Buddhism has no word for emotion

Pixabay: Hassanassi



Matthew Ricard: excerpt from “Happiness”


Despite their rich terminology for describing a wide range of mental events, the traditional languages of Buddhism have no word for emotion as such.


That may be because according to Buddhism all types of mental activity, including rational thought, are associated with some kind of feeling, be it one of pleasure, pain, or indifference.


And most affective states, such as love and hatred, arise together with discursive thought.


Rather than distinguishing between emotions and thoughts, Buddhism is more concerned with understanding which types of mental activity are conducive to one’s own and others’ well-being, and which are harmful, especially in the long run.



This is actually quite consistent with what cognitive science tells us about the brain and emotion.



Every region in the brain that has been identified with some aspect of emotion has also been identified with aspects of cognition.



There are no “emotion centers” in the brain.



The neuronal circuits that support emotions are completely intertwined with those that support cognition.


This anatomical arrangement is consistent with the Buddhist view that these processes cannot be separated: emotions appear in a context of action and thought, and almost never in isolation from the other aspects of our experience.



It should be noted that this runs counter to Freudian theory, which holds that powerful feelings of anger or jealousy, for instance, can arise without any particular cognitive or conceptual content.”



A viewer asks a great question. I reference Top Gun and the Danger Zone




“I do a lot to avoid seeing my trauma in my head. I turn away from thoughts and images. However what I can’t drop are the body sensations. They come on like a steam roller and leave me exhausted and sometimes frozen. When the therapy session is too much & I’m outside my WOT (window of tolerance) it’s not good. There’s too much suffering and not enough healing.”



My two cents: There is a fine line between letting go and avoiding trauma thoughts.

Avoiding is a symptom of PTSD, I ended up agoraphobic for six months. I was really good at avoiding my trauma.

Suffering intensified, my body sensations became unbearable, so I avoided even more. It is a vicious cycle

We dissociate (leave this present moment) continually in this dysfunctional circle.

I lived outside my window of tolerance for years because of dissociating and avoiding my triggers, life.

Solution: We must experience our trauma thoughts, observe our body sensations (trauma) without judgment or cognition.

I had to feel my emotional trauma in its entirety before it would release and fade away.

No way around our trauma exists, only suffering down that road.

A pill, a therapist, distraction or avoidance powers PTSD.

Our symptoms increase as does the time we spend outside our window of tolerance.

This is important: What we do when PTSD is at its apex, it’s most powerful and scariest point, decides if we heal.

Until I built the courage and focus skills to sit quietly and observe my body sensations when my fight or flight mechanism fired, I had no chance of healing.

PTSD powers itself when we are out of our window of tolerance.

Think of the movie Top Gun and the song Danger Zone.

We are in the danger zone when our ptsd is out of control, outside our window of tolerance.

We can not run or avoid our trauma and heal, bottom line.

Each time we avoid, PTSD becomes a little more unknown and scary to us. The unknown can haunts us.

PTSD does not need to be any more power or fear, especially because we avoided it.

Our fear grows. Our priority is to decrease our fear so we can do the work of healing.

Takes daily practice, takes trying and failing many times without giving up.

That was my experience anyway.

Hope this helps. I was the king of avoidance and suffered.

Learn from my mistakes.



Updated: PTSD: Can we ever be happy?




Being abused in childhood, impacted my mind permanently. I am not saying this abuse rules my mind but it will at least lay dormant until I die.


Happiness was impossible, imminent danger lived inside my home and I was his only target.


Survival and shame dominated my thoughts, helped formulate my unworthy self image and destroyed my nervous system.


I always knew something was wrong, like I was flawed, unworthy, not like other people.


Then one day in my 50’s a family crisis ignited my childhood trauma. It was alive, bringing that terrifying jolt to my solar plexus, cortisol and adrenaline, PTSD’s scare drugs.


Took me 6 years to heal or improve, for the suffering to curtail and life to have a little lightness, some contentment.


When I improved or healed, the suffering dissipated, the intrusive thoughts lost power without attention.


For 60 years I enjoyed momentary joy from accomplishments, however happiness was a stranger.


To heal or improve, I had dedicated five hours a day to meditating and healing.


On this journey, while entering into mundane tasks, (a mindful practice) I found happy moments.


Moments free of any deadline or time apparatus, where thought had curtailed, where things unfolded naturally.


These moments calmed my being beyond any prior feeling.


Looking at nature one day, I saw perfection, was it out of body or was I just one with it?


I believe if I can find some happiness, then you can also.


It is not easy, it takes courage and daily action.





Is PTSD our Mount Everest?




A big emotional trauma buried immediately when it happened, enetered my consciousness 3 weeks ago. The power and intensity of ptsd had faded when I healed the first time 6 years ago.


My life had returned to a new normal, better than anytime in my life.


Three weeks ago that changed abruptly.


The skills I share as a mentor, did not deter the flooding of emotional terror and intrusive thoughts.


What I tell others, to let the storyline go, was near impossible as the images and storyline never stopped coming. PTSD wears us out emotionally and physically at first.


This is how overwhelming ptsd is in the beginning, and how all our effort seems to be worthless.


It feels like trauma has an infinite amount of power, maybe it will never end.


This is the critical time, when many give up.


Therapists have a term called the Window of Tolerance. It means our nervous system, our trauma is at an acceptable level for us to start healing.


It has taken me 3 weeks of intensive meditating, integrating and surrendering to these fears to attain my Window of Tolerance.


I may regress from time to time however enough of this trauma has been brought to present time, weakening my intrusive thoughts and body trauma.


This initial period is when most ptsd sufferers who take action, give up to soon.


My intrusive thoughts, my ego identifying with this trauma, made me a victim in this scenario.


Thinking was my downfall.


I powered my new PTSD for a couple weeks.


Never thought that could ever happen to me again with my skill set and experience.


My Ego feels humbled by its power and ability to bring suffering.


I felt permanent damage, a mirage created by traumatic fear.


We need to survive the initial barrage of overwhelming emotions and anxieties. We must endure to heal.


It is the road less traveled, the first mountain is arduous and seems it has no end.



It is a butte not Mount Everest. 


Our perception inside our head is flawed, unbearable fear grants ptsd unlimited power.


In reality, ptsd has a finite amount of stored trauma, we never know how much is there.


Having a mentor or a therapist in the beginning makes the journey much easier.


That is what this blog was created for.



Anything that fluctuates can be influenced




Both Chronic pain and PTSD entered my life with me being clueless about their power, intensity and mechanism.

It took me 6 months with each to understand the challenge and form a plan to cope.

One of the first patterns I witnessed was how PTSD and chronic pain fluctuated during the day and night.

So my pain or PTSD did not have a constant intensity or duration.

PTSD rotated from calm to extremely triggered in seconds. Some times were calm and easier, others pure terror.

Chronic pain has an ebb and flow, intense times along with easier times.

My relationship with chronic pain was different than the other 14 in our chronic pain group. I took action, lost the fear of my pain and improved.

They lived a sedentary life filled with 30 pills a day, they suffered.

I hiked uphill causing my pain to spike, then the music was cranked, my goal was to never let pain stop my legs from moving.

Hiking another 15 minutes with my pain as a companion, in a month my chronic pain started to compress. I did not fear my pain after that month.

PTSD was a roller coaster ride of terror, followed by mental anguish and then worry about future anxiety.

The only breaks happened during times getting lost in a chore, nature or a hobby.

I found meditation provided the focus and platform to observe my fears without being part of them.

It takes time, courage and willpower.

My recent eruption of a buried trauma has challenged my skills.

I forgot how intense a serious trauma can be.

Taking action, even the slightest action moves us out of victimhood.

Better to resist, to take action.

Being sedentary powers chronic pain and PTSD.

Thoughts proliferate in a sedentary environment of Pain or Trauma.



I learned Triggers were an Opportunity to heal!……. The door to the other side

Color Inspiration – 25 Magical Doors



When my trauma exploded later in life, my fight or flight mechanism erupted, brought enormous fear and anxiety.

A lethal threat seemed to follow me, my adrenal stress response firing throughout the day filling me up with cortisol and adrenaline.

Fight, flight or freeze always ends with freeze for PTSD sufferers.

Fight or flight may happen the first couple of triggers, however repeated triggers firing causes us to freeze.

We try to avoid our triggers firing as a coping mechanism.

One day an epiphany hit me, I was terrified of my fight or flight going off.

I feared a body mechanism because it was linked to a traumatic childhood memory.

It took many hours of meditating and practice to realize a trigger was an opportunity to heal.

Instead of fearing my adrenal stress response I welcomed the opportunity to integrate the traumatic memory.

My triggers were the door to the other side.

When a trigger erupted, my PTSD was at its apex of power, PTSD was also at its most vulnerable.

I found out if you stayed present, focused on the breath and body sensations Ptsd lost power.

Ptsd has a glaring weakness, it was a bully bluffing of real harm.

I analyzed a trigger erupting.

Cortisol and adrenaline are secreted, bp, respiration and heart rate climb, opioids and coagulants are added into the blood stream, tunnel vision and loss of fine motor skills lead to mental confusion.

In ten or maybe twenty long minutes, all the chemicals dissipate and the nervous system calm back down.

In the aftermath no harm is permanently done but we feel great emotional loss.

I had to know there was no danger, PTSD just had access to my fight or flight mechanism.

Our fight or flight firing gives PTSD it’s powerful aversion.

That imminent danger does not exist, adrenaline and especially cortisol strengthen traumas bluff.

I did not heal by avoiding triggers.

I healed by confronting the bully and his bluff.

Ask yourself, after a trigger erupts, and things calm back down. where is the permanent danger?

There is none.

Ptsd is a mirage of fear.



Watching Emotions Ebb and Flow: from Shaila Catherine



How long does an emotion last?

Have you ever felt that you were angry for a couple of hours or sad all day long?

Look closely at that angry feeling or that sad feeling.

Notice the story: the thoughts of loss that triggered sadness, the threat that triggered anger.

Do such thoughts remain static or are they intermittent, or cyclical?

Notice sensations in the body: perhaps heaviness in the chest, an ache in the stomach, an indistinct disoriented sensation, heat or cold, a hollow feeling.

Are these sensations lasting, stable, or fluctuating?

Do they increase or decrease?

Notice the intensity of the anger or sadness: does it remain stable, or come as waves that intensify when triggered by certain thoughts, smells, or sights and then diminish when attention is distracted by exercise, meals, and conversation?



My two cents: I believe anything that fluctuates can be impacted.

My chronic pain does not stay the same intensity all day long.

Something is changing the ebb and flow.

My mind can impact my emotions and chronic pain.

Thoughts seem to be the source of there proliferation.



“Embarrassment: “Emotional Awareness” by Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama




Embarrassment is an emotion, but it does not seem to have a universal signal. Some people, but not everyone, blush.

Very dark-skinned people blush, but you cannot see it. So, no signal.

Guilt and shame are very important, and different, emotions.

Guilt is about an action; shame is about who you are.

They do not have facial signals of their own; they pretty much look like sadness.

Maybe there is no signal because you do not want people to know that you’re guilty or ashamed.

However, most emotions have a signal, so that is one characteristic.

A second characteristic is that emotions can be triggered automatically in under a quarter of a second—very fast—totally opaque to consciousness.

And yet the appraisal that so quickly triggers an emotion can be very complex.

When you are driving a car and another car starts to veer in your direction, in a fraction of a second, you not only recognize the danger, but you evaluate how fast it is moving and make adjustments to your speed and the steering wheel, and you do that all without conscious consideration.

We have evolved a mechanism for dealing with sudden threats and yet now we live in a world where the threats are not always so sudden.

We may, therefore, overreact, because most of the time it is not a near-miss car accident, but we have a mechanism that can respond (hitting hands together) that fast.

So, automatic appraisal is the second characteristic.

Signal is the first.



Feel the Body Sensations, let the storyline die from lack of attention




“The challenge is not so much learning to accept the terrible things that have happened but learning how to gain mastery over one’s internal sensations and emotions.”

The Body Keeps the Score



My two cents: A recent trauma has resurfaced after decades being buried. PTSD appears as a short, horrifying movie playing inside my mind, while my body feels the fear and panic experienced at that traumatic moment.

We want to escape a serious trauma at all costs as our body stores those sensations of heightened terror.

While sitting, meditating or during flashbacks during the day, anytime the storyline plays that movie, I focus entirely on my body sensations.

Resisting the urge to silence these feelings, I take my breath into the middle of the unrest, then surrender to the fear.

I have found a curious mindset, a desire to understamd our inner world helps.

First step is having the focus skills to let the storyline go.

It is the storyline we identify with, that makes PTSD so confusing and frightening.

Learn to focus on the breath and body sensations and the storyline will fade for short periods of time.

I healed because I did not think about the storyline.

When I gave the storyline attention it grew more powerful and my symptoms increased in duration and intensity.

If you want to heal quickly, place all effort on this task.



Intense and barely controllable urges and emotions make people feel crazy




The Body Keeps the Score:

Still others may shut down emotionally and not feel any obvious changes.


However, in the lab we have no problem detecting their racing hearts and the stress hormones churning through their bodies.

These reactions are irrational and largely outside people’s control.

Intense and barely controllable urges and emotions make people feel crazy—and makes them feel they don’t belong to the human race.

Feeling numb during birthday parties for your kids or in response to the death of loved ones makes people feel like monsters.

As a result, shame becomes the dominant emotion and hiding the truth the central preoccupation.

They are rarely in touch with the origins of their alienation.

That is where therapy comes in—is the beginning of bringing the emotions that were generated by trauma being able to feel, the capacity to observe oneself online.

However, the bottom line is that the threat-perception system of the brain has changed, and people’s physical reactions are dictated by the imprint of the past.

The trauma that started “out there” is now played out on the battlefield of their own bodies, usually without a conscious connection between what happened back then and what is going on right now inside.

The challenge is not so much learning to accept the terrible things that have happened but learning how to gain mastery over one’s internal sensations and emotions.

Sensing, naming, and identifying what is going on inside is the first step to recovery.



My two cents: Sensing, naming, and identifying sounds like being aware.

Being aware of our inner world as we let the storyline fade is our goal.



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