“How can we eliminate the deepest source of all unsatisfactory experience? Only by cultivating certain qualities within our mindstream. Unless we possess high spiritual qualifications, there is no doubt that events life throws upon us will give rise to frustration, emotional turmoil, and other distorted states of consciousness. These imperfect states of mind in turn give rise to imperfect activities, and the seeds of suffering are ever planted in a steady flow. On the other hand, when the mind can dwell in wisdom that knows the ultimate mode of being, one is able to destroy the deepest root of distortion, negative karma, and sorrow.” – From The Path To Enlightenment by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
What are these spiritual qualifications that His Holiness the Dalai Lama refers to? This article will focus on emotional healing as this is the starting point for revealing these spiritual qualifications. So let’s take a close look at what it means to heal emotionally.
What is emotional healing? It is a painful process that leads to peace, happiness and self-knowledge. Self-knowledge leads to liberation. It is painful, because only painful emotions need to be healed. True happiness does not need releasing! But true happiness remains un-experienced as long as there is an escape from pain. It is the healing of buried pain that allows happiness and joy to start to make a true entrance into our lives. This is because only through self-acceptance can we really move forward in our lives schlüssel klemmt.
The word pain is used here to cover the whole gamut of emotions, negative thinking and blockages, including sadness, grief, loneliness, hurt, fear, anger, guilt, judgment, betrayal, hatred, jealousy, envy and so on.
Emotional pain can be described as frozen feelings, stored in our body and memory, that lead to suffering. The suffering we experience may or may not be openly acknowledged to ourselves or not. When we suffer due to some negative emotion, if this is not acknowledged, the emotion gets lodged in us and remains there and thus the ‘see3ds of suffering’ are planted. Suffering is self-generated. No pain can be given to us from the outside. It is not the event but the thoughts we project onto ourselves and others about the event that create suffering.
At some level we obviously enjoy our suffering. It’s obvious because otherwise we wouldn’t be this way. After all, don’t most of us consider ourselves to be knowledgeable, clever, in control and aware? But despite all these attributes people constantly find themselves facing the same patterns, the same scenarios and the same problems time and time again. It’s like we lock ourselves into the prison of our own suffering, throw away the key and then complain when we ‘can’t’ open the door; yet the key is in our own pocket all along. You might say that this is a rather harsh view, and it perhaps seems so on the surface. The point is that it’s not about eradicating suffering, for this is part of life, but of acknowledging it for what it is. Calling a spade a spade. And not lawnmower.
In order to understand why individuals are responsible for their own suffering let’s enquire more deeply into the subject.
The majority of us have emotions stemming from our past, mostly with their origins in childhood. Given the society we live in, these emotions are difficult for us to express. We learn from a young age to keep them hidden inside us, since everyone else is doing the same. We watch others: our parents, siblings, other family members, friends as well as people in general. We notice that they suppress their emotions and try to always appear in control. Seeing our closest loved ones withholding their emotions from us – as well as thereby withholding their expressions of love – may even lead to deep issues of co-dependency. These patterns do not shift easily as one get older, rather become more and more entrenched. Wisdom is not an automatic given of ageing! Or maybe as a child we did show our emotions but got hurt in the process, so we decided at a subconscious level to hide our feelings, for fear of being hurt again. This is all very understandable and an aspect of the human condition as it is at present. But this is not the road to joy and peace. For pain can’t be eradicated by the suppression of it. And happiness can’t be attained through pretense (the mind projecting a self-image of ‘I am happy.’)
John Pierrakos, MD, one of the first psychiatrists to bridge medicine with spirituality, said, “Negative emotion will emerge in devious ways when it is denied recognition.” Thus, if we wish to live a true, fulfilled life, suppression is not an option. Moreover, John Pierrakos also said, “If we close off negative feelings, we stop our creative process.” Thus the suppression of emotions leads to dull lives, lacking in vitality and free expression; and moreover, keeps us starved of real love, given and received.
Over time, we come to believe our cover-ups and to buy into our own story of self-control believing we’re ‘fine’. Our emotional life becomes more and more hidden. Sometimes, when we do feel real feeling – maybe when we watch a film that moves us, or feel touched by someone’s act of kindness or due to a painful experience in our lives – we may allow real emotion to surface for a short while, but we are mostly still unable to fully express it. The foot is quickly back on the break pedal. Our habitual suppression kicks in automatically. We have trained ourselves well! And thus, as we go through life, with all the stresses and demands upon us, we may sometimes feel anguished and confused, but we are inept at expressing what really lies within us. As we lose connection with our own feeling center, we may even be unaware of what our true feelings are, since denial becomes the new reality during this suppression process. But denial is a painful game we play with ourselves, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can sense this dichotomy in us, a fragmentation, an inner conflict. We may have a niggling sense that we haven’t turned out to be the quite the person we thought we would be, or that life has somehow been harder than expected or that the quality of happiness we hoped for ourselves hasn’t manifested.
Eckhart Tolle, in the Power of Now, says: “The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come. Through those challenges, an already unconscious person tends to become more deeply unconscious. You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep. The dream of ordinary unconsciousness then turns into a nightmare.”
This nightmare is one that most of us believe to be normal life. But real life is not this. If we open our eyes we will see the vast dichotomy between the quality of our inner experience and what we think or prefer to believe is our experience. This game that we constantly play with ourselves – a game that takes a serious toll eventually – is called ego. The ego – or personality – has a lot invested in our delusional patterns and keeping us this way.