As human beings, especially if we are on a journey to self discovery and we have an inclination to better ourselves in one way or another, we have the tendency of ridding ourselves from negative emotions. We look for ways to eliminate them because we hold the belief that they weaken us. There may be truth in this but when we are feeling negative, it only adds to the dilemma and moves us even further from our centre. If this belief itself at times has caused stress and upset, you may want to look at it from a different angle: What if the weakening caused by negative emotions is the same weakening that we feel after we have worked our muscle – which is in fact a sign that they are strengthening? Life strengthens us at every second but it really does depend on our perspective at any given moment.
If we look at negative emotions as a sign of weakness rather than a sign of the ‘strengthening process’ we will be blind to our newly gathered strength through our emotional turmoil. Fear, sadness, despair, anger, shame, guilt might be a sign that our emotional muscles are working out to become strong enough to pull us through whatever difficulties that has caused them in the first place, leading to an emotional breakthrough. So when you feel fear, anxiety or any other negative emotions, know that you are exposed to life, open yourself and allow life to work your emotional muscles and allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling without trying to run away by any means you see fit. Enquiry doesn’t mean running away, it’s a way of understanding, it is pure curiosity like that of a child’s. The willingness to feel is part of the healing, part of the liberation process. Take any feeling as a good sign that you’re alive and that there is movement of energy in your being. The more you allow this with less resistance, the stronger your emotional being becomes.
Only if we allow ourselves to feel tired, can we allow ourselves to rest and gain strength. Fear, when allowed to be felt, is a sign that courage is being gathered. The most courageous are not the ones that don’t feel fear, but are the ones that are not afraid to feel fear. Not ever wanting to feel sadness, fear, anger, shame, guilt… is an unconscious way of saying ‘I don’t want to live’, ‘I’m afraid of life’. Perhaps the experience of negative emotions as they occur, is what is needed to wash away all the beliefs that hold us back from fully living our life. When we truly open to everything that life offers which as you might have noticed so far ‘includes’ negative emotions, only then can you really be free. This does not by any means we need to keep on repeating the stories that hurt us in our head over and over again to feel more pain; it just means if these feelings do come out in whatever situation, remain open to them.
These negative feelings might become very intense at times of transformation; these are the same discomforts needed to change the caterpillar into a butterfly. It is the beliefs, the thoughts around the emotions that make us resist them. Without the ‘story teller’s voice’ that goes over and over what caused the emotion and or judges the emotion itself, the emotions are just what they are: pure energy in motion (e-motion).
Rumi’s poem is a great reminder of this:
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks