[HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter seven, part one

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  • Kokuu
    Treeleaf Priest
    • Nov 2012
    • 6785

    [HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter seven, part one

    This week we will begin looking at chapter seven ‘Mad as Hell’, p97-108 (beginning of chapter to ‘Uncurbed in Eternal Glory’).

    Darlene begins this chapter talking about how being in pain and the strain of illness can leave us, as she puts it, on a short fuse as regards being short-tempered or reactive. In Buddhism, there can be confusion on how to handle anger. On one hand there is a sense of not denying anything that arises yet the ninth grave precept states ‘refrain from anger’. Darlene points out that often this can lead to people suppressing their anger for fear of not being seen to be a good Buddhist, and she further quotes some Abhidhamma teachings which seem to suggest the ‘domestication’ of our emotions.

    Addressing this, she talks about the dangers of either trying to go beyond our emotions, or to distance ourselves from them, becoming uncaring rather than equanimous. She quotes a koan about the Zen Master Chao-chou (also known as Zhaozhou or Joshu) who points out that no one is free of passion nor should we try to be.

    Darlene shares a story from her own past about reacting with anger to criticism from another Buddhist at Green Gulch (part of San Francisco Zen Center) and not even being able to see her state of mind as anything other than neutral. In this case, striving to be seen as equanimous when we are anything but can be more dangerous than acknowledging our tendency to anger.

    She goes on to talk about how a particular incident in a women’s group in which her outburst led her to examine the roots of her hostile reactions and her emotional fragility when challenged over things which conflicted with how she saw herself. She reports on initially noticing how quickly she numbed her emotions and how ‘jumping to a higher self’ can be a common way of dealing with emotions in spiritual communities, which are harmful both for the person doing it and the community as a whole.


    Question prompts:

    1. Do you resonate with Darlene’s description of illness and pain often causing us to operate with an emotionally short fuse?

    2. Have you observed yourself trying to deal with emotions by suppressing them or interacted with others who have this tendency?


    Gassho
    Kokuu

  • Tairin
    Member
    • Feb 2016
    • 2742

    #2
    Thank you Kokuu

    2. Have you observed yourself trying to deal with emotions by suppressing them or interacted with others who have this tendency?

    It was fascinating reading Darlene’s effort to deal with her anger issues. It wasn’t something I expected to read in a Zen book. I guess I am conditioned to thinking these authors have it all figured out. Of course they are just people too. Anyways I have a complicated relationship with anger too. For a long time I didn’t see this. I suppressed and repressed it. Maybe even in some ways justified it. I am sure I am guilty of the sorts of behaviours Darlene reported. Not to say I am a saint now but I definitely am more aware and reflective on my own anger, what is really fuelling it, how does it impact both my life and those around me? If/when these moments arise now I try to have a little sit with them. Why am I angry? Is it really because of what that person did or said? Is there some other root?

    I am a work in progress


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

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    • Kaitan
      Member
      • Mar 2023
      • 471

      #3
      1. Do you resonate with Darlene’s description of illness and pain often causing us to operate with an emotionally short fuse?

      Yes, physical pain takes most of the attention so everything else is more irritable tan usual. So when things are not going the way we want, having physical pain is suffocating.
      2. Have you observed yourself trying to deal with emotions by suppressing them or interacted with others who have this tendency?

      Yes, the term she uses of passive-agressive I never saw it as a way to repress emotions, rather like a way of being or personality flavor. And it describes so much of my life's struggles. And since the last year I tend to see myself bursting in anger, but I think that better way to handle anger and go around life than keeping it for oneself, it just feels good, even if it breaks the precept from time to time. Although that's also falling into an extreme, it isn't something that I've allowed myself to do for almost my entire life.
      The radical change of attitude she recommends I can only think about assertiveness, which I've always admired from people, but never felt capable of, perhaps with zen practice is achievable.

      Gasshō

      stlah, Kaitan

      Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
      Formerly known as "Bernal"

      Comment

      • Alina
        Member
        • Jul 2023
        • 157

        #4
        Thank you Kokuu.

        1. Do you resonate with Darlene’s description of illness and pain often causing us to operate with an emotionally short fuse?
        Yes, I resonate with what she describes a lot. Reciting the 5 Remembrances has helped me to endure illness more, but for me it is emotionally exhausting to continue with all my duties while sick or in pain. I agree with Tairin when he says:
        I guess I am conditioned to thinking these authors have it all figured out. Of course they are just people too.
        Darlene's openness and honesty are some of the things I appreciate the most about this book.

        2. Have you observed yourself trying to deal with emotions by suppressing them or interacted with others who have this tendency?
        Yes, I have the habit of "keep calm and carry on" even if I am not OK at all. Zazen has helped me a lot to stop, listen to myself, say no, get some rest, etc. I am a work in progress too.


        Gassho
        Alina
        stlah

        Comment

        • Matt Johnson
          Member
          • Jun 2024
          • 50

          #5
          1. Do you resonate with Darlene’s description of illness and pain often causing us to operate with an emotionally short fuse?

          Absolutely. I mean, I don't know anybody who doesn't have a short fuse when they're in pain. Often when I'm in extreme pain these days I usually end up doing copious amounts of zazen until I feel better. This also seems to have the effect of putting me outside the path of people who I might get short with. But many times it's totally unavoidable and I have pain in the midst of doing many of the things that I need to do to run a business and to be a parent. I find that when I'm having a flare up it takes a lot of concentration in order to "do what I need to do" for my pain and every time I have to interact with someone or some situation it distracts me, increases my pain and as a result I become irritable.

          In one of the previous chapters I related the situation with my teenager and how it seems to be a precarious balance between not giving in to fight with her, which she seems to want (thus modelling some restraint)-- mirroring her behaviour back to her, allowing her to see that she can't behave in that way without negative consequences, and also modelling apologising when I “let er rip”. But I but if I have to compare my anger now to the way it was when I was in my twenties I think the most significant thing is how it doesn't feel out of control as much. It's like I have a chance to think about it and how I'd like to react. But can it be TRUE ANGER if we don't just freak out and fly off the handle in an out of control way?

          Zennies are often pointing fingers at each other saying “you're angry and snapping at people all the time”. While the other person says “Well at least I'm not repressing it like this smiling Buddha over here”. The intensity of emotion shines through us all a little differently.

          It's interesting because there is a sense in Darlene's book that people who don't express, or over time, work with their emotions in the same way that she did will inevitably have to tread the same ground. (she didn't exactly say that but I got that feeling). A lot of us treat this emotional work like a categorical imperative, especially when we put so much work into it ourselves. We just assume that other people need to do the same work. Like this emotional work is an essential part of the path. I'm not saying it isn't but it assumes a lot of sameness between our neurology. What many people don't consider are all the neurodiverse people out there who experience emotion very very differently from everyone else. And there's not necessarily anything to fix there. It just becomes so personal and I actually think this is where a lot of teacher-student relationships go off the rails.

          When I retreat into my cave of zazen for large chunks of time I've been told that I might need to see a therapist or go on SSRIs to deal with the situation, because clearly somebody who sits alone in their shack and doesn't move much is mentally ill and a suicide risk. Which I find hilarious because not only and do I not think I'm depressed, I'm feel actually quite content. I am content in a situation that would feel extremely depressing to a different person. The problem is nobody knows for sure what it feels like to be someone else and feel those particular emotions and all we have is the context and how WE would feel in that situation.

          Great podcasts on this:

          We often assume that our feelings are responses to the world around us. A friend gives you a fun gift, you feel joy. A driver cuts you off in traffic, you


          We like to think that all humans are born with the same core emotions: anger, fear, joy, sadness and disgust. But what if that's not true? This week, psychologist Batja Mesquita offers a different model of emotions — one that can help us to better understand our own feelings and those of the people around us.


          2. Have you observed yourself trying to deal with emotions by suppressing them or interacted with others who have this tendency?

          Absolutely! Learning how to suppress your emotions is absolutely vital to living in society. Just talk to the average Japanese person. But I think what zazen allows us to do is to see the emotions and become conscious of them rather than just reacting which is where most of the trouble starts. "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” - Carl Jung

          _/\_

          sat / lah

          Matt
          ​​​
          Last edited by Matt Johnson; 07-07-2024, 03:34 AM.

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