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Consciousness

What Does It Even Mean To “Be The Best Version Of Yourself?”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The self-help space often markets the term 'living the best version of yourself.' But what does this even mean? What are we truly seeking?

  • Reflect On:

    Humanity is in a deep exploration to find higher states of consciousness and live our authentic self. Finding and expressing your authentic self can be practiced by exploring the questions and reflections laid out in the article.

Walking down the self-help aisle of any bookstore may yield you a plethora of book titles and subtitles referencing ‘becoming the best of version yourself.’ You might pick up a book, turn it over to read the back cover and find a series of recommendations from prominent authors stating ‘this book will bring you to a whole new level’ or ‘this book truly unlocks your hidden riches.’ Excited, you might open to the table of contents, hoping to find some early insight or tips on what you can try right away:

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“Today’s challenge,” “Who are you?,” “Learning to love yourself,” “Being the best you.” These may be the first few chapter titles you come across, but you may be left with the question, that may not even be answered in the book, “What does it mean to be the best version of yourself?’

A question that many are trying to answer.

I will start by saying marketing a book can be a difficult task. I have been working towards publishing my first book and every publisher I talk to wants to know that title and subheadline right away so they know how easy it will be to sell your book. The insurgence of self-help books has been huge over the last few years. Thousands of inspired and well-meaning authors have felt the urge to write a book, and so they do.

But from my experience, many are repeating what has been learned in one book or another, or seem to be coming from a place of learning, but not quite mastery. Something that shouldn’t stop someone from writing a book, but more so reveals that the advice we’re getting in these books can often be incomplete, inexperienced or based on egoic ideas of the subjects being discussed. This isn’t to say any of this work is bad or anything, just that there is much more to the picture.

Are We Running In Circles?

I have been working on myself for 12 years and have been through many different phases. In no way would I call myself a leading expert in self-help or anything, but I’m consistently let down by the state of consciousness within many of these books. I feel it keeps people running in circles, chasing one thing or the next or it has people feeling like they need to act a certain way in order to appear a certain way. Are we really getting to the core of what we are seeking?

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I’ve been writing a book for quite some time and note that there are many important nuances that are learned and expressed with much internal observation and practice. Yet it seems today we want quick fixes and instant healings in order to move past what we feel. Yet I feel in many cases, through the popular work being spread around, we are only temporarily band-aiding the inner aspects of ourselves that are crying to come out and be released.

It’s in the marketing and in the lack of experience that I feel the term ‘live the best version of yourself’ truly comes from. It has an allure that somehow you will find the best aspect of you and live it always. It suggests, vaguely, that perhaps this will unlock your wildest dreams or make you be the best at something. The fact that it leaves room for interpretation is great for marketing, but does it push us towards a goal that is actually contrary to what most of us who end up buying these books are truly seeking?

Are we running in circles? Photo by: Pedro Alamo Orellana

Scratching ‘The Best Version’ Idea

First off, I strongly feel we need to let go of the whole idea of ‘being the best version of ourselves.’ I feel we’ve played with polarity long enough and are ready for some deeper truths.

What I’m going to share is what I’ve gathered from my own life’s experience. I have been exploring myself, my consciousness and reflecting on how I BE in this world for many years. I have done this with the help of a mentor and many hours of personal reflection. Instead of moving from book to book, I was fortunate to start my journey by simply spending a lot of time with myself, exploring meditation and developing a strong connection to my inner knowing, yet remaining open to asking for help when needed. I’ve remembered that there is no ‘best version of yourself.’ There’s simply you.

You can be a funny word in itself. Is it ‘you’ the mind? Is ‘you’ the soul? Is ‘you’ the higher self? Is ‘you’ the ego? Is ‘you’ your personality? Who are you?!

This is an important place to begin because it changes so much of how we seek to live the best version of ourselves, or as I like to call it ‘our authentic self.‘ Like I said above, scratching the idea of ‘best version of yourself’ is a great place to stop playing within polarity and ideas, and instead recognize knowing and neutrality. Higher consciousness, what many of us are seeking whether we are consciously aware of it or not, plays in a realm of neutrality, where we recognize experiences are what they are, we can learn from them as they take place, and where we don’t seek to see everything as right or wrong, worst or best.

To Be Fair

The actual definition many of these books are portraying for ‘the best version of self’ can be different, and some can actually be quite authentic. However, I still find there is much room to consider re-thinking the subject, or rather, begin feeling about it.

To me, the self-help space could really be summed up as humanity seeking ways beyond our self-imposed limitations, belief systems, and suffering, ultimately seeking to live our true authentic selves. We are, in some ways, a society that does not seek deep truths but instead moves from platitude to platitude as we search for deeper understanding. Like my mentor taught me, taking the road straight to the core is a lot easier and less painful than spending years jumping from trend to trend or belief system to belief system. While my journey has had phases, the core understanding and methods for how I move past pain and challenges has never changed – I go to the core, no band-aids needed.

What does it look like to live your authentic self? It means being aware of how we often operate from our minds, ego’s, belief systems, societally programmed beliefs, patterns etc. and instead begin living from a deeper knowing within ourselves. Something that touches how we truly FEEL about decisions, situations, and experiences in our lives. Not what we think we should do to impress someone, uphold a certain stature or because that’s the ‘smart’ thing to do, but because we truly connect with and feel it.

An example of this is choosing to walk away from a relationship we are not happy in even if it means the other person will have to grow past the initial pain they will feel when the relationship ends. Not only will it be growth for you within yourself, but the other person will also find themselves through the process as well so long as they choose to do the work.

Another example might be learning to move past the complaining we often do about a particular job, to move onto a job or experience we’ve always wanted to do. First off, we may not always be doing ‘the most ideal job’ but it doesn’t mean we can’t find peace and be our authentic self within that job. While there, communicate with others based on your TRUE authenticity, make decisions and deal with challenges in the workplace based on that authenticity. Your actions and ways of being in these situations can bring higher consciousness to the workplace in a deep way. We don’t always have to ‘serve’ by doing work in the ‘consciousness’ space, we can serve anywhere, at any time.

Further to the example above, perhaps we have always wanted to leave our current job, are ready to but are fearful of taking the leap because of what others might think or that we might not make enough money in another position. Living authentically might look like taking that leap past the stories and fears that are holding us back from doing what we know inside is what we want to do. In this case, we’re not judging our current job, hate it or hate the people there, we are simply at peace but fearful of the unknown. A great time to further explore and express our authentic self.

Exploring Your Authentic Self

The examples above give an idea of how we can look at our current lives and see where we are or aren’t living authentically to how we feel inside. Be careful to observe belief systems on this. Sometimes we may still think it’s our authentic self to do something based on a prior belief system we have because we did not connect deeply enough with what we know inside. Sometimes it may take time for us to see this, that’s OK, we are always seeing what we need to in each moment that is exactly what we need for us to keep evolving. The trick is; are we paying close enough attention to move through the signs and knowing that comes from within? Or are we caught up in the mental chatter and daily distraction of everyday life? This is why meditation is key.

Aside from that, you can explore your authentic self, and whether or not you’re living from it, simply by asking yourself reflective questions when you are unsure. Am I truly making a decision based on what I feel? Or am I making a decision based on what I’m defending, trying to protect, or think I’m supposed to do?

Your authentic self is expressed in exploring higher levels of consciousness.

These deep inner knowings may not come overnight. It’s a muscle, a practice, and a feeling that takes time to develop. You notice when you are living your authentic self that your life feels different, you are calmer and more in tune with yourself, others and the planet. This muscle takes time to build, and letting go of the old ways of being, states of consciousness and belief systems can take time. Just keep noticing, keep reflecting and keep exploring. There is no wrong in this, it is simply an exploration.

The Takeaway

An individual living their authentic self pushes theirself into higher states of consciousness. This makes an incredibly powerful impact on those around us and in our everyday lives. Beyond this, it also makes an incredibly profound impact on the collective consciousness. This is how we go from creating change within ourselves to creating change within our world.

The path to the changes we are all looking for is practicing living our true authentic self.

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Consciousness

Are You A Spiritual Narcissist?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Is this happening to many in spiritual trends?

  • Reflect On:

    There is authentic being, and then there is self-absorption which pretending to be authenticity, are we aware of the difference?

We humans often have a hard time finding middle ground. We may be drowning in lack of self-worth one moment, and trampling over other’s with our own self indulgence the next as we struggle to find balance. Narcissism is not simply about enjoying selfies in our social media-saturated world, it goes deeper than that.

It appears as liberation but is a trap that can ruin relationships, increase personal suffering, and keep a person from their true spiritual aspirations. Not surprisingly, increased mindfulness and compassion for this tricky human quirk is the best way to heal it.

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us, and it becomes increasingly dangerous when we confuse it with spirituality. In many ways it is easy to see that all of humanity is dealing with a certain degree of self-absorption while we desecrate forests and oceans, causing plants and animals to go extinct on our material quests. In his famous book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chogyam Trungpa gave a good foundation for westerners to navigate the pitfalls of our materialistic abundance.

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The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us

We do not have to be ashamed of what we are. As sentient beings we have wonderful backgrounds. These backgrounds may not be particularly enlightened or peaceful or intelligent. Nevertheless, we have soil good enough to cultivate; we can plant anything in it. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us, differentiating the two is important. Sadly, we have spiritual philosophies and religions that have been constructed to feed the ego, inflate self-righteousness, and create division while giving justification for all manner of activities including killing, exploitation, and oppression. Ethical conduct, regardless of spirituality, requires honoring the other and the self as one with each deserving to be respected, heard, and seen with compassion.

No matter what the practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its own survival and gain. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

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There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us

Finding the Antidote to Self-absorption

Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Ego is an important aspect of our selves, it is part of self-preservation but when it becomes out of balance it actually has the ability to destroy us and harm relationships.

Many spiritual practices seek to increase our ability to witness and bring mindful awareness to ego drives which allow us to master, instead of being enslaved by our ego. When ego gets too big it can be hard to swallow, yet spiritual liberation invites us to expand our sense of self beyond the ego, beyond time and space.

The goal is to find a balance between the inner experience and the outer reality. How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac and hurting personal relationships? Meanwhile, self-loathing, and low self-esteem are also manifestations of ego out of balance. Selflessness can often be quite selfish, over-engagement can be as problematic as disengagement socially. Luckily we are here to find this balance through living fully, from making mistakes, and evolving our sense of self-awareness. Healthy self-awareness is the only antidote to self-absorption.

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How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac?

The Story of Narcissus and Echo

One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo, an Oread (mountain nymph) saw him, fell deeply in love, and followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?”. Echo repeated “Who’s there?”. She eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learned of this story and decided to punish Narcissus. She lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection. He didn’t realize it was only an image and fell in love with it. He eventually recognized that his love could not be reciprocated and committed suicide. -Wikipedia

Since intention is subjective, a person is often understood within their community by their actions or image. This becomes extra tricky in our age of social media and the materialism that has found it’s way into yoga, meditation, and spirituality. It is possible to put on a good act, to fool those around us and ourselves (temporarily).

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Narcissus mesmerized by his own reflection

We can have the latest yoga clothes, read the right books and hang out with all the “cool” people, but if our actions are not grounded in a deeper spiritual practice, basic consideration for others, and respect, it is still hollow. A common analogy is the guy who everyone likes but then goes home kicks his dog, or is rude and unaccountable to his wife.

Deep spirituality makes us more sensitive to the feeling of others, encouraging an open stance of courage where we can drop our protective shields and accept the vulnerability to be seen as we are. Narcissistic sensitivity, however, is focused solely on the subtle nuances one’s own internality, and resists looking at hard, uncomfortable truths that may upset the self image. One who is narcissistically sensitive is easily offended by the “coarseness” of others, seeks to make his environment change to align with the contours of his needs, and gets angry or offended when this does not happen. -The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality, Huffington Post

How to Identify Narcissistic Behavior

The ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it. It is not your job to diagnose others or tell them they are narcissistic if they are not interested in hearing it or healing it. However, if you draw appropriate boundaries for them you will protect yourself and encourage them to become more mindful. This is a loving and compassionate way to handle narcissism.

Alt text hereThe ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it

It is always healthy to make boundaries and speak your truth in a loving and compassionate way. Whether the narcissist hears it or not is out of your control. Common responses from narcissists will include belittling your feelings, a hollow apology without effort to modify behavior, or ignoring you altogether. Basically, they will use any excuse they can in order to not look at it, or to make the situation your fault. This is your cue to make appropriate boundaries for yourself.

Within yourself be open and receptive when others tell you that you have been inconsiderate of them. Accepting constructive feedback from loved ones is a great way to keep a balance between internal needs and external relationships. This is also how we grow as individuals.

Common traits of narcissism courtesy of BPD Central.

  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Alt text hereLearning to stop keeping all the love for ourselves

Evolving Unhealthy Patterns

Hopefully, this will help you navigate tough interpersonal relationships and also better yourself. It is a beautiful thing that psychology is allowing us to have terms to identify and evolve unhealthy patterns emotionally. As we learn to live in community, we learn many aspects of love. This is how we help ourselves and those around us grow!

I’m republishing,  for the CE audience, this piece I wrote for Uplift Connect.

We Need Your Support...

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

SUPPORT CE HERE!

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Consciousness

The Secret To Feeling Loved In a Relationship – It Might Surprise You

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The secret to feeling loved is to explore what is blocking the love you already hold within yourself. It's about getting to your authentic self and recognizing it. No one can fulfill any of us, we must find it within.

  • Reflect On:

    How often do you feel your authentic self? How often do you connect with the love and peace within yourself? What are the main things you say or do to yourself that is blocking you from seeing you are love?

Everyone wants to feel loved don’t they? The feeling of having someone else sustain you and your feelings because they love you, tell you all the time and show it to you in every way imaginable? Well here’s the secret to live that fantasy life: Love Yourself!

Or better yet, work to see the love that you truly are. When you connect with the love within you, you won’t need any of the above as you realize you are already whole. Instead, the above will just show up naturally as part of a relationship and will be a joy to play with.

That’s right, feeling loved is not about what others can provide you, that’s only temporary feelings that will always need reassurance. It’s about what you are able to realize about yourself. We can always jump from person to person who gives us attention, makes us feel special and loved all the time, but this isn’t sustainable. If we always look outside of ourselves to have something fulfilled then we will always be searching.

It’s Within!

The truth is, like most things in life that we strive for, the answers are usually within. If we take a look at the reason we look for love in the first place we begin to notice things within ourselves that tell us we are not already love or loved. We might think we are not good enough, not attractive enough, don’t have a big enough sense of adventure or aren’t funny enough. It doesn’t matter what story we make up about ourselves, it’s these stories that make us look outside of ourselves for love.

Think of it this way. Imagine there is a box and it represents you. At the bottom of that box is an infinite amount of love. Now take a whole bunch of dirty clothes that you don’t want or need anymore and put it in that box under the assumption that these clothes represent you and you need to hold on to them. Think for a moment about what that looks like and how it feels.

Now realize something. Beneath all of the old, dirty and smelly clothes that you don’t need anymore and that you think represents you, there is love. So how do you get to it? You remove all of that which is hiding or covering up the love. The stories of things you believe represent you or are you but are not because you are, at the core, love.

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The Ego’s Idea of Love

“But in the movies it’s never like this! What about the fairy tales?” Who defines what love should look like between two people? How many times have you heard a mother say “I worry because I love.” Worrying means you love someone? Interesting definitions we have don’t we? The truth is we have through our own minds, ego’s and through external influences, created an idea of what is, what it looks like and how things should be in a loving relationship. But the reality is, most of this is all to appease the mind and ego and is rarely sustainable.

True love is felt within both people, as complete and whole people on their own. They come together and share lives, experiences, periods of time together and exchange that feeling of love with one another. It doesn’t matter whether someone is constantly doing something to show you or making sacrifices all the time, love IS. It’s unconditional and by this definition it means without condition. We don’t need A + B to = love. It’s simple love = love.

Does this mean we can’t do nice things for others and exchange cute experiences with those we care for because suddenly this is showing our love in the wrong way? Absolutely not. It means now when you do these things they are simply out of the inspiration to do it and it isn’t going to fulfill lack that both people in the relationship are experiencing.

How Do We Love Ourselves?

There are many ways to learn to love your authentic self, but mainly it comes back to the box analogy I used earlier. The more we can observe the reasons we put ourselves down, think negatively about ourselves or think there is something not loveable about ourselves, the more we can see what is blocking or stopping us from loving our true authentic self.

Write it down if you have to. Take the time to sit quietly on your own and think of the reasons why you don’t love yourself, feel self conscious or think something isn’t perfect about you.

After you write down what you think these things are. Write down how you think each one got there. Did you see it in a movie? Learn it from friends or family? Does society look at things this way?

After you have gone through each one, go back and choose to first accept that you once thought of yourself that way. It’s okay, at some point we have all been through these things and it’s often a normal part of personal development.

Now realize how there is no real truth to the things you have mentioned about yourself as they are just perceptions created based on some false idea of who you think you are and what those things mean in terms of love. The more you realize that you are not your appearance, career, hobbies and so forth, the more you begin to not rely on those things to love yourself.

Try looking at yourself in the mirror, look in your eyes and tell yourself you love yourself multiple times. See how this makes you feel. Is it easy? Awkward? Uncomfortable? Ask yourself why and reflect again on the answers that come up. The trick is the more you become aware of why you think these things about yourself, the more you realize they are stories and you begin to disempower them. From here it just takes continuing to disempower them as they creep back up as when you give them no truth and power, they dissipate because they are not true to begin with. They are just thought forms and ideas.

We Need Your Support...

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

SUPPORT CE HERE!

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Consciousness

Dark Jewels: Mining The Gifts Of 8 Difficult Emotions

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Our difficult emotions are not just unpleasant experiences. They have hidden gifts, including the capacity to transform our lives into more joy and wholeness. They impart wisdom and compassion we can't find living on, or fearfully clinging to, the su

  • Reflect On:

    Which emotions do you have trouble feeling or accepting in yourself and others? These might be the frontiers you need to embrace and enter to more fully embody your life.

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

—Pema Chodron

Unless we look into and skillfully navigate our dark sides, we can’t become our fullest selves. Consequently, we can’t truly love ourselves and the world as much as we are capable. Following Pema Chodron’s reasoning: if we cannot bear our own pain, how can we bear the pain of others? If we are afraid of our own suffering, how can we genuinely stand with another in theirs and thereby be the friend possible?

Below I list eight natural, universal emotions that at first blush we might feel like avoiding. This list is a kind of treasure hunt, revealing what we get to discover when we welcome and allow these at first uncomfortable feelings to be, and eventually change us from our depths on up through our heart and mind. For this growth to happen, we first have to be honest with ourselves—to be aware of what we are feeling and able to name it. Then we can embrace the feelings and go from there.

Notice how each “negative” emotion mentioned below informs us of our care. To welcome and work with our shadow emotions enables us to care more. Caring also requires sensitivity. So, if we have a sensitive heart, we will likely feel all these difficult emotions in good measure. And, when we learn how to intimately, courageously and patiently dance with them, they give us more heart and more inner power. Each emotion is therefore a portal to fulfill our capacity for greater love—love for ourselves, for those we love, and the Earth itself.

Difficult Emotion #1: Guilt

Guilt is usually a signal that we have acted, or might act, inappropriately. Guilt brings us back to our values, morality, and care for one another. Guilt shows us where we have acted poorly and can do better. Guilt keeps us accountable to one another. Guilt (that we have done wrong) need not become shame (that we are wrong or bad). We can harvest the lesson in our guilt (oftentimes along with our remorse), make amends, and forgive ourselves. For example, if I feel guilty that I wasn’t fully honest with you and this cost you, I might make an amend and confess my shortcoming.

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Sitting with guilt allows the sting of wrongdoing to impress a lesson upon us, or to change our hearts for the long term. Guilt need not be self-hatred, self-condemnation, or endless regret. It can be a mature reckoning and opportunity for more integrity. Note, guilt can also be a symptom of depression and OCD, in which case it’s best to notice it and not ruminate on it or try to mine it for wisdom.

Difficult Emotion #2: Anger or Rage

Almost every instance of anger arises because something we treasure has been threatened or taken away. It shows us what we care about and how we feel violated. Anger is the smoke alerting us to the fire of where we have been hurt. Anger shows us where our boundaries are, and welcoming the energy of anger helps us set boundaries. Anger protects what we love and shows us how much we care and value what is rightfully ours, or what is another’s. In the face of abuse, for example, anger or even rage, is an appropriate response. It protects our vulnerability.

Sitting with anger, without acting it out violently (unless appropriate in the moment to set a strong boundary) empowers our functional ego, or sense of self. It’s good, however, to make sure we get the facts straight before we let our anger take over, so we are not acting out on false assumption. With all this said, I find anger one of the less remunerative emotions to perpetuate. I try to get the lesson, hear the message from anger, then try to skillfully express, discharge, or let it go (not suppress or perpetuate it in thought and heart) as soon as possible. In excess, anger ages, wears us down, and burns bridges of support. At the same time, not embracing and discharging anger in healthy ways can sabotage and age us even more quickly.

Difficult Emotion #3: Fear

There is helpful and unhelpful fear. Helpful fear shows us our limits and where our limits for self-protection are, and therefore, what we care about. Fear of heights, or walking at the edge of a cliff, help us be careful so we don’t hurt ourselves. This is helpful fear. We all have limits, and healthy fear tells us when to stop and what to avoid, or to be careful in proceeding. Sitting with helpful fear shows us how to take care of ourselves and others, how to avoid harm. Unhelpful fear should be confronted, skillfully, and in good timing, so it doesn’t prevent us from achieving our goals. Asking that someone special out on a date or taking the steps to follow through on a dream, despite the fear, is confronting unhelpful fear and not letting it hold us back. We can’t help feeling unhelpful fear, and sometimes rather than try not to feel fear, the way to conquer it is simply to “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Difficult Emotion #4: Remorse

Remorse is related to guilt. It signals us that we have made a mistake, caused harm, or could have done better. Remorse arises because we care; otherwise we wouldn’t care how our actions affect others. Sitting with remorse allows it to teach us a heartfelt lesson. The remorse we feel because we didn’t take the time to review the pesticide-impact report accurately, or because we didn’t make the call that would have prevented a disaster, can all be good medicine. It’s important to allow remorse and not excessively beat ourselves up about it, which also gives us the opportunity to practice forgiveness. Remorse is tinged with sadness, which arises from caring, which is why it’s a good sign to feel remorse; it means we have a heart, care about life, and have a moral compass.

Difficult Emotion #5: Despair

Despair is tough and humbling. Sometimes we can’t help but despair. Despair has an element of giving up, and this total or partial surrender can bolster our capacity for letting go of unnecessary control. When we do, we can find inner strength we didn’t know we had, as well as outside support in those who come to our aid. Inside despair is the kernel of faith. Despair can be a path to what we might call God or Spirit, which is often our own resiliency and trust that things will somehow work out when we have given up, or feel like we have nothing left.

It’s important to have support and to self-motivate when appropriate so that despair does not unnecessarily turn to depression and self-harm. Falling apart in the arms of despair can be a powerful way to contact our depths and find that invisible inner fortitude. This is best done with people who can stand by us, hold us, and keep our heads above water, if indeed we are afraid of figuratively drowning. When we have support and can weather its storm, despair also reveals what we care about and who unconditionally cares for us.

Difficult Emotion #6: Worry or Anxiety

Worry can be unrealistic or realistic, and shades of both, just like fear. Noticing what we worry about can show us what we care about; otherwise, why would we bother to worry? Some are worrywarts, in which case it’s helpful to try not to worry as much, while preserving the kernel of care in worry. Sometimes it’s appropriate to act in order to reduce worry. If I’m worrying about having left the gate open, getting up and closing it abets my worry. Other times, when our worry is more unrealistic, we don’t need to act as much as we need to bring our minds back into balance. Sitting with realistic worry shows us what we need to do to protect ourselves and others, even if it’s as simple as closing the gate or moving a glass from the edge of the table. Worry brings out the care in our hearts or our fear of harm. Controlling negative and anxious thinking, getting the facts straight, and breathing deeply all help keep worry from becoming exaggerated, unrealistic, and getting the best of us. Worry is our hearts thinking out loud about what we care for.

Difficult Emotion #7: Grief

Grief is the price we pay for the privilege of love. Yet, it’s only a temporary cost, for I consider grief the most soul-making of the emotions. Grief takes us down into ourselves;  it is the polisher of our souls. Grief dissolves our pain, which making it invaluable for living as a sustainable person. For if we don’t clear our hearts of pain, the tendency is to poison the world and others with the hurt we didn’t allow it to dissolve. Within grief is the blossom of rebirth from suffering and loss. The more we grieve, the more we can love; and the more we love, the more we feel the sting of loss. To deny grief is to deny love. While most of us don’t want to feel the drag, dullness, and despair of grief, it is a natural and healthy reaction to loss. Grief is a symbol of our love and when we can welcome it, we give our hearts the opportunity to break and grow as wide as the world. Grief work is an aspect of grief that I describe as  intentionally entering our past pain, especially that from childhood, that has not been resolved. This work frees our lives from the inside out as nothing else can. Grief is merely the other side of feel-good love and is always in fluid communication with it.

Difficult Emotion #8: Envy or Jealousy

Envy, as the desire for what someone else has, points to our fulfillment. It brings out our longing and desire and shows us what we want and what we can work for to make our lives better or more enjoyable. Of course, it’s important to make sure that what we are envious of is something we truly want and value, and not just an excuse to hate on someone. Sometimes we feel a heavy dose of envy because we don’t want to work for the success another has. Yet, once we admit our admiration for someone else’s success or freedom, we can use that inspiration to work to acquire what we envy, and admire our own progress and achievements.

Jealousy, which is feeling threatened that what we cherish will be taken away or injured, is often accompanied by anger. In wanting to possess, jealousy shows us what we value, what we want to protect, what we would feel pain in losing. The element of anger, or even worry, in jealousy helps us set boundaries and limits to protect what we want and care about. Marriage, or committing to monogamy, are examples.

The Takeaway

I hope this deeper glimpse into difficult emotions allows you to lean into and appreciate them for their uncommon gifts and not throw out their wisdom with the bathwater of knee-jerk reaction of temporary discomfort. Yes, they can be difficult and bring us down, but when we wisely work with them, and for long enough, they release their nectar, transform us into better and kinder people, and initiate us to our shared humanity. Their benevolent darkness gifts us depth and beauty we can’t otherwise find in the sunny side of life alone.

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Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., M.A., is Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. His latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or Twitter, where he can also be contacted for medical consultations and life-coaching.

 

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