"Go to your room until you can act properly!" Feeling like a prisoner in his own home, the child slinks off to his bedroom to wait out his parent's anger.
We've been told all our lives to stuff our emotions. As children, our sobs prompted Mom or Dad to say, "Stop it! You're not a baby anymore." Or, "Big boys don't cry." Or, "Settle down."
As grown-ups we hear the adult version of the stuff-your-emotions scolding. "Don't take it so personally." Or, "There's no room for emotions in the workplace." Or, "Don't get your hopes up, you'll only be disappointed."
Over the years we've been told that emotions are childish, dangerous, and unnecessary. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Emotions are big part of being human. Feeling sadness or excitement or wonder adds richness to life. But, I'm not simply defending our right to express a mood. Emotions are much more powerful than just the display of sentiments.
Emotions are the Core Creative Force in all that we do. You've already proven this to yourself over and over. Think back to a task or goal you had to do - one that was perhaps necessary, but not particularly motivating. Like cleaning the bathroom or balancing the checkbook. My personal drudgeries!
If you're like me, I approach these kinds of tasks (after prolonged procrastination) with a sigh of resignation. I know it must be done, but I don't really want to do it. "My heart's not in it," we say. I have no positive emotional energy invested in the deed. Yet, other tasks, like writing this column or reading a book or creating a workshop - I love doing these! I'm motivated and excited. I can feel the power of creation tingling in my fingers. My emotions are in full bloom and I'm totally engaged.
Our minds might conceive and idea, but it's our emotions that make it sizzle with life. This is fine for those emotions that are acceptable as "good feeling" emotions: excitement, joy, anticipation. But, what about the other emotions - anger, sadness, fear? Where's the win there?
Consider this: regardless of the flavor of your emotion, all emotions are made of the same stuff - creative power. Joy and fear display differently, but they are fueled by the compelling need to express energy. Imagine energy as the water in a glass pitcher. If you mix dirt into it you will get mud. If you mix Kool-Aid into it you will get a sweet drink. Emotions are a mix of pure energy and a particular intention. The intention flavors the energy which determines the emotion we convey, but the energy behind the emotion remains the same. Powerful. Creative. Pure.
What this means is that deep within whatever emotion we feel there is a Core Creative Force that we can use to ignite our desires. Easy to follow that logic if we're talking of "good feeling" emotions like happiness and excitement. But, how can we benefit from "bad feeling" emotions like anger or fear?
I've been reading a book recommended to me called Busting Loose From the Money Game (Robert Scheinfeld). It's a rather provocative book that balances me on the edge of what I believe and don't. But, there is a concept in his process that I do find intriguing and steeped in possibility. Scheinfeld recommends that when we feel an emotion that upsets us instead of numbing ourselves to it, we should dive further in and experience it to the max.
Dive further into hatred or anxiety? Yes. Why? Scheinfeld says it's the first step in telling the truth about the situation - that it's totally made up and not real. For him, every part of your life and experiences are nothing more than a hologram that you've made up. I could get deep into discussion about this concept, but it's divergent from where I'd like to take the idea of diving into emotions. Like any experience, feeling it fully is the only way we can take ownership of it. Hiding, ignoring, or pretending only gives the experience power that is rightly our own.
By feeling an emotion fully (notice I didn't say anything about "acting" on it), we can learn to recognize the energy not just the intention (the water, not the dirt). Since pure energy has no intention of its own, we can then harness the energy and direct it toward emotions and experiences that support us, not destroy us.
"How do I do this," you say? Next time you're feeling a very strong bad-feeling emotion see if you can feel the two parts of the emotion: the intention (what you believe the emotion will get you) and the energy (the surge of pure power). The intention will be the element we normally think of as the whole emotion - anger, jealousy, resentment, sorrow. But, remember, the intention is like the dirt added to the water. It colors the energy, but it's not the energy. The energy is the water. It's where the power is. Can you feel the difference between the intention of the emotion and the power driving the emotion?
Without separating these two elements, the energy will drive the intention and disempowering emotions like fear and anger will be strengthened into action. By disconnecting the intention and the energy, you can weaken the intention of fear and retain the powerful creative force of the energy to consciously direct it toward that which you do want to create.
Like any internally experienced sensation, this process will be one we each need to learn to feel our way through. But, know that you can! It's a matter of belief and conscious awareness of what you are feeling.
Emotions do not need to be disabling. When they are, we've fallen into unconsciousness and don't see the difference between merely reacting and consciously directing our energies so that they support us. By raising your awareness of what you're experiencing, you recapture your creative power and can make empowering decisions about how to use that incredible energy.
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