One of the primary goals of meditation is to help us get rid of negative emotions. In order to do this effectively, the first step is to properly understand negative emotions. We need to look into where they come from, why they stay with us and how we can use this understanding to dissipate those negative emotions.
First of all, we need to realize that we’re not born with all these negative emotions. Babies don’t enter the world with an instinct to be angry or frustrated or anxious. When we’re very young, we learn to react in certain ways based on the models set forth by our parents and those around us. We learn that certain situations are responded to with anger and others with frustration or hatred or jealousy and so on. As we repeat particular reactions constantly over several years, we fall into specific patterns. Every time you encounter a situation and react in a manner that is based on past experiences, you reinforce these patterns of the mind.
Before long, we begin to believe that these patterns of behavior are a natural part of the mind and we forget that we have in fact, created them. Of course, there are children who grow up around people who are more compassionate and level-headed and learn to model these reactions. They might consider themselves as naturally not an angry or frustrated person but again, these are patterns that have been formed over time.
Once we can really digest the fact that we are not born with these patterns but create them over time, we realize that they can also be gotten rid of.
This can be done by becoming aware of the reactions as they arise within us, and using this awareness to change the way we react. As we do this repeatedly, a new pattern emerges.
These patterns or configurations of our mind are called gestalt which have given rise to a whole body of psychology and therapy. It includes the patterns of negative emotion that we have been reinforcing throughout our lives. When we encounter a situation that previously triggered a negative emotion, say feeling frustrated in heavy traffic, we fall into a conditioned reaction without realizing that we can behave differently. Sometimes, this pattern is so hardwired that we can find ourselves grossly overreacting to trivial situations. You may have noticed how a small incident like a child saying something innocent or the constant dripping of a tap can set a person off on a highly negative reaction that is way out of proportion. This happens because we fall back on past experiences and our reaction is a compounding of all the previous times we felt angry or hurt or frustrated.
Meditation is the process of identifying these patterns, understanding their underlying cause, noticing that they are just a projection of the mind and then gradually uprooting them from our being.