Attending feels to me like repression in times of strong emotion

Adam . ., modified 7 Years ago.

Attending feels to me like repression in times of strong emotion

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
Hi ya'll.

I am trying to understand an experience that comes up when I try to skillfully respond to strong emotions. I will give the specific example that occurred today that brought this question up (though I have wondered about it many times). Basically, I had an awkward encounter with someone I knew vaguely as we were walking toward each other along a sidewalk... I was really surprised to see him and wasn't sure if it was him or not, and greeted him in a fairly awkward way. My mind just prior to this was fairly well concentrated with little disturbance but instantly there was a slew of disturbing unpleasant thoughts.

Partly thinking "oh fuck that was awkward" partly thinking "oh we both kind of laughed about it so it was ok" (in a tone of false confidence) and a few other thought-lines. The next response was a couple of thoughts like "ok time to just pay attention to this" and then I started to try and just pay attention. Immediately there was an urge to go back to thinking either about how awkward it was or trying to convince myself that it wasn't really awkward.

When I just paid attention to sensations, feelings, thoughts it really seemed like I was resisting the urge to think about it, which I suppose i was (though I was definitely trying to include everything in the field of awareness). I then paid attention to the feeling that I was resisting, the feeling that I was pushing down energy etc. Still something seemed wrong. I made special efforts to allow any emotional/thought energy to come out but nothing I could do would make it seem like I was fully allowing the experience as well as fully being objective to it/outside of it.

Can anyone explain how to really pay attention to strong emotion without pushing it down? Is it also possible that it only seems like I am pushing it down? Is there really such a thing as "pushing down" emotional energy and is there a problem with it?
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Attending feels to me like repression in times of strong emotion

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Adam . .:

Can anyone explain how to really pay attention to strong emotion without pushing it down? Is it also possible that it only seems like I am pushing it down? Is there really such a thing as "pushing down" emotional energy and is there a problem with it?


That's pretty much what I'm doing now:

Basically how it looks is when your mind gets caught up on a like or especially dislikes it feels like a thought form of a self, plus the related emotions. Then a disassociative self (often developed in meditation) appears to "let go" of those thoughts but then creates new thoughts to cling to about the thoughts that were let go of and then letting go of this by just not adding to it leaves you in a river of sensation where it should be easier to make different choices than you normally would make. The first "self" is more intense because of a longer time to develop those habits and the second "self" comes from beginner meditation practice. Just let the bubbles burst on their own.


You don't like the awkwardness of the encounter and you're trying to fix it in your mind. You need to accept that this stuff is there anytime you dislike something and the habit is for it to come up. Stop trying to do anything about it just stop adding to it. The trick is to gently pay attention to what is already vibrating in your senses. Is the hum of the computer in your ear registering this awkwardness? No. How does your vision FEEL like? How does your skin FEEL like? Again do this as gently as possible without asking the question in your mind. Just adjust your attention to the vibrations of experience and include thoughts as more vibrations. How do thoughts feel as opposed to their content? I think Daniel hit the nail on the head with treating thoughts as sensations. The brain lets go of thoughts (including powerfully emotional thoughts) on it's own when you don't add more thoughts about why you don't like something. When "you" let the thoughts run out of their own steam then what's vibrating in experience?

It's like a boiling pot these emotions. Just turn off the burner and let the bubbles slowdown and stop on their own. If this practice becomes successful don't add more bubbles mentally talking about liking the result in the same attachment manner.emoticon That would be another thoughtform (volitional formation) that you can create into another habit that will analyze your meditation success or failure. The instructions are to be done and not ruminated over. Also I'm noting without labels now and including any intentions to meditate or intentions of any kind. All the stuff that your consciousness can KNOW is not a self and that includes a lot of things. Next your consciousness needs objects to be conscious of so it's also impermanent like those objects. When you do this practice with lots of continuity your head should feel cooler and you'll feel more coreless than when you're caught up in likes or dislikes. Experiences will seem just like more experiences (including those unpleasant thoughts). Unpleasant thoughts are just more sensations.

Try it now. What do your fingers feel like when typing? What are you seeing, hearing, thinking, etc? When the mind comes back to more thoughts about likes or dislikes what does it feel like? I sometimes ask obvious questions after a bout of anger passes away: "I'm I okay?" Seeing emotions as being phenomena that can habitually arise gives it less power over you because you accept it's there and don't add clinging thoughts after them. If you do the mind pot starts boiling more intensely. I also notice that the mind likes to go back to what feels like a self (dwelling on likes and dislikes with a self image) and you can notice a feeling tone demarcation line that you've gone back. When it feels more comfortable and ironically more stressful it's time to check in to sensation. Try doing this when typing your posts or reading other posts. You have to let go of both the self-preoccupied self over likes and dislikes and then let go of the analyzer who likes or dislikes the meditation results.

It's like the ego can't benefit or hate the meditation for it to work properly and relieve stress.

I hope his is helpful because it's helped me a lot.
Adam . ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Attending feels to me like repression in times of strong emotion

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
Richard when you do what you describe here is there still some effort/strain involved in keeping yourself from 'going with' the content of the thoughts?
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Attending feels to me like repression in times of strong emotion

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
It's less effort and strain because I let the strength of the anger (my usual situation) peeter out on it's own and don't force instant return to the present moment. As I practice more I make less mistakes. I don't go "aawww shucks the anger is back again, let's force it back to the present moment ASAP". I just pay attention to how mental pain feels just like a curious disinterested scientist and know from practice that it will occur and to just not add clinging thoughts about pushing it away or daydreaming it away. This reduces the tension. Just paying attention to how things are vibrating in my senses and then to see that thoughts don't have to be SEPARATE from experience and can be looked at as just more experience. Over time this reduces the feeling of separateness of thoughts. I feel that when we use the reactive part of the brain to stop reaction it just leads to the same stress because you're still using the same part of the brain with the same disatisfaction. In a sense I'm still noting but without labels because I know what's there. Noting shouldn't manipulate but just direct the brain to what's actually there. Now I'm seeing clear enough to notice/note a created self trying to "let go" with repression. Letting go of that leads to experience just being that and no more. The ego can't get success or complain because the brain is too busy taking in what's happening.

The book the 5 aggregates by Boisvert helped me by pointing out that "recognition" of shapes and colours is pretty neutral but when the "recognition" or "perception" perceives "this is worth craving/this is worth hating" a little tension starts and then after that any obsessive thoughts we add about why we like or dislike something is where the clinging and pain starts increasing like steady pressure. I remember walking home from the supermarket and when some typical mental stress was starting up I tried quickly to remember the perceptions that came before that and it was enough to interrupt the obsessive thought patterns and I got a flavour of equanimity without having to block thoughts like in a concentration practice. It's more efficient to think about dependent origination than to think about why I dislike something. emoticon

I found that tanha (dislike of what is going on the present moment) is the problem. Not the anger or other emotions. Emotions have beliefs behind them and as long as we have some beliefs there will be some emotions. You have to practice and give it time because I still have a feeling of a sense of self with thoughts but it's less than a few months ago. The dispassion takes time and practice. As you see the anger arise you don't care that you're lost in thoughts but you practice feeling how thoughts feel. It's a different experience from just labeling "thought". As you practice you get better. This is especially if you have continuity throughout the day and let those speed bumps happen and disappear. As you watch this over and over again the dispassion reduces the strength and duration of the mental habits. As Ian And has pointed out to me you need to develop dispassion to Vedana (feeling tone), Sanna (recognition), Tanha (craving), and Upadana (clinging). Sensing dispassionately these parts of dependent origination over and over again leads to dispassion over them. Again I emphasize SENSING as opposed to ruminating about them. A habit of ruminating at first will be strong and some time will pass before you notice you're caught and it naturally passes away. As dispassion increases with time you'll notice that it's easier to stay in the present moment. For example at work today my mind did wander over angry thoughts and some clinging but because of practicing over time the bubbling doesn't last as long and I get many more moments when I find it easy to continually just stay with what's going on. It's like floating on a river of experience where thinking is a part of that river and there's no time or space for rumination to get in because thinking is still allowed.

When I feel a cold wind now I get the same aversion as before but just inclining the mind to notice details about the wind as opposed to adding complaining thoughts reduces the tension yet again. Understand now? Sense how thoughts feel like how you feel what wind feels like and it's hard to be ruminating, yet thinking is still continuing. When you're truly in the present moment you shouldn't be ruminating about practice either. The disassociated "self" wants to do that.
Adam . ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Attending feels to me like repression in times of strong emotion

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
Thanks for the detailed replies Richard. While I can't put my finger on it I feel like something is clicking (at a shallow level at least) about what was missing in my practice. I think it is something to do with recognizing that strain (which I was attributing as an effort to stay in the moment) as actually an aversion to and fear of feeling particular difficult emotions. I will try and work with this and report back.
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Attending feels to me like repression in times of strong emotion

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
There are lots of forms of aversion that relate to meditation. Using meditation as a cocoon to escape unpleasantness is one of them. Keeping continuity of mindfulness will give your brain experience how those different aversions feel like and develop dispassion towards them (4 foundations). We don't want to think about them but experience feeling them. Look at the hierarchy of vipassana practice sticky:

...add core processes such as the sensations that seem to make up attention itself, intention itself, memory itself, questioning, effort, surrender, subtle fear, space, consciousness, and everything that seems to be Subject or Observer or Self all the way through the skull, neck, chest, abdomen and all of space such that nothing is excluded from this comprehensive, cutting, piercing, instantly comprehending clarity that is synchronized with all phenomena or just about to be.

9) Able to do #8 naturally, effortlessly and clearly due to one's diligent efforts to write that wiring on the mind as one's new baseline default mode of perception.

10) We are back where we started: one comprehends simultaneously two of the Three Characteristics of one's entire sense field completely including, space, consciousness, and everything else in that volume as an integrated whole and so attain to Change of Lineage, Path and Fruition. That's what you are shooting for if you are going for stream entry at least, and it even works well for the sort of continuous complete mindfulness that brings on higher paths.


It's all there. Just keep doing it. Good luck!