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Transforming Anger, Fear and Pain
in a Turbulent World
by Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.
Intellect is to emotion as our clothes
are to our bodies; we could not very well
have civilized life without clothes,
but we would be in a poor way
if we had only clothes without bodies.
Alfred North Whitehead, Dialogues
When we look at the varying emotions we experience in the course of a day, we realize they often come up suddenly, as a rush, a wave of energy. We flush with anger, tremble with fear or cry out in grief or pain. We melt with love and tenderness. At times we dissolve into our emotions. At other times, we succeed in staying in the pilot's seat of our emotional being.
Emotion itself is an inner energy triggered by some phenomenon inside or outside the body. Along with it comes the arousal of the brain and nervous system; they in turn stimulate thoughts, feelings and propensities to act.
Our emotions can either move us into purposeful activity or emerge as a chaotic outburst. Yet chaos itself moves toward order. The big bang theory tells us the entire physical universe emerged out of chaos.
The infinite mind of the Creator patterned the energy of chaos into orderly galaxies, planets and the stars, sun and moon in our sky. Out of chaos came spring, summer, autumn and winterlife cycles of birth, growth, maturation, decline and preparation for rebirth.
The question before us is, Will we use our higher mind to guide our emotional energy into creative cycles of inner rebirth and renewal? or will we allow those seemingly chaotic emotions to toss our lives into frantic disarray?
The Inner World of Emotion and Feeling
To begin to answer this question, we explore the relationship between "emotion" and "feeling." They are often interchanged, but we intuitively understand some subtle differences.
When we talk about feelings, we are referring to subjective reactions to a particular event. Often these reactions suggest an absence of reasoning, a rambunctious primal response. So we might find ourselves saying, "I can't trust my feelings" or "My feelings got away from me."
Emotions, on the other hand, involve not only intense feelings but also accompanying physical and mental activity. As author Daniel Goleman says, "Emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us."
Each emotion prepares us for a different kind of response. When we are frightened, we experience a momentary state of "freeze" ("frozen with fear," we say), a built-in quick-stop reflex that gives us a second to decide the action to take. At the same time blood is rushing to our arms and legs, preparing us to fight or flee the danger and propelling us into movement. Our whole body is on instant alert.
When we get angry, our heart rate accelerates and a thrust of adrenaline gives us the necessary energy for strong action. In the same instant, blood rushes to our hands, making it easier to strike out or fend off an assault. We are ready to fight, to defend our turf.
In contrast, love, with its gentle and tender feelings, creates what has been called the relaxation responsea set of reactions that bring about feelings of calmness and contentment.
When we feel happy, our brain is actively releasing endorphins, tiny peptides that relieve pain and stir good feelings. We experience an increase of positive energy. We feel it as a sense of uplift, enthusiasm and an inner readiness to get on with the goal or task of the moment.
Sadness, on the other hand, is accompanied by a slowing down of body metabolisma drop in energy. This physiological response creates an opportunity for us to slow down, to feel the full impact of a disappointment or loss and to grieve. As the grief cycle moves on, our energy picks up and we feel a lifting of the weight of sadness. Gradually we move on to new beginnings.
Who's in the Driver's Seat?
All of us have emotions; all of us have feelings. But the real issue is whether or not we are aware of them and in the driver's seat. Most of us are in that driver's seat part of the time and tossed and turned like a passenger without a seat belt at other times. Yet each of us can learn to guide our emotions creatively once we set our minds and hearts to the task.
When strong emotions stir us, we can choose to take a time-out, to calm our tumultuous feelings, to think through a potential approach and to use the power of our uplifting emotions to make it happen.
By doing this, we put ourselves in the driver's seat of our emotions. Now we can move forward without risking the potential disaster of being driven by anger, fear, grief or any other runaway emotion. The vehicle of our consciousness is no longer out of control.
When we learn to handle our emotions, we can be true to the self we really want to be. We can make wise choices. We can move on with our lives instead of being tumbled or immobilized by our emotional ups and downs.
Throughout this book we'll be investigating the nuances of our "inner dragons" and the methods of our Real Self we can use for taming them. We'll explore ways to exchange the different faces of our defensive self for the miraculous essence and integrity of who we really are.
Who Is Your Real Self?
Many people speak of their Real Self as the Higher Self, or Christ Self or Buddha Selfthe source of higher values that prompts them to benevolent motives, thoughts, words and deeds. And it is that level of selfhood that gives us the impetus to be strong, wise and loving in the face of adversity.
At an energetic level, your Real Self is brilliant white light, the divine light of Spirit. That light moves through your chakras and meridiansspiritual energy centers and pathways that govern the flow of electromagnetic energy in all levels of your being. As the light flows through the chakras, it is refracted in a similar way to sunlight passing through a prism, forming the colors of the rainbow. (Perhaps this is why we enjoy a shimmering waterfall with rainbow colors dancing in the mistit reminds us of our inner essence.)
In the very center of this wellspring of light is a fiery spark that burns as a threefold flame (pink, blue and gold) hidden away in the secret chamber of the heart. This chamber is beyond the physical dimensions of time and space. Thus the threefold flame is typically unseen by human eyes. However, we can envision it, and people blessed with inner sight have seen it.
How does the threefold flame connect with our memories, thoughts, emotions and physical reactions? This spark of divinity carries the divine thrust that energizes our four lower bodies: the etheric (or memory) body, the mental body, the emotional (or desire) body, and the physical body. These bodies are vehicles that the soul uses during her journey in time and space.
The etheric body is like a temple for the soul. This energy body houses the blueprint of the soul's identity and the memory of all we experience during our earthly embodiments.
The mental body is the repository of the cognitive facultiesour thoughts, ideas, plans and reveries. When purified, it can become the vessel of the mind of God. The emotional body houses our emotional reactions and reflects our higher and lower desires. And the physical body is the miracle of flesh and blood that enables our soul to progress in the material universe.
Understanding all of this, we can think of the Real Self as the quickening essence of the Creator within usnudging us to become the creative, compassionate person we can be when we are heart-centered. When we are true to our Higher Self, we not only feel good about ourselves but also become more genuine in our relationships with others.
As Shakespeare aptly phrased it, "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."
Also available from Summit University Press/The Summit Lighthouse.
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Copyright © 2002-2006 Marilyn C. Barrick, Summit University Press. All Rights Reserved.