This experience illuminates one of the great challenges we face when trying to live up to our highest positive potential. How do we manage the negative feelings that inevitably come up as we try to grow beyond our current abilities or transcend the status quo?
I don’t know about you but there are times when I’m angry or frustrated and I want nothing more than to throw something at God for leading me to believe that I have the ability to experience a level of quality and abundance suggested in all the spiritual literature yet seem remarkably unable to manufacture in my life. I’m praying. I’m trying. So where is the great life I’m supposed to be living and experiencing? Is this some kind of cruel cosmic joke? I affectionately think of this outburst as my juvenile delinquent phase. It lurks perilously close beneath the surface of my polished exterior waiting for its moment in the sun.
When my juvenile delinquent comes out I’ve found that the best approach is to let my emotions run their course. There is simply no value in criticizing myself for feeling what I feel. Experience has taught me that these emotions, however unpleasant, are a valid expression of how I’m feeling at the moment and they have as much right to exist as any other emotions I experience. If I can resist the temptation to judge these uncomfortable emotions as bad, and instead simply respect their right to exist, along with all my other emotions, then I have provided a pathway for them to travel through my body and find release. The worst thing I can do is try to resist or suppress them. That only results in even greater suffering and prolonged unmanageability in my life.
Once I’ve given any emotion space to move through me, I find, over time, it starts to soften, particularly with anger, which is usually a secondary emotion. As it travels through me it starts to change into the feeling that lays beneath it. In my case, this underlying feeling is usually sadness, disappointment, or fear. Once I’m able to understand the underlying emotion then I can start to get curious about the story I’m telling myself about my feeling. What judgments do I have about this feeling? This is when I’m ready to have an actual conversation with God to find out what the Universe is trying to teach me. “What are you trying to teach me from this experience?” What are my expectations of myself? What are my expectations of others? What are my expectations of God?”
I’ve discovered that everything that happens to me has a pearl of wisdom embedded within it waiting patiently for me to let my initial emotion soften so I can gain the benefits of what the Universe is trying to draw my attention to. This is a process. It takes time. I’ve found that it’s most helpful to let it run its course before settling down to the insights my emotions are trying to get me to pay attention to. In all the years I’ve been on this journey of intentional living I have not escaped these uncomfortable emotions and I have come to appreciate that they bring with them a wealth of willingness and value once the initial intensity of the emotions have softened into compassionate curiosity.
I have also come to understand that pain is one of my greatest teachers providing the motivation to dig deeper into my perceptions, feelings, expectations, and yearnings, than I might otherwise be willing to explore. Negative emotions are not evidence of any defect of character but evidence that the adjustments I’ve been making are not yet bringing me the results I desire. Living to our highest positive potential is a life-long journey yet, when I’m willing to shift my focus from what I’m lacking, to what I want more of in my life, the outcome of that particular event proves to be a valuable guide to helping me reframe my approach to living by shifting my focus and my energy into more effective and life-affirming strategies.
The starting point of my healing begins by focusing on this very moment. “How am I doing at this moment? Are all my basic needs met? Do I have everything I need at this moment to ensure a reasonable measure of security? Is there anything I desperately need at this moment to get my fundamental yearnings for safety, security, and connection met? What do I need to do at this moment to care for myself?”
Grounding myself in the present helps me secure a measure of calm from where I am more effectively resourced to get compassionately curious about what the universe is trying to teach me. I also find it comforting to remember that this is a journey of progress rather than perfection. The measure of progress for me is how long it takes me to notice that I’m in pain, and what I choose to do with it once I notice. We are human beings and we are doing the best we can with the resources we’re able to access and express at the moment. If we could do better, we would. In the end I choose to believe that my deepest nature is unconditional love trying to express itself through my thoughts and behaviors. This is the goal I strive for, to the best of my imperfect ability, one day at a time. That’s it! Whatever emotions come along are guides to help me assess my journey and stay open to the corrective guidance of the Universe who has my best interests permanently in mind.
In a perverse interpretation of my negative emotions I sometimes wonder, “What if the experience I’m having at this moment, is actually an answer to a prayer I forgot I asked?” God help me! Are you willing to make room for your negative emotions? Do you recognize the wisdom imbedded within them? What if they are the answer to one of your prayers? Where is the pearl of great price within the negative emotion that is trying desperately to get your attention?