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Emotions Are Reactions to Self-Ideas
Ram: Dear Peter, I was thinking about your statement on the phone that my comments about how to deal with your emotional situation were merely intellectual and that you are not in the mood for intellectual understanding. I offered them out of sympathy in the hope that they would be helpful and I’m sorry that you felt irritated by them. Perhaps my timing was bad. I am taking a chance writing this letter because it is possible you are still in the same mood, although a lot of time has passed since we spoke.
Nonetheless, in the hope that you have put some distance between you and your emotional problems, I thought that since you have been interested in spirituality for quite a long time I would write a follow-up letter explaining the Vedantic view of emotions.
Isn’t your statement that you are emotionally weak based on the intellectual idea that you are your feelings? And isn’t that feeling based on the intellectual conclusion that you are not whole and complete, that you are not just fine as you are here and now? Isn’t it precisely this view that is creating the emotional malaise? Vedanta contends that thought precedes emotion because the intellect is subtler than the emotions, therefore it makes the case that emotional problems can ultimately be resolved by tracing the emotions back to their source in the intellect. In fact you might reasonably say that emotions are just ideas outpicturing on the emotional level. For example, people who have very high self-opinions often become enraged with they are confronted by a person who doesn’t share the same opinion of them. People often become depressed when they don’t get what they want. And yet nearly every fool knows that the satisfaction of desire is not under the control of the desirer.
When you boil down the teachings of Vedanta, they all come out as “you are whole and complete, pure and perfect, right here, right now.” Any other self-evaluation would be an intellectual belief or opinion. When you believe you are weak and inadequate, you feel lousy. When you intellectually accept your innate wholeness and completeness, you feel fine.
I find it strange that someone will dismiss the teachings of Vedanta as “intellectual” and yet not be equally ready to dismiss their own emotion-dominated self-conclusions as “intellectual,” particularly if those conclusions are causing suffering. It hurts to think of oneself as weak and inadequate because it isn’t the truth. Some part of you knows that it is untrue and that part isn’t happy with this view.
I hope you won’t take this as an attack. It is purely intended as an offering to maybe help you overcome the feeling that is tormenting you. I wouldn’t even offer it if I thought you wouldn’t benefit by considering it.
~ Om and prem, Ram