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Emotions are signals from our brain to take action. They are the highlighter of our mind. Emotions emphasize important points and underline what the mind feels is vital for us. Because they engage the body too, emotions leave the mind as energy. That energy must physically move, maybe to get out of the way of an object, perhaps to defend ourselves, and possibly to cry or physically express yourself in some other way.
If we do not allow the flow of emotional energy to move, we will feel the physical symptoms that come from repressing this energy. For example, if you are feeling anxious and do not accurately identify the emotion and move the energy, you will have unpleasant physical symptoms. Many people feel anxious, repress the feelings, and then feel ill because the energy of the emotion involved does not move. But first, you have to identify what emotion is causing your anxiety.
Sometimes anxiety is mistaken for the emotion of excitement. Many people perceive excitement and anticipation as anxiety. In this case, if you can see your anxiety as excitement and anticipation about something that is going to happen in your life, then you will be able to let the emotional energy of that excitement flow. You might get up and dance, or jump up and down, or clap for yourself, and if this is the correct emotion causing your anxiety, you will improve your health. Other times anxiety gets caused when circuits in the nervous system get crossed, become overactive, or some other function within our body is not working correctly. The cause of our nervous system not working correctly can be from a chemistry imbalance or many other factors, but most of the time there is also an emotional component. We are in control of that part, and once we discover which emotion is involved, we can reframe our interpretation and allow the energy to move.
The important thing is to let the energy of our emotions move because they are meant to move. Do not repress your feelings, let them flow. But that is not to say you should "act out" emotionally without thinking or without being responsible and considerate of yourself and others. There is always a method of letting the emotional energy move responsibly, in ways that are not harmful to yourself or others. You will feel greatly empowered as you learn to allow your emotional energies to manifest in the ways you direct them.
Spirituality and Emotions
Some people choose to explore their humanity through history, some through religion or spirituality, but if you are an explorer, you are going to feel a lot of emotions. Many make a lifelong journey of it and call it a path, which has a spiritual connotation to it, but it could be psychology or philosophy or art or anything else too. I tended to hang out in spiritual groups, so I usually think of it as spiritual. But it does not matter what you call it; if you are an explorer, you know it.
One thing that is common in spiritual teachings is the idea of detachment, not actually detachment per se but more about a lack of attachment, this is an important distinction. The reason it is an important distinction is that detachment points to a lack of care and awareness whereas the ability to lack attachment points to something else. What that something else might be was a very frustrating part of my path, especially when it came to emotions, which emotions might be the entire reason detachment is so big a deal in spiritual teachings.
For a long time, I thought being detached meant that I could achieve a state of mind void of anger and pain. But I never could reach that state, and I doubt anyone that chooses to keep an open and loving heart ever can. I tried out many different versions of what I believed, or thought should be my feelings, but nothing seemed to work very well. Like most things, practice is the key to success, so I kept on trying and eventually got somewhere. Let me share how my learning progressed.
Anger is a big challenge for me. I was probably not born angry, but I developed into a person where anger was my go-to emotion. Many schools of thought taught me a lot about anger. The most important idea I adopted was to accept my anger, to face it and safely feel it fully, and then to release it. Release and acceptance did not void me of anger, but it did help me to realize that underneath the anger was a deeper feeling of pain.
The pain I felt was caused by not feeling loved in the way I wanted to be loved, or not feeling treated the way I wanted to get treated. Knowing my anger was a call for love pointed me in the right direction, but it did not keep me from losing my temper, my anger was still in control.
The next step was forgiveness. I felt that the person or thing that triggered my anger and pain had to pay for it. I wanted revenge. I wanted someone or something to pay for causing me to be angry. Letting go of the need for revenge requires forgiveness and compassion. It is hard to forgive, but very rewarding. But I still felt angry. There was more work to be done.
Deeper down I felt that I was a victim of the world and love and everything else. I felt life was unfair and was the cause of my pain and suffering. The whole setup was wrong and cruel. I needed to find acceptance. Acceptance is different than forgiveness in that it requires humility. The humility to accept we are not in control and that we do not know why things are the way they are. The humility to allow things to be as they are instead of trying to change them. The humility to let go of right and wrong. By adopting this type of acceptance, I became more compassionate, and it was easier for me to forgive others and make better choices about how I expressed my anger. Now I felt in control of my anger, not because I do not still feel anger but because I am aware of the anger and have developed ways of letting it move without hurting others.
All emotions are connected to and about love. Once you feel that way and can see how it is true, every action can be loving despite whatever emotion you are feeling. But all of this takes a conscious decision and some work. One day after being mad at my wife and getting triggered by the annoying phrase that kept running through my head “Be Here Now,” I wrote this poem. Perhaps you will get a kick out of it.
Be Here Now
My stomach hurts. I am still here; it is still now.
I am in love. I am still here; it is still now.
I am confused. I am still here; it is still now.
I want a family and then it is there. I am still here; it is still now.
I dream of making money, and then I do. I am still here; it is still now.
My wife and I fight. I am still here; it is still now.
A friend offers advice. I am still here; it is still now.
I feel bored. I am still here; it is still now.
I am tired. I am still here; it is still now.
I meet God. I am still here; it is still now.
I miss God. I no longer believe. I am still here; it is still now.
I know it all. Soon I know nothing. I am still here; it is still now.
I have no purpose. I am still here; it is still now.
I become a drug addict. I am still here; it is still now.
I lose faith. I am still here; it is still now.
I find humility. I am still here; it is still now.
I am loving. That is all that is left, all I know. I am still here; it is still now.
I come to peace that God cannot be known. Life is a mystery. I am still here; it is still now.
I delight in my emotions. I am still here; it is still now.
I see love's truth. I am still here; it is still now.
I love. I connect. I am still here; it is still now. But there is peace; there is calm.