In all of the Uber-Human Hyper-Efficient Success-Driven philosophies out there, little attention is given to the emotions. Focus is mostly given to efficiency, visualization, action, and goals.
So what might happen is that those of us who feel deeply, who are sensitive, and who face insecurity could feel like these philosophies simply aren’t cut out for us, or that perhaps we just weren’t meant to be successful or efficient or goal-oriented. Or worse, that something is wrong with us.
Nothing is wrong with you if you’re emotional or sensitive. But you might be using your emotions as an excuse to stay stuck. Here are some perspectives that may help you to grow from your emotions, and quit seeing yourself as the victim of them.
Emotions and “Truth”
I began doing healing work in my early 20’s when I first intended to heal bulimia without drugs or Western medicine. I’ve done energy healing, acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, retreats, meditation and many other modalities and techniques. (Along with songwriting and performing!) All of them contributed to my movement toward wholeness.
At some point though, I realized my emotions continued to get stuck in kind of a default pattern. I’d often end up feeling the same old things, in spite of all of the progress I’d made. With no small amount of pride, I chalked it up to being more sensitive, more authentic, and more emotional than this cold cold world. (A Portrait of the Artist as a Drama Queen.) And yet, I got more and more drained by these patterns.
Then at a workshop, I heard Barbara Waterhouse talk about the untruth of emotions. She said that we all “do” our emotions. We might feel them too, but we choose to DO them. And oddly, I got my biggest teaching not from what she said, but from how the person next to me reacted. This person rolled her eyes, and huffed, “Oh please.”
In her reaction, I saw myself in the past. I saw how vehemently I clung to “my truth!” I saw my own self-righteousness and attachment. In other words, “Don’t challenge my feelings! They’re telling me the truth I want to hear! And that truth is that I’m sensitive and caring, and all of you AREN’T! I’m special!” (And probably, I’m a little stuck, too.)
From that day on, even in my worst self-pitying emotional attacks, I felt this little inner-observer watching me, scratching her chin and thinking, “Hmmmm. Now, I’m doing insecurity. Now I’m doing jealousy. Now I’m doing hopelessness.” Was I “doing” emotions? 85% of the time, I was. The challenge then became to choose differently.
Emotions and Choice
When you hear someone say that you can choose an emotion, your first thought might be that it’s impossible. Emotions just are, aren’t they? Emotions happen!
It takes a high degree of awareness, attention and persistence, but you can choose differently.
Erin Pavlina has a fantastic post on choosing emotions. I burst out laughing when she opted to say to her daughter, “Oh dear, honey. I was hoping you wouldn’t write on your furniture. But don’t stress about it.” If mothers always went through the process Erin writes about, kids would thrive. And her story shows that it is possible to choose a different emotion in the moment.
In my own experience, I’ve actually made myself stop all activity until I was able to raise my emotional level even a notch. Sometimes this has required that I just sit still and ask the question, “Is this true?” Sometimes I’d choose an adaptation of an NLP technique, like looking upwards and breathing. (This usually works best right when you catch the emotion or the thought coming on.) And sometimes, I just said to myself, “Nope! Not putting my energy there right now!”
How you make a different choice is something that comes with practice. This is a process that takes time. (I can’t stress this part enough!) But it is possible. I encourage you to be open to that.
Emotions and Attachment
In the teaching I do, and in the retreats I facilitate, never do I see people clutch to anything so fiercely as their “right” to have their emotions. Reaction can be from surprise to outrage when I offer people the viewpoint that they can begin to choose how they feel.
Eckhart Tolle writes that some emotions serve only to feed the ego. In actuality, the emotion builds you up. In the mind of the ego, you become “morally superior” to whatever the situation is you’re reacting to. You actually become inflated. When you’re raging at the traffic, you make yourself “morally superior” to the traffic. If you furiously state that rich people are all greedy bastards and that wealth is just achieved by unconscious people, then you become “morally superior” to wealth. (Most likely, you’re also driving it away from you!)
Even when you’re deflated in your emotions – guilt, for instance – you feed your ego. It gets to feed on the identity of being “wrong” or “less than” — which can evolve into being “more sensitive then the rest of the world.” (Which ultimately makes you morally superior, yet again!) Emotions can be tricksters. Kind of the ego’s smoke and mirrors.
My view is that many of our emotions keep us stuck (and safe). If, for instance, you want to take more risks and start sending your poetry out to publishers, you’re going to have to deal with the emotions that come up if your stuff gets rejected. For some, that’s a huge pattern to work with. You might not want to have to face all of those feelings, so you stay safe and don’t send out your poems. You think you’re lazy and label yourself a procrastinator, but really you’re just staying safe. You might say that you “can’t take” all that rejection. But what you really can’t take is what you’re telling yourself about all that rejection. Emotions can be powerful teachers. I can testify to that one, baby!
Emotions and Stories
The biggest awakening I’ve had with my own emotional self is recognizing how many of my emotions aren’t even emotions. They’re really just “stories.” When I sit quietly and allow an emotion to be there, I often enforce this rule: No Stories Allowed. (Stories can range from “Poor me” to “Why bother?” to “No one wants me” to “These idiots always screw everything up!” to “I’ll never get this right!”) When I can sit with the emotion, allowing just the emotion to be there without the story that accompanies it, the emotion dissipates pretty quickly. This is good. It allows me to experience that energy without repressing it. Emotions are really not that big of a deal when there’s no story to attach to them. They just are.
Emotions and Goal-Setting
The reason I encourage emotional types to set goals is the great teaching they provide. If you approach your goals, or your intents with awareness, you get to see all of your resulting emotional moments for what they are: old thought patterns.
The key thing about goal-setting is getting clear on what you want. Lots of people aren’t clear on what they want. I don’t think this is because they’re truly unclear. I think it’s because they can feel all of the stuff that will come up to make them grow if they choose to set that goal. All of those emotions come up, and they sink back down.
One of the commenters on my New year’s post wisely wrote about responding rather than reacting. That is the key here. Emotions are often reactions. They are childish. And we give them all our power. Responses go deeper than that. Erin Pavlina made the choice to respond. I constantly make the choice to respond. Setting goals and following through with them can teach anyone how to respond.
Begin to recognize your own emotions as choices, as things that you do. And watch how you grow…