Working with Difficult Emotions
“With insight, we know what to do and what not to do to change the situation.”
Thich Nhat Hahn teaches mindfulness as a way of working with anger and other unpleasant emotions, he summarizes the process in these five steps:
(1) Recognition – If we are angry we say, “I know that anger is in me.”
(2) Acceptance – When we are angry, we do not deny it. We accept what is present.
(3) Embracing – We hold our anger in our two arms like a mother holding her crying baby. Our mindfulness embraces our emotion and this alone can calm our anger and ourselves.
(4) Looking Deeply – When we are calm enough, we can look deeply to understand what has brought this anger to be, what is causing the baby’s discomfort.
(5) Insight – The fruit of this looking deeply is understanding the many causes and conditions, primary and secondary, that have brought about our anger, that are causing our baby to cry. Perhaps our baby is hungry. Perhaps her diaper pin is piercing her skin. Our anger was triggered when our friend spoke to us meanly, and suddenly we remember that he was not at his best today because his father is dying. We reflect like this until we have some insights into what has caused our suffering. With insight, we know what to do and what not to do to change the situation.”
Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, p.26.