There is a way in which many spiritual traditions and practices view the big fat juicy middle of our humanity, our emotions, the psychological dimension of our being, as something to transcend, as somehow problematic.
In the buddhist tradition, for example, attraction, aversion and disinterest are called the three poisons. If we are simply blended with these, bounced around by these, then, yes, they can be a poison to our life and stand in the way of true freedom.
However, when we have a relationship with these, they carry information about our relationship with various aspects of life and about ourselves.
So, while it is true, that we are bigger or more than the emotions that we carry, that roll through us, our emotions too are imbued with the same primordial wisdom with which all life is imbued. While it is true that emotions come and go, pass away like dew on morning grass, it is also true that our emotions are carriers of a divine spark and constitute a precious dimension of our being.
When my body recoils from a taste, a smell, that is noxious, that is information. When I find myself drawn to some taste or smell, that is a different kind of information. To be ruled by these is a problem. To have a relationship with repulsion and attraction is essential.
The same is true of our reactions to people. To some people we have an automatic reaction of attraction or repulsion. To be blended with these reactive emotions, is dangerous. To develop a relationship with these is vital to finding and creating a community of friends, lovers, life dance-partners.
The same is true of our emotions. Grief, fear, anger, even terror and disgust, all carry information, are the calling cards of parts of ourselves and the world that need tending, that need to be heard.
It is vital that we develop the bandwidth to feel and, as a part of the process of feeling, grow bigger than the feeling so that we can enjoy a relationship with the part of us that carries and needs these feelings to have a place. Grow bigger may not be quite right. We already have, within us, a dimension of being, Self, in the IFS tradition, that is always already free from and free for all of life. It is the job of Self, of the mature ego, to welcome, to be present to, all of life, including VERY intense emotions. It is the job and the opportunity of Self to welcome all of life and harvest the wisdoms, the information, the energies born by the parts of ourself that carry and are capable of holding intense emotion.
We have a capacity to FEEL. We have a capacity, it is our nature to feel, to feel for and feel about life. When something or someone we love leaves, IT WILL HURT! The impulse to cry, the anger, the fear, are all a wholesome part of that event. People, things matter to us, and, when they break, fall apart, die, many feelings will arise. These feelings are, in part, a measure of the mattering of these things, these people.
Feeling all of these feelings is a part of being human. It is part of the juicy richness of this precious life. If we refuse, if we flee, bypass, suppress these feelings, then we also cut ourselves off from our capacity to experience and enjoy other feelings, feelings of joy, of unfettered and unguarded laughter and delight. The same “organs,” instruments that resonate with terror, rage, grief, are the same ones that can carry and vibrate with joy, delight, sweet pleasure. And yes, we are more than these too. We are the place, the space, where all of this happens.
Through our capacity to feel, the world enjoys a feelingful relationship with itself. It is, in part, through our emotions, that the world speaks to and through us. The trees, shedding their leaves, awakens in us a beautiful combinations of feelings. Warm appreciation and delight at the beauty of these leaves. Waves of sadness as these leaves announce the passing of another year, show us the ways of death and dying. Calls us to a calmness that the tree so beautifully embodies. Through our nervous system, the tree enjoys a self-relation. In shamanic traditions, we learn that one of the purposes of life is to live in dialogue with the spirit and mind of the natural world. This is part of our duty and it is also a blessing.
Part of the work of healing, of coming into wholeness, is the work of welcoming, making way for, and FEELING all the feelings, even the most difficult, that are part of life. The more we can practice with OUR own feelings, the greater will be our bandwidth and our capacity to resonate whole heartedly, with a soft and resonant belly, with all of life. Then can we be relaxed and open and grounded and present in the face of ALL of life, no matter how challenging. Then, will we be able to stay rooted in faithful openness to all of life. Then, as the winds of powerful emotions complete their circuit, will we feel the wide open spaciousness that allows joy and delight and laughter to bubble and bounce and shine through our whole being. Then will this place, that we somehow are, be a sacred place. As Heidegger said, we are the house of being. Let there be room in this house for all of life, let us welcome, into our home, all that seeks, calls for, a proper welcome.