Updated: Sep 11, 2022
When I was a child, I regularly witnessed my father fly into fits of rage.
I did not know where the rage came from. All I saw were the effects of the rage: screaming, lancing insulting, throwing food, throwing lug nuts, wide unrepaired holes in doors and walls, and damaged property.
I also felt the after effects of that behavior: anxiety, panic, anguish, and sadness. These emotions lingered long after the rage subsided.
Those emotions then controlled my behavior: tip toeing around the house, speaking with an almost imperceptible voice, staying perfectly still, and holding in anxiety through controlled, ritualistic behavior.
The symptoms of trauma are repressed emotions longing to be released.
However, the forces that are released from emotions such as rage lead victims of violence and abuse to refuse to express those emotions because of a fear of the damage that releasing emotions can cause.
Learning to express emotions in a healthy way is how to understand what we feel.
The process of inquiry - asking the emotions that seem to inhabit our bodies what they're trying to get us to understand - allows us to dive into the emotion and rise to the surface with wisdom.
Recognizing When Emotions Trigger Behavior
I explained that images, either memories, images we see online or in the news, or manufactured fearful images elicit emotions.
Those emotions - fear, anxiety, disillusionment, hate, etc. - trigger self-soothing mechanisms: phone scrolling, ritualistic behaviors such as cleaning, calling someone and complaining, breaking things, binge eating or drug/alcohol use, etc.
The trick is to take control of one's physiology and imagery before the self-soothing mechanisms are activated.
Taking a breath, in recognition that emotions are trying to teach you something, and then taking creative control of the images in your imaginal screen is the first step to transforming WHAT you feel into much needed valuable insight that will inform the best course of action.
Unfortunately, rather that doing that, people steal, abuse, lie, cheat, complain, worry, and engage in behaviors that, at first, appear to be compensatory, but only mask what we're feeling with a false sense of proactivity. Such behaviors are self-sabotaging.
You Are Not A Victim of Emotions
I was afraid of my emotions. I was afraid of the images that I saw in my mind. I was afraid of what I did not understand.
The period of postpartum depression and anxiety taught me two things A) I didn't have to be afraid of what I sensed and perceived whether in reality or in my mind and B) I can interact with and control my interpretation of and relationship with the information I received.
It's a widely known fact in political science that controlling imagery controls voter actions and decision making processes. That is why organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce employ thousands of public relations firms across the country to manufacture stories and images of fraud or injustice to incite fear in their target voter. That fear leads frightened voters to vote in favor of protecting themselves from false threats, only to vote against their interests in the long term. Identity politics and propaganda manufacturing sway voters time and time again.
Why do people metaphorically vote against themselves? Emotions can be controlling. They are specters. We will do anything to not feel a certain type of way. Even if it means limiting ourselves in an effort to put the threat of feeling bad at bay.
People who do not face their fears - more specifically, confront the emotions and examine the imagery in their imaginations - succumb to those fears.
If life is a mirror, those images that we hold onto and give power to through emotive impulse become what we eventually experience in real life.
Emotions & Health
Emotional health impacts our physical health. People who are in a constant state of anxiety, anguish, or fear, exhibit signs of discomfort such as pain spots, tension, shortness of breath, and sleeplessness. The state of anticipating pain creates a heighten sense of awareness in an effort to avoid doom, but it only creates more pain and discomfort. It becomes a never ending feedback loop of pain - anticipating pain - and generating more pain.
My years of coaching taught me that emotional intelligence is a skill that also improves our ability to recognize the psychosomatic effects of stress on the body. Louise Hay aptly described stress as the fear of life's constant changes.
Ignoring our body's cry for attention develops long term sickness and disease. Then, the illness consumes our entire life and becomes a magnum opus of spiritual, emotional and mental growth. It's one way to learn, but it's not a fun way.
Dealing with traumatic memories and unresolved emotions is the first and most productive way of addressing our health issues. Living a healthy lifestyle is a symptom of spiritual and emotional balance and shouldn't have to be the last resort, the medicine, or painful regime to fix an unhappy mind.
Taking Control of Emotions
As I mentioned during my conversation with Anthony and Alex on the Bollottafide podcast, taking control of the narrative also means recognizing where you are in life: your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and expectations of life. Understanding all of these within context of your life circumstances gives you power over the emotions you feel on a day to day basis. And, as a result, allows you to control your choices and actions that, whether you know it or not, demonstrate what you think, feel, and believe.
When the Buddhists discuss the concept of attachment, it automatically makes me think of the beliefs and expectations that help us keep life "the same". Resistance to change is in conflict with our Buddha nature which is wisdom, growth, and change. If life is ephemeral in nature, constantly shifting and changing, then this unstoppable change constantly threatens and questions everything we believe. We have to develop an attitude that it's ok to examine everything we think and feel if we are to live healthy lives. Coming to terms with what we envision in our minds and emanate as emotional sensation throughout our body is the process of inquiry that leads to growth and amassed wisdom.
Can we do it alone? No. It's my deepest sense that we're not supposed to solve our emotional and psychological challenges on our own. Life puts other people on our path and, through our interactions with them, we work through our thought and emotional processes.
It's not that we need anyone to tell us what emotions are telling us, but to help - in a sense of midwifery - give birth to the wisdom that is to come out of the womb emotional experience.
Neville Goddard said that life is the stage of psychological dramas. We experience scene after scene of psychological drama and believe that they're just random events and experiences that somehow shape us. Rather, Goddard says, we shape our life experiences through the psycho-physiological states we generate. We have to decide whether we are victims of circumstance or the captains of change.
The Constant Examination of Beliefs & Expectations
Every day presents an opportunity of self-reflection and thorough examination of the premises by which we live our lives.
Premises can be unsound, or based on falsities. Or, they can be sound, based on truths. The search for truth is what drives us every day, whether we know it or not.
Living an honest life is not just some religious pandering designed to modify our behavior to "be good, compliant people". Living an honest life comes out of a personal sense of purity that can be radical to the very people who live their lives according to doctrine or dogma. Basing our lives on dogma and calling it "the truth" does not make it truth. Truth is the seed of birthing emotional well-being. Seeking truth and acting in truth clears away the deep internal conflicts that exist within our psyche. It allows us to achieve greater heights of personal freedom.
I told Anthony on his podcast that I'm constantly recognizing my own errors of logic and presenting my findings through my writing and my work. My life isn't a perfectly scripted Ted-Talk. And, I'm not some genius guru that knows-it-all. Rather, I explain how I got it all wrong and what I learned through the process of inquiry. The truth, I find in my life experiences, is the lotus that rises from the mud of obscurity - or challenges - so to speak.
Become A Master of Emotions
When you recognize that your emotional sensations are merely bits of information seeking to generate greater feelings of harmony, you'll discover you don't ever have to be afraid of what you feel again. More importantly, you'll discover that your emotions are not your master.
I recognized that when my dad flew into fits of rage, he was the slave to those emotions. Think of how many people you know in your life that are slaves to their emotions? Think of all of the things people do when they "feed bad": unsafe sex, risky behavior, irresponsible spending, rage fits, abuse, drug/alcohol consumption and so forth.
Developing emotional intelligence is an every day practice. The habit is of self-reflection is as important is brushing one's teeth, taking a shower, and getting a good night's sleep.
At first, it seems that it takes a lot of attention and engagement - an hour at a time, researching, or months of introspective therapy or coaching. But, eventually, it becomes a habit of simply attuning to our own inner wisdom that puts us in direct contract with the falsities that lead us astray which only crumble during the process of inquiry.