Emotional Self-Sufficiency

Old man on a bicycle tee

I awoke thinking about this this morning.

One of my goals at this stage and place in my life is the cultivation of self-sufficiency. It is also one of the major topics of my current book project, Buddha on a Bike: Cultivating Serenity, Self-Sufficiency, Simplicity, and Walking Softly On the Land. An important component in this for me personally is also cultivating emotional self-sufficiency.

Emotional self-sufficiency is an important component of well-being and positive psychology. By emotional self-sufficiency, I am referring to the ability to be emotionally complete within oneself no matter what your emotions are in the moment. I see emotional self-sufficiency as positive and part of personal growth.

Emotions come and emotions go. Emotions are impermanent. This is part of the teachings from Buddhism: the general principles of impermanence and non-attachment. You can observe this yourself. When a negative emotion especially arises. just let it be there. Step back mentally and mindfully, and observe it without judgement. Or, just let it be there and focus on whatever you are doing in the moment, or on whatever you need to be doing. You will notice the emotions intensity will decrease. This does not include intensely stressful or threatening situations, but rather those emotions that come and go throughout your day.

Emotional self-sufficiency means just being okay with whatever is coming up in each moment, and dealing with it appropriately. Being emotionally uncomfortable occasionally is just part of living. It is about not feeling like you need someone or something else to help you feel okay.

This is not denying that others can help comfort and sooth us. As I discuss in The Guru , we are by our very human nature, social creatures. We are programmed in out DNA to need others. But, what happens when you don’t have someone else to connect with? What do you do? This is where self-sufficiency comes in. Okay, it would be nice if you could check in with so-and-so or somebody else, but they are not available. Maybe it is 3:00 in the morning. You are feeling really sad (angry, lonely, bad, etc.). What do you do? Can’t call “Emotion Busters.” Gotta help yourself. How do you do that?

Again, don’t focus on the emotion, that is, don’t attach to it. Let it be there. Here are some things you can do that I use:

  • Just watch what it is doing. Observe it like it was a specimen under a microscope.
  • Where do you feel the emotion in your body? Is it constant or does it pulsate? What color does it have?
  • Journal on it and what you are feeling. Getting your emotions down on paper can really be helpful. Plus, journaling lets you see the patterns in your life. Great for perspective.
  • Focus your attention on something else, something positive; not something addictive or harmful. If it is late at night, have a cup of non-caffeinated tea. If you can get your mind on something else for 15 mins, most likely the emotion will decrease in intensity.