On Suppressing Negative Emotions

A couple of days ago I received a very important and unexpected puzzle piece.

I was seeking for something, yet the answer I received was for a different question that I had asked at another time: Am I bad for feeling the way I do?

What I was looking for when that happened was an insight into the problem of what evil is and I wanted to see if I could find some reflections on that problem among The Pathwork Lectures.

I found three articles, but one stood out for me: The Meaning of Evil and Its Transcendence.

At the end of reading it I felt happy and so, so relieved. If before that I was wrapped in anxiety, upon reading that article I suddenly felt… peace! I didn’t know why I was grinning until later when I had an important revelation. It was as though the revelation had already occurred in my subconscious and was working its way up to my conscious awareness. And it was indeed the missing link in the chain.

It is OK to feel negative emotions, as dark as they may be.

The article itself was the catalyst for my realization, but I believe that it all culminated in this fragment, more specifically in one particular sentence – that I highlighted in bold:

“The first step must be applying the theory that destructiveness, evil, is not a final separate force. You must think about this not merely in general, philosophical terms. Rather, you must take the specific aspects of yourself that make you feel guilty and afraid, and apply this knowledge to all that is most distasteful in yourself and others. No matter how ugly some of those manifestations are—whether it be cruelty, spite, arrogance, contempt, selfishness, indifference, greed, cheating, or something else—you can bring yourself to realize that every one of these traits is an energy current, originally good and beautiful and life-affirming.

By searching in this direction, you will come to understand and experience how this or that specific hostile impulse was originally a good force. When you understand that, you will have made a substantial inroad toward transforming the hostility and freeing the energy that has either been channelled in a truly undesirable, destructive way, or become frozen and stagnant. Articulate clearly the insight that these ugly traits, whatever they may be, are a power that can be used any way you wish. This power—the same energy that may now manifest as hostility, envy, hatred, rage, bitterness, self-pity, or blame—can become a creative power to build happiness, pleasure, love, expansion, for yourself and others around you.”

– Eva Pierrakos

When I read that sentence, I had tears in my eyes. I knew I had feelings of envy, of hate, of bitterness and resentment inside and I could not accept having them there. I suffered because of them and I felt guilty because I felt them. I interpreted them as a confirmation that I was bad. And although I thought that I understood the fact that all emotions are valid, and even though I wrote about it in some of my articles,  I still tortured myself with guilt for experiencing them.

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The feeling I was confronted with the other day was hate. I felt hate towards someone. I couldn’t bear to look at them, without getting negative thoughts in my head. Yet I tried to suppress it and hide it because I saw it as an undesirable quality. How could I be good if I had such dark feelings towards someone? So instead, I tried to be nice and polite and all the good things, but it all felt forced and unnatural for both me and the other person. It was as though we were both playing a part, yet both of us could feel the tension behind what was being said and both of us felt drained by the conversation.

But that night, as I was twisting and turning in bed without being able to sleep, I started to inquire into my feeling of hate. I said to myself. OK, I really do feel hate, there’s no point in denying it. I feel hate! And it is OK. Not OK as in I approve of it, but OK as in I fully accept it without judging myself for it.

The acceptance allowed me to realize that behind the hate there was anger, anger that I had denied for a very long time. I had felt guilty about this anger and had suppressed it and so it had turned into hate. And beneath the anger there were probably other feelings too. Like sadness or indignation. And because I had denied those feelings too they had turned into anger. Through denial and suppression I had compounded them on top of each other until they became something dark indeed.

The initial feelings are benign. Yet because we label them as bad or wrong, we think that they must not be felt, so we suppress them and the energy behind them stagnates or is directed on a wrong channel.

you will come to understand and experience how this or that specific hostile impulse was originally a good force

In their initial form –  which is the form they take before we have compounded them with other feelings, like covering sadness with anger – feelings are benign messengers. They let us know what is happening within ourselves. And we can work with that, we can cooperate with this information to get our needs met, or we can go against it and refuse its expression because we believe it is bad and, as a consequence, deprive ourselves of what we need.

The thing I realized that night was that I had my reasons for being angry and that I didn’t have to force myself to forgive. My anger was valid, it needed to be there, it was not an expression of my being bad, it had its own purpose. And there’s no shame in that. It’s a thousand times better to be truthful than to be pleasing. That’s not to say to lash out at people, but to be true to yourself in the things you do. To not lie through word or deed or attitude.

Another piece of the puzzle had come one or two days prior, while reading the book Creating Union by Eva Pierrakos:

“There are particular phases in human development where an entity finds it almost impossible to come out of his or her negative defense system, and of the conviction that this defense is necessary, unless one of those people with whom the person is entangled lets them off the hook by admitting his or her own negative intentionality, destructive attitude, dishonesty, and meanness. Just imagine how you would feel when someone close to you, who has given you pain by pointing out your real and your false guilts, but who has also confused you by the denial of his or her guilt, suddenly said to you: “I realize that I do not want to give you love. I want to demand from you and then blame you, accuse you, and punish you when you do not comply with my demands. But I do not allow you to feel hurt, because although I want to hurt you, I do not want to be made to feel guilty by your hurt.” Just imagine how this would set you free! How such an admission can suddenly clear up many confusions! It is not very likely that you would respond to this act of love by being self-righteous and acting the all-innocent one who has always known this and is now established as the innocent victim.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Creating Union

This blew my mind. I never considered that I could tell another person how I felt about them if those feelings were negative. And yet it made so much sense! When you are this honest with someone, you free both yourself and the other person. And then the hate can revert back to anger and back to the original emotion. Because it is no longer covered up, no longer hidden. And then it can go back to being that creative energy that is an expression of life itself.

Once I understood this, my anxiety subsided and I felt not only peaceful but joyful too. My chest didn’t feel tight anymore and I felt like I could take deeper breaths. I felt liberated. I had tortured myself so much with believing I was a bad person for the negative thoughts I was harboring that I was beginning to fear there was no way out. I felt hopeless. I am convinced that it was the Divine that guided me towards this understanding and I am truly grateful. I have felt this guidance in many ways and I know that I am assisted at all times, even though I may feel alone or discouraged at times.

I realize this is an ongoing process and there is still much to learn about how to express my emotions in a healthy way, so I believe self-compassion is needed. I saw how big the discrepancy was between what I thought I understood and what I actually understood. I knew the theory: it is good to love and accept yourself, no matter what you think, no matter what you feel, no matter what you have done. But practice is a whole different matter and it took me a whole lot of experience and seeking to grasp the meaning of these words, and there’s still much more to learn.

This makes me think of another aspect of denying our negative emotions. The reasons we deny them is because of positive intentionality: we want to stop ourselves from manifesting the negative potential of our thoughts. So our intentions are good. But we act like guardians of our own impulses and to some extent this means we fear ourselves, we fear what we might do, we fear that anybody else might realize that we harbor such thoughts. And most of all, we fear that we might be confirmed as bad people. We don’t realize that this intention in itself is good.

The problem is that our intentions and our ways of dealing with our emotions are based on an incomplete understanding of what is going on within ourselves. We think that the negative emotions should not be there and so we struggle against them. We cannot find peace as long as they are there. And from my experience, a lot of anxiety stems from this. From denying and fighting the way we feel. From using a part of ourselves to oppose another.

Luckily, our experiences are chances of expanding that understanding, of learning more about ourselves. They allow us to see new facets of who we are and to see that we are not the bad people that we imagine ourselves to be. We just don’t have the right tools to deal with our emotions. And this realization can be the beginning of self-love.

So yeah, this is something I’ve been confronted with lately and from my research and experience I can say that each emotion needs to be felt in order to be transformed. It reminds me of that quote that goes like “nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know”. In that sense, each emotion brings with it its own wisdom, it is on a mission so to speak and it cannot leave until we heed its message. If the five senses give us information about the outside world, emotions give us information about the inner world and we need both to function as whole human beings.

For anyone having read this far who is interested in shadow work and self-knowledge, you can access The Pathwork Lectures, which I have referenced in this article, here. They are one of the most important things that I have had the luck to find on my journey.

 

Steps to Handling our Anger

Steps to Handling our Anger
from The Surprising Purpose of Anger
by Marshall B. Rosenberg

“When it comes to managing anger, NVC [Nonviolent Communication] shows us how to use anger as an alarm that tells us we are thinking in ways that are not likely to get our needs met, and more likely get us involved in interactions that are not going to be constructive for anyone. Our training stresses that it is dangerous to think of anger as something to be repressed, or as something bad. When we tend to identify anger as a result of something wrong with us, then our tendency is to want to repress it and not deal with anger. That use of anger, to repress and deny it, often leads us to express it in ways that can be very dangerous to ourselves and others.”

“The NVC approach involves several steps. I will go over these steps in part by using an example of a young man in a prison in Sweden. I was working with this man in a prisoner training session, showing the participants how NVC can be used to manage their anger.

The First and Second Steps

The first step in handling our anger using NVC [Nonviolent Communication] is to be conscious that the stimulus, or trigger, of our anger is not the cause of our anger. That is to say that it isn’t simply what people do that makes us angry, but it’s something within us that responds to what they do that is really the cause of the anger. This requires us to be able to separate the trigger from the cause. In the situation with the prisoner in Sweden, the very day that we were focusing on anger, it turned out that he had a lot of anger in relationship to the prison authorities. So he was very glad to have us there to help him deal with anger on that day. I asked him what it was that the prison authorities had done that was the stimulus of his anger. He answered, “I made a request of them three weeks ago, and they still haven’t responded.” Well, he had answered the question in the way that I wanted him to. He had simply told me what they had done. He hadn’t mixed in any evaluation, and that is the first step in managing anger in a nonviolent way: simply to be clear what the stimulus is but not to mix that up with judgements or evaluation. This alone is an important accomplishment. Frequently when I ask such a question I get a response such as, “they were inconsiderate” which is a moral judgement of what they are but doesn’t say what they actually did.

The second step involves our being conscious that the stimulus is never the cause of our anger. That is, it isn’t simply what people do that makes us angry. It is our evaluation of what has been done that is the cause of our anger. And it’s a particular kind of  evaluation.”

“In the case of the prisoner , when he told me that he was angry and that the trigger for his anger was that the prison officials hadn’t responded for three weeks to his request, I asked him to look inside and tell me what the cause of his anger was. He seemed confused, and he said to me: “I just told you the cause of my anger, I made a request three weeks ago and the prison officials still haven’t responded to it.”

I told him “Now, what you told me was the trigger for your anger. In our previous sessions I’ve tried to clarify for you that it’s never simply the trigger that creates our anger. The cause is what we’re looking for. So I’d like you to tell me how you are interpreting their behavior, how you are looking at it, that is causing you to be angry.”

He was very confused at this point. He was like many of us: He had not been trained to be conscious of what was going on within himself when he was angry. So I had to give him a little help to get an idea of what I meant by how to just stop and listen to the kind of thoughts that might be going on the inside of us that are always at the core of anger.

After a few moments he said to me: “OK, I see what you mean. I’m angry because I’m telling myself it isn’t fair, that isn’t a decent way to treat human beings. They are acting as though they are important, and I’m nothing.” And he had several other such judgements that were floating rapidly through his head. Notice he initially said it was simply their behavior that was making him angry. But it was really all of these thoughts that he had within himself that were making him angry, any one of which could have created his anger. But he was ready with a whole series of such judgements, “They’re not fair; they’re not treating me right.” All such judgements are the cause of anger.

Once he had identified this, he said to me, “Well, what’s wrong with thinking that way?” And I said: “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with thinking that way. I’d just like you to be conscious that it’s thinking that way which is the cause of your anger. And we don’t want to mix up what people do – the trigger – with the cause of anger.

Now, this is very hard for many of us to keep straight: to not mix up the trigger, or stimulus, of our anger with the cause of our anger. The reason that that’s not easy for us is that we may have been educated by people who use guilt as a primary form of trying to motivate us. When you want to use guilt as a way of manipulating people, you need to confuse them into thinking that the trigger is the cause of the feelings. In other words, if you want to use guilt with somebody, you need to communicate in a way that indicates that your pain is being caused simply by what they do. In other words, their behavior is not simply the stimulus of your feelings; it’s the cause of your feelings.”

“If we are to manage anger in ways that are in harmony with the principles of NVC, it’s important for us to be conscious of this key distinction: I feel as I do because I am telling myself thoughts about the other person’s actions that imply wrongness on their part. Such thoughts take the form of judgements such as, “I think the person is selfish, I think the person is rude, or lazy , or manipulating people, and they shouldn’t do that.” Such thoughts take either the form of direct judgement of others or indirect judgements expressed through such things as, “I’m judging this person as thinking only they have something worth saying”. In these latter expressions, it’s implicit that we think what they’re doing isn’t right.

Now, that’s important, because if I think this other person is making me feel this way, it’s going to be hard for me not to imagine punishing them.”

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The Third Step

“The third step involves looking for the need that is the root of our anger. This is built on the assumption that we get angry because our needs are not getting met. The problem is that we’re not in touch with our needs. Instead of being directly connected to our need, we go up to our head and start thinking of what’s wrong with other people for not meeting our needs. The judgements we make of other people – which cause our anger – are really alienated expressions of unmet needs.”

”Let’s go back to the case of the prisoner from Sweden. After we had identified the judgements he was making that were creating his anger, I asked him to look behind the judgements and tell me what needs of his were not getting met. These unmet needs were actually being expressed through the judgements he was making of the prison officials.

This wasn’t easy for him to do because when people are trained to think in terms of wrongness of others, they are often blind to what they themselves need. They often have very little vocabulary for describing their needs. It requires shifting attention away from judging outward, to looking inward and seeing what the need is. But with some help, he was finally able to get in touch with his need and he said: “Well, my need is to be able to take care of myself when I get out of prison by being able to get work. So the request that I was making of the prison officials was for training to meet that need. If I don’t get that training, I’m not going to be able to take care of myself economically when I get out of prison, and I’m going to end up back in here.”

Then I said to the prisoner, “Now that you’re in touch with your need, how are you feeling?” He said, “I’m scared.” So when we are directly connected to our need, we are never angry any more. The anger hasn’t been repressed; the anger has been transformed into need-serving feelings.”

“After I pointed out to the prisoner the difference between getting in touch with his needs and the feelings that he had, he was then aware of his fear. He could see that the anger was because of the thinking about the wrongness of others. I then asked the prisoner, “Do you think you’re more likely to get your needs met if, when you go in to talk to the prison officials, you are connected to your needs and the fear, or if you are up in your head judging them and angry?”

And he could see very clearly that he was much more likely to get his needs met if he were to be communicating from a position of connection to his needs, rather than separated from his needs and thinking of others in ways that implied wrongness. At the moment that he had this insight into what a different world he would be living in when he was in touch with his needs as opposed to judging others, he looked down at the floor and had about as sad a look on his face as I can recall any person ever having had. And I asked him, “What’s going on?”

He said, “I can’t talk about it right now.” Later that day, he helped me understand what was going on in him. He came to me and said: “Marshall, I wish you could have taught me two years ago about anger what you taught me this morning. I wouldn’t have had to kill my best friend.”

Tragically, two years before, his best friend had done some things and he felt great rage in response to his judgements about what his friend had done. But instead of being conscious of what his needs were behind of that, he really thought it was his friend that made him angry, and in a tragic interaction ended up killing his friend.”

“This is a very important step that I have just outlines: To be conscious of the thinking that is creating anger. And as I said, the prisoner at first was totally oblivious to all of the thoughts that were going on within him that made him angry. The reason for this is that our thoughts go on very rapidly. Many of our thoughts go so quickly through our heads that we are not even aware that they are there, and it really looks to  us as though it was the stimulus that was the cause of our anger.

I have outlined three steps in managing our anger using NVC:

  1. Identify the stimulus for our anger, without confusing it with the evaluation. 
  2. Identify the internal image of judgement that is making us angry. 
  3.  Transform this judgemental image into the need that it is expressing; in other words, bring our full attention to the need that is behind the judgement.”

The Fourth Step

“The fourth step includes saying to the other person four pieces of information. First, we reveal to them the stimulus: what they have done that is in conflict with our needs being fulfilled. Secondly, we express how we are feeling. Notice we are not repressing the anger.  The anger has been transformed into a feeling such as sad, hurt, scared, frustrated, or the like. And then we follow up our expression of our feelings with the needs of ours that are not being fulfilled.

And now we add to those three pieces of information a clear, present request of what we want from the other person in relationship to our feelings and unmet needs.

So in the situation with the prisoner, the fourth step on this part would be to go the prison officials and say something like this: “I made a request three weeks ago. I still haven’t heard from you, and I’m feeling scared because I have a need to be able to earn a living when I leave this prison, and I’m afraid that without the training I was requesting it would be very hard for me to make a living. So I’d like you to tell me what is preventing you from responding to my request.”

If we’re sufficiently trained in getting in touch with the need behind the judgements, we can take a deep breath and very rapidly go through the process that I led the prisoner through. In other words, as soon as we catch ourselves getting angry, we take a deep breath, stop, look inside, and ask ourselves quickly, “What am I telling myself that’s making me so angry?” We quickly get in touch with the need that is behind that judgement. When we’re in touch with the need we will feel in our body a shift away from anger to other kinds of feelings, and when we’re at that point we can open our mouths and say to the other person what we’re observing, feeling, needing and make our requests.”

These are some fragments from a short but valuable book (40 pages) that you can find online. Like here.

On Shame and Self-Love

There is a biblical episode where God calls for Adam to join him for a walk. Yet because Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge he became aware of his own nakedness and so he hid in the bushes and refused to come out. What had been natural before was now viewed through different eyes. The same action was charged with ideas of rightness or wrongness. He could no longer reveal himself to God in his nakedness anymore as he had learned about shame.

I believe that shame is strongly linked to a lack of self love. Well… there is a good kind of shame and a bad kind of shame. The good kind of shame is the shame where we are able to recognize that we are responsible for the negative consequences of something we did, accepting that fully, having compassion for ourselves, understanding that ignorance leads to mistakes – even with the best of intentions – and then learning from these mistakes. The not so good kind of shame is the kind where we are still able to recognize that we were responsible for a negative situation, but we take two approaches to it:

  1. either we try to cover it up or deny it because we cannot allow ourselves to feel this shame – this is because we find it too painful to accept that we have caused harm or that our imperfections have been exposed.
  2. or we are so overwhelmed by the fact that we have caused harm that we cannot accept ourselves and cannot have compassion for ourselves and so we hate ourselves for what we have done.

Both of these approaches are ways of avoiding to feel that shame. And they both keep us from accepting ourselves and loving ourselves, because in order to love ourselves, we need to have compassion for ourselves and our ignorance. In order to love ourselves, we need to accept that we often make mistakes. And in order to love ourselves, we have to accept the things we have done and this cannot be done unless we first feel the shame that arose in us and learn its lessons.

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There are so many unconscious attitudes we hold that show a lack of self love. We may not be aware of them, but they become apparent – if we pay attention – when we chase after love. This chase may take the form of trying to manipulate others, pleasing others, seeking external validation, trying to impress others, not saying what needs to be said because we fear we will lose approval, forcing ourselves into things we don’t want to do, and so on. Yet true, Divine Love is unconditional. It is us who raise blocks against it because we feel unworthy of receiving it. When we love ourselves, we accept that love that is always extended to us for us to tap into and, in doing so, we do not need to seek for it outside of ourselves.

In a sense God is always calling for us to join Him, yet it is us who feel unworthy of walking beside Him. We are ashamed of ourselves and so we deny ourselves love. We prefer to hide that which we cannot accept in ourselves because we fear we are imperfect and therefore bad and undeserving of love because of it. We mask it with qualities we struggle to maintain the illusion of because we believe that we can fake it till we make it. But the need to cover up parts of ourselves is only a confirmation of the existence of those things in the first place. It’s giving them more legitimacy.

Like for instance, if you believe yourself to be bad, you will try to overcompensate through only displaying that which you perceive to be good. So if you find yourself being angry, you will try to suppress it and only display positive emotions. The problem is that we are ashamed of the reality of our being because we believe that certain emotions are bad and we shouldn’t feel them. But struggling against them, is an affirmation of their existence. And denying parts of yourselves becomes a punishment in itself which shows a lack of self love.

I have found that I didn’t really understand the idea of loving and accepting yourself. Whenever I allowed myself to feel things, I would do so with an underlying feeling of shame or guilt, which shifted the focus from my raw emotions, to my “wrongness”, therefore keeping the emotions stuck in my body, because they were not accepted and transmuted. Or I’d get so caught up in the thoughts behind the emotions that I’d become distracted from feeling them.

I’ve come to believe that loving and accepting yourself is about understanding the irrational needs you have, the longings, the pain, the unreasonable expectations you have from both yourself and others, the shame and the guilt and then being there for yourself, allowing yourself to feel those things, to feel the grief of not having experienced the kind of love you needed and realizing that many of these things stem from unfulfilled childhood needs that are no longer real but that have remained stuck and keep resurfacing in present situations and furthermore understanding that now you’re responsible for yourself and you need to take care of yourself. It’s also having compassion for yourself and even for those you may believe were responsible for your experience because you understand that there was no conscious ill intent behind their words and actions, behind them not being there for you as you needed as they also acted on their own wounding and lack of understanding.

The moment we accept, understand and love ourselves is the moment we will feel worthy to walk with God again. And then, all those ideals like bliss and joy and love and compassion that we try to embody through effort – and sometimes through imitation and pretense – will come naturally to us. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t aim towards those things or make any effort to become better people, these things are necessary because they lead to a better understanding of ourselves and they put us on the path to self discovery. But it is self-love that gives us the key to those things that we aim for.

Analysis of the short film IN-SHADOW [Part 2]

Last time we left this around the 2:22 minute mark when we saw two masked figures embracing each other. The symbolism suggests that people have to go through two layers of ego in order to genuinely relate to another person. One layer is represented by their own ego, the other belongs to the other person. “We are all searching for someone whose demons play well with ours” says a quote whose author is unknown*. So we are all searching for someone who can accept our distortions, our shadows and the ways in which we have covered them up. Someone whose ego complements our own and doesn’t mirror back our flaws.

We are then shown how out of this union, a child is born. The child comes from a place of unity, of perfection, of love. We see how pure the child is, and how perfect he is in his innocence. His connection to the divine is represented through the chakras, the energy centers of the body. These are the first illustrations that are depicted in harmonious colors as opposed to the dark colors that were used in the scenes before. This is in order to show the contrast between nature and nurture. The newborn is an embodiment of creative potential, while society is an embodiment of restrictive control.

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The child is welcomed into the world in a hostile way. We see the mother’s legs spread out on the operating table and almost immediately after he is born, he is vaccinated and taken out of that place of perfection. What is supposed to be a miraculous event, is treated like a perfunctory operation. The two figures by the bed seem very impersonal and lacking in any regard for the magnificence of life. The instruments they are holding make the birth scene seem like a horror film. This perhaps suggests the dangers of becoming a personification of the function you perform in society. When you identify with your role in society, you start objectifying yourself. This reminds me of Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of radical freedom. Radical freedom is when you do what you consider to be right, even when your role in society or the standards of the world demand that you do the opposite. Basically you always have a choice and saying otherwise is a refusal to take responsibility for your actions.

“We only become what we are by the radical and deep seated refusal of that which others have made of us.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

The birth experience is traumatizing and no effort is made to ease the transition. This is how the infant is introduced to human experience.

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We are then presented with a classroom full of children whose heads are encased in red cubes like the ones we saw earlier in the movie. The child in the center still retains some natural wonder about the world, some original thought, some creative capabilities which is suggested by the colors above his head. The two figures of an academic attire that can be seen in the background give the impression that this is an indoctrination chamber rather than a classroom. Curiosity, the pleasure of exploration, wonder – traits that are innate to every child – are lost here and replaced by dullness, submission and uniformity.

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You take children and you make them sit down for half a day, telling them what to believe and not allowing them to explore things in their own way, that is an assault on their spirit. The teachers practically drain the creativity out of their pupils and install a rigid belief system instead. The red cage represents the limits up to which they are allowed to explore with their imagination and curiosity. Infinite possibilities are reduced to a box of beliefs. Like the opposite of “Think outside the box”. And there are many ways to prevent a child from going beyond these limits. Ridicule questions, discourage initiative, condemn disagreement, reward conformity, promote repetition, glorify test results.

“I feel very strongly that it is not enough to just live in the world as it is and just take what you are given, to follow the things that adults told you to do and that your parents told you to do and that society tells you to do. I think you should always be questioning. I take this very scientific attitude that everything you’ve learned is just provisional, that it’s always open to recantation, refutation, or questioning. And I think the same applies to society. Growing up, I slowly had this process of realizing that all the things around me that people had told me were just the natural way things were, the way things always would be, they weren’t natural at all. They were things that could be changed, and they were things that, more importantly, were wrong and should change, and once I realized that, there was really no going back. I couldn’t fool myself into saying ‘Oh, I’m just going go work for a business and ignore all that’. Once I realized that there were real, serious problems, fundemental problems that I could do something to address, I didn’t see a way to forget that […]

Even when I was in school I was very frustrated with school. I thought that teachers didn’t know what they were talking about and they were very domineering and controlling and that homework was kind of a sham and it was all just like all about a way to pen students all together and force them to do busywork. And, you know, I started reading books about the history of education and how this educational system was developed, and alternatives to it and ways that people could actually learn things as opposed to just regurgitating facts that teachers told them and that kind of led me down this path of questioning things. Once I questioned the school I was in, I questioned the society that built the school. I questioned the businesses the schools were training people for. I questioned the government that set up this whole structure.”

– Aaron Schwartz

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Another aspect captured in these scenes is that schools are interested in developing mainly the intellect. There are hardly any activities that engage the body as well or that encourage creative expression. There is a great quote by Sir Ken Robinson regarding this:

“Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. It doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth.

And in pretty much every system, too, there is a hierarchy within the arts. Music and art are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics.

Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time, if they’re allowed to. We all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? Truthfully what happens is that as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side.

Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason for that. The whole system came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that: Don’t do music; you’re not going to be a musician. Don’t do art; you won’t be an artist. Then: benign advice. Now: profoundly mistaken.

Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us.”

This quote has been brilliantly illustrated by Zen Pencils:
https://zenpencils.com/comic/kenrobinson/

In the following scene we see the teacher leading the children off a cliff, to their own demise. The children look as though they are in a trance, unsuspecting of the danger that awaits them ahead. Black smoke is coming out of the back of the teacher who does not seem aware of what he is doing, like he is carrying this burden out of inertia, having been subjected himself to the same kind of indoctrination. The smoke and the up and down motion of their march is reminiscent of trains, which suggests the mechanical nature of this behavior. This is also a metaphor for industry which is interested in children getting a particular kind of education, one that prepares them for employment. One that discourages them from pursuing what interests them, because otherwise they wouldn’t have at their disposal a working hand willing to perform the boring jobs that they promote as valuable and admirable. One that prepares them for a new kind of submission to authority.

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After the industrial revolution, it soon became apparent to those with prosperous businesses that in order to maintain their status, the people had to be kept in a state of subordination. And what better way to do that than to control the things they were thinking about? Slowly they found ways to manipulate public opinion and influence political figures in order for the educational system that they had devised to be widely adopted.

” When you are at the top you spend a lot of time and money making sure you stay at the top and the last things these Robber Barons would allow is for the uprising of the middle class into their hierarchy.

With such large controlling wealth through their foundations came a resilient web of many useful ‘friends’ in the politically arena and in business. With connections in banking, Wall Street, law firms, media executives and proprietors along with behind the scenes PR firms they could ensure any type publicity and financial backing they wished including the masking of their true agendas. Through the largess of their foundations the Rockefellers, Carnegie, Mellon, Vanderbilt, Morgan and Guggenheim Foundations colluded to begin the process of designing our current public education system.” – Jamie Lee

A good article detailing this (where the quote above is taken from) can be found here:
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/28/untold-history-modern-u-s-education-founding-fathers/

The next things we see is how, during their fall, these children are turning into pills which land in the mouth of a young man. This marks the transition from childhood to adolescence. Between these two ages, the children are medicated and over-medicated as society is quick to label any form of inadaptability as a mental illness. If you have a short attention span in school or you don’t conform to the rules or if you just don’t find the subjects that are being taught stimulating , the system is quick to pin the problem on you. It’s never that the subjects in school really are boring or that they are taught out of context or that they are useless. It’s that you have ADHD and you have a problem focusing. So you have an excuse to drug children as early as age 7, maybe even earlier. And then you can watch them become compliant, but also losing their interest in the world around them, becoming desensitized. And that’s how they reach adolescence and later adulthood.

“ADHD makes a great excuse, the diagnosis can be an easy-to-reach-for crutch. Moreover, there’s an attractive element to an ADHD diagnosis, especially in adults. It can be exciting to think of oneself as involved in many things at once, rather than stuck in a boring rut.” – Richard Saul

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Many of these young men are lined up and sent to war to fight in the name of those same people that have indoctrinated them into compliance. They think they are doing something honorable, that they are protecting ideals and that they are sacrificing themselves for justice and freedom and democracy, but they are mere tools in the hands of those who know how to manipulate words, slaves to language and ideological tyranny. This is subtly illustrated here through the fact that all the young men have the same appearance. Their identity is insignificant to those above, all that matters is that they are able to wear a uniform and hold a weapon. The drugs in their mouths represent submission and renunciation of responsibility, the uniform represents the fact that they no longer belong to themselves and that they have assumed the role they have been assigned and the weapon held in an awkward way represents the lack of awareness of their destructive capabilities. It is only in war that they finally realize what they have agreed to participate in.

Of course, this illustrates the dark side of the military system. When critical thinking is discouraged, when ideals are used as a means to justify atrocities, when selfish intentions pervade at the top of the power chain, the military becomes a power for destruction. Yet, it can also be a force for fighting injustice or defending against invading forces. It’s the same argument as to the ownership of a gun. You can use your gun for self-defense or you can use it in destructive ways. It all depends on the intention with which it is used.

While young men sacrifice themselves for their country and bring destruction to others, it is an entirely different scenario for business people. For them it’s an opportunity to make money and that’s all they need to know in order to get involved in pushing this agenda on people. Whether it’s selling weapons, or exploiting resources or any sort of change in the political dynamic that benefits them, they have vested interests in war. This is represented by a smiling man dressed in a suit coming out of a coffin full of money. War is a money machine in the hands of those who have no respect or compassion for the people who have fought in it.

Politicians also benefit from this, as is illustrated through the two figures holding blood money to their chests. Is it just me or does the man on the right looks like Obama? I hear a lot of people saying that he was one of the best presidents America has ever had. And that makes me realize how powerful the media machine is. His policies were just as destructive as those during the Bush administration, if not worse, and yet people believe that he has done so much good. I think it is because he has the gift of charisma and diplomacy more so than his predecessors so that he is able to appear noble in his intentions. What he is really good at is manipulating words so that he can always evade accountability. Plus, of course, having giant media companies behind him, portraying him as a charming saint helps too. I guess it’s about knowing how to play a role. Just like Bush played the role of the incompetent fool. Which is another way to evade accountability. But I digress.

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The two figures are standing on skulls, so they are desecrating the memory of those that died in war. The fact that they are smiling shows that they have no integrity or remorse for what they have done. As media shows up, they grow white wings and a white circle appears above their heads, the money turn into flowers and one of the men is holding a baby. That is the power of television, it makes saints out of sinners and sinners out of saints.

Working on this, I have decided not to continue my analysis beyond this part. I think the power of this short film lies in the way it makes you feel and language can limit experience in a sense. This is pretty dark subject matter which is difficult to dive into, even though it has … I don’t wanna say a happy ending, but let’s say it evolves towards revealing truth in its purest form. Which is something akin to how Adyashanti describes awakening:

“To be this sincere with yourself may not be easy, initially. You may see things about yourself you don’t want to see. You may see the parts of yourself that stand in seemingly stark contrast to everything you have realized. Nonetheless, this is where awakening moves; awakening moves toward and into that which is not awake.”

May you face your fears with courage!

Originally posted on Steemit:
https://steemit.com/art/@astrayingline/analysis-of-the-short-fim-in-shadow-part-2

Analysis of the short film IN-SHADOW [Part 1]

“Embark on a visionary journey through the fragmented unconscious of the west, and with courage face the Shadow. From Shadow into Light.”, that is the description of IN-SHADOW on YouTube.

The power of this short film developed by Lubomir Arsov lies in its symbolism as well as in the brutal honesty with which it illustrates the pathologies of our world. Not only that, but it somehow manages to bypass the intellect and speak to you at a deeper level, where language is perhaps comprised of dream symbols. In a dream you experience things whose emotional impact you may not be able to explain rationally and all you are left with are the feelings they evoke. The intellect is limited in this as it sometimes acts as a barrier to certain revelations. A great achievement of this film is that it goes beyond that barrier and allows you to have the dream experience in a waking state. So let’s try to interpret the symbols in this dream sequence.

The first thing we see is darkness. Nothing. Emptiness.
Out of this void, one sphere emerges along with the light that shines upon it.

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The sphere splits into three smaller luminous orbs. This is the beginning of creation. When nothing turns into something – represented by the sphere – all is one. Then, this unity splits in what can be interpreted as the Holy Trinity (God, Son and the Holy Spirit). This is also suggested through the way the three orbs are disposed, one at the top, the other two below it.

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Then everything is created while the three orbs overlook all creation.

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The story takes us across the universe at a critical point, the birth of self-awareness, represented by the eye.

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Through the eye we see the Earth, which gradually contracts, from a sphere of great energy to a cube-shaped rock floating among debris.

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This is a representation of how human perception can make even the most outstanding things seem devoid of meaning and magic. The cube symbolizes conformity, safety, rigidity, imposition. It is not a shape that is indigenous to nature, it is a human creation, an artificial construct. It even looks like a prison. The metaphor is clear, humans have mutilated Earth and human experience so that they could fit it inside the box of ideology. And so, the light went dimmer and dimmer, until it could barely be seen. It didn’t disappear, it was just blocked out of our perception. The debris that surrounds our planet are remnants of that destruction.

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The next thing we see is an amalgamation of buildings of modern architecture stranded on an island in the middle of what appears to be a sea or an ocean. Above this metropolis there is a large and menacing dark cloud that suggests an imminent danger as well as industrial pollution. The debris is floating around but not sufficiently close to the concrete island so that it can be easily noticed. The feeling I get is that the level of the water that surrounds the island is a side effect of global warming. This image also suggests a feeling of isolation and disconnection from nature.

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At a closer look, we can see these big buildings are floating above the the rest. They are standing in front of the sun, which makes them look like they’re floating on a pillow of light, suggesting that they represent some kind of ideal of the modern world, that place towards which humans aspire. Climbing the hierarchy. This is also hinted to by the triangular shape of their arrangement. The buildings on the sides are smaller, while the ones in the middle are the highest. By contrast, the world below these buildings seems small and insignificant, orderly disposed and unimposing in any way. In fact it looks like arable land, which is something that is exploitable. The fact that these large constructions block the light of the sun suggests that they are what is preventing the rest of the world from becoming, well…enlightened. They hold the knowledge that those below are obstructed from receiving.

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We are then presented with what appears to be the largest building of all. The dark cloud seems to emanate from it. At this point you feel like a higher intelligence is dissecting the world so that you may be guided towards the truth. It feels like you are taken on a journey that shows you what hides beneath appearances.
The building has the darkest color of all, suggesting the malicious orientation of those residing there. When it is sectioned, light comes out, which indicates that those at the top, the elites, hold great knowledge and that that knowledge is restricted to those within that group. The red shade at the top implies that the knowledge they hold is used for negative purposes. That’s why the light is tainted in the color of blood.

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We are then taken inside the top of the building where we see a number of hooded figures which seem to conjure up a red cube. The hooded figures seem to worship this cube. Their creation does not seem to have solidy, which suggests it’s an ideology, a belief and a restrictive one (shape) at that as well as destructive (color). They have come up with a new frame. And in the next scene we see why.

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The cube traverses a sea of people who seem distracted and reaches a man whose eyes are closed, who literally has a whole in his chest where a darkness swarms and who assumes a straight position, with his arms by his side glued to his body. Then we see the red cube enclose his head. The cube seems to single him out from the crowd. What I think this means is that the new ideology – which is a distortion of truth – reaches those who do not use their critical thinking (eyes closed), who hold resentment within (hole in his chest) and who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and to claim agency (arms by his side). The position he assumes is that of a lower rank officer in the military, someone who bows to authority and renounces free will in exchange of not having to take responsibility for his actions. Therefore he represents the enforcer of the ideology that is imposed from above.

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We then see the effects of this ideology. It makes mere servants out of people. It creates societies where people don’t care about each other, everyone minding their own business, it crams people into narrow places and forces them into boring jobs where they step over each other to reach the top in a hierarchy that does not honor virtue but compliance. It burdens people with debt and makes them enamored with material possessions.

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The next scene shows people whose head is disjoint from the body. This is a powerful metaphor for one of the most pervasive problems we have: a head-centric approach to everything that surrounds us. This prevents us from plugging into reality and having a full experience of life. We glorify the intellect and we dismiss the intelligence of the body. We treat ourselves like walking heads as if the body’s only real function is merely logistical.

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This is a quote from Philip Shepherd that I found via Bernhard Guenther which captures the intent of this scene:

“As long as you continue to live in your head, the self will not even exist as an unbroken whole: when conscious thinking is independent of being, the male element is deliberately fracturing self and world. It is only when the pelvic center of your being is sensitized and fully participant in your consciousness—massively connecting and communicating— that the various and divergent aspects of the self will be able to reconcile into a whole.

The body holds the deepest currents of our being, and is our bridge to the life of the world around us – the being of the world. By separating the center of our thinking from all that, we enter a kind of alienation that makes us feel like spectators on the events that surround us.

Furthermore, we start managing from on high what we cannot experience, because head-centric thinking is keen to create structures of control, systemization, judgment and acquisition. But being out of touch and off balance ourselves, we can only seed more imbalance with every willful, managerial impulse – even when our impulses spring from an agenda that seeks to improve things.

The desire to behave ethically, if coming from a place of disconnected reason, will necessarily focus on fixing how our behavior affects the material world; because disconnected reason tacitly expresses a contempt for the body, it will overlook the problem of how our relationship with the body affects our behavior.

This is our blind spot – and it is a towering liability, because our relationship with the world can only mirror and express the relationship we have with our own bodies. Having estranged ourselves from the body and its wisdom, we find ourselves also estranged from the world and its wisdom.”

– Philip Shepherd, New Self New World

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This is further reinforced by the next scene where the head seems to erode into debris. This is a metaphor for dissociation. The fact that electronic devices are present in these images is not accidental, they contribute greatly to our state of inner division. There was even an experiment that showed that the attention span of a person has significantly decreased recently. When you are disconnected from the body and the society you live in is so alien to your true nature, you tend to dissociate and fall into depression, which is not a mental illness that needs to be fixed, it’s most often a symptom of the kind of society we live in, the kind that would produce such reactions in the people that live in it. It’s like Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

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We are shown how everything is upside down and how, as time passes, we all start to feel empty and how a dark cloud lurks over our heads that we feel is becoming unbearable. We suspect that something is wrong, but we assume that it’s us, that we are not adaptable, that we need to try harder to fit in. Which produces monsters in our minds and creates what Carl Jung called the shadow, which is that aspect of ourselves that we have denied expression of and suppressed in order to comply with the definitions of normality that this world imposed on us. This shadow always lurks within us triggering reactive behaviors in us, causing conflict, because it wants to be integrated, it wants to be seen, it wants to be expressed.

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But we don’t integrate it because everybody puts on the mask of happiness, which fortifies the belief that the problem resides in you, which it does, but not in the way you think. The problem isn’t that you have dark things inside that need to be eradicated, they have their reasons for existing there. They are manifestations of those parts of yourself that you have chosen to ignore or that you have mutilated just so that the world would accept you. What the problem really is is that you see the shadow aspects of yourself and instead of trying to get to the bottom of how they came to be, you try to mask them. You feel ashamed about having them and you identify with this negative side of yourself, you really believe you are just angry and bitter and envious. So why is it not apparent that there’s something more beyond these emotions? Because you are presented with another layer of deception, which is your “identity”, your persona. The persona is where all the shoulds are. You should be kind, you should be generous, you should be strong, you should be calm, etc. You should be all the good things. And whenever you fail, it is an indication that you are a bad person or that you are not good enough or that you’re not meant to do something. If you display anger, instead of looking deeper into it and find where it leads you, you start to feel bad about yourself for having shown anger and you will try to force yourself into never displaying anger again so that you may believe yourself to be that perfect person, that persona. That’s why the mask is always smiling. Because that’s what people aspire towards, believing that they can ‘fake it till they make it’. And that’s also why it’s promoted on TV. Because assumed identity wants to advance itself. And that can be easily exploited by intelligent marketing campaigns.

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Here’s a quote by Edward Bernays, the father of propaganda:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

You are encouraged to add value to yourself. And what is value in this sick society? The appearance of success in the form of material possessions, status, popularity and power.

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The story progresses to a scene of remarkable emotional power. Two masked figures embracing each other in bed, empty alcohol bottles surrounding them. While their masks have wide smiles, you can tell by the way they are holding each other that they are not as happy as they seem. The strong grasp of each other suggests that they are seeking refuge in one another, they are looking for a way to escape the cruel reality they are living in. This idea is consolidated by the empty alcohol bottles that are by their sides which is another way to evade reality. This scene is particularly sad because it suggests that even intimate relationships are formed at a superficial level as long as we relate to one another from our false sense of identity. We fear that if we put our masks down we will be exposed and vulnerable. But there is no true connection without vulnerability. And what this breeds is co-dependence, not love. And we are in desperate need for connection and affection and love.

[TO BE CONTINUED…]

Originally posted on Steemit:
https://steemit.com/art/@astrayingline/analysis-of-the-short-film-in-shadow-part-1

On Decision Making

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Decision Making
Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 32 | June 20, 1958
by Eva Pierrakos

“Now I wish to speak on another subject. The subject of decision-making is very important in everyone’s life, for everything is a decision. This is true not only of your deeds, your obvious and material choices, but also of every emotional attitude a decision holds. The majority of human beings are incapable of making clear-cut, mature decisions. That is why their souls become sick and suffering. Great disorder is created in the soul, which, of course, leads to confusion and conflicts. For you who are on this path, it might be very beneficial to start to view your life, particularly your conflicts, from this point of view. Have you made real decisions? Or do you sometimes make superficial decisions, not weighing or facing what is involved in them, and then thwarted when things naturally do not turn out to your satisfaction? Do you revolt against your self, your surroundings, and life in general?

As long as you are living in this sphere of matter, every decision offers two and sometimes more alternatives. In some cases, there can be several wrong choices and one that is right. Only mature and responsible searching will eventually show you what the right way is. However, in many instances, it will not matter what you actually decide, provided the decision has been made wholeheartedly, awarely, responsibly, not shirking any issues or possible results. Even if one alternative would be better for you than the other, it is infinitely healthier for your soul, strange as this may appear at first, if you choose the wrong way but with the right attitude.

Now what is the right and mature attitude with which to decide? The answer is simply to know what you want and to know what the price is; to realize that you cannot fully have what you want on this earth sphere because there is always a price or a disadvantage to any alternative; and to be wholly willing to pay the price even before it becomes a certainty that the possible disadvantage may turn out to be real. On the other hand, let us assume you chose the right alternative by accident. When I say by accident, I mean that you have chosen as most people do—immaturely, with half-closed eyes, not accepting beforehand the disadvantage implicit in your choice. In this way, you harm your soul a great deal more than by taking on a needlessly more difficult alternative. By deciding with the right attitude, you responsibly accept the price to be paid. So beware of making your decisions half-heartedly like a child, going into them with closed eyes, wishfully thinking that the price can be evaded. Each alternative will have an advantage and also a disadvantage, as long as you live in the world of matter.

In high spiritual spheres and realms, the negative side does not exist anymore. In the lower spheres of darkness, however, no alternative carries with it a so-called advantage. For you, an advantage and a disadvantage will continue to exist until you have worked yourself up to those higher spheres where no disadvantage can befall you, even while still in the body, in the world of matter. To reach such a point you have to go through the laws governing this lower sphere that is rightfully yours for the moment: you have to accept the laws fully and keep them willingly, not because life forces you to do so. Then, and only then, will you reach that point. Trying to avoid the laws of your own world, no matter what spiritual acrobatics you may try, will not work. By the same token, a human being bound to the world of darkness will have to accept the conditions that govern that world, although still on this earth plane.

This ties in with the first words of tonight’s lecture, my friends. To love God means naturally, among many other things, to abide by these various laws—and not only to abide by them, but also to accept them willingly. And one of these laws is that the disadvantageous side of each decision has to be faced and accepted. To make a mature decision means therefore to deliberate each alternative thoroughly; to face not only the advantageous sides of all alternatives in making your choice, but also and equally the disadvantageous. When you have done that, knowing that whatever you choose there is a price to be paid, you can ask yourself which price you prefer to pay; you can think it over, and see if perhaps you prefer to risk a higher price because the possible advantage seems worthwhile. You will then have accepted another one of this earth life’s rules, that the uncertainty also has to be accepted. This includes the risk, the shortcomings of life, which offers you no risk-proof plan. This, too, is important for emotional health, my friends. In that way you act as a mature being and your soul must benefit from it.

No one who makes a decision in this way will ever come to grief because of it! Nor will they ever have to meet the conflicts that result from not making decisions in this way. Conflicts are created not because of a possible wrong or less advantageous decision, but because you go into the decision blindly, not ready and willing to pay the price. This, my friends, happens with each one of you. I do not see anyone who always makes emotional decisions maturely.

I am again giving you strong material to work with on your path. Wherever conflicts exist, in one way or another, you have not made your decisions properly. Do not remain on the surface level; you will have to dig deeper into your emotions in order to find the answer. Within your emotions, sooner or later you must find—provided you search honestly—that you have somehow not made a whole decision; you had somehow hoped to gain the advantage without accepting the disadvantage. And often you even hope—again without thinking it through clearly—to at the same time gain the advantage of both alternatives and to be spared the disadvantage of either. This amounts to cheating life, and the result must inevitably be that life will teach you a lesson and you will reap the disadvantages of both or all sides which you wished to avoid. If you test this emotional, and for the most part unconscious, current, what does this amount to? It amounts to greed.

On this earth sphere most people are greedy, not necessarily in the material sense, but emotionally. And when I say greedy, I mean you want to amass advantages without shouldering the responsibility of paying the price for them. That, needless to say, is a violation of one spiritual law.

Think about the words I have spoken tonight, my friends. This has not been a long lecture, but what I have said will add to the material you need for your progress, if you assimilate it properly and work with it in a very personal way.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 32 | June 20, 1958

I recommend reading the full lecture at:
https://pathwork.org/lectures/decision-making/