When we are feeling good, experiencing joy, excitement and happiness we’re like, “Yes, bring it on! I can ride this wave forever.” But when we are feeling negative emotions, like anger, anxiety and sadness, we can begin to wonder, “Why on earth do I have to have this experience. Can't I just skim the surface and not touch the depth of my upset?” In our resistance to going deep, we might try to avoid negative emotions, deny their existence or numb out with a favorite vice. Or we might attempt “spiritual bypass” which could be defined as use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings and unresolved wounds. Why? Because we tend to have very little tolerance and skill, either personally or collectively, for facing, entering and working through our pain, strongly preferring pain-numbing solutions. However, we then run the risk of missing the messages from within about what we need and want in order to create the lives we so desire. Realizing that our emotions are part of our internal navigation system helps us tap into a rich resource of knowing. Emotions are the bottle bringing messages to the shore of our consciousness. Negative emotions often help us realize what we don't want which can then help us refocus on what it is we do want; they help us course correct.
So, in our quest to understand ourselves, we would be better served to honor the duality of experience, both the positive and negative emotions within us, which is part of this experience of being human. The ebb and flow of our emotional tides. The caveat to this is the idea that pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. In other words, negative emotions are inevitable, but holding onto them for long periods is optional. As an example, to feel the discomfort of anger might help us realize that we feel strongly about wanting the situation to be different and even feel physically motivated to take action to make change. But how long you stay with the experience of anger and how you chose to respond to the situation is another story entirely. There is a message and a choice in there, which is empowering to recognize.
Emotions are messengers. The opportunity is to feel everything and become attuned to what these emotions are telling you.
- What is that inner ache of longing telling you about what’s important to you? Are you willing to let yourself want? Are you allowing that feeling to motivate you to do something about it?
- What is the burning anger coursing through and energizing your body telling you about what’s important to you that you believe to be threatened?
- What can you learn from the fear you feel making the hair on your neck stand up? What is feeling unsafe in this situation or with this person? What would help you feel more safe?
Ask yourself, “What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What am I needing?”
Take responsibility ~ Remember that you and only you are responsible for your thoughts and feelings.
Once you’ve named what you’re feeling and connected it to the thoughts and ideas you have regarding the situation, you then come to a place of choice. You, and only you, decide how long you want to stay with the emotion and how you will respond. Everything can serve your healing and awakening. Instead of being controlled by these emotions, use them as signals to reflect or take action. That action can be to either change your perception or change your behavior. You can choose to shift your emotional state by either changing your thoughts (what are you focusing on) or your change your body (body posture, calming deep breaths, take a walk).
I believe it is important to be present to the entire rainbow of your emotional landscape; all feelings have merit and messages. At the same time, those thoughts and emotional states you hold often greatly impact how your brain is wired and shapes the habitual way you experience and respond to life.