Why cravings and aversions can ruin your wellbeing


Buddist philosophy and Vipassana yoga are founded upon the belief that the root of all negative human emotions (such as depression, anger, frustration, annoyance, sadness, pride, arrogance, and fear) are caused by just two things; cravings and aversions.

What are cravings and aversions?

Cravings encompass everything we desire but do not yet have. This can be material items such as cars, houses or things such as a better relationship, an idealized family or more power in your career. The issue with cravings is that they create feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness. Without self-awareness, cravings can take over and lead us to constant disappointment or guilt.

Aversion is a similar but different beast. Aversion is feeling a negative emotion and avoiding it entirely. It might be that you’re avoiding uncertainty and possible failure and as a consequence you procrastinate.

Both craving and aversion arise when we are unable to process our circumstances and so, deal with the emotions in a negative way. In order to eliminate suffering from these two feelings, Buddist philosophy teaches us to be mindful of our negative emotions and understand where they come from - it will be either a craving or aversion. Once you identify the root cause of the problem you can start to unpick the feeling and in time experience decreased negative emotions.

Practical application of dealing with craving and aversions

In each moment where you have some kind of negative emotion … see what you’re averting from or, or what you’re craving. It might be that you’re avoiding uncertainty, failure or rejection and this is causing you to procrastinate or not communicate your feelings to another. It might be that you don’t want someone to act a certain way and so you’re craving a better way for them to behave. There are multitudes of possibilities, and it can take some time to understand what you’re avoiding or craving.

Finally, try this technique which is also taught in "mindfulness" -  be present in the moment you’re in, and see the reality you are facing. It's important to separate your perception of the moment from the hard facts. Accept how it makes you feel, understand that your negative emotions will not change the situation and try to see if you can accept all of that it is, without craving something else, without avoiding what’s there. Just accept it. Importantly, this technique is not about submission to a set of circumstances that are below your satisfaction but instead, freeing yourself from negative emotions which add no value and doing whatever positive you can with a calm mind.

There’s an incredible feeling of tranquility that comes from the knowledge that you can handle any situation, without being blown over by negative emotions. It is ultimate control over your sense of self. You just sit there, observing the moment, in a happy (or at least calm) state of being, perhaps finding a silver lining to one of lives many twists. The best resolutions come from a calm and collected mind.


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