Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: Every time I think I'm finally on the road to spiritual enlightenment and have life figured out (I'm 57 years old), my damned emotions set me back again! I continue to get offended, angered, worried, full of regret, frustrated, panicked, etc. How do I get ahold of these overpowering emotions?
— Anita D., Maplewood, New Jersey
I wish I had a spiritual secret to offer, but the truth is emotions are better dealt with psychologically. Traditionally, there's a parting of the ways here. In the West, we've come to believe achieving a normal, well-adjusted, healthy psyche is possible. Therapy exists to help us, but even without therapy, people want to manage their anger and fear, anxiety and depression, which is what you are concerned over.
But in the East, it is considered impossible to untangle the complexities of emotions, and even if one succeeded for a brief time (miraculously) to tame anger, fear, worry, jealousy and insecurity, new emotions would spring up, or a deeper layer of the old issues would surface. This is why Buddha taught that it wasn't important to find out what set your house on fire. It's only important to get out of the burning house as fast as possible.
So, where does that leave us? Must we choose between therapy and spirituality? I devoted a whole book to this question, titled Unconditional Life. In it, you will find stories from people who chose many different paths and arrived at different places. However, "taming your emotions" isn't a workable path, and I fear that you want this to happen. I can see you seeking professional help with your issues; I can see you meditating and finding a way to transcend the pull of your inner conflicts. But emotions are a natural, spontaneous aspect of us that we cannot simply assume control over.
Speaking personally, I feel that enlightenment is too remote a possibility when it comes to finding help with troubling emotions. But detachment isn't too remote. Learning to center yourself, to see your emotions as productive rather than your enemy, and dealing with negative emotions as objectively as possible are all good steps of progress. I hope you consider such an alternative.
Next question: How do I help my partner cope with a traumatic experience?
Every week, Deepak will be answering questions from readers just like you—ask your question now!
Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
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Published on March 24, 2010