A Poet, Emotion & A Rule of Thumb

All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes a poet can capture the essence of something better than psychologists, scientists and therapists combined.

Rilke’s perception of our inner worlds is not only astounding, but it’s also useful for managing our day-to-day emotions.

We naturally navigate towards positive emotions, always assuming that that’s where we need to be. We navigate towards joy, love, and awe, seeking beauty in our surroundings, funny moments, and connections.

But our emotional world is more like a universe, not a drawer where each emotion is locked safely until we want them, or it is strong enough to get out.

It is often the balance of emotions that brings us the most joy. And the imbalance, the most pain.

When we seized strongly by anger, it can distort us toward aggression.

When we seized completely by love, it can distort us toward mania.

When we seized firmly by fear, it can distort toward hiding.

It is only when our emotions feel balanced, they lift us up and help us grow.

This quote is one of the most well-known from the German poet Rilke and has a few translations. As it often happens, the meaning of it gets either distorted or nuanced and lost without the rest of the text.

What Rilke goes on saying, is that the most important question is whether those emotions, pain and doubt you feel advance you, and if yes then they are good.

Everything you can think about in your childhood is good. Everything that causes you to be more than you have been in your best hours is right. Every advancement is good if it pervades your whole bloodstream, when it is not due to intoxication, not due to being condition to sadness, but to transparent joy. 

He encourages us to feel it, but question it, discipline it, test it.

Feel. Question. Grow.

Then repeat.