One technique we have found profoundly effective is a process of consciously and intentionally fully experiencing and then releasing unwanted emotions as they arise - a technique developed by Lester Levinson. In essence, Levinson found that people have three usual ways of handling a painful emotion:
- The first way is to suppress the emotion. But suppressed emotions 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 emotions create eventually drives you to behave in ways you don't like or understand, and that you cannot control.
- The second way is to express the emotion. By 'blowing up' or losing our tempers we relieve the pressure of the accumulated emotions. This can feel good because it puts the emotion into action - but it doesn't get rid of the emotion, 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 guilt.
- The third common way to cope with emotions 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 emotions are still there - and still take their toll in the form of stress.
But there is another option for handling an emotion - 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 an emotion 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 emotions include the following:
- Apathy and related emotions such as bored, careless, cold, cut-off, dead, defeated, depressed, discouraged, disillusioned, drained, forgetful, futile, hopeless, humorless, indecisive, indifferent, lazy, lost, negative, numb, overwhelmed, resigned, shocked, stuck, tired, worthless, etc.
- Grief and related emotions such as abandoned, abused, accused, anguished, ashamed, betrayed, cheated, embarrassed, helpless, hurt, ignored, left out, longing, loss, melancholy, misunderstood, neglected, pity, poor me, regret, rejection, remorse, sad, unhappy.
- Fear and related emotions such as anxious, apprehensive, cautious, cowardly, doubt, dread, foreboding, inhibited, insecure, nervous, panicky, scared, secretive, shaky, shy, sceptical, stage-fright, suspicious, tense, trapped, worried.
- Compulsive emotions of anticipation, craving, demanding, desiring, devious, driven, envy, frustrated, greed, impatient, manipulative, lust, need, obsessed, pushy, ruthless, selfish; wanting desperately to have or to hurt; needing security, control, acceptance or approval; need to be right, to make another wrong.
- Anger and related emotions such as aggressive, annoyed, argumentative, defiant, demanding, disgusted, fierce, frustrated, furious, hatred, impatience, jealous, mad, mean, outraged, rebellious, resentment, rude, spiteful, stern, stubborn, vengeful, vicious, violent.
- Pride and related emotions such as aloof, arrogant, boastful, clever, contemptuous, cool, critical, judgmental, righteous, rigid, self-satisfied, snobbish, spoiled, superior, unforgiving, vain.
- Courage and related emotions such as adventurous, alert, aware, competent, confident, creative, daring, decisive, eager, happy, independent, loving, motivated, open, positive, resourceful, self-sufficient, strong, supportive, vigorous.
- Acceptance and related emotions such as balance, beauty, compassion, delight, empathy, friendly, gentle, joyful, loving, open, receptive, secure, understanding, wonder.
- Peace and related emotions such as calm, centered, complete, free, fulfilled, perfect, pure, quiet, serene, tranquil, whole.
[Note: some are positive emotions - it is important also to release on even very good emotions such as peace, serenity, love and courage, for driving these emotions are sometimes hidden wants, desires of the Ego. When you release these good emotions you feel a physical and emotional release, just as when you release negative emotions. What lies behind the emotion is something even better, an imperturbable serenity, the Higher Self.]