How can I master my own feelings? Is there a way to exercise more restraint without repressing feelings and sentiments? In touchy situations, I sometimes ask myself these questions. We all have to deal with accepting and dealing with our emotions and unconscious impulses. Some days this is a tall order. Ideally, we desire a healthy balance between emotions and intellect.
We can isolate elements of our mental state by encouraging kindness and compassion then becoming aware of the need for understanding and temperance.
These days, it seems like there is plenty of imbalance. There are plenty of strong expressions of emotion and feelings of entitlement. Some members of society make a public display of emotional outrage, such as the current controversy over so-called “religious freedom”. It’s fine to have personal opinions about religion but when those opinions interfere with fair, legal treatment of his or her fellow citizens, there is a severe imbalance. On the other hand, if a person represses ones emotions, then mental torment can be the result.
Some situations suggest a poor fit between a person’s personal opinions and beliefs with that person’s livelihood. It would be very unwise and unhealthy for a vegetarian to work as a butcher in a supermarket. A vegetarian in the meat department proselytizing about the evils of meat eating would be a most unwelcome scenario to customers wishing to purchase cuts of meat for their dinners. If the vegetarian is presented with the situation of working behind the meat counter and losing her job, the wise approach would be to search for a different employer.
It just feels good to feel emotionally balanced and in control of the important aspects of our lives. The stability offered by equanimity not only benefits us, but also the people around us. In my opinion, mental balance is not a matter of forcing myself to conform to social roles nor identities. Balance is actually letting go of limited identities and beliefs. By renouncing my sometimes strong opinions, I reveal my true nature, which is equanimity.
Some people may think that practiced balance and equanimity are aloofness and detached behavior. It is thought, by some, that it is better to be “authentically emotional”. Others think it is best to be completely “rational” in interpersonal relationships. However, a carefully evolved, mature form of emotional-intellectual balance produces a warm, radiant personality. A person who mindfully works towards equanimity discovers he has much less hostility and feelings of ill-will towards himself and others.
The attractiveness and wisdom of true equanimity or mental balance cannot be faked. Dishonesty and subterfuge are revealed sooner or later. In my experience, equanimity cannot be controlled it can only be cultivated. I’ve also discovered that it is a never-ending, ongoing process. I’m certainly not a model of sublime emotional balance, but I understand the value and need for balance.
We can ask ourselves how we can develop deep compassion without becoming saccharine and sentimental. How can we encourage and practice intellectual honesty without becoming harsh and cold-hearted? Perhaps it is by discovering the happiness of true compassion and the joy of intellectual exploration. Compassion and intellect are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is possible for compassion and intellect to reinforce each other.
If we think about this type of balance for just a few moments, its easy to understand. Compassion requires us to investigate and understand the nature of other people. Intellect encourages us to investigate and understand the world around us. It only takes a small leap of imagination to link compassion with intellect. Therefore, it’s possible for compassionate people to be intelligent and for intelligent people to be compassionate.
Practical, emotional balance, that takes into consideration all people involved, is simple. We can encourage ourselves to be considerate when we interact with other people. We can search for and find understanding as to why strong emotions arise within ourselves and how best to cope with them. In doing so, we find that we are not repressing our emotions, but are investigating them with open hearts and open minds.
Seeking balance is an on-going process. It’s never completely done. Feeling balanced is a matter of practicing compassionate intelligence each day.