When intense emotions and stressful thoughts surface, I can avoid or open to them.
And each one has self-reinforcing dynamics, they each tend to set up a loop.
Why do I avoid opening to the emotion/thoughts? It’s because of a set of beliefs, and they may seem quite deep seated at first.
It will get worse. Something terrible will happen. (If I open to the emotion, inquire into the thought.)
It’s better to avoid. It’s more comfortable to avoid. It’s easier to avoid. It’s possible to avoid.
The thought is true. The stressful thought reflects reality. It’s pointless to inquire into it.
So when I avoid, I do it because of these beliefs, and it means I don’t get a chance to question them. I avoid opening to the emotions, so I don’t get to see what will happen if I do. I avoid questioning the stressful beliefs, so I don’t get to see what’s more true for me.
Of course, we cannot avoid all the time, so we do get glimpses of how it so to do the 180 degree turn and opening to the emotion, and inquire into the stressful thoughts. It happens in ordinary life, perhaps through a conversation with a loving friend. And it may happen through a book, a teacher, or a workshop.
As I open to an intense emotion, it’s a form of inquiry. What happens if I open to it? Allow it? Welcome it? Notice it’s already allowed?
And inquiring into a stressful thought is a double inquiry. It’s an inquiry into the thought, and an inquiry into what happens if I inquire into this thought.
In both of these ways, I get to see that my assumptions may not be entirely accurate. I thought something terrible would happen, I thought it would get worse (which it may, in the very short term), and it didn’t. Something else happened. So I get more curious. I am drawn to trying it again. Next time an intense emotion surfaces, along with stressful thoughts, I may remember. Something in me nudges me to try it again. How is it to open to this emotion, inquire into this thought? And as I do this more regularly, it becomes a new habit. Now, opening to emotions and inquiring into thoughts becomes what’s more attractive, more familiar.
The shift may take time, and yet it’s inevitable that it happens, as long as I am sincere in questioning whatever thoughts I have that may prevent me from opening to the emotion, and questioning the thought.