Return to Love Wisdom Teachings
See also Mastery of mind & thought
See also Mastery of Mind & Emotion
Our emotional body is very powerful in our lives. Our emotional energies tend to create so much of our daily personality and how we relate with others. Much of the beauty of life is in the midst of beautiful and loving emotions, but many other emotions tend to simply cause conflict, harm, and trouble.
Emotional energies include our desires and our reactions, most of which are self-centered or selfish-based. Higher emotions are based on aspirations to serve God or to give to others, rather than being self-centered desires; and higher emotions include compassionate loving responses to others and to life, rather than uncontrolled or automatic reactions. Yet the emotions of most people are predominately composed of selfish desires and irritated reactions. These self-centered desires tend to compel us; or in other words, our desires are most often compelling us, directing us, controlling us.
Our desires are usually selfish, self-based or self-centered. It is not morally or spiritually bad to have desires for self pleasure, self-fulfillment, or self-success; but so many times our desire tends to fight others for desire dominance or try to run over others in our desire pursuit. These desire pursuits between people, as one desire-pursuit vs. another's desire-pursuit, can get quite ruthless in its competitiveness. Then, in these battles of desire between people, the monsters of reaction tend to come forth – irritated or violent reactions to the perceived threat of a desire-pursuit being squashed or derailed. Thus, fueled by these emotionally dynamic battles between desire-filled personalities, reactions are flung forth like bombs of scalding poison, and each party tends to suffer harm and loss due to the uncontrolled reactions involved.
Desire and reactive emotions tend to dominate our lives. For some people, life is a succession of one emotion leading to another, or one emotional drama after another. In other words, emotions or emotional energies are controlling one's life. This is why the needed self-work is to turn this around; whereby purposeful intention and reasonable intelligence control the emotional nature, instead of the emotions controlling mind and purpose. Much of the time one does not recognize how self-desires and emotional patterns dictate the very course of one's life; and this happens without any real questioning, self-reflection or reasoning. Thus, the emotions tend to be in charge, while one's powers of reasoning and purposeful intention get lost in the emotional clouds or in the drama of it all.
Emotions, desires and reactions can even control our mind and reasoning. Examples of this can be observed in how we so easily rationalize or justify our emotions, selfish desires and reactions. I rationalize and justify my selfishness in that I deserve this. I'm important, my aim is important, my work is important, my need is important, and everyone else's is secondary. We rationalize and justify our reactions. This is me, who I am. This is my astrological sign. This is my unique personality. This is how my parents did it, or how my culture does it. This is good. What I'm shoving at you is good and for your own good. This is what you need. You need to hear and feel my anger. You need to hear and feel my criticism. Or you need to hear my pity and how awful you are to me, and I want you to know I'm the real victim here, or I'm the righteous one. Or you need to submit to my righteous power and wisdom, as I see it to be.
So our emotions, our emotional body, can have a great deal of control over our mind and our thoughts and even over our reasoning. Or in other words, in many cases the emotional body is in dominance, while the mind subconsciously serves the emotions or is slave to the emotions.
For this reason, there needs to be a self-work set into place whereby the conscious intelligent mind, guided by higher spiritual purposes, gains control of the steering wheel and takes back control of one's life. This self-work requires greater self-observation and consciousness, because our emotional patterns most often run on automatic, subconscious energy.
The guiding purposes for this work on emotions should be beauty, love, harmony and joy; as these are also the higher emotions we can embody. The intelligent mind can then purposefully direct the emotional life towards those aims. The emotional body by itself cannot really see higher purposes, because it is predominately under-conscious and automatic in reaction. Most emotional energies only see themselves in the mirror and cannot really see beyond this; whereas, higher emotions of love are conscious of other's needs, other than one's own self-needs.
So in summary, the conscious thinking mind has an ability (and function) to be in control of the emotional body, and thus direct one's emotional energies towards higher purposes, or to oversee that the emotional energies are coming ever-closer towards Divine Love and Harmony.
Control and transformation of emotions
One of the most difficult challenges is controlling the emotions. However, this concept of 'control' needs to be understood better. This control should not be a repression of emotion, which is an attempt to push emotions out of one's conscious mind, whereby they then unfortunately remain active but simply become unconscious. The right way to deal with all emotions is to become evermore aware of how they affect one's life, and thus become more conscious of emotions, not less conscious.
So, emotional control is not about squashing one's emotional life. It means that the emotions are not simply allowed to dominate one's life. It means that certain kinds of emotions, recognized as harmful or inharmonious, will not be allowed to rule or control all other aspects of oneself. Our emotions are put on watch and check; and if discerned as negative, then we work at transforming them. So we are not simply squashing all emotions, but transform any emotions that become too far from reasonableness or unserving of the Divine Life.
Control of emotions also involves not letting oneself be negatively affected by challenging circumstances, unpleasant surprises, or by criticisms. Generally, challenges are good. They help us develop self discipline and abilities. Thus, we ought to welcome challenges and enjoy working to solve challenges. In fact, if we are on a spiritual or self-actualizing path, then we ought to intentionally create useful challenges – just for the sake of developing our abilities and the satisfying experience of overcoming the challenge.
Nonetheless, surprising and unexpected challenges can be irritating, especially when they disrupt an otherwise pleasant day or disrupt what we desire. Of course, not all surprises are irritating. Some surprises are really great and we love them. But when we get surprised by undesirable circumstances or challenges or criticisms, then we tend to get irritated, upset or angry. In other words, we are reacting negatively to negative circumstances. So our negative emotions are elicited by negative occurrences – that is, by undesirable or unpleasant occurrences, or when anything goes unexpectedly wrong.
Now, it might seem justified, or at least natural, to react negatively to a negative, such as problems coming at you from circumstances. Negativity from others, such as anger or criticism or deceit, is another source of negatively which sometimes gets flung at us. So it seems kind of justified to react back with our own negativity, like striking back after a strike made against us. By analogy, it's like one nation striking back at another when it feels it has been violated. Yet this kind of pattern becomes an endless conflict, whether of nations or of people. Fist for fist, slap for slap. And so it goes, on and on. But this is the kind of natural-automatic reaction that we need to transform, because otherwise it becomes an endless cycle of tat for tat. And this transformation of the recurring pattern must start with each of us, individually. We cannot wait for the other one to transform a negative into a positive. It has to start with me. It has to start with the one who realizes that the pattern never ends until someone ends it.
So, one important discipline of emotional control is to not automatically react negatively to every given negative, whether it comes from world circumstances or from other people. This negative can still be regarded as a negative and as undesirable; afterall, if a fire destroys one's house or if someone verbally slaps you down, this is not something anyone would want or hope for. But once an unexpected negative occurs, the most intelligent and spiritual response is to first understand its cause and second to immediately work towards a positive solution and outcome. So one does not have to jump for joy when a negative arrives or is slung, but one can immediately work towards a positive solution.
At least, one should refrain from having an automatic negative reaction. A negative reaction or negative emotion simply causes more negativity and harm; whereas an intentional positive response, or a positive emotion, begins to transform negative circumstances into positive circumstances. This is another example of how one can become free of negative emotional habits, and not let automatic emotional reactions control one's life.
We learn to catch ourselves becoming agitated or irritated by things or by people. Then, in this irritated experience, we want to lash out, or perhaps fight back. Or maybe we do the opposite, which is to run away from what bothers us, or perhaps ignore it or pretend it is not there. Different kinds of personalities have different ways of dealing with negatives, problems or obstacles; but usually there is some kind of fight or flight. Each person has to observe their own peculiar patterns, however difficult this is to see.
The first step must always be observation; because unless something is seen to need change, there will be no change. The next step is decision, deciding to make a change and how to do this. Which then leads to the third step of transformation, transforming a negative into a positive. This is like transforming an ill state into a healthy state. Or in worldly and social terms, it's like transforming a negative relationship into a positive one, or a conflict into cooperation.
Transforming negatives into positives is quite an esoteric science. But the first steps of this are very simple to understand. The first step is to calm down and relax. If we can just do this at times of irritating or negative circumstances, then we have already accomplished a lot. Because if we can calm down, relax, take a step back and observe it all, without automatically launching into a negative reaction and getting into an emotional fit about it all; then we have already overcome the usual emotional pattern. So first calm down the reactive pattern; in order that the intelligent mind has a chance to view the situation and then come up with a solution.
Many of our emotions seem to come out from nowhere; as one minute we might feel at peace and then something stimulates an irritated reaction. Things happen, then reactive emotions develop from these. Many of our emotions emerge from subconscious parts of ourself. Or in other words, we have a large array of emotions and emotional reactions that are hidden in our subconscious, not normally conscious or emerging. These are hidden in deeper layers of our self-personality, like being hidden in the soil below.
So one aspect of spiritual and psychological self-work is to gradually uncover and observe these hidden emotions. Then once out in the open and self-recognized, they can be held in the light of reasonable intelligence. At which time, the uncovered and revealed emotion can be either affirmed and embraced, or else it can be seen as illusory or as unimportant to hold onto. If an emergent emotion needs to be released or transmuted, then this can be done with the light of conscious intelligence, along with a willingness to sacrifice or release it. Emotions may also at times emerge without any self-effort, and these are opportune times to observe and deal with them.
The self-work of controlling emotions must begin first with discernment. Then, if the emotion is positive and has value, it can be appreciated and embraced; but if the emotion is discerned as negative or as irrational, then it needs to be let go of and replaced by a positive emotion. So first, one needs discernment about each emerging emotion. This itself is difficult to achieve because emotions tend to have a compelling nature, so any discernment demands an achieved emotional transcendence, whereby the emotion is self-observed from an emotionally uninvolved level of mind. Thus, one needs to develop emotional self-observation, and then apply discernment. Some emotions will then be discerned as positive, and others as negative. These are just common terms, which can be substituted by other terms. For example, emotions could be divided into beautiful or ugly, or perhaps divided into useful or dis-useful. Emotions could be discerned and divided into more than just two divisions, but the division of two is the simplest and easiest.
We have to make a distinction between the quality of emotions, for there is a difference in quality; and there are harmful emotions in the sense of emotional reactions or actions that truly harm others and ourself as well. There are very beautiful emotions, and there are less-than beautiful emotions. So to simply the language, we acknowledge that there are negative emotions, and that I have them. Yes, I have them. If you think that this is all about other people, then you've missed an important point, which is that its about you, and about me, and about each of us. Each person has to see this in themselves. It's not just about other people, or about that other someone, or that other in the conflict. It's about you. It's about me.
Next after discernment, there needs to be the exercise of choice, or decision; which is a decision to either accept or not accept, to either embrace or reject. In regards to positive and beautiful emotions, the choice is a simple acceptance. But in regards to any negative, harmful, or ugly emotion, the decision of non-acceptance can be difficult. This is because every emergent emotion has a motivating force and also a ready justification.
The motivating force is either a desire for something or a fighting against something. In other words, one is either pushing to get some kind of gratification, or else pushing away what is disliked or what is feared as being a lost gratification. There are many kinds of negative emotions, but there are two fundamental kinds; those based on desire and those based on fear. One is either running towards things, or running away. But what makes all of this much more subtle is that the 'thing' or 'object', which one is either running towards or away from, is very often a illusion, a glamor, or a thing imagined. Glamors, illusions, and delusions are all related. In summary, there are powerful internal forces within us, which propel these emotions of desire and fear, all of which stem from the personal ego's primary seeking of self-gratification (including pleasure and praise) and its wished avoidance of rejected-gratification.
Another difficulty in rejecting or deciding to not-accept an emotion is our spiritual wish to love and embrace all parts of the cosmos, including all aspects of human reality. This goes along with a spiritual philosophy of loving all things and all parts of oneself. Yet this can often serve as a false justification for allowing everything and not confronting real problems. This happens in relation to others, to children, and also in relation to our own self.
The true spiritual path is a path of discernments and decisions. It is true, of course, that an aspect of the spiritual path is love and acceptance, but this needs to be understood better. We can love all people and all aspects of oneself, but this does not entail that we have to accept and agree with everything. The subject here is oneself, so let's stay with this as our example. I can love all of myself, but nonetheless reject certain ideas that come up. I can decide to reject (or not-accept) certain beliefs that I've held all my life, beliefs that have been part of me. Why would I do this? Maybe because I now see the mistake of those held beliefs. And remember that many of the beliefs we have are encultured in us – from parents, culture, religion, or media, etc. So if we look at beliefs and ideas, we might see that much of this has been put into us, even though we now claim these as our own. But would anyone merely passively accept whatever is told to us, without any questioning? And yet this is the origin of most of our present held beliefs! Thus, it makes good sense to question our culturally-given beliefs and ideas, then perhaps either embrace/accept what is intelligently true or else reject what is not. At some point, one needs to intelligently look at one's current ideas and beliefs, or look at whatever belief arises in the moment, then discern if this is really true or merely an illusion, falsity, or fantasy.
So now, in looking at our emotions, we could apply the same as we did with beliefs and ideas. What makes up the content of our emotions? And where did this come from? Is this particular emotion a part of our true natural-spiritual nature? Or is this particular emotion merely an encultured emotion, an emotion that we acquired from our parents or the social world we grew up in? If a particular emotion is truly felt to emerge from our deep spiritual-natural essence, then let us embrace, accept, and value this. But if a particular emotion does not feel to be in harmony and resonance with our spiritual-natural essence, then it makes sense to not simply accept this – but rather instead to reject or dismiss this emotion as being a false self identification.
This self-rejection of an emotion is extremely difficult for everyone. The reason for this is that we are deeply entrenched in and self-identified with each of our emotions. These are our personal feelings, which demand to be respected and become quite upset when not respected. So how does one deal with this internal dilemma? Perhaps the answer is to first respect any emerging emotion, just as we might respect the voiced opinion of someone. But respect, in this sense, does not necessarily mean agreement and empowerment. For in similarity to a situation whereby one respects the freely expressed opinions of another, internally one could respect each emerging emotion but not necessarily agree with it. The emotion itself will have a self-righteousness to it. All emotions do. They all have an inherent self-righteousness as well as a self-justification. Every emotion will (or can) have some kind of rationale to justify it, some kind of good righteous reason for its expression; and this is true, no matter what kind of emotion, from anger to jealousy, from hatred to violence, from self-pity to spiteful criticism. Each instance has its self-righteousness, its rational justification, and also its self-identification. So how can one break that kind of shell?
Generally, we have to understand and see the dynamics of this. We have to understand how this all works, the psychology of it, and also see real instances of how this plays out and unfolds. Practically, there are a number of steps important in the solution. As just mentioned, one step would be respect. But this respect is not necessarily the same as an agreement and acceptance. It is more like an allowing of its present expression, rather than repressing its existence. It is allowed for now, but we are now ready to question it. We are ready to question its self-righteousness and self-justification. And we are ready to question the self-identification involved, by questioning whether this emotion is truly who we are are; is this who I really am, or can this be let go of? These kinds of questioning are important, because it breaks the engrossed spell of a powerful emotion and it brings in a higher level of objective reasoning. So we question the self-righteousness, self-justification, and self-identification of the emotion.
From our self-study of each emotion, we might learn something important about ourselves; for maybe the emotion is related to a deeper emotion or a deeper need emerging from our natural-spiritual essence. This could well be the case, which is why one should not simply stamp out each emotion labeled as bad or negative. There might be something important to learn from this emotion, and it might be stemming from a deeper spiritual emotion or need. This is the reason for having emotional respect within oneself, and to be patient and not be too critical about oneself. In fact, it is a negative upon negative to be self-critical about having negative emotions. So there is no need to be overly self-critical; just be evermore self-observant. Question what is really true and what is really necessary and useful. For if we observed more of our emotional patterns, we might see how childish and selfish many of our emotions are.
So now that we have agreed to give ourselves self-respect, and not be too hard on ourselves, and give our emotions some respect, and also learn from everything, we can now move on to the most difficult task which is how to reject and transform a negative emotion. Once again, a negative emotion is an emotion that is harmful, or simply not useful, not working well, or an emotion that does not express who we really are or want to be, or it's an emotion that has a false rationalization or a false belief associated with it. And thus, there is good reason to not accept it and not hold on to it, and to put in some effort to transform it. So this is the next big step – to transform certain emotions. This involves a few steps.
One has to discern the falsity of an emotion, or its uselessness, or its negativeness. This comes from self-observation and questioning – questioning the truth, the usefulness and the value of this emotion. Or one could use a much simpler approach, which is to feel whether or not this emotion or this desire is truly beautiful and loving. So for some people, the needed discernment will be more rational and thoughtful, while for other kinds of people the discernment will be a feeling of an emotion being beautiful and loving, or not. Or one might use both approaches, which is really the best way.
Then once there is discernment, which has now realized this emotion as being negative or dysfunctional, the usual engrossed and compelling and self-identified nature of this emotion has been disrupted. And also of course, it is now in view of the conscious mind, so it has ceased to be automatic or subconsciously compelling. Thus now it is possible to make the next big step of decision.
The decision is to decide whether this emotion is to be accepted and embraced as who I am, or conversely unaccepted as unworthy of my acceptance and agreement. In other words, the decision is between acceptance or non-acceptance, between agreement or non-agreement, between embrace or rejection. And there will be times when unacceptance and rejection is the right decision. This has to be understood, and one has to be ready for this. It will also be painful; it will be a painful break, a painful rejection. But there are times when this is needed; that is, we will have to let go of certain emotional patterns and certain kinds of reactions. This is in order that our self develop a greater harmony and beauty with the Divine. We have to be willing to sacrifice some of our usual emotions, desires and reactions, in order that we become closer in harmony with the Divine Self.
So a decision needs to be made, a decision to either hold onto or else let go of an emerging emotion. If the emotion is discerned as positive and pleasant, then enjoy it; but if the emotion feels as negative or distressing, then let it go. Or if the emotion is harming another, then let it go. But in order to let it go, or what can called 'sacrificed', one has to use the power of decision. First the discernment that the emotion is not worth it, then the decision to let it go. Both are necessary.
The powers of discernment and decision are vitally important, but this may not be enough to really deal with a certain pattern of emotion over the long run. In other words, the let go of emotion might return sooner or later, because the decision of emotional sacrifice is not sustainable. This is why another step is needed, which is transformation. The emotion, the pattern and its substance, must be transformed; otherwise our letting go decision might just be a temporary fix.
There are two kinds of emotional transformation. One is called purification, and the other is called replacement. There are many possible methods of purification, but the general method can be exemplified as follows. As one lets go of a certain emotion, in that very moment, visualize and allow the Purifying Light (coming from a higher source) to flow through one's emotional body to cleanse and purify it. One might visualize a white light, or a pink or violet light. If especially needing calm and peace, then visualize blue light. Any visualization or feeling of Light flowing down through one's emotional body is cleansing, healing, and transforming. Light purifies and transmutes the emotional energy. Transmutation is when Light transforms energies towards a higher level of spiritual evolution. So think of Light as the purifying, cleansing, and transmuting Energy.
The second kind of emotional transformation is replacement, or substitution. One of the most important kinds of spiritual work is sacrificing our least-beautiful emotions and desires, then replacing these with finer spiritual emotions, desires and qualities.
There are a few ways forward in this. One way is to focus one's attention and meditation on pre-agreed positive emotions. These are pre-understood and pre-agreed, in the sense of already knowing a set of emotions as positive and healing, such as love, peace, joy, kindness, consideration, patience, caring, encouragement, cooperation, and friendship; rather than what can be regarded as negative, such as being critical belittling, mean, resentful, etc.
Also valuable is to have understanding about others or about any situation. Practicing understanding helps calm reactive emotions. Practicing understanding is not itself a reaction. It is an intentional application of higher intelligence, or higher mind. Having understanding takes consciousness from the simply emotional-automatic to the mental aspect of our self, whereby we observe with the light of understanding, and compassion can be added into this as well. This brings us into a higher realm of emotional life.
The other way to transform an emotion is to open one's spiritual intuition to the higher emotional energies, such as love, peace, cooperation, and beauty. What distinguishes this way is that one does not focus on any particular spiritual emotion or quality, but instead remains open to whatever higher quality the Spirit brings. Thus, one receives positive virtues and qualities from the Divine – from soul or from the greater Spirit beyond all souls. This way depends on how well one truly opens up to the Divine and how well one can receive from Spiritual Intuition and levels above this.