How to follow a Spiritual path and still deal with the negative emotions.
Anger, Greed, Gluttony, Jealousy, Guilt, Sadness, Grief, Despair, Shame. These are so easy to list and I’m sure you can think of many more. What purpose do these feelings have and how do we deal with them?
Negative feelings and how to deal with them, whilst on a Spiritual path, is something that has come onto my radar over and over recently. Some opinions and advice have been so amazingly clarifying and some opinions really don’t sit well with me. What is written here is my opinion only. My thoughts and beliefs. If this fits with yours, I hope it gives you a little direction and maybe an “Ahah!” moment. If not, please keep searching for something which fits with your beliefs.
Firstly, I don’t think there are negative and positive emotions.
They are just emotions; they are how our body, brain and Soul react to a situation.
Emotions are here for a reason – anyone who has watched the Disney movie “Inside Out” will know this. Fear is there to protect you. It stems from the primitive brain when danger could be a life or death situation. It stimulates the “flight or fight” hormone production in your brain and readies your body to survive. Anger is there to protect you, to help you recognise when something isn’t fair or right. Think about the last time you got really really angry… what caused it? what was the situation or what did the trigger person do? Now really think about your thought process: I bet somewhere in your inner-monologue, there was the line “It’s just not fair!”.
Similarly, sadness is to help you recognise a situation where you are missing something or someone. It helps you to acknowledge when you’ve maybe missed out on something that you really wanted; it helps you to recognise what you really need in your life. Grief is an even deeper and longer sadness, usually triggered by the loss of something or someone so dear to us, it’s like their loss has caused a hole in our heart that nothing else can fill. You can only feel sadness this strongly, if you can love to the same depths. How can that be a bad thing?
So what can we do with fear, anger and sadness? Many Spiritual guides and mentors will say to heal, you need to release them… in the words of another Disney film: “Let it go”. There are many rituals around this too – write a letter to the person who you’re angry with and then burn the letter to release. Other methods encourage you to tap or chant or meditate until you are feeling positive again.
*** A big disclaimer here *** If something works for you, keep doing it. Please don’t go against therapist or medical advice***
In my opinion, when you deny a negative part of yourself, you are actually stopping yourself from healing and being whole. How can you heal if you don’t recognise and acknowledge emotions as they come about? If you label certain emotions as negative, then surely you will start feeling guilty (“negative emotion”) as soon as you feel sad or angry. How can you be whole if you end up on a cycle of blame?
So I encourage you to FEEL THE FEELS!
ALL of the feels: all of the positive ones like happiness, joy, contentment, gratefulness, inspiration, calm, serenity. AND own all the negative ones too: guilt, pride, anxiety, fear, sadness, jealousy, hate and shame, just to name a few.
These feels are a natural part of who you are.
You. Your mind. Your body. And your Soul.
How do you keep a positive Spiritual path with these ‘negative’ emotions as part of us? They are only negative if you don’t listen to what they are trying to teach you. Next time you experience a rush of negative emotion, try to look objectively at what’s going on. Why is it happening? What thought processes are going through you head? Are they rational? What would you tell your child or best friend if you were them? Let me illustrate this with the rush of fear I get before speaking in front of a big group of people. Last time this happened, I was in front of around 50 of my friends and peers. I was going to give away a door prize and needed to explain to this wonderful group of women what they were going to win… nothing scary here, right? Wrong! My knees were like jelly, my mind went blank and I wanted to shrink into the floor! My mentor who had invited me to speak, kindly and gently put her arm around my shoulders as she introduced me and pushed me forward into the spotlight.
So here is what my brain was saying: “You are an imposter! Look at all these amazing women who are so good at what they do. They know you’re not as good as them. They can see that you’re afraid and that proves that you don’t belong here”
My brain is a FUCKING BITCH!!!
I would never say these things to another person. I’d be horrified if someone had said this to a friend or my daughters. So why do I say them to myself?
How do I deal with this fear and the negative self-talk, and not get stuck in that feeling forever. First is that I need to re-connect to my trust in Spirit. No matter what I have faced in my lifetime (and public speaking is not even close to the worst of it), I have survived. Not only have I survived, but I have learned more about myself, my reactions, my personality, who I am and what I believe. I have grown. And I have healed.
Secondly, allow yourself to feel. This emotion is part of you. I believe that you can only truly heal when you allow yourself to be whole. And whole is not just the happy, inspired and spiritual part of you. It’s the hurt part, the guilty part, the angry wild feral woman who erupts occasionally. Ok, that might just be me, but you get the picture! When you allow yourself to be whole, that’s when you learn and grow. That’s where healing happens.
And please don’t quote this next time the feral woman emerges and screams abuse at someone who took your parking place. I am not encouraging that at all. I’m just asking you to notice. Notice why she has emerged. Recognise that the situation isn’t fair – that is why she’s screaming at you to key that car. But what do you then do with this uncomfortable emotion? The emotion and how you react to it, is all about YOU. It is your responsibility to work with it in a way that best aligns with your higher beliefs. Whoever caused the emotion to show (the person who stole your park)- it’s not actually their fault that you feel angry. It’s not their responsibility to calm you. That’s up to you.
Just by recognising that we are feeling an emotion, is the first step of integrating and learning; healing and growing.
So I encourage you to feel the feels, but do it lovingly and gently. Notice your self-talk round the emotions. Would you talk to your mum, your friend or your child like that? What advice would you give them?
And if an emotion feels too big and overwhelming, please ask for help. There are so many supportive and highly skilled people in our community who can help you handle how you are coping with the big feels.