As a healer and a life coach I often get asked “how do I deal with my anger?” or “how do I deal with my fear?”. I often hear “I feel as though I am going to drown in my grief”. After 35 years of working with myself and with my clients, I have discovered that it is not actually our emotions that we need to deal with. It is our mind. In my last post in this series we explored how western culture views our emotions as personal psychological events with some emotions being labeled “positive” and others “negative”. However traditional cultures embrace a full range of emotion as a way of listening to each other and to the living world around us, as a source of guidance and effective action.
Moving from “Dealing with emotions” to “Listening to emotions”
Let’s look at the polarity we’ve created in our emotions: We see love, happiness and compassion as ‘positive’. We see anger, sadness and fear as ‘negative’. However, we fail to acknowledge the profoundly important role that each of those so-called ‘negative’ emotions play in our lives.
When we listen to and express these emotions in a balanced way:
- Anger tells us when we are being hurt or violated, either physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. It gives us the impetus and strength we need to set a healthy boundary and protect ourselves.
- Fear tells us when we are in some form of danger and impels us to flight or freeze for our protection.
- Grief tells us that someone or something that is precious and dear to us has been lost and it allow us to process that loss, to both honor and value what we have lost as well as to let go and move on.
And yet we are told that we should “deal with our emotions” and that these vital messengers are ‘negative’.
It is actually the mind that wants to deal with our emotions
We are all taught in our culture that it is our mind that will solve our problems and make the important decisions that determine our lives. In our mind-dominated culture the cognitive ego-mind is threatened by pure emotion. This is because, while the mind dwells in the past and the future, emotion is always felt in the present moment. So the mind wants to get involved, to ‘deal with our emotions’. It does this by either amplifying them in the form of over-thinking, or suppressing them with various distractions. It is absolutely true that these emotions can be very destructive when they are amplified or distorted by the ego-mind. However, there is a whole world of wisdom and effective action that we deny ourselves when we avoid our emotions even as they are trying to tell us something important about our life. The joy that we long for actually comes when we allow ourselves to be informed and moved by the full range of our human emotions.
In my next post we’ll explore what happens when we suppress the authentic voice of our emotions and how we can learn to listen instead. And if you’d like to delve into the wisdom of your emotions in more depth you might be interested in my upcoming Emotional Wisdom 6 week teleclass each Mon from Nov 7th till Dec 12th. Check it out!
As an initiated Marakame or shaman in the indigenous Huichol tradition of Mexico, Prema Sheerin is a healer, spiritual counselor and teacher. Prema has worked with individuals, couples and groups for 25 years, supporting people to reveal the knowing of the heart, bring forth balance and healing, and find their path in the Divine play of life. She offers workshops internationally and has a traditional healing and life coaching practice in Asheville, North Carolina. Prema offers various programs for the Sacred Fire Community