Restraining Our Emotions

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Emotions — destructive or not

Is a negative emotion necessarily destructive?

Reflect on how mental events, allowed to develop, can swamp the mind with emotion. Recall an experience when you lashed out at someone in anger. Can you recall how they turned from you or were hurt by you when inner disturbances were externalized?

Thoughts and emotions which cause us discomfort are not necessarily negative. The primary attribute that distinguishes ordinary emotions from those which undermine peace is its negative cognitive component. Ethics for the New Millennium

Reflect on this observation:

A moment of sorrow does not become disabling grief unless we hold on to it and add negative thoughts and imaginings. Ethics for the New Millennium

The Dalai Lama tells of the fear and discomfort he felt when he was young and was to speak in front of large crowds:

. . . on top of the basic feeling, my imagination superimposed something beyond the reality of the situation.  And it was the stories I told myself about the forthcoming event that undermined my basic serenity. Ethics for the New Millennium

Can you recall a situation in which the stories you told yourself about an event (or person) stirred up negative emotions?


Fear is an example of an emotion that can be destructive but is not necessarily so.

Can you recall or imagine a situation where fear might be helpful, or at least not harmful? Fear can heighten our awareness and empower us to protect ourselves. The Dalai Lama gives an example:

On the first night of my escape from Lhasa in 1959, when I left home dressed as a soldier, I certainly felt this kind of fear. But because I had neither the time nor the inclination to think about it, it did not unsettle me very much. Its main effect was to make me very alert. One could say that this was an instance of fear which was both justified and useful. Ethics for the New Millennium

But fear can also paralyze us.

Has there been a time when your fear overwhelmed you and hindered your ability to act reasonably?