I have a two year old. She’s delicious and so curious. Her delight in little things is wonderful to observe. She has such unbridled joy. On the other side of the coin, she can be in the tearful depths of woe over something equally small. As adults, we have these same emotions, but have learned to mitigate them. When we are excited, we don’t run from person to person showing them the object of our delight and exclaiming loudly all of its wonderful qualities. Nor when we are sad do we throw ourselves to the floor of our office, kicking and screaming at the walls and our coworkers.
While our emotions are basically the same as they were when we were children, our experience of our emotions tends to stay with us more as we grow older. My daughter never wakes up on a Wednesday morning upset about a toy she lost on Tuesday night. Her feelings are so immediate. Adults on the other hand, can hang on to a negative emotion for months, sometimes years.
Often I am asked by students to explain one of the basic kabbalistic tools, known as restriction. Restriction is simply not speaking or acting reactively – as a reaction to what someone else has said or done. Restriction is the process of shutting down our knee jerk reactions (our ego) and taking the time to instead speak and act proactively. Often I hear, “But Monica, I HAVE been restricting, but I’m still so frustrated!”
To that I have to respond, “You’ve been repressing, not restricting.” The difference – like so many of our kabbalistic teachings – is simple to understand, but difficult to actually do. Restriction means that we feel our feelings. If you are frustrated, hurt, or angry you acknowledge your emotion. You think from where that is arising. You consider the person you are frustrated with. You let the Creator come into the interaction. You contemplate what would best resolve your emotion and then you take action with that consciousness, with dignity and respectfulness for others.
Repressing is when you feel frustration and then try to convince yourself that you aren’t frustrated. Repressing feelings and emotions is never a good solution and like all things bottled up under too much pressure, it will eventually explode!
Don’t think about pink elephants.
You’re thinking about pink elephants because your brain has to! Much in the same way that when you are sad you cannot get out of sadness by simply telling yourself not to be sad. Certainly, you can do this, but eventually it will become clear to you that this approach doesn’t work.
In order to be a more proactive person, which would behoove all of us as it is assured to better our relationships in all areas of our lives, we need to keep it simple. Like children keep it simple. In the midst of her tantrum, my little one doesn’t try to tell herself that she isn’t angry. She feels angry. And she feels that anger until it’s over and then just as quickly as her anger came, she is excited about coloring.
We all carry a lot of emotional baggage and old emotions. It’s an inevitable process of life, but next time one of those old feelings comes up, instead of distracting yourself or dismissing it, try to feel the emotion that arises. Once you do, you can choose your response.
Thought Into Action
Do you have a negative feeling towards anyone in your life? Think about that relationship, feel what arises for you, don’t try to shut it down. Once you do this, you have many options as to what you would like to do with it.