Thoughts on equanimity

Equanimity is a state of calmness or composure in the face of difficult circumstances. I suspect many of us presume that achieving that state means somehow bypassing the strong and perhaps difficult emotions. I do not believe that that is necessarily true. It may be true for some of the great masters (although I somehow doubt it), but I don’t it is true for those of us starting out. If I relate equanimity to Ignatian indifference – something I am far more familiar with and have written about here – I suspect that any attempt to suppress our emotions leads us up a blind alley. In my much the same way that denial of our desires doesn’t lead to indifference. (Indifference can be understood as freedom with respect to the outcome – regardless of my desire) I am beginning to believe that we need to let the emotions flow through us. Not to get trapped by them, or indeed, to over identify with them. But we do need to acknowledge them, to feel them, and then to let them pass. The point here is that the lived experience of equanimity may not feel totally calm and unfazed by whatever life has to through at me. I may indeed experience strong emotions, but if I acknowledge them, they can ebb and flow without consuming me. When we presume that we are striving to achieve a state of inner peace, too often we think that means that strong emotions have no place. I think the capacity to experience emotion is one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings. Without this capacity we would have no experience of love. So surely to be fully human is to fully integrate our emotional experience. For those well versed in Myers-Briggs – I am an ISTJ, for the enneagram conversant I am a 5. I admit this simply by way of saying I am not naturally a great ‘feeler’ – I am still learning to value my emotional experience. So this comes not as a plea to the analytical to ‘feel’ more, but rather as an analytical person beginning to discover what may be an important path.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on equanimity

  1. Agreed. My experience is that when we seek to suppress or deny our feelings, we hold ourselves in a place of conflict and contention. Thus reducing movement and so the potential for change to occur.

  2. Very rarely do I print out blogs for future reference and reminders, but your thoughts here are so very fundamental, yet most often overlooked. Such is the stuff of the best advice. My new wife and I took the Myers Briggs as part of our recent pre-cana excercises…. but I cant remember our categories !!!!

  3. Brother Lawrence (and I’m sure others) discusses acknowledging our emotions, as in noting them and taking from them what insights they offer, and then moving on in detachment (although I don’t remember him using that word as much as the Jesuits do). Because you’re right, there can be important God-given direction in our emotions — love, fear, even anger. The challenge is to not be drawn into them so fully that they overwhelm our ability to connect with God and feel His presence within us and all around us. I liked your reflection.

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