The topic of feelings often arises when I’m coaching people and sometimes people wonder: How can I express my feelings peacefully? What do the Baha’i Writings teach about this?
In his poem, A Poison Tree, the great poet William Blake wrote, “I was angry with my friend. I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe. I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
When you suppress your feelings, both positive and negative ones, you’re keeping yourself from being all that you can be. Not only that but if you internalize your emotions, you are growing into the very same ‘poisoned tree’ that William Blake wrote about.
Don’t Plant the Poison Tree Seed
When you conceal your true feelings, there’s an internal pressure that causes negative emotions like anger, resentment, fear, and hatred to swell up and take on more potential energy within you. The day always comes when those emotions explode outward because of the pressure.
When this happens you might say things you don’t mean that may cause deep pain to those you love the most. The possible negative actions and reactions that stem from your suppressed feelings could fill an entire notebook, which is all the more reason to express your feelings truthfully and peacefully! Why truthfully?
Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 22.)
It [consultation] requires all participants to express their opinions with absolute freedom and without apprehension that they will be censured and/or their views belittled. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)
By honestly expressing your feelings you can diffuse the negative energy and immediately start feeling more peace within you. After all, you’ll feel less stress, tension, and anger when all feelings are put out on the table. Expressing your feelings constructively will help you speak more sensitively and rationally and see the good within others.
Gratitude Goes a Long Way in Expressing Yourself
Now, openly expressing your negative feelings doesn’t mean you should go around putting others down and it also doesn’t mean finger wagging or accusing. Instead, find a more constructive way to get things off your chest. You might find it’s best for you to write your feelings down and send them off in an e-mail. If you have the creative ability, write a poem or a song about your feelings. Whatever you do, focus on the problem, not the person. After all, we all make mistakes! As Baha’u’llah teaches:
. . . an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 172-173)
If you think you can’t be that open about your feelings, always express what you are thankful for first. For example, you can start with a positive compliment then gradually express your frustrations.
If you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for, you’re not looking hard enough. There are plenty of joys within your life that your negative emotions often disguise. For example, did you have a nourishing breakfast this morning? Then you have something to be thankful for! Have you ever had a rewarding conversation with a loved one that made you see them with new eyes? Then you have something to be thankful for!
Focus on these positive, rewarding experiences first and foremost, then express your feelings openly and honestly. With an attitude of gratitude for all that you have, you will feel confident in your right to express how you feel.
In his poem, why did Blake readily tell his anger to his friend? He cared about his friend and was grateful to have him, so he wanted to diffuse his anger right away. However, when it came to Blake’s foe, he was not so grateful and, instead, suffered greatly as he became a poisoned tree within his soul.
Remember, your spirit remains within you and affects how you think, feel, and act. So seek peace within your heart and mind with the power of gratitude!
Have you ever found the courage to tell someone how you were feeling?Post your experience here.