Emotional maturity and emotional health are not your everyday school subjects, but they are vital for personal well-being and the health of our communities, not to mention world peace! Of the four elements, our emotions relate to water. Like the sea, they build and peak like waves and the tides. Our negative emotions are not easy to deal with once they have built up. Positive emotions are essential in being who we really are, wonderful spiritual beings full of vitality, passion and enthusiasm.
If you don't always feel that way, you're definitely not alone. It's partly because much of society has been conditioned to think that we are merely advanced animals who have evolved to the top of the food chain. No wonder the world is plagued with wars and violence. The solution is not to suppress or deny our negative thoughts and emotions, but to heal and transform them, for they are dis-eased. And if left long enough, they will manifest as disease in our physical body. (For more on this, see the page Balancing Our 4 Bodies.) Rather, we work on transforming them back into the wonderful whole being who we really are, as discussed on the Spiritual Balance page. For more on emotional balance, see the sections below. Hopefully they will help you to use your emotions more intelligently. Emotional intelligence is a vital subject for us all. You can also search this page by pressing Ctrl+F on your keyboard to open the Find feature (command+F for Mac).
The Nature of Emotional Waves.
As mentioned above, our emotions build and peak like the waves. It is usually our belief systems or thoughts that spark off an emotion. For example, someone at work does something that we asked them not to do. Our first reaction is usually to get upset, thinking that they are deliberately ignoring us or challenging our authority. But until we know all the facts, that it just a mental assumption. If we resolve the situation quickly, our emotions will not get out of hand. But when we harbour sustained criticism or resentment against people over a long time, then the amount of energy built up in this tide of emotion often becomes too much for us to turn back mentally. This is when we lose control and do things despite our better judgement, feeling we cannot stop ourselves. This tide of emotion can be from anything, including anger, resentment, sexual attraction or desire for comfort foods!
The key is to resolve the issue early before the tide builds. And resolve does not mean ignore or suppress. This often needs training and self-development. The educational systems of many cultures, including in North America, have concentrated on academic development with little instruction on emotional maturity. Women are better at it than men. Books like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray help illustrate how emotionally illiterate many men are. And many do not care, either. Unfortunately “emotional” has come to have a mainly negative connotation i.e. over-reacting. But our emotions (and emotional body) are a great source of creative energy that enriches life immeasurably, especially when we are in balance. There are many resouces for emotional training and self-development, including The Institute of HeartMath. If you do find yourself getting emotionally upset, a few tips to help get back into balance can be found in "A calming exercise" below. A related section is "Centering in our hearts" on the Intellectual Balance page.
A calming exercise.
If you find yourself getting emotionally upset with someone else, here are a few tips to help you get back into balance:
Take a short time out, even five minutes. Breathe deeply. Centre in your heart (i.e. draw all your mental and emotional energy from your extremities into your heart area.) Get back to the basics of who you are. You are a valuable, precious soul who is kind at heart, even though you’re not perfect. Neither is the other person involved. And they too have valuable qualities, though probably not very visible now. But first concentrate on your own. Try to establish an inner dialogue, either with God, your Real Self or inner child etc.
Feel yourself rising above the situation and observing it from above. Consider some of the following: You are not responsible for their feelings, nor are they for yours. There are always two sides to a situation, and you probably both have incomplete information. These things are sent to try us. Be open to learn from this situation. If you want inner peace, then it is more important to remain harmonious than to strive to win at any cost. If the other person proves to be wrong, they will probably feel worse about it and learn more from the situation if you come across as compassionate and understanding than if you are aggressive and put them on the defensive. If the other person proves later to be right, learn to put your pride in your pocket and to be able to laugh at yourself. If you feel like it, call to God or your Real Self to help both of you resolve this situation in a win/win way that all may benefit.
Now get ready to go back and resolve the issue. If you believe in the angels, you can call to Archangel Michael, the archangel of protection, to protect you and the divine plan to manifest for this situation. You can also pray that only the Real Self of you and the other person prevail throughout this situation. Approach them with respect towards their Real Self (God in them), but not being prepared to tolerate any abuse from their lower self. Now go and give it your best shot, and trust God to take care of the rest.
Meditation on Self-worth and Comfort: "From Your True Mother."
Our emotions are often upset by what others say. It is our wounded ego that moves us from remaining centred in our heart and remembering our true Self-worth. This is our own responsibility, and that is the way we want it, so no one else can decide how we should feel or what we should think. There are several aspects to our psyche. The part that usually feels hurt is the soul (also called the inner child). It is the role of our mature androgynous spirit or higher Self (also called the loving inner father and loving inner mother) to comfort and teach our soul. For more of an understanding on the amazing beings that we really are, see the Spiritual Balance page.
This meditation will help you tune into your true Self, when you may be feeling upset or down. It is best read when you are alone, centred in your soul or inner child, as if heard from your loving inner mother:
"Relax, dear one. Breathe deeply, and feel the comforting beat of your faithful heart. Let the burdens and cares of the world slip away for a moment. Think of some of the things you have done well and felt good about. Think how you lift others up with your loving smile. You are adorable, and no matter what faults and shortcomings you may have or think you have, I still love you dearly.
"As a team we will make sure that you arrive where you really want to be in this life, so there is nothing for you to be afraid of. I will make sure that you will not fail in the end. No matter how many times you trip and fall in whatever you do, it does not matter. I love you anyway. You have so many lovely qualities and ways of doing things. I know that often other people do not recognize them, but I do. Always remember that you are truly a precious gem in this world.
"Keep on working to expand all of your good qualities. They are a blessing to you and to so many others. Do not rely on others to realize this or to tell you so, for they are often burdened and busy. No matter if no one else knows or cares how precious you are, just know that you are, and you're such a pleasure to be with.
"I know you are trying hard to improve yourself. Because you desire to be your best, I expect your best. But if you fall short sometimes, do not worry. Everyone falls short at times. Just use it as an opportunity to learn how to do it better next time. You may regret some mistakes, but there is never any need to feel guilty. Just taken responsibility for them, and determine to improve.
"There are things which you will need to learn which you do not always see, so I will gently point them out for you. Then I will let you decide how much you feel you can work on them. If ever you feel you cannot do something or feel scared or upset, don't be afraid to tell me, no matter how small or silly you think they are. If they were not worth worrying about, then you would not have felt anything about them. Share them. I will understand. I will never reject you or leave you. I will always be here with you, no matter what.
"Some of the things I say or do might not seem that easy for you to accept at the time, but know that it is not always that easy for me either. I do it because I dearly love you and care about you, and I will endure anything and everything that will be the best for you. Sometimes my chastening love is harder for me to give than for you to receive, but it is well worth it.
"I am not without my own needs. My main reason for being is to help you and the rest of the world through you. I therefore need you to come to me and share as much as you can with me. I am not only your mother but also your friend. When you exclude me from your life I become ineffective and without purpose. Besides, I also learn a lot from you and all your unique and novel ways of doing things. I look forward to the great joy that you bring to me as you include me in each of your activities.
"Whatever you decide to do in life, I will stand behind you and support you. Even if I do not see it as the best decision, you have made it for a reason. You have a right to make your own decisions, and by them you gain experience in this life. I will ensure that no situation or temptation comes to you that is more than you can cope with. I will also not stifle you nor prevent you from experiencing all of life with its accompanying pains and sorrows, for these too you need in order to survive and grow. Do not always try to avoid them when they come your way, for I would not like to see you become a scared and passive bystander to this great opportunity of Life.
"I know more than anyone else how hurt you have felt in the past. You can safely let go of all of it now, bit by bit, as you feel comfortable, for I am with you. I love you fully and so very, very much, just as you are. And I shall always love you. For I am your true and inner mother. You are my inner child. Take my hand, and let us smile the smile of Helios, the sun, for you are wonderful, and the future is bright."
Life's a Gradual Uphill Dance.
Life is not a competition or a fight for the survival of the fittest. It is not a struggle, a bitch or a beach. Life is a dance.
It is like a wonderful dance school where we are constantly faced with opportunities, sometimes seen as problems or challenges, which are our ever-changing dance partners. It is these challenges with which we dance, which may involve a person, an illness or some knotty problem. And these opportunities are not always "bad", but good opportunities to unfold our talents in an area where we excel.
The music for the dance we make ourselves. It is the song that fills our heart at any one time. When that song is made with love, enthusiasm and sincerity, we learn how to move our feet in harmony with the challenge. We learn the lesson and move on to the next partner. This next challenge or step is slightly more difficult, on a higher level, and so our dance is on a gradual uphill, unto new heights of achievement and self-fulfillment.
Uphill may not seem like an inviting idea, and some might say that if we just "let go and let God," then all will be well. It's very tempting to believe this, but it all depends on what self-imposed limitations we need to overcome in order to become the wonderful spiritual being that we really are. In practice we will most likely find that at times this process needs much effort and persistence and maybe even the inner groaning of the soul in this labour of love.
If the music in our heart be not of love but of jealousy, revenge or condemnation, we keep struggling with that challenge, pushing or pulling, stepping on each others toes until we learn harmony. This often requires sacrifice of our stubborn ambitions or addictions. Less obvious addictions like criticism (of ourselves or others), pride or resentment are far worse than the obvious ones like smoking. You may try to avoid the challenge by changing jobs or friends, but that same dance partner (challenge) will stay in front of you regardless, until you change your attitude and thus your song and your step.
Overcoming habits like condemnation of ourselves and others needs a healthy sense of self-worth, knowing who and what we and others really are. (More on this, go to the Spiritual Balance page.) When we do, we'll have more self-confidence and humility for the next time when someone puts us down or does something selfish or unkind to us. Instead of reacting with an angry forward step into our partner, we'll make a compassionate side-step (or quick-step) to help them express what it is that's really burdening them. We'll often find that we are not their real problem. They may be frustrated from fighting instead of dancing with their own challenge, and we just happen to be the target of their expressed frustration at this time.
There is also the possibility that their frustration is due to our own error or step out of sync with the music. Then we must learn the humility to self-adjust and improve our dance, without condemning ourselves or feeling guilty. We all make mistakes and step on our partner's toes at times.
Dancing does not mean that we always side-step issues. If it's appropriate for us to take a firm stand and be assertive, then we take the necessary forward step. But we pause before we change direction, to keep in step with the music (and to remain at peace and centred in our heart). We can then have compassion for the person involved by using tact and not being aggressive by standing on their toe. And thus we advance up the gradual hill, waltzing into the sunset of our dance school as students worthy of graduating in this life.
The balance between expressing our feelings and not condemning people.
When we feel unhappy or upset with someone, we often feel reluctant to express our feelings to them for various reasons, even though we would feel better if we did. Maybe we don’t want conflict or to hurt their feelings. Or they might have the power to retaliate and make it work to our detriment. It always seems like a win/lose dynamic. That’s because we tend to express our feelings in a condemnatory way, telling them what they have done wrong. However, we do not always know for sure all the details on both sides. So it usually works better not to make any judgements until we have more information. This is done by solely expressing how you feel without assigning blame. The intent should be to open up conversation and learn more information from their side of the story. So instead of saying things like “You hurt my feelings!” or “You insulted me!”, we can say “When you did (such-and-such), I felt hurt.” or "When you said (such-and-such), I felt insulted. But that's just me. I would like to hear your side of this."
In fact, it’s impossible for anyone to make you feel hurt or insulted. If the exact same thing was done to Jesus or Buddha or Mother Teresa, their response would be totally different, maybe in the following manner: They might first think: "Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Then they would probably ask the person to elaborate on what they were feeling, to get more to the root of their dis-ease. It would probably be because that person feels threatened, insecure or jealous. These self-defeating feelings are not part of their Real Self, and is an indication of unresolved psychological issues like the outer consciousness cutting off communication with, and the feelings of, their soul or inner child. This process of asking them for more information is called active listening. A good book on the subject is called P.E.T.: Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon (David McKay, N.Y., 1970 and 2000)
Now let’s say that it is us and not Jesus experiencing someone's condemnation. It would then be possible that we did something wrong or unkind to initiate the condemnation. If so, and we are aware of it, then it is a test of humility to admit it. But that does not mean that we are obligated to tolerate someone else’s verbal abuse if that is what their condemnation was. But let’s say their condemnation is unjustified. We can use active listening to help the situation. For example: "John, that (behaviour) is not like you. What's up?"; In that way we are not condemning them, and we are also not suppressing our feelings or avoiding conflict. Men are usually more likely to suppress their feelings. Suppressing negative ones (dis-ease) eventually cycles down to manifest in physical disease. (See Balancing Your 4 "Bodies" page for more on this.) Suppressing positive emotions just deprives all those involved of a much richer and more rewarding life, and the health benefits that accompany joy and humour.
Some of the suggestions on this page are easier said than done, and usually require some personal psychology work. For more on this, see the References at the bottom of this page.
The balance between being assertive and staying harmonious.
There's a general and erroneous myth that to maintain into peace and harmony, you cannot challenge error and "make waves". This is only true if you are maintaining harmony by suppressing "in-harmonies" like frustration or condemnation. (In that case, as soon as you open your mouth, those feelings often become "unsuppressed".) On the other hand, if you have a healthy sense of self-worth, courage and humility, you can speak up with compassion for the other person, knowing that you are giving them the opportunity to come up higher, providing they are at fault. There is often fault on both sides and things are not always as they seem. So our first intent should be to learn more before we make a judgement, and assume people are innocent until proven guilty. This is best done by expressing our concern and stating that it might be us who is mistaken. This is where humility comes in, but this method can work wonders.
For instance, if we believe we have been treated unfairly at work, we can say to the person who made the decision: "I thought I was next in line for getting tickets to see Down and Out in Beverly Hills, but I see that John has received some first, which does not appear fair to me. But it is not like you to be unfair, so I must be missing something." This way we have not insulted a possibly innocent person, and their response will definitely help us understand the situation better. Because the other person was not accused by us, they will less likely be on the defensive, and it will be easier for them to take corrective action if it is needed.
References for emotional work and personal psychology:
Sacred Psychology of Love and Emotions: Transforming Anger, Fear and Pain:
Creating Heart-Centeredness in a Turbulent World.
many great books, including: From Conflict to Caring, Do I Have to Give Up Me
to Be Loved by You?
by Hanstke, Grey and Grey.
Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow by Judith Viorst.
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