Use and Misuse of Emotions: Address, Express, or Repress
Most of the trouble and bad reputation of emotions comes from improper use. The two main forms of misuse are opposites: to Express and Repress.
Expression means “to come out” and implies here that the emotion is in charge. It takes control of your words and actions; IT expresses itself through you, while the real you is lost. You react instinctively and instantly with no filter. Desire is acted upon no matter what the consequences. You lash out at those you love, pushing them further away. Fear has you run and hide from the opportunities you find. This automatic behavior evolved with your animal nature to survive by immediate action. When you believe survival is at stake, you don’t think. You are irrational, beyond reason, out of touch with any reality beyond attack or escape now. Using the unprocessed information of the emotions as a direct basis for action is like using the raw data in an experiment as a final conclusion.
The information brought to you by emotions requires interpretation, which also comes very naturally, but requires a conscious awareness. This book will show you how to do that for yourself. Warnings against emotion in spiritual literature refer to their misuse in this primitive way, and are well deserved as the source of much human suffering.
This leads us to the much more civilized and religiously promoted misuse: repression. Since emotions are both uncomfortable and create trouble, it was naturally discovered that you could: 1) hide them from others that disapproved, 2) distract yourself with some other great pleasure or pain in an attempt to elude and ignore them or, 3) become truly numb. These ingenious methods to “not feel” are as numerous as humans; do you know yours? But all repression ultimately fails because your mind is a thought-and-feeling producing machine. Or if you do become numb, then all of life’s joy goes grey as well. Repression then leads to hidden agendas, manipulation, unresolved issues, elaborate coping mechanisms, addictions and obsessions, or medication. You cannot not feel. Nor would you want to once you find the valuable role emotions play to create well-being.
So what’s the healthy alternative to expression and repression? Address your emotions. (Definition: v. uh-dréss: skillful and expeditious management; ready skill.) Emotions will serve you when you learn to understand their messages. They are signals to guide you to what your body, mind, and/or soul want. But you must interpret the information. Conscious use of emotion involves all the definitions of the word Conscious: aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings; sensitive to something; having the mental faculties fully active; known to oneself; felt; aware of what one is doing.
The basic method for this is similar to meditation. In fact, it is meditation which includes observation of thoughts AND feelings. Since these are detected “inside” and subtler than messages from the 5 senses, it helps to reduce distracting sensory input, sitting still in silence with eyes closed. Focusing on sensations increases awareness. And the mind is encouraged to serve a supporting role; to understand that it is not the originator but the interpreter of these deeper messages.
Despite years of excessive or repressive use of emotion, most people learn to listen to their emotions quickly and easily with a little instruction and reassurance. This is because proper use of emotion is an essential, always-ready part of our natural sensory system. The many techniques of Kundalini Yoga serve to create these conditions. There are techniques to move from repression to safe expression, and to re-awaken sensitivity from numbness, and to build the strength to handle strong or heavy emotions.
I offer courses which share many such techniques, and you can email me for a specific request for your situation.