On Thinking About Feelings

Some people say that we should “fully feel our emotions instead of thinking about them.” There is truth in this, but it must be qualified. Deeply feeling our emotions is part of an awake and mindful life. However, thinking about our emotions is also valuable. We might ask “What underlies this emotion? Is there clinging there, aversion, self-delusion? How do these things connect with and give rise to the emotion?” This sort of inquiry can be liberating and evoke valuable insights.

Thinking about our emotions can also help to prevent us from carrying out impulsive, reckless actions that can be destructive.  There are many people who do great damage by not thinking about their emotions.  Think about psychopathic serial killers who feel a need to take lives, of rapists who feel desires they do not question, but only put into action, of child abusers who act based only on their ‘own’ feelings of lust and cannot think enough to take into account the feelings and interests of others. Thinking about feelings is important, but fully feeling them beforehand is the valuable first step.

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