Afflictive Emotions: Obstacles to Freedom

zendoguardianIn this series, we will explore the afflictive emotions, mind states that can cloud our view of reality, causing suffering for ourselves and others. When they are very strong, we call emotions passionatederived from the Greek paschó, meaning “to suffer”. These mental factors, when unexamined, can become obstacles on the path to peace and tranquility.

During moments when we are consumed by afflictive emotions, the mind moves out of balance, over-identifying with moods and mental states, to which we often react unskillfully. Click the links below to explore some of the more common afflictive emotions:

When we are carried away by afflictive emotions, it is often due to any of three root factors from which they arise. Click the links below to learn more about the roots of suffering:

  1. ignorance – not knowing, failing to see things as they are
  2. attachment – grasping, clinging, striving to perpetuate
  3. aversion – avoiding, pushing away, striving to be rid of

Fortunately, afflictive emotions can be a useful part of our practice if we can be aware of and open to them. Practicing mindfulness gives us the space to recognize when emotions are arising in any given moment. It allows us to accept them non-judgmentally so that we can investigate them with a sense of gentle curiosity. It also helps us to cultivate single-pointed concentration, anchoring the mind and enabling sustained focus for awakening insight.

An unreflecting mind is a poor roof.
Passion, like the rain, floods the house.
But if the roof is strong, there is shelter.
– Dhammapada

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