What’s the Expiration Time on Emotions?
Recently, one of my patients told me a story about what his moods have been like lately. He said, “I was in such a bad mood yesterday, all day long. But I’m in a very good mood today, so I’m a good person today. When I’m in a bad mood, I can’t do anything about it. I feel like my anger is eating me, but I can’t stop it.”
So, I asked him, “What do you think: how long is the expiration time for emotions? Everything in this world goes bad with time, and there is an expiration time for everything, even emotions, so, what do you think? How long is the expiration time on your emotions?”
Then he started to tell me that sometimes it’s long, sometimes it’s short — it depends on how much he wants to stay with that emotion. Then I asked, “So, it sounds like it’s up to you to choose, right?” Then he had a realization, and said, “Yes, this is my attachment, it’s up to me to make a decision about it.”
After that I told him a story about a man who said that his explanation time for any emotion is 30 seconds. Doesn’t matter if it’s a good emotion or a bad emotion, positive or negative, he savors it well for 30 seconds and then releases that emotion.
This man said that it’s easy to understand that it’s not good to keep negative emotions for so long, right? But that goes for good emotions, too. As an example, he told me a story about a couple. The girlfriend complained to her boyfriend, “You don’t love me anymore! When we met, you loved me so much and I was so happy. But I don’t feel that anymore.” You can easily see that the girl in this story cannot be happy. She is looking for the good feelings she got from her boyfriend in the past. Even if he now takes her on exactly the same gorgeous date that she was very happy about in the past, she won’t be as happy as she was the first time. She will not be happy as long as she is attached to the feeling that’s in the past. I’m not saying to forget all memories; actually, it’s good to keep the memories that make your life fruitful. Just don’t be attached to emotions from the past. In other words, don’t be attached to emotions that were reactions to past situations. As I wrote in my last blog, joy is the root of our existence. This joy, this emotion, comes from the root of our existence, and when we hold ego, joy springs from within. We aren’t just “reacting to a situation.” Emotions that occur as reactions to a situation are reactive emotions. For example, when someone does or says something to you that causes you to feel some emotions or when a situation brings out certain emotions in you.
A sign that these reactive emotions are present is that they usually come with excuses. People who don’t take responsibility for their own emotions will always say the cause of those emotions is someone other than themselves or something someone else did, and that that’s what made them feel this way. It’s so easy to get trapped in this hole. (Me, too!) But if we don’t take responsibility for our emotions, who’s gonna take care of them? That energy, that feeling, goes out to the world. If you cultivate sensitivity to the energy (the Ki), or you can feel it when you attend Tao Sangha workshops, you will begin to feel everyone’s energy radiating all the time. When we are in a good mood, good energy radiates outward; when we are negative or in a bad mood, negative energy flows from us. We don’t all recognize it, but subconsciously we are spreading our energy to the world all the time. And we complain that this world is a mess. It is our responsibility to take care and notice what kind of energy we are spreading. When our spirits are just babies, it might be OK, but if we’d like to grow up, we have to take responsibility for ourselves.
Maybe it’s time for humankind’s childhood to end. Let’s each pick up our own garbage and move forward with joy!