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The Map of the Soul

articles on the nature of the human mind

By S.M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)

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Recycling Emotions


Recycling Emotions

What is Emotion?

A human being is, in a sense, a bundle of emotions. We have anger, hatred, envy, sorrow, sympathy, disappointment, boredom etc. These are called emotions. They are reactions of the mind to events. The events may be external or internal. For example, I may become angry because someone has scolded me or because I feel hungry. However, events arouse emotions in the mind only when the mind feels the need to react to them. So, at a more basic level, emotions are the mind’s reactions to the body’s feelings. This is why different people react differently to the same event. The way they feel the event may be different for individuals. And actually it is. For example, if I am anxious or frightened or ill, I will react to a funny comment of my friends in a way that would be substantially different than if I were not ill or happy or not frightened. This discovery encourages us to conclude that rather than trying to control emotions, it would be far more sensible and effective to understand the way we perceive stimuli. Unless we change the way we perceive, we cannot change the way emotions bring about results for us in our activities. More importantly, we need to know what perception is and why we perceive things in different ways if we want to change ourselves at all.

We are going to explore and not to accept any concept as given. There can be no textbook of the mind as far as attaining a certain state of mind or changing the mind is concerned. In such eases the approach and attitude of a researcher is better than that of a specialist. In many cases the specialist wants to teach mostly because he cannot learn any more; because he cannot bear the burden of the knowledge he thinks he has; and not necessarily because he feels that what he knows is so valuable that others will be benefited by sharing it. The specialist seems more addicted to the vocabulary of knowledge than bona-fide learning.

Usually we define anger in a certain way. For example, what Mr. X calls anger is also called anger by Mr. Y. In this ways we secure a uniform definition, no doubt, but we can hardly attain to the truth. The definition of anger and anger as a fact are two different things. The fact that they are two different things will be clear if the following question, which need not be answered, is considered:

Can a person define anger when he or she is angry?
The same structure of questioning can be used of other emotions, such as:

Can a person define envy when he or she is envious?  Or
Can a person define disappointment when he or she is disappointed?

An emotion is defined only by a person who has observed the causes, activity, and results of an emotion expressed by another person. In this way knowledge is divorced from the fact, as a result of which some people can become talking glossaries of specialized terms or jargons to stupefy others. It is easy to be a specialist by making something difficult.

While defining an emotion, such as anger, in a certain way, we happen to ignore the fact that such a definition does not represent that emotion; rather, it only refers to it. That is why the study of such definitions cannot help change life. A definition can never represent a fact. It can at best describe some features of a certain reality viewed from a specific angle. While somebody may be angry for a certain reason, another person may not be so. That is why knowing about an emotion may not benefit us. We can only ‘know about’ an emotion; we can never know it. However, we can search for it and then look at it, until, surprisingly, we are convinced that we can never see it. An attempt to see that which cannot be seen yet which seems to exist, provides the correct knowledge of ... not of that thing (because it is not a ‘thing’ at all), but of the fact which involves that perception. There can be no way more direct than this.

Can we see another person’s anger? No. We can only define it.
Can we define our anger? No. We can only attempt to see it. And only then can we see that it does not exist any more. And this is the only way of changing life.

Now the question is: What is it that we should try to see? I do not say that you need to believe that emotions do not exist. Rather, I would at best say that it will so happen that when you attempt to see an emotion you will see that it does not exist any more. You can guess the truth of it even without really making the attempt. That is because the guessing in this case is akin to the seeing. If that is the case, then we may be concerned about why we think an emotion exists. And we may close this paragraph by making the readymade answer that we think that an emotion exists as long as we do not make an earnest attempt to see it. The energy saved from the absence of the attempt to see itself creates the thought. However, again, what is it that is to be seen?

In fact, nothing needs to be seen. What is there to see if there is nothing that can be seen? Therefore, the attempt to see is the most important task in this connection. But again, if there is nothing that can be seen, and if there is nothing to see, then why is the question of seeing at all? This is a very relevant question. The answer is: There should be an attempt to see the thought that “there exists an emotion”. This attempt, if earnest, will use up the energy that would create the thought. The result is predictable: The emotion will get nipped in the bud.

But what does an emotion’s getting nipped in the bud mean? Does it mean that the energy is lost? Certainly not. When the emotion is nullified with understanding it loses its directional bias, that is, the mode of reaction, and the energy attains a state of permanency. While emotional energy is localized and space-time-bound, acting as automatic instinct, emotion-free energy is uniform, permanent, waste-free, and universal.

At this moment the reader may ask: Does not emotion mean energy, then? If it is energy, then what happens to energy when the emotion is no more? This question, if it may have arisen in your mind, will make you wiser. Emotion is not energy, although we started the article saying that it is. In fact, emotion is a specific EXPRESSION of energy, a certain, biased movement of energy. It can be compared with a wave, which is not the sea, that is energy, and still which is the play of the sea, the interplay of the sea with the wind.

How to Look at Emotions:

You can look at emotions only when you are emotional. However, when you are emotional you do not have the ability to looks. This is a paradox. But you have to acquire the ability, the eye, right now. So let us see how to look at emotions.

The practice should begin when there is the feeling of an emotion. Take anger for example. We all become or tend to become angry time and again. Sometimes the intensity is high, sometimes low. The practice is likely to be most successful when one is slightly angry. As soon as you feel you are angry, do the following things:

  • Remove you eyesight from the object of anger.
  • Take a deep breath and then exhale normally and try to feel relieved.
  • Close your eyes and feel that you are angry. At this             stage do not bother about who you are angry with.
  • Then ask yourself the question:

         Who is angry?
         Who am I?

  • Then ask another question:

         What does anger mean?

  • Then ask still another question:

         Is anger more powerful than I am?

  • Give a smile and leave the place for some time if your anger has not abated yet.

By this time you may not have any more anger left. However, while this is the instant way of dissolving anger, you need to do something more on a regular basis to prevent yourself from the attack of anger. You must UNDERSTAND, and NOT JUST KNOW, why anger, and in fact any emotion, arises at all.
Emotion and Relationship

Anger, like all other emotions, is a reaction of the mind to internal or external stimuli. I may become angry if I feel very hungry and get no food. Or I may get angry if somebody scolds me. In both the cases, anger is seen to be a way of building relationships with events. If, for example, my father or brother gives me certain scolding, I may not feel angry. But if the same scolding comes from another person, I may burst out into uncontrollable anger.

If, however, I could manage my anger somehow or other, in the case of somebody else scolding me, probably he or she would become a close friend of mine and I would have another relative without any cost.

Likewise, if I fail to manage my anger when any of my family members scolds me, then I may lose that relationship.

So we see that anger is not only a way of building relationships with others, it is also determined by the type of relationship that we feel we have with others. Therefore we can never manage it without knowing what RELATIONSHIP is and why there happens to be any relationship at all among people. Even if we concentrate on anger, we may not be able to manage it. Unless the origin of anger is found, there can be no permanent control over anger. And this is true of any emotion.

Thus we see that anger is a consequence of our ignorance of relationships. If, perhaps, I knew what relationship I have with you, really knew and felt, then I would not get angry with you for many of your conducts or behaviors. Again, if I knew my relationships with my son, then probably I would get angry with him in the required amount in the case of his unjust behavior with others his unethical treatment of situations, although usually I happen to be an indulging parent to him in most such cases.

On the other hand, if I knew what relationship I must build with others, with complete conviction that that is the only way of my self-fulfillment, I could understand how to react to events that they create.

However, most of the time our idea of a relationship happens to be a product of our concept of life and motives. For example, we try to keep good relationships with our customers and a competitive relationship with our rivals. I do not say that such motives are either good or bad. Motives must always be there as long as we are supposed to create results by activities. But we must also ask ourselves some questions to clear the traffic jam of the mind:

Do we use our relationships to achieve our motives? Or
Do we build relationships in order to achieve a motives? Or
Do we consider building relationships a goal in itself?

These questions are very critical and must be asked and considered with an intention to compare each with the other. Not until the mind is amply disordered in the required way can there be a meaningful order established in it. Therefore, rather than looking for an answer given by another person, just look inside yourself and try to feel the import of the questions together. You do not need an answer; what you need is a proper understanding of your own mind; the structure of your own psyche.

To understand emotions is to understand life. To understand life means to see everything in its right place. If we are able to see something in its right place, it will not arouse localized or biased emotions in an unjust way.

This point is very important. Emotion and justice. It is because of the possibility of doing injustice that the necessity of controlling or understanding emotions arises or is felt. Otherwise nobody would be required to bother about them. Certainly, we do not even think of controlling or understanding hunger or sexual appetite. If ever we do think about these things, we think of how to possibly increase them to the fullest.

So, let me repeat, to understand something in its right place is what is really important. And that goal is achieved in the simplest way by understanding emotions in their right place. Hundreds of thousands of scientists will take thousands of years to understand events and things in their right place but a spiritual researcher can do so simply by understanding emotions in their right place. To do this he has to be very sensitive to himself.

So we conclude that knowing events and relationships in their right place means knowing emotions in their right place. Hopefully, this is true of all emotions, not just of any particular emotion like anger.



Continued ...


Author of:

Secret Knowledge of the Qur'an