Fixed Emotional Responses
We can feel one emotion regarding a particular circumstance, whilst at the same time or soon after feeling quite a different emotion - like when watching a dramatic movie. The emotions that we need to release are the fixed ones that we identify with and feel the effect of - we feel we ARE the emotion: "I'm angry and you make me so." A free emotion is one that we CREATE as an appropriate feeling to accompany our considerations, beliefs, desires and involvements: "I feel anger according to the way I interpret my current circumstances."
An emotion is adopted chronically when it accompanies the belief structure of a particular identity we are absorbed in - a way of being, such as a people pleaser who is dominated at work by more confident colleagues, or a mother with children who feels bored and restricted to the house. And then, suddenly a different identity may become restimulated (through new circumstances or through thoughts restimulating past circumstances) and we see a dramatic personality change - the person at work may get promotion and start to feel and behave quite differently, or the mother may remember her pleasure at giving birth and suddenly looking after the children is a different proposition.
Since we cannot easily recognize what we are being, this aspect of changing fixed identities is usually an unconscious aspect of an individual's case - though profoundly affecting most people much of the time. The way that we identify and switch from identity to identity is explained fully in my free online book, 'Transforming the Mind.' The in-depth techniques of The Insight Project used on the The Insight Project course are the most effective 'transpersonal' tools to clear this case and enable one to be whatever one wants without ever becoming trapped in that role.
The pre-requisite to clearing a fixed identity is to release the emotions that are driving that way of being, so next we look at the techniques to achieve that...
One technique we have found profoundly effective is a process
of consciously and intentionally releasing emotions as they arise - a technique developed
by Lester Levenson.
In essence, Levenson found that people have three usual ways of
handling a feeling:
- The first way is to suppress the feeling. But suppressed feelings don't go away - they
build up and fester inside, causing anxiety, tension, depression, and a host of
stress-related problems. The repressed energy (or 'charge') these suppressed feelings
create eventually drives you to behave in ways you don't like or understand, and which you
- The second way is to express the feeling. By 'blowing up' or losing our tempers we
relieve the pressure of the accumulated emotions. This can feel good because it puts the
feeling into action - but it doesn't get rid of the feeling, or the roots that create the
feeling; it simply relieves the pressure of it momentarily. Negative emotions may also be
unpleasant for the person on the receiving end, which in turn causes more distress and
- The third common way to cope with feelings is by attempting to avoid the issue by
attending instead to distractions - by talking, watching TV, eating, smoking, drinking,
taking drugs, having sex, etc. But despite our attempts to escape them, the feelings are
still there - and still take their toll in the form of stress.
But there is another option for handling a feeling - you can focus on it, fully
experience it, and then let go of it: release it, discharge it.
This is the healthiest way to handle a feeling that is consuming us. We've all had the
experience of being in the midst of an emotional explosion and then suddenly began to
laugh at ourselves, realizing how silly or inappropriate or useless our behavior is. In
other words we became conscious.
Typical feelings include the following:
- Apathy and related feelings such as cold, cut-off, dead, defeated, depressed,
discouraged, disillusioned, drained, futile, hopeless, lost, numb, overwhelmed, resigned,
shocked, stuck, worthless, neglected, unaccepted, insignificant, lifeless, abandoned, loveless, pessimistic, rigid, stagnant, stopped, insensitive, disconnected, depressed, defeated.
- Grief and related feelings such as abandoned, abused, accused, anguished, ashamed,
betrayed, blaming, cheated, embarrassed, helpless, hurt, ignored, left out, longing, loss,
melancholy, misunderstood, neglected, lonely, pity, poor me, regret, rejection, remorse, sad,
unhappy, melancholic, betrayed, discouraged, self-punishing.
- Fear and related feelings such as trapped, anxious, apprehensive, cowardly, devious, doubt,
dread, foreboding, inhibited, insecure, jealous, guilty, nervous, panicky,
scared, secretive, shaky, shy, stage-fright, suspicious, tense, trapped, withdrawn,
worried, threatened, fearful, undesirable.
- Resentment and related feelings such as exploited, harassed, frustrated, deprived, hurt, embarrassed, used, abused, confused, rejected, offended, unacknowledged, disappointed, ignored, hidden hostility.
- Anger and related feelings such as aggressive, annoyed, defiant, demanding, disgusted,
fierce, frustrated, furious, hatred, impatience, lack of control, mad, mean, outraged,
rebellious, rude, spiteful, rigid, stern, stubborn, vengeful.
- Antagonism and related compulsive feelings such as aloof, argumentative, arrogant,
boastful, clever, contemptuous, craving, critical, demanding, driven, envious, frustrated,
greedy, impatient, judgmental, manipulative, lack of acceptance or approval, need to be
right, lust, obsessed, pushy, vicious, violent, righteous, ruthless, selfish,
self-satisfied, snobbish, spoiled, superior, unforgiving, vain; wanting desperately to
have or to hurt; wanting to make another wrong.
- Indifference and related feelings such as bored, careless, cautious, conservative,
forgetful, indecisive, lazy, sceptical, tired.
- Enthusiasm and related feelings such as adventurous, alert, amused, anticipating, aware,
competent, confident, courageous, creative, curious, daring, decisive, desire, eager,
friendly, happy, independent, interested, joyful, motivated, open, positive, proud,
resourceful, self-sufficient, strong, supportive, vigorous.
- Love and related feelings such as acceptance, balance, beauty, belonging, compassion,
delight, ecstasy, empathic, open, receptive, secure, understanding, wonder.
- Serenity and related feelings such as calm, centered, complete, free, fulfilled,
peaceful, perfect, pure, whole.
Note: the last three are positive feelings - it is important to release on even very
good feelings such as serenity, love and enthusiasm, for driving these feelings are
sometimes hidden and compulsive needs and desires. When you release these good feelings
you feel a physical and emotional release, just as when you release negative feelings.
What lies behind the emotion is something even better, an imperturbable serenity, the
The Release Procedure
Step One: Locate. First think of some problem area in life - something
that is of great urgency and concern. It may be a relationship with a loved one, a parent
or child; it might be your job, health or fears. Or it might simply be the feeling that
you are experiencing now.
Step Two: Identify your feeling. Determine your feeling about the
problem area, or the current feeling. What word comes to mind? If necessary examine the
previous list of feelings as a reminder. Check on the list also to determine the primary
nature of the feeling - for example, if you perform your releasing operation on fear,
rather than hesitance or worry, you will find the results are much more dramatic and
Step Three: Focus. What do you really feel? Open yourself up, become
aware of the physical sensations attached to the feeling and focus on them.
Step Four: Feel your feeling. Deliberately create it. Let your feeling
inhabit your entire body and mind. If the feeling is a grief feeling, you may break into
tears; if it is anger, you may feel your blood begin to boil. That's good - now is the
time to feel the feeling.
Step Five: Individuate. Become aware of the difference between your
Self - YOU - and what that Self is FEELING. When the feeling is fully experienced and
accepted, there will at some point be a clear sensation that your feeling is not you, so
it would be possible to let go of the feeling.
If you do not feel that it is possible to let the feeling go, feel it some more. Sooner
or later you will reach a point where you can truthfully answer: "Yes, I could let
this feeling go".
Step Six: Learn the lesson. Spot the underlying thought, assumption, decision or intention, and how it has been driving your emotions. See now how rational it is in interpreting your current circumstances, even though it may have seemed appropriate in the past. What do you learn from this?
The most vital aspect of this process is the learning of life lessons. Unless you recognize what you are to learn from your negative emotions, they will not release permanently, because they will have to regenerate again until the lesson is learned once and for all. After all, the very nature of negative emotions is a message to you -- letting you know that something needs to be learned.
Circumstances create themselves in order to bring an opportunity into your life for the specific purpose of teaching you a valuable positive learning. When you don't recognize the situation as an opportunity to learn, another situation will be created. And it will continue to be re-created until the lesson is learned.
Step Seven: Release. When will you let this feeling go? Sooner or later
you will be able to answer: "I am willing to let this feeling go now". So let
the feeling go, simply release it, if you haven't done so spontaneously. It feels good to
let it go - all the built-up energy that has been held in the body is released. There is a
sudden decrease in physical and nervous tension. You will feel more relaxed, calm,
Step Eight: Check. Do you still have any of the feeling? If some of it
is still there then go through the procedure again. Often releasing is like a well - you
release some and then more arises. Some of our pent-up emotions are so deep that they
require a number of releases.
After you have learned to release emotions with the Release technique, with plenty of practice you will become familiar with obtaining the "witness view" of your thoughts and feelings - you will be less identified with them. This makes it easier to release spontaneously, in real-time - new painful emotions never get suppressed but are fully experienced, dis-identified with and let go of straight away. Simply becoming aware of a feeling is enough to trigger a natural, spontaneous release, and you will carry this ability over into your everyday life, resulting in a stress-free mind and body.
If certain feelings never seem to go away, or if they re-emerge in specific
circumstances in a way that is unwanted and apparently outside your control, then these
are Fixed Emotional Responses. Actually, YOU create your emotions according to your interpretation of events, they are not directly caused by
the circumstances around you or what happens to you. It is much easier to be both
spontaneous and rational if such fixed responses are released. So now apply the above
Release Procedure to each of the following emotions.
Use the following questions to help you detect if you have such a fixed emotional
"What are some things you don't really care about?"
"What doesn't really matter in your life?"
"What is never going to change anyway?"
"Is there anything you can't do anything about?"
"What don't you even bother trying to do?"
"Is there anything you just aren't made for?"
"Is there anything that is hopeless to change?"
"What do you find depressing?"
"Have you ever felt worthless?"
When you spot the emotion of Apathy, Release it.
"What reminds you of something you've lost?"
"Think of something sad"
"What is missing in your life?"
"Anything that should be there, but isn't?"
"Do you feel abused in any way"?
"Have you felt abandoned or betrayed?"
"What makes you unhappy?"
"What are you ashamed of about yourself?"
"What do you wish you hadn't done?"
"What are you embarrassed about?"
"What about yourself are you trying to hide?"
"Who is responsible for the condition you are in?"
"Who or what do you blame for some situation?"
"What parts of your life are others responsible for?"
"What should you never have done?"
"What part of the past is haunting you?"
"What do you wish you had done?"
"Tell me some mistakes you have made"
"Who do you feel sorry for?"
"Who should you help?"
"Who can't manage by themselves?"
"What shouldn't happen?"
"What are you trying to prevent happening?"
"Is there anything threatening you?"
"Is somebody after you?"
"Is anything hidden in your life?"
"What don't you want to look at?"
"Is any part of your life scary?"
"Who do you hate?"
"Who do you think deserves to suffer?"
"What do you feel like destroying?"
"Who really drives you mad?"
"What do you think is outrageous?"
"Who are you envious of?"
"Who do you think you are superior to?"
"Who or what do you have contempt for?"
"What deserves criticism?"
"What do you find really frustrating?"
"What do you argue about?"
"What are you obsessed about?"
"What do you not agree with, but haven't said openly?"
"What don't you like about somebody else?"
"What should somebody else not have done to you?"
"Is somebody else doing things differently than you want?"
"What do you have no interest in?"
"Who do you have nothing to do with?"
"What aren't you going to bother changing?"
"What do you find boring?"
"What are you sceptical about?"
These exercises are based on the principle that what you can do consciously and deliberately you will no longer do unconsciously and compulsively.
- Consider how you 'get into' different emotions. Start with the ones you most frequently
feel and find a particular recent occurrence. Go through the incident: What do you see?
What do you hear? What do you feel, externally and internally? Don't accept that it is
something that "just happens". There will be something that either triggers the
emotions (such as something that you say to yourself or think, even nonverbally) or there
will be conditions that you feel are the right ones to have that emotion, and there will
be specific ways that emotion is activated. Then Release that emotion, with the Procedure
- When you have worked through ones you frequently use, to the point where you can
activate them at will, pick some that you don't often use but that other people do. Work
out what would be a strategy for getting into such emotions. Then recall a time when you
did have that emotion and Release it.
- Then work through the following resourceful emotional states. Recall a time when you felt:
amused, excited, daring, fascinated, stimulated, playful, committed, creative, proud,
caring, appreciative, serene, trusting, peaceful, courageous, determined, glad,
passionate, alluring, zestful, loving, relaxed, interested, enthusiastic, provocative,
ecstatic, centered, curious, Energized, intimate, nurturing, compelling, sexy, sensual,
clever, flirtatious, respectful, complete, tranquil, safe, in agreement, complete, satisfied, productive, involved, sincere, determined, fortunate, respected, protected, motivated, reckless, delighted, attractive, excited, fascinated, understanding, welcome, indespensable, refreshed, responsible, adequate, receptive, amenable, encouraged, invigorated, deserving, open, optimistic, adaptable, valuable, approachable, free, fulfilled, compassionate, secure, positive, independent, competent, strong, aware, decisive.
- Then work through the following negative emotional states, Releasing each one after fully experiencing it. Recall a time when you felt:
cold, cut-off, dead, defeated, depressed, discouraged, disillusioned, drained, futile, hopeless, lost, numb, overwhelmed, resigned, shocked, stuck, worthless, neglected, unaccepted, insignificant, lifeless, abandoned, loveless, pessimistic, rigid, stagnant, stopped, insensitive, disconnected, defeated, depressed.
Grief & Culpability:
abandoned, abused, accused, anguished, ashamed, betrayed, blaming, cheated, embarrassed, helpless, hurt, ignored, left out, longing, loss, melancholy, misunderstood, neglected, pity, poor me, regret, rejection, remorse, sad, unhappy, melancholic, betrayed, discouraged, self-punishing.
trapped, anxious, apprehensive, cowardly, devious, doubt, dread, foreboding, inhibited, insecure, jealous, nervous, panicky, scared, secretive, shaky, shy, stage-fright, suspicious, tense, withdrawn, worried, threatened, fearful, undesirable.
exploited, harassed, frustrated, deprived, hurt, embarrassed, used, abused, confused, rejected, offended, unacknowledged, disappointed, ignored, hidden hostility.
bitter, exasperated, irate, boiling over, aggressive, furious, hysterical, annoyed, defiant, demanding, disgusted, fierce, frustrated, furious, hatred, impatience, out of control, mad, mean, outraged, rebellious, rude, spiteful, stern, stubborn, vengeful, vicious, violent.
destructive, sarcastic, cynical, critical, aloof, argumentative, arrogant, boastful, clever, contemptuous, craving, critical, demanding, driven, envious, frustrated, greedy, impatient, judgmental, manipulative, lack of acceptance or approval, need to be right, lust, obsessed, pushy, resentment, righteous, rigid, ruthless, selfish, self-satisfied, snobbish, spoiled, superior, unforgiving, vain; wanting desperately to have or to hurt; wanting to make another wrong.
bored, careless, cautious, conservative, forgetful, indecisive, lazy, sceptical, tired.
- Now practice expressing a whole range of different emotions. A simple way is to take
spoken statements from any fictional book and say them with the designated emotional
expression. Really act out the part as if you had been hired at great expense to play the
part in a film.
- If you look at the above list of emotions you'll notice that they
are arranged in a naturally occurring sequence. Starting at Indifference, the emotions
descend in emotional 'tone' through Antagonism, Anger, Fear, Grief and on down to Apathy.
These are all types of 'victim consciousness' with a relative absense of love. Going down in tone, one is increasingly 'at the effect' of another force or
determinism, with reduction of choice.
Moving up from Indifference, the emotions rise
in tone through Enthusiasm, Exhilaration, Beauty and on up to Serenity. These are all types of 'creative
consciousness' based on love. Going up in tone one is increasingly the creator of one's state of being,
with increasing choice. Your knowledge, responsibility and control increase for your
circumstances, with a corresponding rise in communication, understanding and empathy with
the people around you.
Find a time where you moved from a higher emotion down through the scale to a
lower emotion, and Release the emotions as you do so.
Do this a few times, then find some incidents where you moved from a lower emotion up
through the scale to a higher emotion, and Release these emotions.
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