In the face of this chaotic world, we need to build our emotional tolerance for all of our complex emotions
Besides sadness, anger and fear or anxiety, we may also frequently experience some complex emotions in the face of this chaotic and frantic world. These emotions may include guilt, jealousy, envy and loneliness. Apart from doing something wrong actually, a person might feel guilty for even a slight contemptuous comments by his colleagues who intentionally accused her for being too arrogant to reject him for a task. In fact, this person was only rejecting the task based on work allocation criteria of the company. This person might have history of being abused by her parents who often guilt-tripping her. In another example, if a person felt that there might be a possibility for him to lose his boss’s favouritism when he witnessed his boss complimented another new colleague’s work, he might experience jealousy and try to do something to reclaim his territory.
In our culture, comparison with others is common and important for us. We may believe that we need to live up to a certain standard in external appearance, wealth and social status in order to be accept by others. As a result, our self identity depends of others’ evaluation on these external matters. When a person felt that she was not thinner than her close friend whom she felt looking more beautiful than her, she might feel envy of her. Due to the pandemic in recent few years, many people feel isolated from others for many different reasons. Without connections with friends or family members for a long time due to difficulty in travelling, a person felt very lonely and disconnected. When he felt being isolated by his friends and family, he might feel confused for not knowing how to connect with himself either. Being alone involuntary, in fact, is different from being alone chosen by oneself.
The complex emotions described above are only some examples of our experiences in our daily lives. Without enough emotional tolerance skills, we may feel overwhelmed by these emotions and cannot make appropriate actions to deal with the situations we are encountering. Cultivating mindfulness is one of the ways to help us to develop emotional tolerance. With mindfulness, we can have higher level of self compassion and tolerance for whatever is happening inside us in the face of this chaotic and frantic world. One important analogy used by Thich Nhat Hanh is mindfulness is similar to a mother holding her newborn baby with openness, love and acceptance in her awareness. According him, mindfulness also have warmth and tenderness besides nonjudgment and acceptance.
In order to train ourselves to be able to tolerate our emotions, it is important for us to welcome and accept our sensations of our body when we are experiencing these emotions. We need to observe our strong emotions with openness and acceptance through experiencing our bodily sensations. As a result, our capacity to tolerate these strong emotions increases and our reactivity in the face of our crises decreases. For instance, when we are experiencing some unexplained discomfort in our chest and tension in our head, we can bring our awareness to these sensations with acceptance and openness. We are not trying to reduce any of these bodily sensations by observing it. On the contrary, even if these sensations get stronger, we observe them with warm welcome and tenderness like a mother is embracing her newborn baby. In this way, we gradually build our tolerance of any kind of emotions inside us. Paradoxically, when we are not intending to get rid of any of our inner emotions through mindfulness, the inner emotions may subside gradually during our practice of acceptance and awareness.
Sometimes, it may not be easy for us to identify our complex emotions due to the mixed bodily sensations arising inside us. In fact, if we cultivate mindfulness in our body whenever we are experiencing some sensations, we may develop tolerance as well as better understanding of our complex emotions in our reflection.