The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
Questioner (Q): How can negative emotions be expressed in a healthy way? Can expressing negative emotions be maladaptive? Does gender have a relation to mental health?
Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, it does not matter whether you call the emotion negative or positive. The first thing to understand is that when you start calling or judging something as positive or negative, you already made it difficult for yourself to know what that thing really is about. How do you know that one emotion is negative and the other is positive? Positive for whom? Negative with respect to what? So, let’s talk of emotion itself; positive and negative can wait.
All emotion that you experience is actually trying to tell you something about yourself, provided you are willing to listen, to see. Even what you call negative emotions, such as anger or grief expressed in tears, have a story to tell. It is exposing, bringing to light what usually remains hidden in the lower layers of your consciousness. So, it does not merit condemnation; it deserves attention. By condoning it or condemning it, you are just trying to assert that you already know what emotion is, and by implication that you already know who you are and what your inner mechanism is. Humbly, I would like to say that most people don’t know anything about themselves.
It is like this. You don’t know anything about the functioning of a car engine, nothing at all. Under the engine assembly, you find some liquid dripping, and you are quick to declare that it is quite a negative thing to happen. How do you know? Or, you go to the exhaust pipe, the silencer assembly, and there again you find some liquid dripping. You say it is bad. First of all, try to understand what the whole thing is all about.
The trainer who taught me how to drive said, “If you find that a little water is dripping from the exhaust pipe, it is a good thing.” This was some thirty years back, the carburetor age. He said, “If you see water dripping, it means the engine is quite nicely tuned.” Now, if you find some water dripping in this age, it might merely mean the air conditioner is working fine.