One of the lines that I really like in Gaylon Ferguson’s book Natural Wakefulness is “Distraction is married to discontent.” You could test this out in your own experience. There’s nothing as real and direct and counterhabitual as being present with yourself, just as you are, with your emotions just as they are.
As difficult as that can be, the result of that training is nonstruggle: not rejecting your experience, fully engaged with yourself, with the world, there for other people. Another result of coming back to being with yourself, just as you are, is that emotions don’t escalate.
Drop a stone in the water and what happens? The ripples go out. If the stone is big enough, it can rock a rowboat on the other side of the lake.
It’s the same, generally speaking, when an emotion arises and you acknowledge, Oh, I’m getting worked up. Oh, my heartbeat is going faster. Oh, I’m feeling fear. Oh, I’m feeling resentment. Or just, Oh, I’m activated, triggered.
At that moment, when you acknowledge it, there’s a space. Just by the very act of acknowledging or being present enough, conscious enough, you’ll find that space—and in that space lies your ability to choose how you’re going to react.
You can either stay present with whatever it is you’re feeling—with the intensity or heat or edginess or shakiness of the emotion—or you can spin off.
You can be caught in the momentum and carried away, which usually means you start talking to yourself about what’s going on. You churn it all up more and more, and it’s like the ripples go out and out and out.
When you choose to reinforce the emotion, when you choose to exaggerate it, when you choose to let the emotion run you, to let the emotion carry you away, then a whole chain reaction of suffering starts.