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Understanding Emotions

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Our ability to view situations objectively and thus to understand ourselves and other people depends on balancing and integrating the head and heart. Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power of emotions, appropriately channelled as a source of energy, creativity and influence.

Emotions serve as the source of human energy, authenticity and drive, and can offer us a wellspring of intuitive wisdom. Each feeling provides us with valuable feedback throughout the day. This feedback from the heart is what ignites creativity, keeps us honest with ourselves, guides trusting relationships, and provides the compass for our life and career.

Emotional intelligence requires that we learn to acknowledge and understand feelings - in ourselves and others - and that we appropriately respond to them, creatively applying the energy of the emotions to our daily life, work and relationships.

Emotional intelligence is demonstrated by tolerance, empathy and compassion for others; the ability to verbalize feelings accurately and with integrity; and the resilience to bounce back from emotional upsets. It is the ability to be a deeply feeling, authentic human being, no matter what life brings, no matter what challenges and opportunities we face.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) may be even more important than IQ in one's ability to achieve success and happiness. I may score well on tests and excel academically, but how well do I handle disappointment, anger, jealousy and fear, the problems of communication, and all the ups and downs of relationships?

Persons with high EQ - who have developed emotional literacy - will have more confidence and trust in themselves, and more understanding of others and therefore empathy with them. So they will make better relationships and experience more achievement, love and joy in their life. They will be emotionally mature, a state that many adults do not achieve. If these skills were taught widely, in the home as well as at school, and amongst adults too of course, it would provide the basis of a much saner and happier world to live in.

At its essence, a meaningful and successful life requires being attuned to what is on the inside, beneath the mental analyzes, the appearances and control, and beneath the rhetoric. It requires being attuned to the heart, the center of our emotions and outgoing reach to the world. Our heart activates our deepest values, transforming them from something we think about to what we actually do in our life. The heart is the place of courage and spirit, integrity and commitment - the source of energy and deep feelings that call us to create, learn, cooperate, lead and serve.

When we have painful feelings, the heart is telling us we have unmet needs, or we are interpreting reality through some kind of distorting filter. When we have positive feelings, the heart is telling us we are pointing in the right direction, towards fulfillment of our needs and towards truth. Our Higher Self, the all-knowing part of us connected to all consciousness, communicates to our body-mind through this channel - not through verbal messages but through the heart. We just need to be open to receive this intuitive wisdom.

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The word emotion is a fascinating word. Look at it this way: E-motion, or Energy, put into motion. That is what our emotions do. They move energy and bring things into motion, or manifestation. The force behind what we feel is what allows us to create. First we have our thought, or perception. But it is the emotional energy, the fuel, that allows something to get created. "I felt so strongly that I just had to rush out and do it". Therefore, to create in a positive way, we must generate positive emotions from clear thoughts and perceptions.

Thought triggers emotion. See what kind of thoughts you are thinking, and what kind of emotion that creates. Tune into how you feel. Use all your senses to ask if something doesn't feel right or comfortable in the way you are responding or feeling. If you don't like the emotion you are feeling, change the thoughts you are thinking that are the reason for you creating that emotion. Get a new perspective, in other words. Healing comes from taking responsibility: to realize that it is you - and no-one else - that creates your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions.

The Reactive Response
The opposite of being response-able is to be 'reactive' - in this case one's response is not conscious and self-aware, it is mechanical, like the trigger of a gun. Rather than being objective in the present, one is subjectively in the past. A situation reminds you of the past and there you go. The thoughts that go through your mind - thoughts from the past - trigger an unpleasant or self-defeating emotional reaction, and result in behavior that is not in your best interest. In other words it is your beliefs and your perspective on things that determine your emotions, which then drive your resulting behavior.

These thoughts derive from times when they seemed like the best solution to trying circumstances, and they may be an agreement with a dominant, authoritative or persuasive force, or derive from the conclusion to an episode in your life of success or failure. If the original circumstances were unpleasant and become painful to think about, the accompanying thoughts, decisions and purposes become suppressed too, but continue to operate subconsciously.

When brought to light, it is apparent that the thoughts are affecting current life unnecessarily, as they are usually an over-generalization, an exaggeration, a negativity or an intolerance that is irrational. To become responsible again rather than reactive, one needs to become aware of these thoughts and examine them objectively. And to be conscious of the present moment, and so act (rather than react) as circumstances change.

The route to the underlying thoughts and beliefs is to recognize the situation or circumstance that triggers unwanted feelings and subsequent behavior, then see what thoughts are driving that reaction. Most often these are fleeting and subconscious, since they are associated with painful experiences or because they have long been installed in the mind as seemingly safe solutions to the situations of life and have therefore become taken for granted - 'built in' as part of one's identity. Normally you can't see what you are being - first you need to fully experience, accept and release the emotion.

Finding the underlying thought pattern is crucial to resolving the reactivity, and when it is seen in the light of an objective view this is a great relief, because the past decision - and the beliefs surrounding it - can normally be changed quite readily. It may mean finding a new solution to the problem that it has been 'solving' in the mind, but the clearer view makes this possible.

If the previous solution is used to make one feel right (or justified if connected with bad actions) and/or to make others wrong defensively or manipulatively, then some courage is needed to adopt the new, more rational view. If you have done something wrong in the past, it is best to be thankful you made that mistake, because it gives you the opportunity now to learn a valuable lesson.

These principles are common to much of humanistic psychology, and are also the basis for further transpersonal work. To recap, the way it works is this:

  1. The person has a traumatic experience, of pain or loss.
  2. As a result of the experience, s/he makes a decision or intention for the future, such as "men are selfish bastards, I can't trust them" which becomes part of their belief system.
  3. Because the incident was painful it is suppressed, and the accompanying decision is identified with, but both remain in the mind and continue to have influence.
  4. When the incident is restimulated by similar circumstances in the present, the old decision is subconsciously dramatized. The tape replays subconsciously.
  5. The decision may have been relevant and appropriate to the original circumstances but it is probably not appropriate now - it is therefore irrational and somewhat stupid, i.e. it may contain an assumption or generalization that causes intolerance or negativity.
  6. The current situation is interpreted according to the restimulated beliefs and considerations, and so the person creates unpleasant emotions (sadness, fear, antagonism, anger, etc), which then drive the him or her to behave in an inappropriate and self-defeating way; rather than the appropriate and self-empowering way that a rational and objective interpretation would encourage.

To resolve the cycle of irrationality > painful emotion > negative behavior pattern, you can use the technique of Releasing, described here.

The Releasing procedure helps you to re-experience the painful emotion, to the point that you realize that you actually create the emotion based on your interpretation of events, and that you are not the emotion, i.e. "I create the feeling of being angry" rather than "I am angry". With acceptance of the emotion, so that you can have it or not have it and still be content, then you can let the emotion go.

For the releasing to be permanent you also need to spot the underlying irrational thought, assumption, decision or intention, and how it has been driving your emotions. Now the emotion is cleared it will no longer be dominating your view of the situation and these thoughts will be exposed. Upon examination it becomes clear that you can change your mind about this and see things differently, so will you no longer need to feel upset in similar circumstances and have new freedom to behave in ways more aligned with your goals in life.

The Shadow Self

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We each have a belief system full of ideas imprinted by our culture and upbringing, and as the effect of earlier traumatic experiences, and even influences we are born with. They are here with us all the time in the present and effect our view of things and interpretation of events, so that we are not really free to be ourselves, and to know our true selves and our true goals and purposes in life.

Part of our belief system is conscious and makes up the personality we knowingly present to the world. Another part is less conscious and these are beliefs that we suppress because they are uncomfortable to face - they make up our 'Shadow Self'. It includes aspects of ourself that we resist - qualities we have that we don't like, things we've done we are ashamed of, things we've believed that others have told us that are negative evaluations or invalidations. Accompanying these beliefs are put-downs, self-invalidations. For example, I found myself feeling afraid on occasions and judged myself a coward: "I despise this cowardly streak I have."

To help in suppressing painful aspects of the shadow self, we then use these put-downs against others too, e.g. criticizing someone because he is cowardly to speak up, to reinforce the suppression of the belief one has about oneself.

So when you resist, deny or suppress a belief about yourself, you then reinforce this by projecting the same suppression on others. I might suppress the belief that I'm not a kind person by criticizing another for being mean. Ironically, when we realize someone is being kind, this is only possible because one has recognized that kindness within oneself, otherwise it would not be real to you.

Men who deny the feminine aspect of themselves often then criticize other men for being soft or over-sensitive. And women who through their conditioning suppress their masculine aspects may criticize other women for being tough or aggressive.

As we become more aware, through practices such as meditation, self-remembering, applying the Releasing method, and in particular through the in-depth technique of The Insight Project, we can let go of these 'Shadow' aspects of our personality, we no longer need them as 'safe solutions', their lies have been exposed. And the energy we put into anger, hate, jealousy, guilt, envy and so on is freed up and transmuted to its true nature, which is our own true nature, love.

Responsibility - Yours or Mine?
Another's determinism (including their emotional responses) is their responsibility, not yours. This is a hard lesson to learn. If I promise to my wife that we will have a holiday this year, but this turns out not to be possible, she may be upset and angry. It is easy to fall into the trap of taking responsibility for this upset, to feel that I have caused it. But it is your wife who causes her own grief, not you. You are responsible for doing what you think is right, according to your ethical judgment. If you do something wrong according to your own ethics, you are responsible for that. You are not responsible for the other person's reactions though, that is their determinism, their freedom.

If you do something you think is right and someone gets upset about it, even if you could have predicted that, the upset is nevertheless that person's responsibility. Sometimes you do something you know another probably won't like, because it is the right and therefore responsible thing to do. The other person's reaction is their personal responsibility. You may decide to withhold an action because of a predicted effect, although that effect is another's responsibility. Here it is an ethical judgment - withholding that action, if it is the right thing to do, may be a wrong-doing in itself.

For example if you were to withhold doing personal development because your partner has said they do not want you to change in any way, perhaps because they project their personal fears and insecurities, that is your choice. But if you consider making a better life for yourself is the ethical thing to do - for the benefit of yourself and ultimately for others too - and you tell your partner that and she gets upset, it is your partner who is responsible for the upset - it is her interpretation of your actions that creates her own upset, not your action in itself, which is a responsible action.

You can genuinely love someone whilst nevertheless doing something they don't like or agree with. You do it because you feel it is the right thing to do, though you still understand and have empathy for their different viewpoint (which causes their emotional reaction, part of their 'case' which they have created by their own choices and belief system).

If one only did things others can easily accept then the status quo would never progress. That would truly be a trap. The solution here is better communication, leading to increased understanding of each other's viewpoint, and therefore acceptance of the differing personal realities.

There is strong cultural conditioning to feel sad, guilty, etc. for painful emotions that our actions, however well meant, may cause to others. In society there's a general misconception that you are your emotions. "I am angry" and "you make me angry". This is conditioning not truth. In terms of cause and effect, it's a viewpoint at effect. Some say that to be happy only do what others can easily experience - it's the same lie.

The Church teaches "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you". This is evidently true, as if you are being ethical then it's going to be OK for others to do the same to you. And if it isn't then you'd better re-think whether you are indeed doing the right thing. It is one definition of a 'wrong' action: that which you would not like another to do to you.

It's a basic principle of respect for others (as one would wish for oneself) that they are responsible for their actions and reactions - that is their freedom of choice. They are not a slave or puppet.

From your interpretation of reality you make decisions and your decisions and choices and emotional tone have enormous influence on the direction of your life and what happens.

Looking at life and relationships in terms of Communication, Understanding and Empathy (CUE) is a spiritual viewpoint. It is like the 'love of God' - it can seem harsh but it's about the 'greatest good'. It has no room for the 'victim' identification, jealousy and those kinds of very human responses, that are based on conditioned lies.

Consideration for the other person comes into play when you judge ethics, what is best overall, not just for oneself. However the other may not agree with your judgment nor like it. That is an aspect of the unknown and randomness of the game of life. You try to make it a win-win rather than competitive game by increasing the qualities of CUE.

You are responsible for your choices, decisions and actions. For being true to your judgment. For communicating with honesty and integrity, developing and maintaining an open mind, and promoting understanding and empathy. For never compromising your freedoms and rights nor trampling on another's. For always acting from the primary motivation of love. That's all and quite enough.

To realize these truths and so recover our full spiritual awareness, The Insight Project is the way to go - an in-depth and effective way "to transcend or go beyond our programming." And the New Life Course is a preparation for that, teaching important concepts and life skills that help you to understand and take full control over your life. For those who are interested in the psychology and philosophy of this approach, Transforming the Mind is freely available.

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