When I distributed my Transformation Cards, I was asked by my grandson if I was not honoring negative emotions since the cards were all about getting happy? This writing is to help with that question. The dialogue is open and I invite your feedback.
I am an advocate of Strengths-based living, a true believer that we create our own reality, and a champion of positive psychology. So, what do I do with negative emotions?
Glad you asked! I believe emotions are a guidance system. This belief is a different form of self-discovery from what I used 20 years ago as a practicing psychotherapist. I am now honoring my emotional flow in a different way. Emotions are a guide to well-being or lack of well-being. Negative emotions are a signal that I am “off-track” from my true self. Emotions as a signal? If that does not make sense, hang in with me til I do make sense. The idea I am proposing is that Negative Emotions are the signal we are not on our divine path; Positive Emotions are the signal that we are on our divine path. Positive emotions, in my view, are my source of happiness, productive energy, AND good health.
The Strengths I use and expand are the pathway toward unfolding my true self. So, I no longer pursue the way of happiness. Happiness is The Way. I now believe we are meant to live openly, following our bliss. Joy is our birthright. Authenticity is a good thing and this internal emotional guidance system helps me move toward it. So, I call it my EGS, my Emotional Guidance System. If emotions are positive, I am on track; and the converse: negative emotion says I am lost, need to make a u-turn, and get back on-track. I think and believe that this is one of the most important self- discoveries I could have made.
How do I follow this incredible Emotional Guidance System? I am more aware of my body sensations, attuned to the clouds of energetic motion or any fluctuating mood. Positive sensations usually have a “tingling” and fresh newness; negative sensations seem heavy, constricted, dark, and/or foreboding. Noticing the body sensations is the first essential step. This honors the negative emotion for what it is—a warning of danger—a signal that I have left the Way. I have found it to be a great gift, coming from our flow of energy—our emotions—our feelings.
What are you aware that you are feeling right now?
Are you labeling the feeling with a noun such as anger, depression, elation, happiness, anxiety or guilt? Can you notice it as an active verb with the feedback you receive from your body? Words like constricting, heaviness, or dark are good descriptors.
Can you get to the experience you are registering in your body rather than assigning a label immediately? E.g. I am blushing, or experiencing a full blown body flush—a rush of energy—my teeth are clenched, my stomach is knotted, and I feel heat coursing through my body (maybe through my blood)….and I call it “anger.” That same body condition might be felt and interpreted as excitement, depending on my mind’s assessment. Is there more to it than identifying it as anger? Usually anger means we want to assign blame to someone or something outside of us, so that our self-pity is justified. And we have learned over the years that self-pity covers our deep well of shame. Now, I am learning to register the sensation, avoid the self-pity and blame, and face squarely the deep belief that I am not enough. Changing the belief changes the flow of energy thereby changing the flow of negative emotion.
I learned to be more aware of the sensations in my body from Dr. Joyce Buckner, my Imago Relationship Mentor. We learned to describe the sensations. The rush of energy, clenched teeth, throat constriction, stomach squeezed, were not labeled as anger or fear. I began to have a different view of my emotions. They became very personal. My former analysis and judgment was more in line with an old concept.
Anger reduction was part of my training and it did give me a way to exhaust the rush of energy—often identifying some old adversary or wound which we could address with anger and physical explosion . We would beat things with bataca bats, collapse in a heap of tears and exhaustion and feel better. Grief work also sometimes left us still believing we were helpless victims and that death was an unfair part of life, even sometimes interpreting death as failure. I am now realizing that I was also reinforcing my victim stance as I did so, blaming some outside person or circumstance. In my case, my daddy was the usual “blamee.” So poor little me, abused and broken, could establish the cause and effect, thereby using old science to think the problem was solved. New science, especially epigenetics and quantum physics, says differently. I am not a victim. Establishing who or what is to blame is not a reliable way to authenticity and autonomy.
How, then, do I clear a negative emotion?
Sometimes, I journal them through to the other side.
I can work them out with physical labor or exercise.
Most times, I call on my best friend, Paul, my husband of 49 years, and he is a master at letting me express what I am experiencing until I get through it, the clouds clear up, and I am back on-track.
Formerly, he would take actions, change his behavior since most of my anger was aimed at him as substitute parent, surrogate daddy. Now, he understands, listens without taking ownership, and waits while I process and clear out the clouds, cobwebs, and obstructions. This is not always easy, predictable, or pretty. It often shows up in strange “ahas” of self-discovery for him as well as for me. The outcome is always a clear mind, coupled with fresh emotional energy that has shifted out of negative toward positive. I often am released to be highly creative; our relationship is often brought to new heights of learning to love; and the outcome is guaranteed to help us both get back on the path. We experience new energy, open minds, open hearts, and open willpower from which we can make new choices.
I always would like to hear your story. Thanks for listening!