Our Emotions Are Telling Us Something
Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” Matthew 7:1. Wise words, of course, but Jesus was referring to our judgment of others. However, the worst critic we have, very often, is ourselves. In this first lesson of six in the Fall Program series, Discovering Your Soul Signature, based on the book of the same title by Panache Desai, Rev. Joanne reminds us that as human beings it is normal, natural, and healthy to feel a full range of emotions, not just the so called “positive” emotions.
It is not uncommon for people to feel sadness, anger, fear, disappointment, or regret because of something that has happened in their life. The circumstances may be entirely outside their control, such as an illness or death of a loved one, or the loss of one’s job because the company they are working for was sold to another corporation, and “redundant labor expenses” were reduced. Where the inner critic may chirp inside your head unfairly is when you feel bad for feeling bad. After all, as “spiritually advanced” people, are we not supposed to be past negative emotions?
Unless we become catatonic, it is unlikely, nay impossible, to think that we will never feel negative emotions. Even the most spiritually advanced person, Jesus, displayed fear in Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me,” Matthew 26:38; irritation with his mother at the wedding at Cana, When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come,” John 2:3-4; and most famously, anger with the money changers at the Temple of Jerusalem, And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:12-13.
In Unity, we hold Jesus to be a Master Teacher and our Way Shower, the Ideal Example. Jesus never said that we should never feel fear, anger or irritation. Instead, he demonstrated that as humans we can learn to work within our human body, mind, and spirit and learn from our experiences.
Our emotions are one way that nature (some may say God) conveys information to us. For example, if we are happy, we think, “yes, more of that,” and we move toward repeating that experience. But if we are sad, we think, “nope, I do not like that one bit” and we look to avoid such things in the future. Of course, as mentioned before, the circumstances that induce our emotions are often not within our control. But what is within our control is our response to them.
In this week’s talk, Rev. Joanne discussed Being with the Uncomfortable. She explained that when we do feel emotional pain, fear, anger, etc. that by sitting with the feeling and acknowledging it, we can effectively manage our reactions so that they do not overwhelm us. What she did not say is that by doing so, that we will never feel bad again, or even that never feeling bad again should be a goal.
There is a medical condition known as congenital analgesia. This is a disorder where to varying degrees those affected are incapable of feeling physical pain. One may think that this would be fantastic. Wow, never feel pain, that’s great! It is not. In fact, this condition is very dangerous. Without the ability to feel pain, we would not know to put on a coat to stay warm, not to put our hand on the stove burner when it is lit, or if we have sliced our thumb while chopping vegetables.
One of the most common “negative” emotions we feel is fear. The story of the Israelites in the desert after being released from bondage in Egypt illustrates how fear of the unknown can sometimes make our current unhappy condition seem preferable to the possibility of something better that is not guaranteed. First, Pharaoh’s men pursued them, but God closed the Red Sea upon the soldiers. Then they had no food, but God provided food in the form of manna. Then they were thirsty, and God bade Moses bring forth water from a rock. The Israelites complained to Moses, “at least in Egypt we were safe from the elements and had enough food and water, we were better off in Egypt.” In this story, Moses represents how faith in God strengthens our ability to deal with whatever life may throw at us.
Being with the Uncomfortable is not only about negative emotions. It can also be gathering the courage to do something that we have never done before, but are apprehensive about. Taking a new job, enrolling in University, or asking someone for a date may be easier for some than for others. For those for whom it is a challenge, most are very pleased on the other side of the event. Even if they end up not liking the job, school was not the best choice for them, or the object of their affection said “no,” the experience of having taken the steps, even when not getting what they hoped for or expected, is far better than not taking action and being pained forever by “what if?”
Growing into something new and wonderful is rarely an easy or elegant process. The ugly duckling becomes a swan. The gangly teen, all elbows and knees, becomes a graceful adult. Some animals, quite literally, cannot grow unless they shed their current skin, shell or exoskeleton. During the process and immediately following, these animals are vulnerable. But for them, not doing so simply is not an option.
So for us, when we do have a choice to consider moving beyond our comfort zone, we must be aware that first, there are rarely any guarantees in life and, second, the result we get, whether expected or unexpected has something to teach us. We are often frozen into inaction by catastrophizing outcomes in our minds ahead of time. Mark Twain spoke to this very point when he said, “I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” He was making light of the fact that even a well respected, prosperous upstanding citizen still runs worst case scenarios through his mind.
So, Being with the Uncomfortable can teach us at least two things - to acknowledge our feelings and not chastise ourselves for feeling bad, and to acknowledge our apprehension, and having carefully considered our actions (we absolutely do not want to take foolish risks) to move through our fear to help foster personal growth.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though the waters roar and foam
though the mountains tremble with its tumult
You are invited to create your own spiritual practice around this week’s focus. You could set the intention to participate in reading daily in the morning, noon, and night. Whatever your intention, write it down on your intention card. Set your intention and then do the work needed to bring your intention into demonstration.
Like most people, I have felt grief, disappointment and anger. Thankfully, these feelings are not that common. However, I often fail to act in my own best interest for fear of failure, or even fear of success (but that part is another essay). So this week, my spiritual practice will be to acknowledge any fear I am feeling about taking some action I know will be good for me, and take steps to moving toward my goals. What intention will you set for yourself this week?