Understanding the advantages and drawbacks of particular emotions and applying our intelligence, we can transform our minds. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This is about the balance of each emotion. No one emotion is perfect, nor are there any emotions which come without drawbacks. Conversely, none of the emotions are completely without use, nor are any so flawed as to be wholly without use. Like tools in a toolbox, each has a purpose, a task for which it is suited. And there are tasks for which it is not well suited at all.
No tool is evil or bad. The task it is set to, or the person wielding it might be, but the tool simply exists. Each emotion has it’s place, each has strengths and weaknesses, advantages and drawbacks. By knowing each, and knowing yourself, you can chose the best tool for the occasion.
We can use them to assist us in the world outside, and we can use them to change our mental landscape. If we can change habitual use of certain emotions, we can change how we perceive the world, and what tools we chose to use. In this manner, we transform our minds.
Why is perspective important?
If you had the firm belief that someone stole your items every time you misplaced them, you might find yourself reaching for the tools of anger, outrage, and even violence. If you could change your perspective, if you could recognize that you might have misplaced them, you could reach for other emotions instead.
This change in perspective is critical to changing how you react, based on your perception of the world around you. This change happens in your mind, and I believe that this reshaping of your mind is the transformation mentioned in today’s quote.
By knowing both the advantages and the drawbacks of each emotion, it becomes easier to select the proper tool for the situation. But if you misunderstand the situation, if your perspective is messed up, it will be a more difficult to chose the proper tool, right?
Where can I apply this in my life?
I would like to start with a little introspection. What emotional states do you use most often? What are your go-to tools in your tool box? Like the amateur with a hammer, pretty soon everything looks like a nail. What you use most often will often shape your perception. What are they?
Take a moment, and some paper, and write down the half dozen or so you spend the most time using. Leave some space between each, so you can write down the advantages and drawbacks of each. They don’t have to be “bad” emotions, whatever that means, just the ones you use the most often.
Next to each, write a couple of the advantages, and then a couple of the drawbacks. I hope you were able to have love as an emotional state you spent enough time in to make the list. Some of the advantages I listed were the connection I felt, and the warm feelings that happen inside me.
Now what are some of the disadvantages of love as an emotion? I listed that it could blind you to the true motives of someone else. I also listed that the trust that often comes with love could be abused by another. I general, there is a vulnerability associated with love which can be a drawback.
What is on your list? What other emotional states have you listed, and how are their advantages and drawbacks looking? Have you stumbled across any drawbacks you hadn’t really thought about before? Did you realize that rage might give you strength, but reduce your ability to think clearly?
This isn’t a moral exercise, to find the evil emotions and banish them from your life. Just because a carpenters knife could cut or even kill doesn’t mean it must be banished from the toolbox. It is useful for cutting string and sharpening pencils, as well as cutting your lunch.
I hope this exercise has given you some perspective on your favorite, or at least your most frequent, emotions. Have you determined what emotions you might want to move off the list (or at least move down the list a little farther)?
What emotions might be able to cover the advantages the old emotion gave you, without all the same drawbacks? How else might you get the strength of rage without the drawback on the clarity of thought? Or could you find a way to not need the strength of rage by heading off the problem before it got to that level of emotion?
With these questions, we begin to transform our minds. By transforming our perceptions of the world, we change our reactions to the world. And in so doing, we change the world, one person at a time. Starting with ourselves, which is the only person we have any real control over, right?
Any craftsman knows their tools. Why do so few of us know our own emotions and our own selves? I believe this is a question worthy of some additional introspection. But as we find answers to this question, we will continue to transform our minds.