Repressing thoughts and emotions under the guise of letting go

Repressing thoughts and emotions under the guise of letting go


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I posted here not too long ago and I've been thinking more about it. My previous post can be found here.

I am starting to think that I am repressing or pushing away emotions when practicing mindfulness meditation. After all, my mindful sessions are almost always pleasant and relaxed but this is not the reality of my life as I have plenty of stressors. This would suggest to me that perhaps I am not allowing myself to experience them.

I find an excerpt from this article to be particularly impactful to me:

Actually, a lot of people have the misunderstanding that this is what meditation is about. They believe meditation includes everything except that which feels bad. And if something does feel bad, you’re supposed to label it “thinking” and shove it away or hit it on the head with a mallet. When you feel even the slightest hint of panic that you’re about to feel or experience something unpleasant, you use the label “thinking” as a way to repress it, and you rush back to the object of meditation, hoping that you never have to go into this uncomfortable place.

Recently, in my practice, I was under the impression or belief that I was getting better at "mindfulness" because when a thought or feeling came along, I felt more and more agile at "letting go" and returning to the breath. It became snappier, quicker, never violent or aggressive but a clean, crisp "break" and before I knew it, that concern, thought or feeling didn't bother me anymore. I assumed this was because of the fleeting nature of feelings and thoughts.

However, this is clearly not what meditation is about. I have done the "Pain Pack" on Headspace when experiencing pain, and found it helpful – and it's premise is that you actually focus deeply on the pain, allow your mind to rest in the experience of that pain, be curious about it, observe, but not judge.

It seems the same strategy should apply to emotional pain – a non-judgmental observational start where you experience that pain to the fullest.

What I am at a loss with is how to apply this to my daily practice – or even – to figure out if I'm doing anything "wrong". I obviously do not want to become someone who represses emotions or denies them by simply ignoring them. What does it actually feel like to "let go" of an emotion? When you are focusing on your breath and you feel something, be it fear, happiness, sadness or what have you, are you supposed to connect with it, while still focusing on your breathing? Are you supposed to feel it, amplify it? Observe its intricacies? This seems counter to "letting go". Andy from Headspace talks a lot about letting go, and with regards to thoughts, that makes sense, but feelings?

What's more, how do you all approach a situation where your thoughts and feelings may become blended together? I often times find it difficult to even tell the difference between a thought and a feeling.

Thanks for reading

Edit: Upon doing some more searching, I think it is very possible that I am confusing thoughts with feelings. I am reading this article which discusses thoughts versus feelings. It's obvious that "I feel fat" is a thought and not a feeling. But what about "I feel sad"? This is a thought about a feeling. The feeling itself is more difficult to describe.

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