The metaphysical community’s collective approach to emotion fascinates me. On the one hand, so much of what we do is about healing for ourselves and others. We strive to heal ourselves, facing pain and old wounds directly and holding spaces where others can make the same choice. Yet, when it comes to the emotions of our daily lives, there is almost this idea that being a good lightworker includes an absence of darker emotions. So many of us, myself included, seem to explore 101 different ways of “transcending” our more challenging emotions.

I carry a lingering uneasiness with where my emotions are concerned. Like so many, my family was ill equipped to cope with my sadness or anger. So, I grew up very much invested in disowning these disruptive feelings. I left my childhood home, found other choices, and chose again what rules and standards I would live by. But where emotions and their surrounding belief structure are concerned, discomfort lingers. I find the notion that I can ascend past my pain and anger and fear rather seductive. I spent years exploring the notion that I can choose to create my reality and choose not to spend time in anger, fear, and hurt. Instead, I would be in love. But then, from there, when the feelings of anger, fear, and hurt arose, not only did I feel the original feeling, I also felt like I was failing in my spiritual goals to walk through life in a state of pure love. It made for a double whammy.

I’ve found those patterns of mirrored back to me within the metaphysical community. We try to leverage the knowledge that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience to serve a purpose it can never serve. For example, I have heard the idea expressed by people speaking of the death of loved one that it is silly and self-indulgent to mourn because we know they aren’t truly gone forever. There is somehow an idea that our spiritual awareness should allow us to not experience the hurts of being human. I can say from personal experience that spirituality cannot effectively be used as a crowbar to ascend pain (i.e. make pain go way right this minute).

Although, I think my personal favorite irrational argument for not feeling anything but happiness is the emotional equivalent of telling children to eat their veggies because of the starving children in the world. Given how privileged so many of us are compared to people throughout the world, how dare we be unhappy- it’s self-indulgent and selfish. As though we help those less fortunate than ourselves by denying our full emotional range anymore than eating creamed spinach helps hungry children.

Nowadays, I mostly do a better job of honoring my emotions when they arise. There are times when I feel sad, angry, weary or depressed for no reason I can discern. Sometimes it reflects a personal healing process or issue and sometime I’m feeling the collective emotions of the world around me. Yet, even as I note and allow the feelings, I remain less than comfortable with them. I am aware that my emotions run in a cyclic pattern with highs and lows. As long as emotions come and go and don’t get stuck, they merely reflect the human experience rather than an indicator of something I need to fix. Even so, during this process I need to keep reminding myself that to suppress or deny these “negative” emotions is to deny a piece of myself, not to mention a misdirection of my energy. Even at my most centered, when these more challenging emotions arise, I still eagerly await the natural shift to the more comfortable feelings.

Yet, the gifts of embracing my shadow emotions, even in my slightly twitchy fashion, have been huge. Much of my negative, self-critical talk originates when I am trying not to experience what I’m feeling. In fact that process of putting myself down proved a most powerful distraction from whatever I was feeling. If nothing else, it gave me a measure of control, since while beating up on myself I understood why I was feeling bad and I had something I believed I could change about myself that would make the negative emotion go away. It took the longest time to realize that feeling unhappy didn’t mean that I’d failed in some way or that something was wrong with me. And, equally powerfully, as I allow my darker emotions, my tendency to judge others diminishes, which saves me the cycle of judging myself for judging others.

Indeed, engaging with things that stimulate our darker emotions is natural and has a valuable place in our experience. So often we deplore violent television shows and talk about movies or books with sex or violence as “guilty pleasures”. Likewise, we condemn or shame ourselves for fantasizing about those sorts of things. But these experiences stimulate excitement, anger, fear, sexuality and the like in a safe and contained way. They allow us to feel those emotions and have an experience that would not otherwise be part of our daily life. (I certainly attempt to confine my experiences of physically violent conflict to the realm of the imaginary.) Of course, we can choose not to engage with this sort of thing, but, to do so, is to deny a part of ourselves. It’s fun, it’s stimulating, and people feel very alive when engaging with something that plays on their “darker” emotions. As long as we maintain good boundaries that allow us to engage and disengage from these fantasy worlds as we need to and choose, the opportunity to spend some time visiting these realms makes for a richer life experience.

Besides, one of my core beliefs is that I choose to be here on earth at this time, with the parents and family I was born into. I believe I made this choice fully aware of the pain and fear, the loss and anger, and the general frustration I was letting myself in for when I elected to confine my spiritual being to a physical form. So, when I start running from my emotions, the joke is on me, because I have gone through all the trouble to incarnate with plans and contracts and gifts and goals, to have the principal experience that I couldn’t have in spirit…that of feeling emotion.

I believe if we spend our time incarnate trying to achieve the oneness and detached compassion of spirit, then we miss the full ride. I don’t deny the delight, joy and rejuvenation from gathering with like-minded people and working together to hold up the veil for each other. It is a joyful thing. But it is not the whole of the experience we came here to have. For, doubtless, we could have simply danced together in spirit for eons. We need not have incarnated for the experience. For, when all is said and done, it takes all the shades of emotions to truly give us the ride of our lives.

©2004, Katie Weatherup. All rights reserved.