We all know and love people who have glaring shortcomings, else we would have no spouse, no children, no family, and no friends. We would certainly have no self, since our own shortcomings cause us the most suffering of all.
But out in the world there are a lot of people who do really bad things, and who represent a significant threat to our wellbeing and to the wellbeing of family, friends, community, and civilization. Should we love people who want to do harm to us and those we truly love?
For example, here is step 7 from a scripted Buddhist meditation on Universal Loving Kindness:
May my enemies be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them.
May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they
always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.
To be fair, the meditation has 8 steps, beginning with an expression of loving kindness to your self, then moving step by step outward from most intimate to least intimate, up to step 8 which expresses loving kindness to “all living beings.”
But it is step 7 that causes most people to pause and reconsider the whole idea of Buddhist meditation. After a lifetime of watching shoot ’em up westerns and Dirty Harry movies, most Americans would probably prefer to send the chronically violent bad actors and psychopaths down the garbage chute and let God sort them out. Why would anyone want to let them off the hook — much less wish them happiness and success in life?
I won’t pretend to have an answer. But according to almost all Buddhist gurus and many Christian theologians, that is exactly what a person needs to do to find enlightenment — or salvation as the case may be. I am trying to work it out for myself in hopes of coming up with a personally useful strategy.
It’s clear that harboring strong feelings of hatred, resentment, victimization, vengeance, contempt, or jealousy, will consume much of your emotional reserve, and make it more difficult for you to enjoy the rich and happy moments that come around. If you are trying to achieve any form of “enlightenment” or bliss, you can forget about it as long as you are carrying around a heavy burden of all-consuming emotions.
Can you let go of strongly negative feelings toward people who have wronged you, without destroying your own integrity and moral infrastructure? Keeping in mind that it is the emotions that are eating away at your capacity to enjoy life and function at your best, you may be able to make a start.
The mindfulness meditation approach in the book linked above, is to throw so much love at the problem so frequently that these toxic emotions are neutralized over time. Apparently that works for many of those people who go on to achieve the higher levels of mindfulness enlightenment states of mind.
The book “Letting Go” by David Hawkins describes a simple technique that apparently helps many readers to move on.
Once a person gets into all of these deep layers of feelings and attitudes, he may begin to see why the drug Valium has been so popular for so long. But of course if you just make yourself numb with drugs or alcohol, you aren’t in any condition to make anything better for the long term.
My initial reaction to the “universal loving kindness” meditation discussed above, was to work through numbers 1 (may I be well, happy, and peaceful) . . . through number 6 (may all indifferent persons be well, happy, and peaceful), but to put a hold on numbers 7 and 8. I am actively exploring the psychological and neurological effects of harboring negative emotions toward those bad people who are clearly destructive themselves.
I am considering substituting something else for number 7 and perhaps number 8. Or I may simply rewrite numbers 7 and 8 to achieve the same emotion-neutralizing effect, but in a way less jarring to my logic centers.
“Sentic Cycles” invented by Dr. Manfred Clynes offers another alternative approach to “emotion neutralization” besides the “letting go technique” from David Hawkins above. Sentic Cycles actively exercise several emotions in a specific sequence, which seems to help to de-energize overactive emotions. I have developed a modified version of these cycles to use while walking.
There is evidence that being stuck with strong negative feelings over an extended period of time can cause long-term or even permanent damage to parts of the brain.
All of the above assumes that there is nothing the person can do about the object of his hatred/anger/fear/jealousy etc. etc. In the modern age of media gaslighting and outright malicious deceit, the media itself — and the billionaire owners and boards of directors of the media — are committing the wrong acts and are generating harm and bad will. You cannot do much about that except to stop sending your money to those outlets or to anyone affiliated with them. Or you might consider founding your own media outlet to help bypass the monopolists of the 1%.
These days there is a long list of violent and malicious organizations that threaten the future freedoms — and thus the future existence — of you and your loved ones. With the recent election fraud, those organizations are becoming closely allied with the federal government itself. Again, your options are limited for the immediate future other than organizing yourself politically to generate allied voting groups and to expose future election fraud by way of newly sprouting media outlets.
Learning to avoid particular cities and particular parts of cities will also be a skill that sees more use in the near future.
Every tactic and strategy that you take to deal with an uncertain future will be better served if your energies are not being consumed by negative emotions. And freeing yourself up for more experiences of happiness is not a bad idea either.