Conversations often go awry when strong emotions arise. How can we best work with difficult emotions, both our own and the other person’s?
"This is such a huge area of practice. Again, the foundation is mindfulness. We need to develop the capacity not only to be aware of our emotions but also to tolerate the discomfort of strong, unpleasant emotions. For meditators, we train in this everyday—sitting with knee pain, restlessness, or boredom. If we’re really paying attention, we learn how those moments of patience, tolerance, energy, and letting go apply to the flow of our everyday life and interactions.
But we also need wisdom. We need to understand where our emotions come from, to recognize the meaning they often carry. If there’s emotion, something matters. Emotions are deeply rooted, biological signals that point to something that matters for us. When we get the information underneath an emotion—what we’re valuing, wanting or needing—the intensity of the signal can settle and we can go about attending to the situation. That might mean working internally with our relationship to a specific need or desire, or engaging external to explore the possibility of meeting that need with another.
...Communication is a learnable skill. We each have the capacity to communicate better. Second, conflict can be a source of creativity, discovery, and even intimacy rather than pain and disconnection. And last, that it’s not separate from our contemplative practice. Communication and relationship can be the source of profound and transformative insight."
- Oren Sofer, dharma teacher and SEP
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Carrboro, NC.