If we have a quantity of fear that we can’t bear to examine, we cope by busying ourselves to ensure the unwelcome guest of fear does not set up residence in our mind.
We busy ourselves with other “guests” – we turn on the TV that fills our environment with sound and images, we go shopping or open a bottle of wine to drink. We do anything to divert our attention from what is scaring us, which is defined as “repression” or denial, that plays a role in many mental illnesses.
Even if what is on TV isn’t interesting, or if drinking we know it harming us, we think it is still better than going home to ourselves and meeting our inner discomfort or pain. Adopting a non-violent attitude toward our own suffering can help. This is an early form of universal acceptance.
Most of us practice repression to exclude or fear, depression or personal shortcomings. But the difficulty with these emotions is that they seem so powerful we assume we can’t survive them, so we repress them or deny that we have them, until they explode and cause hurt to ourselves and others. Simplified, emotions come, stay for a while, then leave. To understand this is to allow emotions, and their disturbing feelings, to flow through without residing.
Prolonging the “staying” interval of the flow of emotion increases suffering, but if we practice looking deeply, we can uproot the sources of troubling emotions. Through practice with, and observant of our breathing, we gain the awareness in this moment that we can and will survive these powerful emotions, letting them flow through our awareness.
As we begin to experience our own survival of strong emotions, we gain the knowledge that next time they come, we can survive them with less pain.
If we model this calm in the face of fear as a way life in the presence of our loved ones, we are teaching them and others that they can weather their own storms.