The first task of the First Ennobling truth is to truly know dukkha or suffering. To turn around and really face what is occurring in out hears and minds. This is neither wallowing, justifying, nor giving vent to the our negative emotions. Neither is it suppressing what is there. But suppressing is typically what we try to do when we are in the throes of negative affect.  And yet if we don’t know what it is when it arises it has control of us. We also deprive ourselves of the opportunity to know ourselves through exploration of all that arises, whether it be anger, sadness, greed or any other iteration of difficult emotions. To fully know this dukkha means to simply explore, to pay attention with kindness to what is there. To dismiss it is to repress it, and to repress it is to feed it. Repressed emotion always returns, often stronger, in another form, leading to increased confusion.

Another problem with the impulse to suppress, is that the disavowed experience drags its cousins along into the underworld of our psyche and creates an internal poverty of spirit. We become numb and confused about ourselves and our expereince. Thus alienated from our emotional life, we are ironically at the mercy of it. When we disavow a powerful emotion we relegate it to a suppressed holding pattern where its engines merely idle in neutral waiting beneath the surface to be slammed into gear once again. To truly work with the dukkha one must turn into it and know it well. So when we see greed, anger, sadness and confusion arise we can note it’s presence without giving it licenses to show up in our behavior. We thus become less reactive. This is the task of the first ennobling truth.

How we squander our hours of pain.
How we gaze beyond them into the bitter duration
to see if they have an end. Though they are really
our winter-enduring foliage, our dark evergreen,
one season in our inner year–, not only a season
in time–, but are place and settlement, foundation and soil and home.
—Rilke, Tenth Elegy Tr. Stephen Mitchell

Reflections on the First Ennobling Truth