When Emotion Overtakes You

Question: Is there a special technique or method to help when we are overtaken by emotion?

Ram Dass: The question was, are there spiritual techniques when you are overcome by emotion?

Well, I’ll tell you, as your practice gets more and more powerful, what happens is you see the stuff as it starts before it gets so overloaded and so invested with adrenaline and all of that. You don’t let it get so intense. By the time it gets out of control and so immense, then you just wait. You wait. The best thing to do at that point is to sit quietly and to let it pass.

Now when an emotional upset starts, it may start out of a thought process, but then it starts to involve all of the body — the adrenaline and all kinds of chemical reactions. Then often, one of the ways out of it is to work with the body.  For example, running or movement. Taking a walk. Doing things which start to release the energy, the kind of chemical buildup. Because you get that kind of nervous energy when you are emotionally upset. Then there is meditation–quieting down and allowing yourself to see how lost you’ve gotten. I mean on the deeper devotional path, there is the offering of the emotion to God.  Saying, “Here, You take it.  I offer it to You.”  There is appreciating your humanity. “Yea, here I am. I’m human. I just lost it again.  Ah so!” There’s the Ah so — Right? “Okay. Once more. Boy, am I hung up.” These are all spiritual techniques. See, it’s the upleveling. It’s the ability to see it without denying it. Not saying, “I’m not really upset.” “I am upset. Far out. Here we are again.” It’s like talking with God and saying “Oh, look at how deliciously human I am.” Not to milk it.  Not to keep feeding it, but not to push it away. That’s the quickest way through. To acknowledge it, allow it, and then use body energy to keep working out the chemical stuff that’s built up and the tension in the body that’s been built up. And then get on with it and just keep letting go, letting go, letting go. Sometimes music does it. There are a lot of techniques that do it.

And then you see that it’s your expectations of your own mind that are creating your hell. “I expected you to be…” When you get frustrated because something isn’t the way you thought, examine your thinking, not just the thing that frustrates you.  And you will see that a lot of your suffering is created by your models about how the Universe ought to be. And your inability to allow it to be. If I meet somebody that is a liar and a cheat, they are like an elm tree. They are the essence of lying and cheating. If I have a model people shouldn’t lie and cheat, then I am immediately in opposition to that person. I don’t have to play games with them. I may say “In the future, you and I can’t play together because you are a liar and a cheat and I can’t play with you” but I at least appreciate and allow them their lyingness and cheatingness. That’s their problem, not mine. My problem was my expectations. If you have a model that everybody is good and then somebody isn’t, then you end up hating the world and being all upset about the world because it isn’t the way you expected it to be. It’s like you come here and it’s a beautiful day, so you expect the next day is going to be beautiful. Then it rains, and you are disappointed. Isn’t it funny that when it rains, you should be disappointed? To take nature and allow nature, when it’s in its natural state, to make you miserable. It says something about you.  It’s like decaying and dying. If you are upset about decaying and dying, you’ve got a problem. You really do.

-Ram Dass

25 thoughts on “When Emotion Overtakes You”

  1. excellent ideas…as one who ‘suffers’ from an ‘anxiety disorder’ I know that walking outside, breathing in the fresh air is an excellent way to release that crazy anxiousness. I concentrate on my breath and how good it feels to move my body, and then I realize that those electric shocks in the chest have gone away.

    Love to you!

  2. This isn’t enough for me… It barely touches on the ideas that I need more of. I realize it’s unfair to be upset about death and dying, but how do I deal with the overwhelming emotions of grief when they wash over out of the blue?

    • Try using the techniques he describes in the article above…trust me…they work for any type of anxiety and overwhelming feelings that overtake and frighten you. Let go…let God.

    • Unfair? To whom? You have every right to be upset about death and every right not to be upset about it. Though neither option will prevent death…though to some extent each attitutde may bring death nearer.

      • But your said, “If you are upset with decay and dying, you’ve got a problem.” And I am. I’m upset that he died. I’m upset I can’t talk to him. I’m upset I can’t hear his voice.

        I’m upset at work when I listen to people die (I’m a 911 dispatcher). Death is overwhelming me

        • Gemi, I cannot imagine the daily suffering you manage for your community and it must take such a toll. I’m sorry and I’m thankful for your generous works. You help others to suffer less.
          This is what helps me; Ram Dass also says, “…don’t milk it. Don’t keep feeding it, but also do not push it away.” That’s the human quality. He also says that we must use our physical energies to work out the chemistry, walking, running etc. It is with continued practice that we may truly take refuge in our Sanghas or God. In God we can begin to relate to our suffering differently. I’m certainly not there, but being in the presence of others, even virtually, who know the world differently and put their concerns in God’s hands – helps me keep my practice. Ram Dass is a living and loving entity and being near him, his smile, his reception of my gratitude has impacted me profoundly, and still, I have my work to practice. In love, RC.

        • The problem is death and decaying are inevitable so if you have a problem with it you are guaranteed to be upset. He is talking about realizing those things are a part of life, like the rain..might not be what you want but it is. But also not punishing yourself for feeling upset over the matter..it is only human what you and most everyone else goes through.

        • he means you have a problem if you yourself are afraid of dying/ decaying and not accepting it as a part of everyones life. his is essentally a vivid example which relates to the more universal concept of not accepting that you have to feel your way through suffering of any kind, but also not perpetuate it.Its ok to be upset, thats what RD is promoting try catch yourself out before you drown in the grief too deep…afterall would ‘he’ want you to be continually suffering because of him? Very sad for you though, maybe you should change jobs also if its all too much..

    • It is not unfair to be upset about death and dying. Your emotions are real and highly personal and natural. Don’t brow-beat yourself for being and expressing who you are and what you are feeling. But try to do so without being harmful or upsetting to others or yourself.
      As a recent widow, I thought I had processed most of my emotions, but after the holidays were over, the grief and emotions became overwhelming. I reached out to friends and family, kept busy, but I also honored my feelings and let them out in constructive ways. I’ve learned long ago that suppressing them will only fester like a toxin in the system, only to surface later as sickness, disease, etc. One is wise to be gentle especially on oneself and not to expect to be able to always rise above the situation.
      When I became angry a few days ago, I spent over two hours hacking and sawing away on pruned tree limbs in the back yard and crying, until the feelings dissipated. I get my best housework and yard work done when I’m angry!

  3. Yep, that’s it, I realize when I’m in it that I’m in it, sometimes it’s a doozy but I’m learning that that is also part of my humanness and my path to whatever is next. Thank you for the teaching.

  4. what about the feelings that go with grief and loss? It isn’t enough to hear, ‘there is really no such thing as death.’ when the reality, now, is that we painfully miss the person who is gone. I don’t think there is any way to chalk it up to unreal emotion. we have to feel the emotions surrounding that loss.

    • Hi Synthia, RD doesnt infer death as not existing or chalking it up to unreal emotion as you say. He was not focusing on death itself or grieving, it was simply an example of going with the flow of nature and accepting death as part of nature. Essentially he was saying to feel the emotion, not ” chalk it up to unreal emotion’….to not deny it, BUT also not to milk/enhance suffering in general. Its so easy to get off point when people are bringing their expectations (as RD says) on what the meaning is for them, as though he is referring to our personal story but NO he is talking to humanity as one and exploring ways of thinking that are common and instinctual to us all.

  5. Great Ideas. You may like this documentary “The Thought Exchange”.

    Thought Exchange is a simple yet profound
    way of looking at the world, that allows us to understand and experiencethe truth about who we really are, where we really live, what we really want, and how to have that all the time.

    www (dot) cultureunplugged (dot) com/documentary/watch-online/play/50200

  6. It is our natural state to not let go because of our programming so the whole process of “decay and dying” may seem remote as it is often shoved away into forget about it. I think we need to see that the process of dying is as beautiful as life as it is part of life, a life that continues far from our maddening duality, and into the unity of being that defies description. I really enjoyed this essay and I needed to hear this now because I have recently had a situation come up where I thought I lost an inordinate sum of money. Well it freaked me out..then I said to myself..hehe test; life is meant to freak me out because i need to attune to the vital importance of the be and just flow with that…;) WoW a magical synch for me tonight~ Thank-you soulful heart Baba Ram Dass <3 <3 <3

  7. … re ’emotions’: as survivors of ‘ground zero’ typhoon Haiyan, as surfers on Calicoan Island, Eastern Samar, when our home did nor survive, and we should ‘not have’, as buddhists, practitioners of the Nichiren Shoshu S.G.I. movement, and as, having chanted for3.5hrs during the heat of the strongest storm in recorded history ever to make landfall anywhere in the world, and as one’s whom so many family and friends, all of whom, for a few days had thought we perished, how when talking to them about this amazing experience, and the international response, can one deal with ‘The Tears’, those of sadness & those of Joy? i.e. to not show those emotions, or to let them flow? … counting Our Blessings & heading back to ‘re-build’ … <3 … myoho's rod & rose p.s. on FB …

  8. Thank you for this message. It is something I needed to hear at this moment. I have a pendulum clock in my bedroom that ticks to “Let Go – Let God” and I fall to sleep with that mantra every night. Blessings to you and everyone for this special time of year when the winter Solstice reminds us of rebirth and renewal.

  9. I get emotional a lot,but change my emotion from anything else to gratefulness.The more gratefulness you feel the more Love you feel,which brings more gratefulness,which brings more Love.The Perfect Circle.

  10. You can choose not to beat yourself up for being bipolar. But if you do, you can choose not to beat yourself up for beating yourself up. But if you do, you can choose not to beat yourself up for beating yourself up about beating yourself up.

  11. best part: “I’m upset. Far out. Here we are again.” … because you use a tone of the observer–we are so powerful and delighted as that observer! infinite love to you!

  12. wishing will get u nowhere…choosing to know you can will get you everywhere. Whatever u keep saying is hard for you will always be hard for you wihen u are repeating and reinforcing it in your mind all the time. it will never change. Life isnt always easy but it IS possible for you to do this…or impossible whichever you want

  13. Why call emotions chemical? Everything in the body is reflected in chemical processes. You do not make them less you calling them chemical.

  14. Great stuff, but I’d also add tapping as a way to release the emotional charge patterns. Tapping on the meridians will help cut the pattern of response which allows the suffering to begin in the first place. Once we break that pattern, we will not react as much as observe the outside behaviors of others. It’s our perception of the circumstance that causes the suffering. Loved this. Thanks, Ram Dass.


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