Afflictive Emotions: Pride

florida-gullsPride is an afflictive emotion that involves a profound feeling tone of pleasure attached to perceived personal qualities, actions, possessions, or accomplishments. Also known as arrogance or conceit, pride is considered an obstacle to spiritual growth (deadly sin, poison, unwholesome mental factor, klesha, or fetter) in most faith traditions.

When those who stand high offer admiration, do not smile with pride, do not accept attachments, for you may again be caught up in what is undesirable. – Yoga Sutra 3.52

It can be hard for us in the US to swallow this notion of pride because the word is used in a culturally sanctioned way here. I find it helpful to distinguish pride from appreciation or acknowledgement, which involves a full understanding of a situation including that which is wanted, neutral and unwanted. Pride is different because it disregards the neutral and unwanted in favor of what is desired – it clouds clear seeing.

Pride is a form of ignorance or delusion in that it involves a misguided belief in a separate, independent, eternal, unchanging and unique “self“. Even when we are proud of something or someone outside of us, it almost always reflects back somehow on the self. In this way, pride might be considered a type of greed because it is a manifestation of ego clinging. We tend to strive after, defend, and try to hold onto experiences that reify our sense of identity and we have a habit of ignoring, avoiding, or fighting against experiences that challenge it.

Pride also requires the use of comparison mind – seeking out differences and judging them. When we feel pride we elevate the self (or some aspect of it) above others and we think this means something fundamental about me. This motivates us to focus on and inflate certain factors that support a sense of pride, while ignoring or diminishing those that conflict with it.

Feelings of pride can make us forget our interconnectedness and take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride. The shadow side of “unique” and “special” is isolation. A high pedestal (or a deep pit for that matter) is a lonely place. When we see others as very different from us, especially when we see them as “less than” in some way, it becomes easier to disregard or mistreat them.

Concepts such as “good” and “bad”, “winning” and “losing”, “first” and “last” are not essential qualities of things – they are attributed to phenomena from the outside and they are highly subjective. However, we tend to respond to them as if they are “truth“. It is important to remember that everything changes, ends, or transforms and so too will that of which we feel proud.

Just as the antidote to greed is generosity, the antidote to this particular form of greed (the ego-clinging of pride) is a particular form of generosity – gratitude. Practicing gratitude means giving thanks and expressing appreciation for things that are given to us. We recognize that nothing we possess or express is ours alone. Everything we have, think, and do is the legacy of a long and complicated web of causes and conditions. Remembering this helps us see the bigger picture, take the long view, and manage change with greater calm and wisdom.

…when people in great numbers choose to practice, integrate, and embody gratitude, the cumulative force that is generated can help create the kind of world we all hope for and desire, for ourselves and for future generations.Angeles Arrien

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