Emotions, Part 2

Emotions, Part 2

Opening the Heart

Emotional Tolerance Indicates Soul Age

Our relationship toward our emotions is possibly the greatest indication of where we are on our spiritual journey. Contrary to what many people believe, it is not the kinds of emotions we have that determine our emotional maturity, but rather the depth of our emotional capacity and the level of acceptance we have towards them that is the determining factor. Author and speaker Michael Singer said it this way: “That’s how you measure the evolution of the soul. It’s not by what you think, it’s not by what you do, it’s not by what you write, it’s not by how long you can meditate. It is by your ability to handle your heart.” In other words, the quality of our feelings, the amount of resistance we impose against them, and the degree of openness of our hearts, are the strongest measures of how enlightened we are.

The truth of the matter is this: we cannot control our emotions or choose which ones arise in any given moment. Certainly, changing our thoughts can impact our feelings when our thoughts are influencing our feelings, but anyone who is more or less self-aware has already noticed that no matter how hard one may try, it seems that the emotions come from a place that is beyond our grasp. Many times we don’t even understand why we feel a certain way, we just do, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

That being said, we are not entirely powerless either. We may not have a choice regarding which emotions we experience, but we definitely can choose how we relate to them. We can either close our heart and choose not to feel, or we can open our heart and choose to feel.

Of course, the heart does not function in such a binary way as it’s being described here. It’s not an open or closed either/or kind of deal, but discussing it in this way does make it easier to conceptualize. In reality, the level of openness of our hearts lies on a spectrum, and we may have more openness toward some aspects of life than we do toward others. As such, it is not an exact science. The heart, while analyzable and categorizable to some degree, is also beautifully messy and constantly changing in expression and flow in every moment.

Closing the Heart

The less evolved one is, the more one tends to shield from uncontrollable feelings by the use of psychological defense mechanisms. Many people believe that if they can push their emotions out of their consciousness, then their emotions will go away. Some even do this without realizing. They will generally use a mixture of denial, avoidance, distraction, deflection, control, suppression, or projection to get rid of an uncomfortable feeling. When these defense mechanisms (of which there are many) are habitually used, a psychic wall of resistance forms around the heart, thereby closing the heart and blocking all uncomfortable feelings from awareness. This type of defensiveness may be useful in the short-term in order to allow one to get on with their day and function properly, but it is ultimately futile because it is illusory.

For anyone who has the sense that they may be engaging in these kinds of defensive processes and/or believes they are “conquering” their emotions, it’s important to understand that this kind of behavior traps you in a self-created psychological prison, which in turn narrows your world, disconnects you from life, shrinks your capacity for happiness, makes you more emotionally sensitive, and causes you to be increasingly more susceptible to inevitable changes in your environment. Moreover, if an emotion is not acknowledged and given free passage, it will remain stuck in the body (in the subconscious mind) until a future time when it can be consciously felt and released. The more one inhibits their emotions, the more build-up of trapped energy one allows in the body and psyche. These unconscious, stuck emotions are dangerous for they inevitably lead to some combination of health issues, mental illness, violence, and suffering. This is the cost of closing the heart.

Opening the Heart

Many people believe that suppressing their emotions will lead to positive changes. This may be true depending on the situation, but it will only be beneficial in the short-run. In the long-run, the better path is to gradually train oneself to tolerate and embrace the emotional dimension of life. Rather than try to control the emotions, it is wiser to bring awareness and acceptance to them, which allows them to flow through and out of the body. The wise understand the value and richness of each emotion. They are not afraid of their feelings and they do not necessarily act on them, nor do they buy into any mental narratives that arise in tandem. They have the courage to open their hearts and keep them open permanently – which leads to clarity of mind, increased compassion and joy, benevolent action, and a sense of freedom in all that they do.

The more evolved one is, the more one realizes that the emotions just are what they are. Like how each of the seven colors of the rainbow is an essential aspect of the spectrum of color, and how each of the seven musical notes in an octave is an indispensable component of the spectrum of sound, so each of the seven basic emotions is a natural part of the spectrum of feeling. To lose access to even one color, one note, or one emotion is to be cut off from the full experience of life.

…continued in Part 3…

Hurt feelings don’t vanish on their own. They don’t heal themselves. If we don’t express our emotions, they pile up like a debt that will eventually come due.
~ Marc Brackett