The Gift of Negative Emotions

by Asha Hawkesworth -

When I trained as a hospice volunteer, I was taught never to offer a grieving person a kleenex. The reason? Doing this conveys the hidden message, "Stop crying"—and grieving people need to cry in order to heal.

People don't like it when others cry or are hurt, depressed or angry. It makes us uncomfortable. We don't know what to do. The reason we don't know what to do is that we are uncomfortable expressing these emotions ourselves.

Emotions Serve a Purpose

There are many so-called negative emotions: anger, sadness, grief, disgust and rage, to name a few. They may make us uncomfortable but they do serve a purpose. And if we can't allow ourselves to feel these, then we cannot experience ANY emotion, such as joy, happiness and peace.

I know someone who is fond of saying that she lives a "calm, quiet life." She would tell you that she is never angry. Unfortunately, the truth is that she has cut off all of her emotions and her "calm, quiet life" is based on a subconscious determination to feel nothing at all. And without our emotions, we aren't living.

I do know something of this. For many years, I was also cut off from my emotions. I learned this, as we all do, from my parents. I got the message not to cry so early that I can't remember a time when I didn't feel like I wasn't supposed to cry.

Unintentionally, my parents did not respect my feelings; on the contrary, they were threatened by them. So for many years, I too, lived a "calm, quiet life" that served as the veneer over a seething sea of anger and sadness.

Where does anger and sadness come from, when it lies unexpressed for years in the core of our being? 

Why do we feel it?

In my case and probably in the case of most people, it comes into our being as children. For whatever reason, our child selves didn't get something they needed, whether it was positive attention, respect, love, or even the basics like discipline and good meals.

My inner child was hurt and grieving well into my adult life and I had no clue, even though it affected every aspect of my being and my life.

In my late twenties, when I first began to go to healers for help, they all talked about this miasma of grief in my body. This always confused me. I would think, "I don't know why. I don't feel sad." And even when the acupuncture needles or Reiki did cause the grief to rise, I would blink through the tears and wonder why I was crying. I honestly, truly did not know myself.

Fortunately, I married someone who would not let me get away with not feeling anything. Early in our relationship, she drove me nuts asking me how I felt about things, why I was upset, etc. It really made me crazy.

Slowly, I began to uncork the emotions and they came out to play. I was never taught how to recognize my own emotions, since they were not welcome in our home but I gradually learned how to tell what I was feeling. And that was a breakthrough.

Sadness, grief and anger were not the only emotions waiting on the playground. There was happiness, joy, contentment and many others. And because I could feel my other emotions, I could now feel those, too.

Benefits of Emotions

There were also other benefits, more subtle and yet more profound.

Without our emotional body, our emotional selves, we literally cannot heal and we cannot evolve spiritually. In order to progress on our own unique spiritual paths, we must be able to feel. This is at least of equal importance to any mental understanding; in fact, it may even be greater.

When we learn a new spiritual concept, we first understand it mentally. We say to ourselves, "Ah, yes, that makes sense. I see." And yet, we do not see.

Knowing something in our mental body means nothing until we understand it in our emotional body. This leads to integration of the concept into our lives and world, which then propels our spiritual growth. Intellectual understanding alone is not enough.

I used to be very much "in my head." I learned to live there and to value intellectual processes. Culturally, Americans are taught that emotional processes are unvaluable and lead to irrational or even hysterical thinking.

Women in particular are discouraged from expressing emotional intelligence in the workplace. Given where I was, I would not have been able to understand the concept of emotional understanding because I had never experienced it.

The question might be, then, if we do not even know that we need this, how can we possibly achieve it?

The answer lies with God. 

The Universe conspires continually to help us return to God and emotional understanding plays an important role. Naturally, the Universe is going to help us reach that goal by giving us thoughts, ideas, friends or a book falling off the shelf.

For myself, spiritual growth was very important to me and I wouldn't let it go. I kept pursuing it and I did understand intellectually that I needed healing, even if I didn't know how I needed healing. But that's all right.

I encountered all of the people and things that I needed to help me get here. And I still am! I have no doubt that I've only just begun to mine the wealth that lies in emotional understanding. And, bonus for me, I've never been happier in my life.

The key was to be willing to experience my "negative" emotions. 

By doing so, I was able to release them. Of course, I still get sad sometimes. Life happens! But at least I know it and can feel it and I don't end up carting it around, stuffed in my body for thirty-something years.

"Negative" emotions, like "positive" ones, really are a gift. 

Embrace them. They are part of you.

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