The feelings that you hate and hide are
also your key to enlightenment. They are the key to
an empowered life, richness and a sense of fulfillment.
Grief, fear, hatred, despair, loneliness, jealousy,
and pain are the feelings we deny and run from. Most
of us find them disturbing and when we push them into
denial. That’s when we get into trouble. We gossip,
we snipe, we rage at the wrong people and we compromise
our heath with feelings that remain unresolved.
As therapists, we apply a diagnosis to these normal feelings and prescribe medicine
to cover them up. There are times when, of course, medication is necessary, but
not everything that last more than a couple of months and sends us into a tail
spin is clinical. We live in a culture that will do anything to avoid, get past,
manipulate and control feelings. We act as if they could kill us when, in fact,
not feeling them is what often does. What if the gold in our journey hides in
the middle of them?
Carl Jung says, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of
light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher,
formally Richard Alpert, of Harvard University said that when he was a young
man, he was terrified of these dark demons. He went to therapy. He took drugs.
He meditated. He sought refuge with his spiritual guru. Sometime in his 40’s,
finally he understood his feelings as teachers and then “he invited them
into tea.“ The so-called negative feelings are as normal as our joyful
ones, and they can teach us so much about ourselves.
Anger, jealousy and hatred teach us where our fears are inside. Under every feeling
of anger, jealousy or hatred, is fear based. Fear is at the root of any feeling
that creates distance and separation. Gossip is the same. When we gossip we are
acting on base desires to be the center of attention, the one in-the-know, or
our desire to appear more grandiose. The painful consequences of this, both to
ourselves and our community, is apparent and we have all been the target of this
cruelty at times.
Grief teaches us to expand our hearts. It fine-tunes our ability to express compassion
and remain present in the face of pain. Grief teaches us about the importance
of our connections to each other. It teaches us about our mortality as well as
our immortality. It reminds us to live life fully, now.
Fear teaches us about our internal strength and our courage. Whenever we walk
through a fear we are able to feel our own sense of power and strength. Fear
is a red flag that shows us where there is still work to be done inside. It also
can be a red flag for very real danger.
Despair and sorrow teach us empathy. They increase our humanity and allow us
to get beyond ourselves. The way out of either is through connection to first
to ourselves and then to another. Despair arrives in the center of separation.
So, how do we be with these emotions that we have learned to run from? The first
step is to simply notice the emotion. Be mindful about exactly what it is you
are feeling. Ah, here comes sadness. I don’t need to drink. I don’t
need to distract myself. I can just sit with it and try to understand where it
is coming from or what it is all about. I can be present to it. Take it out and
look at it, so to speak. Sadness is a part of you asking for attention. For instance
sadness about an old relationship could be your spirit asking for a new one.
Then decide whether this is a now feeling, or if something has been triggered
from your past. Most intense feelings originate from some unresolved pain from
the past. Breathe into it. Follow it. Where does it lead you? The moment the “I” in
you begins to examine the feeling, you have already established that someone
bigger than the feeling is watching and wants to know more. That gentle energetic
shift gives you the control back.
Then let go. Allow your self to feel the feeling fully. Feelings have gotten
a bad rap. They are not destructive, bad, negative or inappropriate. What you
do with them however, can be either constructive or destructive. The moment you
are willing to sit in the middle of them or invite them in for tea and honor
them, they begin to dissipate. Once you let the feelings flow, the amazing thing
that happens is that you make room for wholeness to arrive. The space in which
you once held these feelings gets filled with understanding and compassion, not
only for yourself but also for others. Take a feeling out for tea.