Question: What is the best way for me to express my anger?
Answer: Modern psychology says buy a pillow and pierce it, tear it apart, punch the pillow. Psychologists say you have to express your anger. Why? Because you are told not to suppress it. Eastern psychology says don’t suppress, but don’t express it either. You might ask me, “Then what am I to do?” Analyze it. Analyze it and dissolve it. Because every time you express the anger, the anger gets renewed. You are not getting rid of it by expressing it.
This is true of any habit: Every time you go through it, it gets renewed and you ignite it once again, and then again and again. How many times would you have said, ”This is the last time.” Think of any emotion, or habit or anything you want to change about yourself. For example, you decide you aren’t going to eat chocolate anymore. Then, you go and write down, “This will be the last time.” That’s it. You made a resolve. You wrote it down, but you didn’t put any date. So, the next time you’re at the bakery and you see some chocolate cake you can say, “Well, this will be the last time and tomorrow I’ll start with a clean slate.”
That is not the way to work with your mind. The ancient scriptures say that every time you fulfill a desire it gets renewed. It’s almost like adding fuel to the fire. Instead, take away the fuel, remove the firewood from the pit, the fire will go down. That means do not fulfill it. At the same time do not suppress it. Gently pull it out, analyze it and dispose of it. This may be totally opposite to modern psychology. I am not a psychologist but that’s what I hear from people who believe that you have to express your emotions, bring out all the past things, relive that and go through the trauma over and over.
Eastern psychology says that by bringing it all to the surface over and over again, you are adding fuel to the fire and bringing it to life. We say that you shouldn’t suppress but also you shouldn’t feed the fire. Instead, analyze the problem and dissolve it. If you don’t give desires, negative thoughts and emotions attention and energy, they will starve and die a natural death. But if you give attention to them, they will continue to come up and re-ignite. That’s the yogic thinking.
Question: What is the best way for us to work with our emotions?
Answer: Immediately sit, do some nadi suddhi, calm your mind, think about the situation that upset you, analyze it, cool it down. That’s the difference between Eastern thinking and Western thinking. As I said, suppression is not good. But that doesn’t mean you have to express it. Analyze it.
Question: Gurudev, how can we do analyze it? If it’s just a dry routine analysis that doesn’t help us change our habits, how does that help?
Answer: What do you mean, “dry routine”?
Question: I mean just having a mental or intellectual understanding.
Answer: What came with the mind can be directed, controlled, dissolved in the mind itself. It doesn’t have to come out through the body through crying, shouting, getting worked up or expressing the anger by hitting pillows. Instead, by working with your own mind, you are nipping it in the bud. You don’t have to allow the tree to grow and then bring an ax in order to cut it.
A thought is a small growth. It just germinates there. It’s easy to nip it there. Because every time you express a negative emotion, a desire or even a habit you want to remove, it gets renewed. Every thought, when allowed to express as action, will renew the thought. Instead, sit back, analyze the emotion, desire or habit. Ask yourself: Is it worth expressing, fulfilling or doing? Is it important? How healthy it is? Is it right, is it wrong?” Fight thought with thought, not with action.
Certainly I would never recommend suppression. And that may be the reason psychologists want you to express. But again, yogic thinking says: Don’t suppress, but don’t express. Instead, analyze it and get to to the root of it. What is the cause for this upset? Instead of blaming someone for your unhappiness, analyze your own expectations. Instead of immediately fulfilling a desire, analyze why you want to do that and if it will truly help you if you fulfill it. If we are going to express and fulfill all our thoughts, emotions and desires, our lives will really be in big turmoil. Imagine if you walk in front of a store, you see a nice diamond ring there, a thought comes and you have to express it. If you don’t have money to fulfill the desire, will you rob the store? So use your Raja Yoga, your Jnana Yoga and analyze it, analyze it.
Question: What if you weren’t able to analyze your problem? What if you couldn’t figure out the cause—you tried, but you couldn’t?
Answer: Get the help of somebody who can help you in analyzing it. There’s no other way. I’m not saying that you have to analyze it yourself. If you cannot do it, present your problem to someone who can help you analyze it. You can go to someone more advanced on the path of Yoga or to a therapist who has more of a yogic understanding of how to approach problems.
Question: Earlier you talked about someone trying to give up chocolate. I really struggle with controlling my emotions, my weight and other things. But, I really don’t know how to stop myself from acting out.
Answer: As I said, each time you bring it into action it gets renewed and the habit gets strengthened. The idea is not to suppress the desire but to analyze the desire and to understand how fulfilling it is not going to be good for you. You also have to learn how to strengthen your will and your self-mastery. The mind is like a child. Every time it gets away with some mischievous behavior, that behavior gets strengthened. Each time the child knows the parents won’t really give them any consequence to face, or punishment, the child will continue to renew their bad behavior. The mind is like that. You have to show you are the loving, but strong parent and the mind must obey you. You have to train the mind and that is what all the Yoga practices and philosophy help you to do.
In the example of the chocolate, if every time your mind tells you to eat a chocolate, you listen to the desiring part of the mind, your chocolate eating habit will be renewed. You’ll be adding fuel to the old samskaras (habits). No desire can be fulfilled by experiencing it. There’s no end to the desires in the mind. “The last chocolate” becomes the last chocolate for that day. Then, tomorrow, the desire arises again. Every time you fulfill it, your desire is renewed. Yoga science says that every time you experience it, you are renewing it and then you want it more and more and more. There’s no end. So, the ideas that caused the desires should be pulled out by analyzing them in the light of Yoga.
Question: Three months ago my mother died. I can’t seem to express my emotions and show my grief. Is that wrong?
Answer: I think that’s another thing modern psychology says: You have to shout it out if you are angry. You have to cry it out if you are grieving. Not necessarily. If it comes, let it come naturally. If you don’t express it that way, it doesn’t mean that you are not sad or you are not angry. The emotions are there already. Some easily express emotions. Probably you are different from others in that way.
You don’t have to force yourself to express your grief in that way. And it is in no way a sign that you don’t miss your mom or that you are not grieving her death. So you should not feel bad about not openly crying or anything like that. Maybe you have a deeper understanding than others in your family about what happens to the soul after death and you have come to peace with that. Also, our loved ones, when they pass away, will still be watching us for some time. Their souls won’t feel happy or peaceful if they see us in agony. So maybe some of this truth is in you already so you feel a little calmer and that’s the reason why you don’t cry.
If you really love your mother and if you still want to do something for her, pray for her peace: “Mom, God has taken you away for some other responsibility. Wherever you are, may God grant you that strength and courage and guidance. My sincere prayers always go with you.” Yes. It’s difficult to separate from one’s beloved. But that’s where we have to understand the truth. So just be natural. If you feel like crying, cry. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. And don’t worry about what modern psychologists would say. I’m sorry to say this but Western psychology is still in its infancy.