Thich Nhat Hanh on dealing with emotions like fear

Another wonderful excerpt form an interview Thich Nhat Hanh recently gave Oprah. This one is about handling feelings like fear. I understand that eventually we learn to avoid reacting to our situation, to events in our lives, avoid getting angry for example, but until then Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to handle it when it arises.

Oprah: Is there ever a place for anger?

Nhat Hanh: Anger is the energy that people use in order to act. But when you are angry, you are not lucid, and you might do wrong things. That is why compassion is a better energy. And the energy of compassion is very strong. We suffer. That is real. But we have learned not to get angry and not to allow ourselves to be carried by anger. We realize right away that that is fear. That is corruption.

Oprah: What if in a moment of mindfulness you are being challenged? For instance, the other day someone presented me with a lawsuit, and it’s hard to feel happy when somebody is going to be taking you to court.

Nhat Hanh: The practice is to go to the anxiety, the worry—

Oprah: The fear. First thing that happens is that fear sets in, like, What am I going to do?

Nhat Hanh: So you recognize that fear. You embrace it tenderly and look deeply into it. And as you embrace your pain, you get relief and you find out how to handle that emotion. And if you know how to handle the fear, then you have enough insight in order to solve the problem. The problem is to not allow that anxiety to take over. When these feelings arise, you have to practice in order to use the energy of mindfulness to recognize them, embrace them, look deeply into them. It’s like a mother when the baby is crying. Your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get relief. And if you continue with your practice of mindfulness, you understand the roots, the nature of the suffering, and you know the way to transform it.

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