What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You (part 1)

An Empath’s View of Emotions and their Gifts

I’ve been reading and appreciating Karla McLaren’s book, The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You. McLaren was molested repeatedly at the age of three, and suffered from dissociation and lack of boundaries, as many abuse survivors do. She developed amazing empathic abilities as a result, which was disturbing to her as she had no idea what to do with all she was picking up from other people—feelings that they often refused even to acknowledge. “Emotions are given very little respect,” she writes. “They are not honored as the brilliant messengers they are—vital tools of our greatest humanity and evolution…Much of the information we have tells us to stop the natural flow of the emotions.”

Through her work as a counselor, McLaren came to realize that feelings are an aspect of our innate intelligence, and that each emotion bears its own gifts, when we learn to channel it properly. Anger helps us recognize when a boundary has been violated, and lets us rebuild it to protect ourselves. Fear can increase our focus, resiliency to change, and intuition. Sadness enables us to let go of what is no longer useful, such as unworkable attachments. Shame and guilt can pinpoint boundary violations and help us break destructive agreements. Even a suicidal urge can illuminate and eliminate the soul-killing aspects of our lives.

Balancing Our Elements

McLaren draws on the metaphor of the four elements: air represents the mind, water the emotions, earth the body, and fire the spirit and visions. All four must be in a state of balance, she believes, for our full intelligence to operate. Often the intellect gets too much dominance.  Emotions are meant to flow, like water. Like water, they give life, and like water, they sometimes need to be channeled to avoid damage. However, we receive socialization messages that tell us some emotions are “good” and others are “bad.” McLaren writes: “Joy and happiness are lovely in their place, but they’re not by any stretch of the imagination better than fear, anger, grief or sadness. Each emotion has its own valid place in our lives…We can’t just pick and choose our emotions. That would be like picking and choosing only certain organs: I want only my heart and brain, none of those messy digestive organs!”

It seems easier to hide our honest emotions and shun them in other people. The problem is that we truly need our emotions, and can’t live functional lives without them. Emotions convey messages between our unconscious and conscious minds, and give us needed energy, skills and abilities to deal with life’s changes. Shoving emotions back into the unconscious without consciously processing them “creates a short-circuit in the psyche.”

Not Repression or Expression, but Channeling

Repressers cannot feel emotions, cannot address trauma with consciousness, but avoid, distract, and dissociate, hence suffer. Abusers hurl emotions onto and hurt others, destroying their own ego structure, cycling through rages and isolation, and often turn to addictive substances. Neither repression nor expression can heal our old traumas, but honoring and conscious channeling of the emotions heals us, and bolsters our relationships rather than destroying them.

A Buddhist saying: “Suffering is discomfort multiplied by resistance.” Spinoza wrote: “Suffering ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” If we resist feeling an emotion (repress it), this may lead to depression or illness. In the case of anger, repression can cause apathy, depression, loss of energy, loss of boundaries, enmeshment with others (co-dependency), and self-abandonment; other people are damaged, when we allow them to violate our boundaries. We also resist feeling through addictions and distractions, which give us a temporary “fix” or relief but never let us resolve the issue or form a clear picture. A well-meaning adult may react to a child’s anger or sadness with distractions like cookies or cute toys; later we learn to do this for ourselves with food, consumer goods, or alcohol. Instead, we can learn to follow our emotions from imbalance to understanding to resolution.

“When emotions are allowed to contribute their brilliant and unceasing energies to the psyche, they provide a flowing conveyance into and through the underworld of trauma; they provide the energy and information needed in each part of the journey,” writes McLaren.

She believes that we need forgiveness, but first we need our anger to restore our boundaries; thus, anger and forgiveness, far from being opposites, can work together and support each other.

 Five empathic skills help us navigate through the emotions and move them through us.

  1. Get grounded, using healthy, flowing sadness and fear.
  2. Define our boundaries, using healthy, flowing anger and shame.
  3. “Burn our contracts” (such as agreements with people, expectations, beliefs, or behaviors that don’t serve us), to help channel emotions.
  4. Practice “conscious complaining” to shake off negativity or free clogged-up emotions.
  5. Rejuvenate ourselves with nature, or by imagining ourselves filling up with light.

 

 

 

Heart Coherence: Personal and Global

Rollin McCraty and Howard Martin of the Institute for HeartMath recently dialogued on “Three Keys for Increasing Personal and Global Coherence.” Here are some highlights.

Solar Activity and Us

sun-big-solar-flare-100910-02It has been shown that the Earth’s magnetic field, influenced by solar activity, affects our brain, central nervous system, blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability, hormones, and more. At times when solar activity peaks, there can be an increase in social conflicts, depression, accidents, and heart attacks. However, these are also times when creativity is heightened. It’s a great time to practice “inner ease” and access our intuitive intelligence.

We can use our heart’s intelligence to make choices. When a judgment pops up, along with the turbulent emotions that generates, we can learn to back off, and turn to our inner guidance system. Information from our Higher Self, communicated to us as our heart’s wisdom, allows us to make more intelligent choices. Our goal is to be open-hearted and connected in this present moment. At this rather stressful time on the planet, a wonderful resource is to access the state of “ease” and to embrace that as a way of life, to enable us to flow through challenges. “Inner ease” is a quiet doorway into Presence. Here’s how:

Steps to Inner Ease

1) Whenever you are “out of sync,” begin by acknowledging your present feelings, whatever they are: frustration, anxiety, overload, anger, or others.

2) Bring your awareness to your heart, and begin slow, heart-focused breathing.

3) Breathe in a feeling of ease and emotional balance into your heart.

4) Make a heartfelt commitment to anchor this feeling in, as you re-engage with the world.lotus2

5) Radiate out the inner ease to everyone.

6) Start each day with this practice, and revisit it frequently.

Personal, Social, and Global Coherence

The field we generate when our hearts are in a state of coherence goes out and resonates with the Earth’s geomagnetic field to cause increased coherence in the environment, benefiting all living systems! DNA information is transmitted via electromagnetic waves. Earth’s electromagnetic field is a carrier of biological information.

earth's em fieldIndividual coherence creates more social and global coherence, which in turn benefits each individual.  At the end of the day, we might ask ourselves, “What did I contribute to the global field?” Did we add emotionally chaotic energy like frustration or anger? Or did we add ease and kindness?

Patience and kindness with ourselves also “feeds the field,” so don’t forget to practice those! Any time we can make the shift from anger or frustration to gratitude, appreciation, caring and connection, we have helped our own bodies tremendously–since just five minutes of anger suppresses our immune system for over 6 hours, while just five minutes of sincere appreciation enhances our immune response for the same time period.

Compassion for ourselves and others is an intelligent aspect of love. Practicing coherence attracts fulfilling and rewarding experiences and people to us.