On Sunday, I humiliated someone.
It was cruel, uncalled for, and left a friend who witnessed it rather shaken.
It shook me, too. I went back and apologised to the victim, but the damage was done, both to him and, it seemed, to me.
The following day I spiralled into a deep pit of dark emotion. How could cruelty come to me so easily? Was all my “niceness” nothing more than a front that required constant energy to maintain? Was a moment of weakness all in took to sink to such despicable depths?
When I say the pit was dark, I really mean it. Everything started to look meaningless. My efforts to build a business seemed pathetic, and pointless even if it did succeed. Even I seemed pathetic and pointless, as well as unlovable and unworthy.
The Guilt (feeling bad about what you did) had turned into intense Shame (feeling bad about what you are).
Logically, my reaction was over-the-top. What I did was not that evil, just extremely insensitive. Plus, it showed some strength of character and conscience to go back and publicly apologise. I’ve learned to notice when an emotional reaction is disproportionate to the “event” that seemed to cause it. It is a sign that the event was merely a trigger to release the pent-up pressure of repressed emotion.
But how do you deal with repressed emotion?
Logic doesn’t help at all. Noticing that the emotion was disproportionate did not prevent it from happening.
Imagine a bonfire that suddenly flares many meters into the sky. Clearly, someone planted a canister of flammable substance in the middle. Great. What does that knowledge do to diminish it?
Nothing, of course. You must simply let it burn.
When it comes to emotion, however, we have the option to push it back down, to close up the canister.
Usually, we must choose to let it burn. The reason we often don’t is that we are standing in full force of the flame. It’s not nice to feel an eruption of repressed Shame, Fear, or Anger that we’ve been hiding from ourselves since childhood.
However, when you choose to do so anyway, when you stand in the way and embrace the inferno, it turns out that it’s not that bad.
Most of the suffering felt from negative emotion comes from the meaning we ascribe to it, and from our resistance to it. Therefore, if you drop your resistance and embrace it, and stop ascribing meaning to it by recognising that it is just a feeling from many years ago, we find it’s completely bearable. Not nice, but it won’t destroy us.
I decided to do just that.
During a long car ride that night I allowed the emotion I was feeling to show itself on my face. I noticed what my expressions became, and found it almost interesting to see the various shades of emotion come and go.
There was sharp Guilt, and the despair of Shame, which I allowed to turn my expression into that of a child who’s been caught red-handed and had all his toys confiscated. It then morphed into Anger – intense Anger. My face contorted into a picture of fury many times over the course of the journey. I made no effort to make this happen, remember. I simply allowed my face to reflect what I was feeling, while allowing those feelings to burn, without resistance or judgement. There was Fear as well, and a sadness that brought me to blissful tears – something to which many men are cursed with a blockage.
Today, I woke up back to normal. I have picked up Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender by Dr David Hawkins once again. This was the book that first gave me the tools necessary to deal with my emotional life in this way.
I’m going to take this event as a reminder that I have fallen out of practice, that there is still so much to do in my inner life.
The promise of the book is that we can be free from negative blockages, and that once one is fully let go of, it will not return. I need this, because I have noticed a compulsion to self-sabotage that seems almost impossible to shift. Once I am free of that, there’s no knowing what I might accomplish.
The elimination of negative blocks allows vocational goals to be more easily accomplished, and self-sabotaging behavior based on guilt progressively diminishes.
– David Hawkins, Letting Go
I have found this to be true in my own experience with shallower, easier-to-get-of emotion, but not yet with the deep stuff. I have spent the past two years or so investigating as to what I have repressed. By definition, a repressed emotion is subconscious, and therefore not readily available to our conscious probing.
There are ways to identify what’s underneath, however. My facial-expression “technique” yesterday was a rare opportunity for me to find out more about what’s under the surface. Repressed emotions, normally fleeing conscious identification for fear of their own survival, were triggered and brought to the surface. By paying attention to my own facial contortions, I was able to identify what they were. Again, just knowing what they are is not even half the battle, but it is the “intel” that I might use to plan the battle.
In normal life, you can uncover some information about what you’re repressing by noticing what you’re projecting. Whatever you hate about other people is likely the same thing you’re avoiding within yourself.
I can’t speak much more to this issue yet.
It’s going to take some more work. 🙂