Feelings Flow and Change like the Weather
by Linda Anderson Krech
Through the study and practice of Morita Therapy we can learn a great deal about the nature of feelings. Given that we may experience a wide range of feelings over the course of one day, or one hour, or even five minutes, we are well served by understanding as much as possible about the nature of feelings. A good place to begin is by accepting the ephemeral nature of our feelings. On the one hand, we all seem to recognize this truth. It doesn’t sound like new or radical information, does it? But if we look more closely at some of the decisions we make, it’s not obvious that we really get it.
Dr. Takehisa Kora, a student of Dr. Morita, has this to say:
“The most important characteristic of emotions is that strong feelings subside with the passage of time if they are left to run their course. Our lives would be destroyed by suffering, were it not for this phenomenon. For example, if the pain of a hard blow, such as the death of one’s child, remained as strong as in the beginning, then no one could survive the endless pain. In fact, however, the waves of emotions rise and fall, gradually tapering off, whether we like it or not. Some people either ignore or do not know this principle of emotions, and they become desperate when they encounter trouble, as if it would last forever. They cannot trust the passage of time. An expert in living knows that however terrible his experience may be, his unpleasant feelings will fade with time, and so he can live with optimism.”
Not only does this awareness help us to tolerate painful or uncomfortable feelings, it also opens the door to another truth about feelings – that our attention and behavior can influence the way we feel. If we don’t want our loving feelings to subside, for example, we might try to influence the natural course of events through loving actions and attentive care. Without such efforts, feelings of love can gradually settle down just as other feelings do, such as anger.
Although acceptance is the bottom line when it comes to feelings (or anything that is uncontrollable), it is also useful to be aware of the relationship between feelings, attention and behavior. You might want to design a personal research project to learn about such principles from your own life. When you become aware of a strong emotion, make an entry in your log, noting the time. Keep track of two things – what you are doing and what you are paying attention to (i.e., sitting and thinking; mowing the lawn; watching a movie). Make note of when your emotional state changes. See what conclusions you can draw about the nature of feelings from your own personal experience.
Our feelings have a way of taking care of themselves if we remain engaged with the flow of life. Once we are confident about this truth, it becomes easier to move through difficult feelings. They do not need to define us or derail us. We can trust in life’s wisdom, while experiencing our emotions and continuing to participate in the world.
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 25 years.