When something unpleasant comes up, we usually want to remove the external forces. This is of course necessary when it needs to be, but I find that unless it’s been transformed within us also, the effect won’t be long-lasting. And the best way to transform anything is through an internal process. In addition to focusing on, “what kind of external thing do I need to remove”, we should also shift our eyes inward and reflect on what energies, stories, beliefs, habits, patterns and attitudes may not be of use to us anymore. By adjusting on an inner level, we will also be able to make better external choices, born of more awareness to move forward.
The following exercises are just a starting point of reflection for healing purposes; understanding that all emotions and states of being are purposeful and needed, but that we can also transform them by understanding what they are actually telling us. We do this by understanding their true essence and need. And when we create space within ourselves by removing outdated beliefs and unwanted habits or impulses, we are ultimately creating space for something new to enter – and it will enter. I also use some of the “sins” as an example to show how within each sin is a virtue available to be expressed, if we choose to. It’s just a bit of an untraditional way so that we can shift our understanding of these words and their meaning. It’s all about expanding our perception and moving away from extreme polarity.
As I discuss in detail in my article The Brilliancy of Feelings, our feelings are never the problem – they are the solution. Feelings are our inner compass and guide us towards our wellbeing. Our emotions are the rationalized feelings with our minds; and so they are dependent on our thought patterns, past situations and belief systems. The way to heal or transform our emotions is actually pretty simple: we find the opposite of it.
To heal anything, we must experience its opposite.
We must experience what is wanted, instead of what is unwanted. For example,
to heal shame – we must experience honour
to heal anger – we must experience courage
to heal fear – we must experience compassion
to heal betrayal – we must experience loyalty
to heal abandonment – we must experience commitment
to heal loneliness – we must experience togetherness
to heal being stuck – we must experience moving.
And all can be healed through love, for it is love and only love, that is the ultimate healer of all emotions, as it encompasses tenderness, kindness, support, gratitude, appreciation, compassion, courage, hope, trust, surrender, faith, loyalty, commitment, devotion and honour. This is why it is absolutely important to not only transform ourselves on the inside, but we also need to have the right external environment where we will be supported in our healthier selves. This means we need to surround ourselves with people who truly love us and support us.
In the following exercises, we explore the causes of various emotions and ask questions to begin a process of a deeper understanding for transforming and healing purposes. Keep in mind that this is only a general guidance – there is nothing absolute and emotions are as fluid as water. As such, the causes are unique for all of us, at different times of our life and personal experience. This is only meant to give you a starting point of reflection.
Control & Surrender
I wrote an extensive article on “The Art of Surrender”, diving deep into the topic of control and surrender, so you can read it here. Power, just like control, is ultimately carrying its underlying desire of surrender. Control is about dominance. Dominance is the state of external power or authority, and it is my belief that dominance is always coupled with a deep (possibly unconscious) desire for submission, for surrender and for being held in the attention of another person. To be witnessed there, to be guided there in a safe space where one can release their vulnerability, and to be led to an experience that transcends boundaries, restrictions – into the mystical, spiritual and the deeply emotionally bonding. This is how people connect: when we let go. This is surrender; intimacy is surrender, love is surrender, eroticism is surrender, mysticism is surrender, prayer is surrender, faith is surrender, trust is surrender, intuition is surrender, grace is surrender. In surrender – is deep trust. And in deep trust, there is always surrender, there is always gratitude, there is always love, and all else is there. Trust and love. That’s the answer to everything.
Questions to ask yourself: “Where am I afraid to let go? Where do I not trust myself? What situations do I not trust and why? Do I trust myself? Where do I exercise a lot of control? Who do I want to control; what situations do I feel I need to control? How does it feel when I let go? What does surrender mean to me? How does it feel when I trust someone? Where do I restraint myself? With whom did I want to open up but didn’t, and why? How do I feel about domination; about submission? What is my relationships to power and control? Where has someone been controlling towards me, especially in childhood? How would it feel if I am with someone who treats me with trust and allows me the safe space to be my true self?”
Lust & Love
It is important to remember that our sexual energy is precious and powerful. I discuss the importance of harnessing our sexual energy in my article The Spiritual Secrets of Sexual Energy. Love is not limited to sexual experiences, and of course we don’t have to be in love with every person we are physically intimate with, but it is important to understand where we might be misleading ourselves, or another, when we are in lust versus in love, so that we are also more clear of our underlying intention, and more honest in our interpersonal connections. Lust desires you intensely for itself; love accepts you as you are, as it be. Lust idealizes; love just feels. Lust is about distance, to sustain physical attraction; love is about closeness, to build real intimacy. My article on Exploring The Intimate Relationship talks more about how to build deeper intimacy with a partner and my article The Beginner’s Mind, Eroticism and Mysticism discusses how we can merge desire and closeness in our relationships.
Questions to ask yourself: “Can I feel past the lust? Am I co-dependent on lust? Do I use lust to avoid emotional intimacy and true bonding? What are some of my beliefs, attitudes and experiences around sex, physical intimacy and erotic pleasure? Which ones do I need to remove from my mind? What does sex mean to me; what does eroticism and intimacy mean to me? How do I express myself sexually? What do I find pleasurable? What does love mean to me? How do I express love towards others, and towards myself? What does intimacy mean to me? Where am I afraid of being truly intimate with someone (which means emotionally)? Where am I avoiding intimacy and bonding, so that I can sustain lust and distance? Is there healing that I need in order to release some of my unhealthy habits, or impulses, or sexual addictions? If so, what does this healing look like? What intimate experiences do I desire in my life? How can I make space for this?”
Greed & Fairness
Greed does not have to be financial. We all have moments of greed when we want or desire more than what is enough. To transform greed, we need to consider how we might be stretching ourselves out of what we truly desired and what we already have. Ultimately, we need to build appreciation and reflect on reciprocity. When we are being more charitable towards others, we shift our focus towards giving – rather than taking. I sometimes describe greed as a state of chronic disatisfaction. Greed usually has roots in the belief system that “you don’t have enough”. So even when you do – you just continue to perceive that you don’t, you take more than you need, you give little or nothing of yourself to others, and you always pursue more and more and more. The remedy: look within yourself where you have that lack mentality, and remember that you are enough; that giving someone affection does not mean you’ll have none left, even if they don’t reciprocate. When someone is described as being “cheap” – it often has nothing to do with money per se – it is about emotional cheapness, where they just don’t give anything to another person, and/or what they give is always tied up to conditions and/or expectations. Other times – we might feel a temporary burst of greediness, like going on a sudden shopping spree. This can be an indication that our boundaries have been crossed recently by someone, even though we’ve been very generous and giving towards them – or that we’ve been robbed of something that was ours – and that’s why we feel the need to take more than we need. It’s natural. And we all experience this. It’s the body’s natural way of balancing and calming itself. What is important to understand though is that what’s ours will always be ours and nothing can empty us of our essence and love, and to focus more on establishing stronger boundaries towards others, especially those who don’t appreciate our generosity.
Questions to ask yourself: “Where do I experiences greed in my life? What does it feel like? What do I want more of, for the sake of wanting more? In what areas of my life am I rarely (or never) satisfied, no matter what has happened? Why? What am I really after? What do I really want beneath the “desire” of my wanting more? How would I feel if I was satisfied in this area of my life? How could I be more fair? Where do I need to give more? Where do I need to exercise more reciprocity? What would it look like and feel like if fairness was exercised in the areas of my life where I have excess desires? Do I only give if I know it will be returned? Where do I take more than what I need? Am I grateful and appreciative of what I already have? Am I enough?”
Gluttony & Temperance
If we expand beyond the traditional definition of gluttony, we’d find that it is anything that focuses on immediate gratification, inconsiderate of its effect (or harm) onto self and/or others. In essence, it is about excess, similar to greed. To transform this, we should consider temperance, or moderation, which walks in the middle. Nothing in excess is ever good for us, even salads. Don’t deny yourself pleasures, don’t suppress them – but don’t be enslaved by, or dependent on them. Moderation allows us to walk the path of refusing to let short-term desires overpower us, and sway us away from our true long-term desires. Immediate gratification is a problem that causes problems in all areas of life, particularly in relationships. We must remember patience in our interractions.
Questions to ask yourself: “Where am I willing to harm myself and/or others in order to satisfy my appetites/desires? Where am I abandoning long-term potential for immediate gratification? Where am I willing to burn bridges just to get my way? What am I really craving? What am I really desiring? What am I really needing? What would happen if I practiced restraint? What would happen if I held off gratifying myself in this situation? How can I support and fulfill my long-term deeper desires?”
Sloth & Hope
We might go into “sloth” because of a feeling that our efforts wouldn’t matter, so why do anything at all? Or it can appear in our lives when we falsely believe that we don’t have what it takes to make our vision a reality. The reason for these beliefs are individual, but one remedy for it, is hope. Hope is a challenge, hope is difficult but hope is absolutely necessary. Hope walks in the scary forest and whispers, “what if, maybe tomorrow?” Hope is courageous because it never gives up, and as such, we can always find it within us; because it would never give up on us. It’s like faith; it’s an organ inside of us, that is available to sing us back home, to clarity, inspiration and vision. You can read more about ways to find hope in challenging times, in my article on “Ways to Restore Hope”.
Questions to ask yourself: “Where do I give up too easily? Where do I tell myself “it’s not worth it”? Where am I afraid of failure? Where do I don’t make a lot of effort? What small thing can I do today towards the thing that I want? Where do I feel inspired? When was the last time I felt happy and inspired; what was I doing? How can I replay this feeling now, through doing something else? What would happen if I just allowed to feel as I feel now; (imagine feeling okay with how you are already feeling)? Where am I being too harsh or critical on myself? What would happen if I just allowed myself to do what can be done in the moment?”
Rage & Courage
Righteous anger is needed and purposeful. And there are absolutely situations and people who deserve to be met with anger. It is can a powerful energy when it is channeled in a healthy way, rather than onto other people. It is important to understand how to work with this powerful emotion and to control it, while also, not suppress it. For example, anger might be a sign that there is a lack of equivalent energetic exchange; maybe we’ve been giving too much to someone who rarely gives much in return. In this case, it is a great way for us to reflect on that and stop draining our own energy for those who just don’t give back. It can also be a sign that people have been crossing our boundaries for way too long; and so, it is time to work on our boundaries and just let people go who continue to disrespect them Another side of anger is when we internally feel that we are not living an authentic life; we wear masks, and then feel unseen, so we blame others. The remedy is: be courageous enough to admit your truth, to live an authentic life, and to make the hard decisions to walk away from situations and/or people that are no longer serving you. It takes incredible amount of courage to be honest with ourselves and then make decisions, because of course decisions mean self-accountability. Rage is what happens when we get out of hand; when we want to destroy someone, when we want to harm someone, and to humiliate them, etcetera. In its essence, it is an energy that destroys us too. Courage is a virtue, and aside from love and compassion, it is courage that can meet rage. The thing is: rage is another one of the emotions where we subconsciously feel powerless, like sloth, and so we want to exercise our “power” onto others. It is a sign of powerlessness because if we were truly powerful, then we wouldn’t need to harm another to feel powerful. Courage is the ability to feel all of our feelings such as fear, sadness, pain, hopelessness, powerlessness, disappointment, rage, anger, weakness – and stillmake the effort anyway, no matter how small.
Questions to ask yourself: “Where do I feel anger and rage in my life? How do I deal with it? How do I control it? How do I feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually when I feel it? What is the cause of it? What is the need of it? Why did I feel powerless? What provoked it? When did I feel that way, as a child? What would happen if I was more compassionate and empathic? What would happen if I replaced rage with courage? What would happen if I forgave myself for feeling angry?”
Fear & Compassion
Fear, like all other emotions, is valuable if we can hear what it tells us. It can be the voice of upcoming danger and save us. Other times, it is a sign of change, but change isn’t all bad. Any new experience and innovation begins with some fear, and it is a powerful sign of evolving and growing. But it is up to us and our unshakeable belief in existence and ourselves to allow ourselves be aware of fearful feelings but not succumb to them. And in this realization, we are liberated. In fact – freedom would never exist if it wasn’t for fear. How can we be truly free if we don’t accept our own fears? And true freedom is what we do with the choices available to us; for true expansion is found in the enrichment within our limits. Yet other times, emotions such as fear, shame, blame and guilt, are very clear warning signs that we are on the wrong path. These four emotions are usually not our inner voice. What often heals fear is trust; trust in ourselves and trust in our path. In order to have trust though we need to know that we can rely on ourselves to act for our best interest. To know this – we need to have compassion towards ourselves and all the things we feel, and all the times when we’ve been wrong in our past. When fears arise, it is important to stay in a space love – which means compassion, tenderness, forgiveness and acceptance for ourselves, no matter where we are in life. We need to build safety and connection to the core of who we are; build a bridge to love and fortress around it with compassion, trust and faith. Acknowledge your fears and hold them gently by the hand, comforting them that “it’s okay”. And choose love. Choose love everyday. Again and again. You will be provided for. You are safe. Sink into that.
Questions to ask yourself: “What does fear look like? What are my fears? In what situations was my fear helpful, and when was it destructive? How did it feel in my body in both situations? Where do my fears stop me from doing what I love and from expressing my feelings? How am I authentic in my life? How do I deal with my fears? If I didn’t feel fear, what would I have done? How am I allowing myself to feel my feelings? How am I judging myself and my feelings? What does compassion mean to me? How do I show myself compassion when I have failed in life or been disappointed? Where did I choose something I didn’t want because of fear? What roles am I attaching my identity to? What would I be doing if I didn’t worry about money? Who do I love that I haven’t told because of fears of rejection? Would I still be in this relationship if I didn’t have to worry about security (financial or otherwise)? Where am I not being honest with myself? Where in my life am I playing a role? Where in my life do I no longer feel happy? Behind what mask, role and/or identity am I hiding just to feel (a false sense of) security?”
Envy & Trust
Envy, jealousy … nothing new here. What I’ll say is: it is a distraction. It keeps us focused on someone or something else, to the absolute detriment of your own beautiful self, or the beautiful connection you have with someone. All we need is trust.
Questions to ask yourself: “Do I trust myself? Can I rely on myself that I will do what’s right for me? Do I trust my partner? Can others trust me? Can they rely on me that I will act for their best interest? Where do I experience envy? What or who do I feel jealous of? Why? What do they have, or what is the experience, that I desire for myself? What is stopping me from having that also? Am I grateful for what I have now? Where do I lack gratitude? Where do I compare myself to others? Why would I be competitive? Do I believe that we all have our own paths, and unique roads to have? Where in my life have I lacked in what I needed; where were my needs not met?”
Pride & Faith
Over-inflated pride that is fully ego-driven, is often a great limit of self. I’ve often seen people walk away from love and potential happiness just because of pride. Pride can blind us from seeing things clearly, and from admitting our own mistakes. It’s no easy task accepting our mistakes and weaknesses, and apologizing when we’ve done something we shouldn’t have, which also refers to having self-compassion. Pride can also limit us when we hesitate to reach out, or ask for help. Have faith. In the truth that you are never alone.
Questions to ask yourself: “Where has pride stopped me from following my heart; from doing something that I wanted to do but then confinced myself that I didn’t (just because I was too proud)? Where do I have too much pride? What weakness am I hesistant to admit? Where does faith help me to open up to someone? How can I be more vulnerable?”