly and fully as they happen to be.
Something that can help with accepting and allowing these feelings is to let them be bigger than your body. The difficulty with negative feelings is they sometimes seem so huge, especially anger, which by nature is a very expansive energy. When we try to hold such feelings inside our body, the pressure builds up and the feelings tend to explode out into actions we may later regret. But if you let the energy and feelings be bigger than your body, the pressure won’t build up inside of you. If you let the anger fill the entire room or even the entire neighborhood, then all of that red hot energy of anger has plenty of room.
You can take this a step further and explore these feelings more deeply. What is anger like? What sensations are present when you are angry? Are these actually bad sensations or just particular sensations (especially if you let them be bigger than your body)? What’s underneath these sensations? What memories arise when you allow the sensations to just be there? Are any other feelings hiding beneath the feeling you are having?
As you allow and explore the feeling, you may find that new insights or understandings come up about that feeling. You may also find, surprisingly, that underneath even the most negative feelings lies a more positive quality of our essence that is driving the outer feeling. Many of our feelings are the ego’s attempt to express or control some deeper quality of our essence.
For example, the feeling of anger is an egoic version of true strength, which is a quality of our essence. Our essence is capable of a tremendous strength, capacity, and directness in its discrimination and action. However, when you were growing up, if it was not okay to experience the strength of your essence, you may have developed an egoic version of strength to stay in touch with this aspect of your essence. Some people stay in touch with their essential strength through anger, while others accomplish this by suppressing any anger and appearing weak. By allowing and exploring the anger or the experience of weakness and vulnerability, you may uncover the essential strength underlying these egoic reactions. The key is neither to express nor suppress your experience, but to feel it as fully as possible and explore it as fully as possible.
All of your experiences, including strong feelings, are profound and unique doorways into the deeper truth of your Being. However, the most open doorway to your true nature is the experience you are having right now. In fact, that is the only door to your Being that is ever available to you. Fortunately, life provides you with an endless array of experience to explore and dive into, and in each moment, life brings you the experience you most need to explore and understand. Will you accept the opportunity for exploring your Being that is opening for you right now, even if it appears as a negative feeling?
True freedom is not when you no longer have any experiences you don’t like or don’t want (which is an impossible goal). True freedom is when you discover that every experience is a potential opening into the deeper realities of Presence and Being. Then you are free of the need to change or fix your experience and you can, instead, embrace it and discover its endless richness and depth.
I hope this helps.