Meditation: Dealing with Dark Emotions & Trauma

Dark Emotions

I ought to write about people who have a turbulent path in life and how to deal with very negative and recurring dark emotions. After all that has been my path since a very young age. The first time I tried meditation was at the age of 12, and at 18 I’ve already fully dedicated myself to the spiritual path to find some answers to my recurring negative states. Let us explore together how meditation can be of tremendous help.

What are Dark Emotions

We live in a day and age where everyone suffers silently behind closed doors. Nobody really wants to show how they feel in their desparate moments, but rather carry an external facade that pretends to have it all figured out. Reality is, that many many people suffer from recurring and prolonged periods of internal suffering, and I specifically refer to emotional and mental suffering in this article. Dark emotions are deep and sometimes even raw and primordial emotions such as depression, anxiety, lonliness, despair etc. For some of us, due to our ancestral history and upbringing, there are deep traumatic imprints that simply won’t go away – at least not completely.

I grew up in a family with a horrible Holocaust history, with so much trauma, anxiety, grief and guilt. I also grew up in Israel, experiencing a continuous state of semi-war with missiles being shot onto the city where I lived, needing to run to the shelters with the sound of the howling sirens. Needless to say that anxiety, fear and trauma were deep in my family and as a result in me. Pretty early on in my life I realized the painful reality that I will have to deal with very difficult emotional and psychological states throughout my life. And those of you who read this, probably know what a torture this can be.

Meditating with Dark Emotions

As I realized that these emotions come and go in my life, and that they may never go away completely, I understood that I must learn to accept them as part of my evolutionary journey. I believe that meditation has been a tremendous help for me, a life saver as a matter of fact, when it came to dealing with very dark emotions and times. Many of us, especially on the spiritual path are very sensitive souls with highly sensitive nervous systems. It’s no surprise then that with such a delicate constitution that allows for spiritual unfoldment, we often pay the price of feeling very difficult states. So why meditation? How can meditation truly help in a deep way? So many advices on mindfulness have been given, about breathing techniques…so what else can I offer? Well, although I respect all of these, I am going to talk about meditation from a different perspective.

Meditation does two essential things better than anything else in this world:

  1. It enables you to awaken in a very visceral way, an energetic dimension of being that is completely peaceful, whole, free and happy.
  2. Over time and consistent practice it empties you of the sense of a fixed and contracted sense of self.

Point 1: Elaboration
Especially for those of you dealing with dark emotions, it is amazingly reassuring, liberating and empowering to know and then to experience that there’s a dimension in you that is always at peace. Please take this one seriously as I’m not talking about a theoretical suggestion. This dimension is experiential and with correct guidance and practice you will experience this for yourself. This means that alongside the recurring dark emotions and traumatic feelings, you can awaken a dimension of safety, healthy perspective and recharge your batteries and sense of hope. You can also see again and again that on the deepest levels of your being, nothing is wrong and nothing is broken. That’s one hell of an empowerment.

Point 2: Elaboration

One of the reasons we get stuck on dark emotions longer before we cultivate meditativeness, is the very dense sense of self that we got used to have. A dense sense of personal psychological self makes your energetic experience of yourself feel much heavier, denser and much more attached to experiences – even if they are negative. Meditation, over time loosens that sense of contracted self and empties it out of its gravity and overly localized feeling. The result is that, without even trying much, dark emotions stick to you much less. In addition there’s a greater sense of non-identification with negative emotional states and trauma.

Don’t Try to Annihilate Negative Emotions

Yes I know how hard it can be to accept our dark emotions. Very often us spiritual aspirants wish that a future promised enlightenment would blow them all away forever and ever. But reality is quite different. And while some emotions do get less disturbing, in the case of very traumatic pasts, you may need to accept that some dark emotions won’t go away. This is why it is highly recommended to deeply embrace and accept them as part of you. Yes I know it is hard, but we are about loving reality aren’t we? And in reality there are pains we must bear – that’s simply part of life. But there are some good news here! Meditation develops in you a vast spaciousness and expands your love which in turn enable you to silently contain more and more negative states and emotions with less and less effort.

In that sense meditation truly transforms your being into something much vaster and more all-encompassing. It reminds me a bit of the metaphor of the Buddha: take a glass of clean water and pour a teaspoon of salt in it and it will be undrinkable. Go to a lake and toss in a teaspoon of salt, and you won’t taste the difference. In other words, meditation slowly makes you grow into a lake rather than being a limited glass of personal self. And this gives you a whole new ability to deal with dark emotions.

Meditation and an Altered View of Dark Emotions

Now here comes another super transformative aspect of meditation: the ability to view difficult states from a bird’s view perspective and see the meaning and purpose behind difficult states. So now that you have the ability to:

  1. Experience yourself as completely peaceful and whole despite dark emotions
  2. Let negative states flow out of your system more effortlessly
  3. Contain difficult states with little to no identification

….it is time to talk about the next piece which is the ability to reframe the entire negative story around these recurring dark emotions. We are hardwired to interpret positive emotions as the right way and negative emotions as a mistake. But in reality, even very negative states are often catalysts of great evolution and revelation. We can call them fierce grace.

Meditation then, enables us to zoom out and view these difficult and traumatic states from a Soul perspective filled with intelligence and love that enable us to redefine their appearance in a constructive and positive light. That’s when you discover that what feels very negative, isn’t necessarily negative after all. It may be an important and beautiful part of your journey. A needed part. And while this won’t necessarily take the dark emotions away, it may certainly decrease them and provide you with a much deeper sense of peace with yourself.

In the end, we need to learn to live with that which we can’t change and improve our quality of life. In my experience meditation has been instrumental to dealing with dark emotions and traumatic feelings, and I believe it can do the same to anyone who practices it regularly and with the proper guidance.

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Comments 2

  1. Dear Tom
    It touches me very much, how lovingly you pass on your own experience! – Yes , meditation – be aware that we are awareness, and that joy and pain are finally so welcomed in the one big heart.
    Still, it is not easy to feel the pain of heavy emerging emotional imprints,
    even when we know clearly that we aren’t the experienced emotions.

    Thank you in the name of every one,
    big heartily embrace,

    1. Post

      Dear Bettina, we are all in the same boat aren’t we? True, it still isn’t easy to feel the dark emotions, but at least we can be grateful that we have a vast container that can help us sail safely through the storm. And perhaps support each other on the way. Much love!

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