Dealing With Strong Emotions Part 2
Between us and ourselves are the ghosts of our past. They lumber around in our minds forming little groups and shaking hands with each other seeming in-cognizant or disinterested in what is going in the "real world". Yet taking even one step in a particular direction can bring their full attention. When that happens we can feel their pull whether we are sensitive to and acknowledged it or not.
We don't generally notice these ghosts even though they influence every choice and action in our lives. They whisper seductively in our ear. We mistake them for us and so they tend to have our almost undivided attention. Collectively they are our non-conscious or sub-conscious mind and when they whisper in our ear we follow. They do this when we, for example, order our favourite food at the restaurant, or pick new clothes especially if they are in "our colour" or we react certain ways to particular ideas. They also are what leads us to anger, fear, hurt, loneliness, jealousy, resentment and so on.
Release of the Mind Ghosts by BannBann
The influence of these lumbering ghosts extends to how we react to new things or ideas. We integrate the now based on what was, and only indirectly and not necessarily accurately on what is. If we base our ideas on what was then we are stuck in the past. On top of that, over time the number of ghosts and their influence grows making it even harder to get unstuck.
We bump into them often, as they show themselves through our negative reactions, though it is certainly true that not all of these ghosts result in negative reactions. As for the ones that cause us issues? We all have them and while we should work on the issues that arise the ones that cause us the most damage or those that get our lower emotion levels running high.
It is these ghosts that have us reacting as we do though it is of little consolation to us when we are in the middle of a strong reaction. The typical result is a surge of emotional energy that fills our auric field like blowing up a balloon. Reminding ourselves that our reaction is our responsibility and we are doing it to ourselves can help, but this too is often insufficient against a torrent of strong emotions.
In the essay "Dealing with Strong Emotions" (1) we looked at such strong reactions and touched on ways to reduce the energy so that instead of a downpour of energy we have a light drizzle or even a sprinkle. Key points were noticing and acknowledging our reaction and then relieving the energy building up. Lastly we touched on trying to remember our reaction, how we were feeling as we went through it so we can work on it later, or perhaps notice it as it starts.
"Our angry, hurt or other kinds of emotional reactions to our experiences are response patterns that we have established over the course of our lifetime. We are not likely to be able to resolve these patterns in the moment; hence, our focus should be on the following:
- Noticing and acknowledging we are reacting emotionally
- Keeping the energy from building up
- Monitoring our thoughts to get a feel for our issue
- Reduce the flow of our emotional reaction
- Remembering the feelings that are triggered" (1)
Strong emotions are not only uncomfortable, though in some cases such as strong anger the person may feel empowered at the time, they can also lead to more challenges depending on our reactions. This is true whether we deal with strong lower emotions frequently or only on rare occasions. In the essay referenced the focus was on what one can do when they are reacting strongly, in this piece we will go beyond that to look at how we can reduce the likelihood of having a strong reaction and touch on how we can use the memory of our reaction to work on what led to it in the first place.
Our minds tend to hold all kinds of mistaken notions. They come from integrating experiences based on superficial observation and erroneous reasoning. They begin to form almost from day one and build over time forming webs of thoughts that result in many of the challenges we face in our lives. For instance, we often grow up with a sense of entitlement and hold illusions about the way things are such as being nice will be rewarded or people will like us if we are nice or that if we play fair so will others and so on. The world is neither fair nor unfair, it is not concerned about the fate of individuals and no one owes us anything and we would be mistaken if we think otherwise.
Our emotional reactions to experiences are not caused by the actions of others, such things are merely the trigger. They are the result of our thoughts and how we have reacted to and integrated our experiences, and they can be our best teacher if we know how to take advantage of them. The first part of the puzzle is being able to minimize the energy of our reactions in the moment and the second is learning from our reaction(s). There are two things that help us learn from our experiences and they are noticing it when it occurs along with remembering our reaction so we can contemplate or meditate on it. We can learn a great deal by doing either one, though if we can do both we can learn far more.
Our reactions are generally the result of more than one though or belief, therefore we can learn more about what triggers our reactions if we are paying attention as we react rather than after the fact. Mindfulness is the key to this as it gives us the opportunity to gather the most information about our reactions. For instance, strong anger is often the result of letting little issues build up. If we are not mindful we may try to look solely at what we think led to our anger, but this can lead to misinterpret the reason for our reaction and miss the main trigger(s) as it occurred earlier.
As I mentioned in a previous essay (Between Moments (2)), mindfulness helps us in so many ways, one of which being more aware of reactions.
"The answer lies in slowly peeling away the layers like that of an onion. Meditation plays a big role and combined with mindfulness and paying attention to our thoughts yields the best results. One of the benefits of mindfulness is that we can practice it when we do anything. One can even practise it when they are doing something by paying attention to only what we are doing and discarding all other considerations. We do this when we are actively doing something by learning to focus and giving it our undivided attention.
The biggest benefit of being mindful of what is going on around us is that, along with thinking less, it reduces our tendency to judge what we perceive. It is our judgments and analysis of things that keeps us separate and locked into the illusion our mind creates. For as long as we do such things our search for now is more like a dog chasing its tail."
One of the sources of the poor programming of our minds is the result of superficial observation and erroneous thinking. Both of these lead us to mistakenly attribute a cause(s) to an outcome. As a result we can either be ineffective in dealing with the issue or even more problematic, we may end up changing something that isn't a problem thereby creating one where none existed before.
When we are mindful of our situation and ourselves we are more acutely aware of shifts in our energy be they strong thoughts or the emotions such thoughts manifest as they occur rather than after. Thoughts can be highly connected so if we miss the first reaction(s) then when more surface it is harder to attribute what we are thinking and feeling to a particular stimulus. This permits us to look at the issue we have when we have it and can either deal with the cause or at least clear the energies manifested. By doing this we also keep lower emotional energies from building up. Not only can they lead to a big negative reaction over something, it is also healthier for us mentally, emotionally and physically.
Mindfulness is only part of the equation. The other part is finding the source of our reaction and dealing with it. There are a number of ways to do this, including getting professional help with working on them, though this can be costly and many prefer to try to resolve their issues themselves or do not want to share their issues with others. So how do we go about trying to find the source of our reactions?
The process itself is not overly challenging. Where our challenges lie is in our ability to do the following:
- Being mindful (attentive)
- Sensitivity to energy
- Taking full responsibility for our reactions
- Being honest enough to be able to perceive and accept uncomfortable "truths" about ourselves
- Think clearly and not erroneously
- Ability to focus our attention
One way to deal with strong emotions is to not let them build up in the first place. This is where mindfulness plays a significant beneficial role because if we are not mindful we are likely to miss our initial subtle reactions to our experiences. We lose our mindfulness when we are thinking about what is coming up in the future or reacting solely based on past experiences. Being sensitive to energy is also very important as without it we are unlikely to notice our reactions, which will make it harder for us to deal with and resolve them.
The next three are somewhat of a package deal, that is they all affect how we react to an experience. Accepting responsibility and honesty are critical because they are what put us in the right frame of mind to observe objectively and not get caught up in denial. Thinking clearly and logically is also critical as this is where stereotyping comes from. We stereotype for many reasons, but in all cases what we are doing is associating what happens in one case or a couple cases to what happens in every case. We tend to be lazy thinkers so we often use stereotyping to simplify matters.
Let us look at an example to show how not doing these three things can dramatically affect a situation. For instance, let us say I am speaking with someone and they are dressed in a way that my mind interprets unfavourably. Due to this I am already predisposed to certain assumptions about them and this will affect how clearly I hear them and how much I pay attention to and consider their word. If they then say something that I do not agree with I could start to react negatively. As the conversation goes on I could start to become angry with them, miss whatever they are saying and hold them responsible for my being angry.
Now, had I noticed my initial reaction and been honest and objective I may have been able to realize that my mind is stereotyping them. Realizing that the stereotyping is my issue and that it likely will affect how I interact with them I can choose to work to override it. I can base my thoughts about the person on what is going on now, not to how others who dressed similarly may have been in the past, or at least I can try to do this.
Further, if I accept responsibility then I will accept that I own my reaction and they did not make me react that way. This will change how I listen to them and how I react to and so on. This may very well have made it easier for me to accept their perspective even if it is different than mine because I was not already predisposed to not "like or agree" with them. It then follows that I might not have reacted negatively at all.
Focus is the ability to limit our attention and in terms of what we are discussing is important. Why? Because we are unlikely to be mindful if we have lots of thoughts going on as we need to have narrowed our attention to what is and not what was or may be (as this is what the untrained mind tends to do). Mindfulness requires focus as the less focused we are the more easily we are distracted by thoughts and so on rather than on what is in the moment.
We can see how these skills can help us significantly reduce our reactions to experiences. This increases the likelihood that we will avoid strong reactions in the first place. We can also apply these same skills to the other part of dealing with strong emotions which is finding the source of the issue and dealing with it.
It is not often that we know the "exact" reasons for our reactions. Certainly there are times when we may remember enough of our experiences to have a good idea, but when dealing with the mind having a good idea about what the reason is simply is not sufficient to resolve it. There are a number of reasons for this and a couple key ones are:
- When we integrate experiences there can be hundreds of complex thoughts involved so it is quite impossible to "think" your way to knowing which one(s) led to the issue.
- A high percentage of our poor programming occurred during childhood and most of these memories are buried in layers of our reactions to subsequent experiences.
If we try to think our way through to the cause we generally get caught up in the myriad of connected or associated thoughts and will be chasing the wrong ghost(s). We must deal with the actual cause and not some vague notion as to what it is. This is where remembering our reaction and as much about the experience as possible comes into play.
Every thought we have has it's own energy signature, even if it is a complex thought that connects other thoughts together. The following passage from The Cosmic Doctrine (3) speaks to interactions of primal atoms. While comparing a primal atom to a simple thought are like a single note compared with the combined sound of a thousand orchestra's, the principles are exactly the same.
"...suppose a prime movement of an atom to be a three-sided tangential, A to B, B to C and C back to A; whatever secondary movements may arise (and remember this, that movement in a straight line is never maintained after the original impulse dies away) conflicting forces reduce it to a modification of the primal circular, so that the atom, which in its movement originally pursued a triangular course, will finally arrive at a movement consisting of three spirals arranged in a triangle.
Each spiral movement will be executed under the conditions governing the A - B segment, then the B - C segment, then the C - A segment. Therefore, if you knew what the influences were, you would know the nature of the primary movement underlying the spiral which appears only to the superficial observer."
This explains how subsequent experiences, or more precisely how subsequent reactions to and the integration of those influences modify the original thought. This is how memories become modified over time, and how, if we are superficial in our observation, we can end up thinking the modified version is the true one because we accept the memory as our mind gives it to us at face value. This is something we have all experienced at times. Remember though, that while the memory has been modified the original thought(s) that gave rise to it remain "within it".
It should be obvious that one needs to be able to quiet the mind to sense the energies clearly and focused in order to go back through their mind to find the actual source experience. This is best accomplished when meditating though one does not need to meditate to quiet their mind. It just so happens that most lack the sensitivity, focus and experience to do so otherwise.
The meditative technique for dealing with issues is based on the same principle as that referred to in the quote above. In meditation we can isolate and explore energy be it the thought itself or the emotions that it manifested. We can do this if we remember the experience and some of the thoughts we had. With this information we can track back from our emotional reaction to the thought(s) that gave rise to it.
How we do this is very similar to what was covered in the essay Developing Sensitivity to Energy (4), and in particular the exercise within it. In that exercise we were trying to perceive the energy of thoughts, though one could just as easily substitute an emotion. In terms of what we are dealing with here, this would be the emotion that was manifested by our reaction to whatever was going on.
When we have stilled our minds we can "bring out" either the thoughts or the emotions and let them speak to us. This is a step beyond what was covered in the exercise as with it we were trying to develop our sensitivity by noticing the energy of our thoughts and were working to not think about it or translate what we felt into words.
What we can do during a mediation is bring out the energy of our emotional reaction or the thoughts we had or both using our memory of it. One must be certain to be grounded and have centered and cleared their energy before doing so, just as was covered in the aforementioned essay. This is because one thing we want to avoid is reacting to the energy we are working with as this will take us further from the source and can make our issues worse rather than reduce them.
To work on issues this way what one does is focus on the memory as a vibration and narrow their attention to it until that energy is all you is perceived and our attention is fully upon it. Clarity is essential otherwise we can make changes with unintended consequences. Visualizing the experience and trying to remember what occurred can help us to remember the energy. Be careful not to go "into the memory". The goal is to observe the energy "in our minds eye" rather than activate it.
Once we remember the energy we want to work on and can see it, in whatever way we do this as we all are aware of what we perceive in our own unique way, we can then start to explore it. The energy of our reaction contains all the elements of the experience that we reacted to, which is like the secondary spin of the primal atom mentioned in the quote from The Cosmic Doctrine. It also contains the underlying energy of the thought(s) that gave rise to our reaction and so on back to the source or first thought(s) that we manifested. This is the key point. Regardless of how many thoughts are entwined with it, we can still locate the actual source thought. Subsequent reactions to experience will create layers of thought "on top of it", but the original energy remains.
One way to track back through the layers is, starting with the reaction we are examining, to think "what is connected to this energy?" without thinking the thought. Instead one must be the thought. There is no way to explain this in words save that one uses the language of spirit rather than the language of mind. Doing this is an act of will and not of mind. If we have the idea that we are searching for the source "in the back of our minds" and that this is our focus then the mind will follow our conscious direction.
We may see images, memories of events or flashes from the past will come to mind. We do not focus on them right away, instead we keep the high level idea that we are searching for the source of our reaction and then we allow our consciousness to help us out. I have explained this process before; however, we don't need to know how this works, it is irrelevant. You may think using a high level idea, which is a thought, when earlier I suggested we do not want to think or to think as little as possible as being a contradiction. It is not, it is merely a practicality. This is because while using one's will yields far better results, learning to use one's will to do this takes a great deal of practice. There is no reason why we cannot do some work in this area as we can still have considerable success doing it by using very high level thoughts. Doing so has a side benefit of helping us develop our will, which is an aspect of self that is "above mind".
Sometimes one has to do a considerable amount of hunting for the thoughts and memories. This occurs when the mind has tried to bury the memory for whatever reason, we have had many subsequent reactions based on the original one or the memory has become highly connected to a diverse group of experiences.
Nonetheless, reading the energy is the most direct way to source and when we find it we can re-examine our reaction. By this I mean we "do it over" by using good objective observation and sound reasoning. Say for example I have a fear of heights caused by a childhood reaction of fear to some experience. The issue isn't the fear per se, it is how we integrated our reaction. Say we were hurt climbing the up a ladder, we can then become afraid of heights or even climbing for fear of being hurt. However, we likely climbed other things high things before and never got hurt so to think that climbing high results in hurt is erroneous reasoning. By revisiting and reinterpreting the experience we have changed the memory of it.
This act does not erase the memory, it transforms it and if it is a root source then it will also transform associated thoughts that incorporated the same memory. If the source is the root of a great many of our issues then we can feel like a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders. This is what often happens when we have an epiphany and is not dissimilar to what happens when we truly forgive someone for some past misstep that affected us in a significant way.
Our reaction at the time we manifested our fear of heights may have seemed logical, simply cause and effect, but it lacks context as children do not have a well enough developed mind to factor this in. I realize this is an idealized situation, but it is sufficient to get across the ideas I seek to convey. This method forms the basis of many of the techniques psychologists use. Examples would be those where the client or patient is encouraged to talk about and explore their feelings. Such methods are clumsy, because they rely too much on the minds conscious and non-conscious aspects and can take a long time because our minds lead us down labyrinths of experiences. That said, a skilled practitioner can overcome these challenges if they are intuitive. Such a person can sense when the person is getting at the "right" memories, which allows them to guide their client along a track back to the source.
We now have several ways to help us with deal with and resolve our issues be that large or small. By being mindful we are more likely to notice our subtle reactions and can deal with them better. By acknowledging our reactions we de-power them and by grounding we can keep the energies we manifest from building up. Also, by monitoring out thoughts we can become more aware of what the issue is and through remembering we have access to the source of our issues so that we can work on them.
There is no magic wand to deal with our issues, though at the same time there are techniques we can use to help us in this regard. Naturally this is not likely to occur if we are not serious about resolving our issues, do not accept responsibility for them or struggle with honesty. We do need to remember and accept that our lessons are part of our life journey. We cannot blame them on others, make someone else responsible for nor can they be avoided or ignored without potentially making things worse. They are ours and the sooner we accept this truth the easier it is to get started on resolving them.
© 2013 Allan Beveridge
References (*- denotes essays only available to site members of TheTwinPowers.com):
Dion Fortune, The Cosmic Doctrine, York Beach ME, Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, 1995