Making Friends With Negative Emotions

June 4, 2021

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

The poem The Guest House by Jalaluddin Rumi speaks of the importance of being open and tolerating all emotions, even the uncomfortable ones. I think that we often amplify our distress by fighting those feelings which we regard as negative, and in this way we heap anxiety on top of the storm we are already experiencing, making it so much worse.

If we can be like an expectant mother in labour, and gently breathe into the “contraction” of pain, fear or despair – relax, and lean into it, cresting it like the wave that it is, knowing it will reach its crescendo and pass, then the discomfort in intense emotion becomes so much easier to bear.

I have noticed that uncomfortable emotions, as they are happening, can always be located in the body. Bring your attention into your body and see if you can find the physical sensation of it. Then, hold yourself soothingly in that place, comforting yourself, just as you would comfort a child. Be kind and loving to yourself, and see the difference it makes.

As Eckhart Tolle says in The Power of Now:

“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”

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