Anando reflects on emotions: not repression, not expression – but watching
A talk given by Anando to the annual conference of edizione Mediterrannee, Italy, in 2005
From time to time, unconscious emotions – anger, fear, hate, jealousy, greed, lust, cowardice, etc, run our life. Or it might be more appropriate to say they ruin our life.
They are unconscious because they take possession of us often for no rational reason, or with a strength that is out of proportion to the situation that provoked them. And they eat away at our energy – in the night they become nightmares and in the day they affect all our actions.
The only way we know how to deal with these unwanted emotions is by repression or expression.
With repression, the emotion, for example anger, is there, flooding our body, but we are trying not to be angry. We control it, and in so doing, it doesn’t just go away, it is simply driven deeper into the unconscious, where it accumulates as a poison. The more we do this, the more poisoned we become. It is not healthy, and eventually it drives us neurotic. And we know that at any moment the accumulated anger can explode, and then it is uncontrollable.
With repression, we hurt ourselves – we get stomach ulcers and worse. And we feel we are sitting on top of a volcano, so we are never at ease. We are restless, and all joy disappears from our life, because if we repress the energy of anger, we become incapable of expressing anything else either – because everything is joined inside. There are no watertight compartments between anger and love. It is not that you can repress anger and express love; then your love will be false because it won’t have any heat, it won’t have the quality of warmth. It will just be a mild mannerism, and you will always be afraid of moving deeper into it, because then all the repressed energies may arise.
And we all know that the other alternative, expression – dumping these emotions onto someone or something else – does not help. In fact it is even more destructive, perpetuating a vicious cycle that can destroy relationships as well as our health. And the more we express these emotions, the more difficult it is not to do it – it becomes a habit, a second nature. It brings great misery to us, and to others – and to no point. It creates ugly situations in life, which we have to pay for, and on top of that we feel guilty, that we should not be angry. Out of the fear of expression, we repress. But neither is good for us.
Osho, the revolutionary Indian mystic who has turned so many accepted theories on their head, suggests a third way – understand the unconscious nature of these emotions, how they function, and use their energy for creative purposes.
Emotions are energies. And unconscious emotions, all unconscious energies, can be transformed by the alchemy of awareness into their opposite, positive values. For example, fear can become love, anger can become compassion, hatred can become friendliness, lust can become creativity. It is the same energy, transformed through understanding.
So Osho’s way is not a question of trying to discard these unconscious energies, but rather accepting them and using them – they are a part of us, it is our energy, so to try and reject them is like fighting a part of ourselves.
We are either identified with the mind or we are fighting with the mind. If we are identified, then we will indulge in anger, in sex, in greed, in jealousy. If we are fighting, then we will create anti-attitudes. Then we will be divided. Because fighting is simply one part of mind fighting with another part, so it cannot lead to transformation. On the contrary, you will become a madhouse – fighting with yourself, taking revenge upon yourself, yielding to yourself, being defeated by yourself. Fighting is a kind of cooperation – it gives power and a reality to whatever you are fighting.
Instead, Osho says, accept that the energy is there, and try to understand the mechanism behind it. If you can really see and understand the whole mechanism, it will automatically transform into an energy that you can use positively and consciously in your life.
For example, if you accept anger and use its energy creatively, it releases great vitality and passion in you. Then you are not standing back from life, afraid you might explode, but you can enjoy being in the thick of things, involved in the whole rich dance of life. Rejecting anger, recoiling from your own energy, you are rejecting the possibility of being vital. You will be dull. Similarly if you reject sadness, you will not have any depth. Your laughter will be shallow, because it will just be on the surface.
When we reject parts of ourselves, because they don’t fit with some ideal we have created, they don’t fit with the image we have manufactured for ourselves, then we become phony. And afraid of life. When we don’t reject anything, all energies are ours, we are enriched. Then we have tremendous energy. And that tremendous energy is a delight.
How does it work? There are two steps: acceptance and awareness. If we really accept – that in this moment anger is there, or sadness is there, and this is my energy – then a relaxation happens. The fight stops. And in that relaxation, awareness of the mechanism of the unconscious is possible. This awareness automatically transforms, because knowingly you cannot be angry, knowingly you cannot be greedy. For anger, for greed, for violence, unawareness is a basic requirement. Just as you cannot knowingly take poison, just as knowingly you cannot put your hand into a flame, so you cannot knowingly be angry, once you are aware of what it does to you.
The vital key to acceptance for this purpose is that you have no condemnation, no rejection of whatever emotion is there; that you have no interpretation of whether it is good and bad, you are simply acknowledging and accepting whatever is there, in that moment.
This is not as easy as it sounds – to see and acknowledge what is, without judging or commenting on it. It is only possible through meditation. It is not possible for the mind to be without judgments and comments – just try and watch your mind for five minutes. But meditation gives you the possibility to access dimensions of yourself which are beyond your mind – dimensions in which you can really see facts with awareness, without judging.
Meditation gives you the possibility to watch the workings of the unconscious within you, objectively. It gives you the possibility to understand your unconscious energies – how they work, what are their functions. If you can really watch all the ways of the mind – greed, desire, ambition, jealousy, possessiveness, domination – one day suddenly you will find they are not there. Their power was in being unconscious. They have no other reality. So as soon as you shine the light of awareness on them, they disappear.
Meditation is needed because normally we are afraid to look at our own reality – we are afraid that if we come face to face with ourselves, all our illusions about ourself will fall down.
Another important point: acceptance does not mean resignation – for example, anger is there and what can I do about it. Acceptance means only that you accept the fact, as it is. See that anger is there, acknowledge it. Be aware that it is happening – watch it. It is a beautiful phenomenon – energy moving in you, becoming hot, bubbling, boiling, sizzling.
It is just like electricity in the clouds. Primitive people used to be afraid of lightening. Then science learned how to transform that electricity into energy that runs your air conditioner, the fridge: whatever you need. The electricity of lightening has become a domestic force, it is no longer angry and no longer threatening. Through science, an outer force has been transformed into a friend.
Through meditation, the same happens with inner forces. Anger is just like inner electricity in your body. It is electricity because you become hot; and when it is transformed, a deep coolness happens.
Electricity is hot – it becomes the source of air conditioning. Anger is hot – it becomes the source of compassion. Compassion is an inner air conditioning. Suddenly everything is cool and beautiful, and nothing can disturb you, and the whole existence is transformed into a friend. When you look through the eyes of anger, somebody becomes an enemy; when you look through the eyes of compassion, everybody is a friend. When you love, everywhere is heaven; when you hate, everywhere is hell. It is your own standpoint, which is projected onto reality.
So the moment you understand your anger, you can channel it: it will become your servant. Anger is energy. If you do not understand that, it can make you mad. If you know it, you can transform the energy and use it creatively. The energies of the emotions are always there – it is a question of whether you use them or they use you.
So if there is anger within, do not fight with it, do not repress it. Know it, understand it. When anger takes possession of you, shut yourself in a room and look at the anger – where it is, what it is, where it has taken hold of your being. Allow the energy to be there, boiling, bubbling. Don’t suppress it in any way, just watch where all the flames of anger burn within the consciousness. Watch your face get red, feel the anger in your hands and jaw. And go on watching it. Don’t support the anger by going into the reasons why you are angry – don’t focus on a cause outside, just focus on your own energy within. And you will be surprised – the more you observe anger, the fainter it will become. The more conscious you become of anger, the sooner it will evaporate. Then a moment will come when it will disappear, and what remains within is peace, silence, tranquility. Like after a storm. This is the creative use of the negative emotions.
Anger depends on your cooperation. In watching, the cooperation is broken; you are no more supporting it. It will be there, for a few minutes, and then it will be gone. Finding no roots in you, finding you unavailable to cooperate in it, it will dissipate.
So awareness is the second step – first acceptance, then awareness. And you can be aware only if you accept totally whatever is there. If not, you will try to avoid it in subtle ways – you will think of something else, you will pretend it is not there. You will create a façade, or you will try to justify it. That is a dead end. If you do not accept that it is your anger, your energy, then you cannot be aware of it.
Accepting anger means, anger is not an act. Rather, you are the source. Accepting this means throwing away your self-image. And we have all built beautiful self-images. So this first step is the most difficult: to accept whatever you are, to accept whatever is there in the moment as a natural fact without any condemnation.
But if you can accept it, then you can watch it. And watching means, not being against it, nor for it. It means don’t cooperate with it, don’t indulge in it and throw it on others, and don’t suppress it. Just look at it, observe it.
Normally when we are angry, then our mind is focused on the cause of anger outside. Someone has insulted you – you are angry. So inside is your energy of anger, outside is the cause which has provoked your energy to come up, and you, the watcher, are in between. The natural way of the mind is to be focused on the cause outside, rather than being aware of the source of your energy inside.
Just move your focus in – watch it patiently, just let it rise and see what happens. And you will be surprised. You will see that if you wait, anger becomes compassion. Just as night becomes day if you wait, in the same way anger becomes compassion if you can wait a little. The same energy – just patience is needed.
A few more things to understand. One is about the root causes of anger: Anything that comes as an obstruction to your desires creates anger. You cannot drop anger unless desires disappear. People want to drop anger, and they don’t understand that they are wanting to drop a symptom – anger is only a symptom. It simply shows that somewhere your desire has been obstructed: something is coming between you, your desire, and the object of your desire – hence the anger. Anger means, “I will destroy the obstruction!”
And another thing: never take any action in the mood when the negative emotion is possessing you; just wait. Don’t act when anger is uppermost, otherwise you will repent, and you will create a chain of reactions to which there will be no end. Negativity provokes more negativity, anger brings more anger, hostility brings more hostility. Wait. When you are angry, this is the moment to meditate. Don’t waste this moment – anger is creating such great energy in you – it can destroy. But energy is neutral – the same energy that can destroy, can be creative.
This is not repression. Osho is not saying to repress the negative, he is saying watch the negative. There is a tremendous difference. It is not about sitting on top of the negative, ignoring the negative, or doing something against it. It is not that when you are angry, you should smile – no; that smile would be false, ugly. Instead, close the door and be with your anger. There is no need to show it to anybody else. It is your business, it is your energy, it is your life. Keep looking. You will see that anger cannot be there forever – try it. If you don’t do anything, what will happen? Can anger hang there for ever and ever? Nothing hangs forever. Happiness comes and goes, unhappiness comes and goes. Everything changes, nothing remains permanent. Anger has come – it will be going. Just wait. Let anger be there, but wait, watch.
Don’t repress and don’t act according to the anger, and soon you will see that your face is becoming softer, your eyes are becoming calmer, the energy is changing… Don’t force the change, wait for it to come on its own. This is the secret – this is learning to transform your poisons into nectar.
That is what the ancients called it – transforming your poisons into nectars. If you can change your greed, your anger, your fear, your lust – the poisons – with awareness, they transform into nectar. The same thing that was your disease, becomes your health. The same thing that was your bondage, becomes your freedom. All that is needed is to bring awareness into the dark parts of your being.