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.

 

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