What are the functions of emotions?
Are there positive and negative emotions?
Perhaps emotions are neither positive nor negative they just exist and society attaches value to them. As was written in Part One negative emotions may be negative because they are expressed negatively or a value / judgment is placed from outside or inside our selves. Certainly so-called negative emotions may be experienced as unpleasant especially when they are acted out instead of merely expressed without the drama.
All human thought is associative and only varies based on associative thinking. We think by associating one idea with another. A good example that illustrates this is thinking about at trip say by automobile. One cannot think of the entire trip at once.
Challenge: “Yes I can through looking at a map.”
Answer: “Maps are representations of a trip not the trip itself
We think of the steps of a trip. Drive down the road. Turn right down Highway 12. Turn left at the light. These are steps; one associated with the next. Even deductive or inductive logic are formal ways of organizing associative thinking.
Associative thinking is an easy way to characterize emotions as negative and positive or pleasant and unpleasant because this kind of cognitive mapping is hardwired into our neuronal structure. In psychological theory we look to feel a sense of pleasure or satisfaction and avoid, suppress, repress and/or deny any emotion that interferes with this pleasure.
The “new age” thinking associates ego with negativity and the expression of the divine self with a positive non-attached bliss and enlightenment. Even when we are able to release the ego and feel the bliss of oneness this feeling lasts briefly because as we think or say “I” ego rushes back in and claims the experience. There is nothing wrong with ego claiming the experience of oneness – one of the ways of attachment. The danger is the development of an illusion that one is in a constant state of the divine self when it is merely ego claiming the experience. The illusion is so thick that many “new age” thinkers develop a false personality of divinity and make assumptions. This kind of illusion helps support the duality of thought (through association) eliminates complexity and allows a simple view to assist in keeping us stuck in an illusion of living in bliss, oneness and enlightenment. This factor is one of many that robs us of the path to mastery. In other words the “new age” philosophy makes ego bad and oneness good – it’s not that simple.
In Buddhism we learn that one of the chief attributes of being human is attachment. Emotions are the fuel for attachment. Many who first contact the Buddhist Philosophy may think that attachment can be overcome once and for all. This is not true except when enlightenment is attained (however there are two caveats that belie this assertion). Those that are enlightened retain their personalities / egos which continue to be subject to attachment. As we dwell within our physical bodies a natural attachment develops for it as a vehicle for our survival and as a part of our egos. Attachment is with us until our body dies and could continue into the afterlife. Attachment is a positive factor in our lives when it is utilized in creating increasingly higher states of consciousness.
Attachment is a biological and egoic process within us. It feels good in a sensorial manner.
Attachment can be seen on a continuum:
Figure 1 – Process of Un-examined Attachment
Figure 2 – Process of Working with Attachment
[Aside: in psychological theory Attachment takes on a different connotation – one where an infant bonds with its parents through love.]
As a child develops it models the behaviors of its parents and learns language. Language is the inseparable tech of ego. A child learns language and develops the “me” and “not-me” sense of self and ego is born. Ego grows and learns through attachments and identifications. It is in this way that ego fixes an identity in its social milieu. All of us have egos. As soon as we think or say “I” ego is in play. Attachment is the action of establishing, maintaining and growing the ego.
Attachment can occur through like and dislike. The child likes to play. Attachment to liking something is understandable. The child dislikes when its parents argue. An attachment to dislike is counter-intuitive. The attachment to the dislike is not apparent because the attachment comes with regard to the behaviors and subsequent emotions with those behaviors. The child runs and hides when parents argue – fear, or get angry and acts out, or pretends argument is not there avoidant etc.
Emotion is the major fuel of attachment. As ego develops and grows it desires to attain more experiences. They it can let go and become one with the other in a brief moment. This could be an act of love or a oneness with the multiverse. However what invariably happens once ego is released in the moment it comes rushing back in in the next moment claiming and reveling in the experience of oneness in a desire to claim it, define it and understand it from an ego perspective. Attachment from the Buddhist perspective says that the emotions that fuel attachment come from a pursuit of happiness that is believed to exist outside the ego and thus must be attained. This pursuit is tied into the whims of ego and language (as tech) that supports the pursuit along a linear time line. True happiness is already within and need not be pursued. Thus it is said that we are already enlightened and are peeling away the layers of illusion that allow us to realize that state and keep ego corralled.
The path of mastery is a taming of ego from within. This is a Herculean endeavor. Part of the journey is developing the witness within. From this inner place it is possible to begin to work with our attachment via emotions.
Negative emotions are ineffectively expressed and are seen as undesired. Often times the expression of anger, anxiety, panic, rage, fear, and loathing etc. are expressed in a maladaptive manner that reflects regressive or childish expressions of these emotions. They have been modeled by our parents and their grandparents and so on and have been inoculated into our thinking as “negative emotions”.
Some positive emotions produce satisfaction, happiness and bliss, amongst many more. Often others want to be near us when we exhibit positive emotions. Positive emotions are almost always wanted to the exclusion, denial and/or suppression-repression of the negative ones.
Transforming Emotions and Attachments into the Energies of Consciousness
The problems of ego, the limitations of linear time and language and associative thinking contribute to the either/or dialectic in thought and deed that have been troublesome.
Associative thinking quiet naturally leads us into black and white thinking: positive and negative emotions, ego is bad, divine self is good etc. We have made the assumption that only two forces make the universe work: positive energy and negative energy. In the atom there are electrons – negatively charged particles or waves and protons – positively charged particles or waves and there are neutrons –particles that have no charge.
Inner or Spiritual Work relies on the Witness or Neutral Observer. In Quantum Physics the observer sees the effects of what is observed, and this was once thought to be impossible because experimenters thought they were separate from experiments. Transposing this kind of thinking to neutrally and compassionately observing our self. This allows us to build a relationship with our self that is neutral and thus allows judgment to dissipate so that we can dispassionately see ourselves without the filters of illusion. By focusing within and systematically releasing our thoughts on a continual basis attachment, freedom from attachment, abiding happiness and enlightenment become apparent.
When we face unwanted (or so-called “negative emotions”) without judgment from the compassionate witness self energy is created. This energy is usually blown off through talking or it can be stored for future work towards mastery and the evolution of cosmic consciousness.