Negative emotions are painful. They’re also frightening. Even though everyone has experienced emotional pain, we’ll do virtually anything to avoid it.
A recent study done by social psychologists at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville found that 67% of men and 25% of women would chose to electrically shock themselves rather than sit quietly by themselves. It’s when we sit quietly by ourselves that painful thoughts and emotions become hardest to avoid.
It’s understandable to want to avoid our thoughts and feelings, but by preventing them from being felt, we create a lot of stagnation in our bodies. This stagnation occurs particularly in our liver, which is the most emotion sensitive organ. Prolonged denial of our emotions can make us sick.
If, however, we allow those emotions to be felt, if we sit and allow the pain to wash over us, we can transform it. Pain that is felt is no longer destructive. It becomes compassion, empathy, and understanding. Pain that is felt also becomes less frightening, and when we no longer fear pain, we are more capable of accepting the pain of others.
When we open ourselves to the pain of others, we begin to change the world.