In the previous post, I mentioned the various types of emotions which came up for me during my journey. Here, I describe what challenges I noticed while dealing with them.
What struck me was the unexpected intensity of these emotions. While before, my emotional state used to vary only little around a normal of relative calm with mental focus (the state of mind I entered when I was reading books or doing computer programming), on this journey I entered a rollercoaster of emotions with an intensity which I sometimes found hard to endure.
I remember one time when the feeling of guilt became so much that I felt strong nausea that I had to will myself to not feel this emotion any longer and direct my focus elsewhere even though I thought this might mean that I was evading or suppressing the emotion.
Labeling was not easy
When I felt an emotion, I sensed it in my body and then tried to name it.
However, it was not always easy to find a label.
Were my tears from sadness? Or from relief and from joy of coming Home? And if they came without a reason, did I cry because of something in my own life, or did I pick up on something much vaster which did not belong to me?
Were the slight tension and anxiety I felt on some mornings before getting up as sign that I was in fear and that something was wrong which I should look at more closely? Or was it just a sign of a feeling of anticipation, partly joyful and excited, but also alert and a bit tense, like one would maybe feel right before going on a travel adventure? I wondered whether I should meditate and try to breathe it away. Or should I rather take it as a signal that it was time to get up and tackle the issues of the dawning day.
When I felt very little motivation to do anything, was this a sign of depression? Or was it just a necessary pause between phases with high activity? (I eventually settled for the latter explanation).
And what was this strange, uncomfortable feeling which came up when I was confronted with difficult guidance? Was it guilt and remorse because I did not feel like obeying? Or was it reverence and submission toward the divine?
There was much confusion and lots of questions. I didn’t always find an answer. The emotions came, and with them, the thoughts and the confusion came. And later, the emotions vanished and the confusion about what had happened also lessened.
After all, maybe it was not always necessary to find out what it was that I felt and why I felt it.
Developing more sensitivity
Over time, I also found that I developed greater sensitivity for my emotions. After all, I had learned that inner peace was conducive to miracles while anger would cause trouble like burned out light bulbs, for example. So, I started to notice anything that felt off inside of me. Anything which was not inner peace and calm even if it wasn’t as obvious as strong anger.
And boy, were there a lot of different shades of emotions to discover. For example, the grumpiness in the mornings when I had to get up early. The boredom and annoyance which came up during repetitive easy tasks like putting the wet laundry on the laundry rack for drying. The uneasy feeling of saying ‘yes’ when I really wanted to say ‘no’. And feeling under pressure when I had to do many things within a tight time schedule.
These emotions were not as strong as anger, for example. But they were not inner peace and calm and therefore needed to be noticed.
What I found particularly challenging was processing these emotions. Suppressing them was bad. I knew that. So, I thought, okay, I would just let them come up and feel them. But then I was in danger of drowning in them and that was bad, too.
Inner peace was the thing to strive for because that was where all the good thing happened. But when I went to inner peace prematurely while I still had anger and grief in me, would that not mean that I was about to suppress my emotions?
One possible solution was provided by methods which questioned the underlying thought. Is this thought which makes me angry or sad really true? Maybe the opposite is true (Byron Katie’s approach)? Or maybe the Holy Spirit can give me some guidance on how to see this differently (ACIM’s approach)? If I could only manage to see things differently, then I would not have to be angry or sad anymore. These methods were applicable in cases where there were underlying thoughts to the emotions.
But what if there were just the emotions and no previous thoughts, at least not on a conscious level, which seemed to have caused these emotions? What if there was just grief or anxiety coming up for no reason? Then the above mentioned methods of seeing things differently did not work. I had to find something else.
Here, I chose to feel the emotions and when I had enough and was fed up with it, then I would try to alleviate it by whatever worked best. Anger could be channeled into physical exercise like swimming or riding my bike, for example. And grief could be alleviated by keeping myself busy with practical everyday tasks.
Layers of emotions
I found out that when I stayed with my emotion of anger and released it, for example, that there was another emotion below it, which was sadness. And when I stayed with sadness and released it, there was another emotion below which was fear.
So, there were layers of emotion like in an onion. As if one emotion was covered by another and then by yet another. All because the initial emotion was too uncomfortable to feel so that I put another emotion on top of it which was still not happiness and bliss, but at least it was tastier than the initial emotion.
I found that remarkable and something to think about. Imagine, we do not only tend to evade the experience of uncomfortable emotions by using addictive behavior (like alcohol, drugs, chocolate, shopping, excessive physical activity, anything that will help us feel better). No, we can also numb uncomfortable feelings by putting another feeling on top of it. Anger felt much better to me than sadness or fear, for example. So, it was tempting to find someone else to be angry with instead of just staying with the initial emotion of fear or sadness.
To sum it up, a variety of emotions came up which were difficult to endure, sometimes hard to label, and not always easy to process.