I have been dawdling in my reading lately. But one book that I like to read right before bed is Gill Edward's Stepping Into the Magic. This book is so incredibly positive, it's the perfect thing to read right before going to sleep. One issue that she covers is emotions and the importance of allowing ourselves to feel whatever emotion that comes up. And while I've advocated learning to shut off the monkey chatter in our minds and learn to control our thinking - that doesn't mean shutting down our emotions. In fact, it can be very unhealthy not to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that needs to be felt. We know that anger that is suppressed, for example, turns to depression and/or anxiety. From the book:
"First and foremost, most of us learn to suppress, deny and distort our emotions. Our emotions are the Basic Self's way of creating inner balance and harmony in response to everyday life. Sadness is a natural response to hurt, loss and grief. Anger is a healthy response to injustice, or lack of respect. Fear is a natural response to threat and danger. Emotions only become 'gremlins' when they are suppressed."
She goes on to say:
"Unfortunately, most of us learn at an early age that our emotions have to be hidden away. It isn't 'nice' to be angry. It is childish to cry. It is cowardly to feel afraid. It is a nuisance if we are joyful and exuberant. 'Be good!' is the constant cry. So we slowly learn to 'be good', rather than to be ourselves - because we want to be loved.
This really made an impact on me because much of what we read suggests that to be 'Zen' we need to not let things bother us. But she's absolutely right - we are human and our emotions are powerful tools when we express them in their proper context. When we are angry - we should feel it! That's how we create change, both personally and on a macro level. I, for one, feel great anger when I think of what has happened in Iraq - never again will I allow our nation to enter into another devastating war without personally marching on Washington. In this case my anger is not only justified, but needs to be expressed to my political leaders, which I do with letters and phone calls.
When we are sad, we should cry and feel our pain. I remember letting my small daughters pitch fits, all the while reminding myself that no matter how annoying, they had a right to their emotions. I even envied them the ability to just throw themselves down, screaming and kicking until they were spent. How wonderful would that feel?
Suppressed emotions can easily turn to depression, illness, addictions, self-pity, and paralysing fear.
So what does she suggest we do about them now?
Well, since it would make this post too long, I'll post on that next time ... until then, go ahead, give that pillow a punch!