If you’ve been following the previous blog posts you should have a clear picture of what if feels like for you when you are in tune with your intuition, and also how it feels when your inner voice warns you that you are off-track.
In today’s post we go in depth studying negative emotions and how to handle them so they can become a tool for your evolution.
Forced Positive Thinking = Sugar Coating Your Shit Instead of Owning It
From my experience, especially in the last decades or so, there has been a lot of confusion around “positive thinking” and “positive psychology”, “visualisation” and so on.
Many people got the idea that “if I just force my self to think positive I will be able to get over the anger” which to me sounds like hiding the garbage under the rug.
At the other extreme are those who encourage expressing and manifesting your negative emotions in a controled and safe environment, like hitting pillows or a punching bag.
In extreme cases and for short periods of time, these approaches can help you.
I experienced both of them, and yes, it feels good to hit a punching bag for a few minutes. And it’s helpful to repeat myself a soothing phrase when I feel I’m on the verge of acting out in a distructive way.
But, for the long term, these approaches don’t work very well. They are OK solutions for short term situations, once you’re already in the grip of a disturbing emotion.
But what if I told you there is another way? What if you can learn what these so called negative emotions are trying to tell you and then you can choose to act upon or not in a conscious manner?
How To Understand and Own Your Negative Emotions. First Step: Take The Elevator
No, I’m not talking about a real elevator, but a metaphorical one.
Lemme explain. In order to understand what your negative emotions are trying to tell you from the perspective of your soul, you need to step outside yourself.
Imagine you’re taking an elevator that gets you a few floors up. Are you there yet? Good. Now look down at the situation you’re in. Tadaaa! you now have a bigger perspective on it.
This bigger and higher perspective is essential to help you detach from the grip of any negative emotion.
You don’t deny it or repress it, and you aren’t feeding it with energy neither.
You just create a small gap or buffer which will allow you to take a conscious action. Another way of creating this buffer is to think of your negative emotions as guests.
Second Step: Think of Your Negative Emotions as Guests in Your House.
You can choose wether you welcome them and give them food and water or even a glass of wine, or
keep them outside your house and not give them any cookies.
Now that we know what we need to do in order to not totaly fall in the grip of our negative emotions, we can start studying them one by one.
In this approach that I suggest you’ll try and descipher their hidden message from the perspective of your soul’s mission.
Your Guest Today is Good Ol’ Fashioned Anger.
Anger comes in many forms in your house, and its basic function is to protect you from harm.
How Does Anger Build Up On Itself Over and Over Again and Why?
Biologically, whenever you get angry your body releases stress hormones that keep you in the “fight or flight” state for hours, even after the event that triggered that state has passed.
And with every new trigger that puts you again in a fighting mode, your body flushes a new wave of hormones into your blood stream to keep you ready to either fight or run the hell out of there.
This basic system is what kept us alive in ancient times, when we were litterally facing death multiple times a day.
The Primarly Function of Anger = Keep Us Safe From Harm
The problem in modern times is that even though a fight with our spouse or our boss, or someone annoying us in traffic, are not life or death situations, our bodies respond with the same system, the ancient, reptilian brain, triggering the same stress hormones.
And even though we don’t act upon our anger, but we feel it and repress it, annoying episode after another, inside our body we become cronically stressed.
Because we are constantly, on a sub-conscious level, always in a “fight or flight” mode.
We might not even realize this until the build up is so strong that we act in an disproportionate way to a minor fact.
That’s how you get to see people shooting eachother or beating eachother up just because one crossed in front of the other in traffic.
Along with the stress hormones build up, every angry re-action reenforces the synapses between the neurons that make you do A when B happens.
Every Angry Re-Action Adds Another Brick In The Wall
For example “you start yelling=A when your kid spills milk=B on your new shirt”.
So every time you repeat this angry behaviour the connections between your neurons are getting stronger and bigger, they build the equivalent of a highway.
So in time, because our brain loves shortcuts and doing things on autopilot, it will “force” you to adopt the same behaviour, over and over again.
And in time you will become known as “an angry person”, one that “you never know when is going to blow up”.
And You’ll End Up Feeling Like You Have No Other Choice But Being Angry
So this is the scientific explanation of how normal people become “angry” people, irrational beings who act out on every little thing that bothers them.
The Buddhist teachings are calling this compulsive behaviour “karma”.
It’s basically the same thing described by neuroscience in terms of synapes or connections between the neurons.
The “Compulsive Behaviour” Is What Karma Actually Is
So there’s nothing new under the sun!
It amazes me how 2500 year old texts describe so accurately what modern science has just recently discovered.
And this compulsive behaviour applies not only to disruptive emotions, like anger and dissatisfaction, but also to constructive ones, like joy and gratitude. So that’s the good news.
Back to anger now. In terms of your Soul’s wisdom, anger has the basic function to protect you from harm. Its basic message is “you are in danger, protect yourself!”.
It acts just like your imune system: if a virus or a bacteria invades your body, your imune system will fight it and then it will keep a memory of it so anytime in the future it will instantly recognize it and attack it.
It’s similar with your lymbic system, responsible to alert you and prepare you in case an outside threat appears: it will attach a strong emotion to that threat so you’ll easily recognize it and avoid it in the future.
The thing with non-deadly threats, like a querrel, a smal traffic incident, someone bullying you when you were a kid, is that your lymbic system doesn’t really make the difference between these situations and the real life or death ones.
And it reacts to all of these just like as if your life was in danger.
Living in modern times represents a very small percentage in the evolution of our brain, whereas the ancient, reptilian one has been around for way longer.
So it didn’t really have the time to come up with new, more subtle reactions, to make the difference between “a boss yelling at me” and “a tiger attacking me”. For your unconscious brain, these two situations are both enough reason to put you in a fight or flight mode.
So what can we do?
First, to learn these basic things about how the brain works, helps you understand a bit what happens in your body when you get in a potentially dangerous situation.
Second is to get it that anger is almost always a cover up emotion or a secondary emotion, right after the fear of being hurt.
Anger Is Always a Cover Up Emotion, Usually Hiding A Fear of Being Hurt
In most of the cases anger has multiple possible messages:
- warning, this person is going to hurt me
- this person is abusing me
- this person has an impure intent even if she acts as if she’s trying to help me
In the obvious situations when someone is violent towards us then it’s easy to understand anger’s role: giving us energy to protect ourselves from the abuser.
In the more subtle situations, when a person acts like their good and nice and wanting to help, but we somehow have a nasty feeling inside and we don’t know why, it might happen because of that person’s impure intent.
And if we ignore that feeling we might become even more irritated until we manifest anger and we do something to get away from that person.
To sum it up, be mindful that anger is almost never the primar emotion.
Anger is the secondary one, usualy covering up a fear.
I’ll give you another example. Even if you’re not a parent you can easily relate to this one. And maybe it will help you better understand your parents reactions every time your were late home when you were a teen 🙂
Let’s say your 15 year old daughter is out at a party with some friends. You agree that she comes home by 23 hours. You wait for her. It’s 23:10 and she’s not home yet. You wait a bit more, a bit anxious. 23:20 you pick up the phone to call her, and she doesn’t answer.
A mix of feelings and thoughts go through your mind: you are worried “what if something happened?” and you get angry when you think that she’s doing this because she doesn’t respect you, she doesn’t care, she’s just a spoiled teenager and you’ll teach her a lesson when she gets home.
You call her again and she still doesn’t answer. More worry mixed with anger, depending on the thoughts you feed in your mind.
23:30 she finaly gets home, saying she’s sorry, there was a minor accident on the way, a car ran into her taxi, nothing serious but they had to stay there and solve the situation with the police and she forgot her phone at her friend’s house and that’s why she couldn’t warn you of being late.
Now, your initial emotion was that you were worried sick for her safety. The second emotion was anger because you didn’t know anything about her and because you assumed she was just acting like an irresponsible teen.
Now that you’ve found out the truth and saw that she was O.K. you can let go of your anger and express your genuine worry and wish for her to be O.K.
Observe how your feelings change according to the thoughts you have. And untill you find out the truth you’re actually re-acting to an illusion, to a story that you tell yourself in your mind.
You Can Choose Your Reactions If You Create a Buffer
Here’s where the power of a meditation practice, especially mindfulness exercises, can really help you.
You learn to not believe or react to every thought you have and you create a buffer where you have the time to take a step back and decide what to believe and how to react.
Without this buffer it’s impossible to choose how to act and you’re constantly in re-active state.
You feel a compulsive urge to act in a certain way and think “that’s just the way I am, I’m just a type A person, there’s nothing I can do”.
Well, that’s simply false!
Just like you developed a bad habbit you can develop a healthy one: through practice.
Meditation and Mindfulness Practice Helps You Create The Buffer
And just like with any other big shift that you’ve gone through in your life, there is no overnight magic pill or one big push that you can do and then pufff! You’ve transformed. Nope.
It’s the small, baby steps that you choose to make every single day and every hour of your life that will take you there.
If you’ve ever trained for a marathon or an ultra-marathon you know what I’m talking about.
Anyhow, this post is turning way too long. So I’ll stop here for now.
I’ve gotten into all the details about what’s happening in your brain and in your body when you get angry because the processes are similar for any other emotion.
The difference is in the type of hormones released and in the feeling good or feeling bad about experiencing them.
In the next post I’ll cover other emotions that we usually label as negative like jealousy, sadness, guilt, shame, resentment, greed from the perspective of their hidden message and how they can help you become more in tune with your inner voice.
All my love,
P.S. Did you ever feel weird when someone asked for your help, and a part of you said “yeah, let’s help this person”, but another part of you was reluctant, feeling like “nope, they don’t really want my help?” Which part of you was right, in tune with your intuition?