Marty • • 4 min read
Focus on the ‘Negative’: Exploring Emotions as a Spiritual Experience
This is not your usual self-improvement article.
going to tell you to focus only on the positive.
going to tell you to find the silver lining in everything.
going to tell you that life is suffering, and that must be accepted.
Get ready for something different.
Over the last 6 months I’ve met several teachers who have shared methods for exploring negative emotions rather than shunning them. These techniques allow you to find the root cause of emotions so you won’t have to try to ‘focus on the positive’ next time around.
Are you willing to dig deep and face your biggest fears? If so, read on!
Before you can really dig deep, it’s really important to understand that YOU are responsible for all of YOUR emotions. No one else. You may have heard this explained before as, “you only get upset at other people for things you see in yourself”, though sometimes it’s hard to see the correlation.
Your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you. You’re not upset because SHE doesn’t want to be with YOU anymore. You’re upset because YOU feel like YOU’re not “good enough”, or YOU feel like YOU don’t deserve to be loved.
As you keep observing the emotions, you’ll notice this is true in every situation. If someone would come up to Kobe Bryant and say “You’re a horrible basketball player”, Kobe wouldn’t even be fazed, cause he knows he’s a 5 time NBA Champion and he has more rings than Shaq.
When you take responsibility for your emotions, you take power over your emotions away from everything and everyone else. Now that you have that power, you can begin your transformation.
Why do we feel emotional pain?
We already know that pain happens when we resist change, or expect an outcome and get something different and become triggered to feel a negative emotion. But what exactly causes us to be triggered? What is it that feels like it’s under attack?
When you observe an emotion carefully, you’ll notice there is a deeply rooted belief systems that has been challenged. In the example that I used earlier, “I’m not good enough” was the belief under attack.
I once had to let go of the belief, “Everyone should be fair”. I had done a business deal with someone, and he pocketed some of my profit and there simply was nothing I could do. I was angry and wanted to slash his tires, break his windows and beat him up, but I knew better. This was an opportunity for me to observe my belief structures and let go of that belief. Now whenever I have a project with someone, I ask about their intentions and why they want to work on a project with me. If their major reason is money, then I’m not interested.
How to find your beliefs and let them go
When you feel a negative emotion, it’s an opportunity for you to find those belief structures.
- Let the emotion be. Don’t try to suppress it or it will just surface again later. I’d even suggest feeding the emotion to make it last and allow as much of it to be released from your system as possible.
- Ask yourself: “What would I have to believe is true in order to react to this in this way?” or “What would I have to believe is true about my relationship to this “thing” that I would react to it in a negative way?”
- Sometimes there are underlying beliefs that lie under the first belief. For good measure, repeat step #2 until you’ve reached what you think is the core belief, eg. You first belief is “I’m not good enough” but there is an underlying/core belief of “I’m not attractive”.
- Ask yourself if this belief still serves you. If it does, ask yourself why you think so.. because it might be a trap!
- If it no longer serves you, let it go. Visualize the belief leaving your body and feel yourself becoming lighter.
Digging into the past
Usually at this point the work is done. However if you still feel triggered from the situation, you either haven’t dug out all of the beliefs related to this situation or you have to go back in time and find out where the belief came from:
Ask yourself when was the first time you reacted a specific way. This may seem difficult but if you trust yourself, the first scenario you’ll think of will be the right one. As kids (or later in life), we often create beliefs as barriers to protect ourselves from an even worse kind of pain.
Once when I was young, I was hurt over a situation at home and created a belief that I shouldn’t become intimate with anyone. I “installed” this belief because the pain of getting rejected was too much to endure; this caused me to subconsciously sabotage my relationships to avoid pain. I’m glad I let that one go.
Don’t Wait For A Trigger
If you want to start finding your beliefs now before you get triggered, you can use a mind map:
- Observe all your thoughts (it’s useful to observe both the positive and negative, but for this article I’ll focus on the negative).
- Place them on the map, thoughts about similar situations/issues come together
- You find the common denominators/patterns in those thoughts (The common denominator is usually directed at yourself), and that’s your beliefs.
- Find the core beliefs that sustain the “surface” beliefs and repeat the process from earlier.
2 Schools of Thought
There is one matter of this technique that I still haven’t managed to decide on. Both opinions are probably both right despite being contradictory (you know how that goes).
Some of the speakers say that you need to replace any belief that you let go of with a new belief. For example you might replace the belief “I’m unattractive” with “I’m attractive to some, and unattractive to others, and that’s ok”. The idea is that you constantly upgrade your beliefs.
However there are gurus who say that to truly “be”, it’s preferable not to “install” new beliefs. Rather, aim to let go of them all until you become simply “you”. This relates a lot to non-duality.
Which resonates with you and why?