Understanding How We Handle Emotions


I currently am reading “Letting Go: the Pathway to Surrender,” by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., who is a practicing psychiatrist, spiritual teacher, author, and speaker on the subject of advanced spiritual states and consciousness research.  I am writing to share relevant sections of his book in this post to help you identified issues on your spiritual journey and emotional healing.

We handle our emotions or feelings in three major ways: suppression/repression, expression, and escape.  Suppression and repression are the most common ways our minds push feelings down.  First, suppression is done consciously, while repression is done unconsciously.   How do we know we are suppressing feelings?  “The pressure of suppressed feelings is later felt as irritability, mood swings, tensions in the muscles of the neck and back, headaches, cramps, menstrual disorders, colitis, indigestion, insomnia, hypertension, allergies, and other somatic conditions.”  How do we know we are repressing feelings?  Repression is caused by fear and guilt when our minds instantly will thrust feelings into the unconscious as soon as it tries to emerge.  What we experience are denial and projection in our lives. These repressed feelings are so threatening that we will project them onto the world and those around us.  We experience these feelings as if they belong to others.  “‘They’  become the enemy, and the mind searches for and finds justification to reinforce the projection.  Blame is placed on people, places, institutions, food, climatic conditions, astrological events, social conditions, fate, God, luck, the devil, foreigners, ethnic groups, political rivals, and other things outside of us.”

Second, expression is when our feelings are vented, verbalized, or stated in body language, and acted out in endless group demonstrations.  Many believe that expressing our feelings free us of our feelings, but the fact is to the contrary.  “The expression of a feeling, first, tends to propagate that feeling and give it greater energy.  Second, the expression of the feeling merely allows the remainder to be suppressed out of awareness.”  “If we dump our negative feelings on others, they experience it as an attack and they, in turn, are forced to suppress, express, or escape the feelings; therefore, the expression of negativity results in deterioration and destruction of relationships.  A far better alternative is to take responsibility for our own feelings and neutralize them.  Then, only positive feelings remain to be expressed.”

Third, “[e]scape is the avoidance of feelings through diversion.”  This is the socially condoned mechanism, when we use alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food, work, TV, texting, social media, shopping, etc, and other frantic activities to keep our minds busy to avoid our feelings.  As our dependency upon these activities grow, they become addictions that control and ultimately destroy ourselves and our lives.

“Each of [the above mechanisms] requires increasing amounts of energy in and of itself.  Enormous amounts of energy are required to keep down the growing pressure of the suppressed and repressed feelings.”  This can result in physical illness, mental conditions, and stress that is the physical result of keeping these feelings suppressed and how we emotionally respond to external stimuli triggering these feelings.  If you can identify any of these above symptoms, as I have, then it is time to do the hard emotional work of letting go of the negative feelings built up in your emotional landscape and energy fields through “Emotional Release Practice.”

Excerpts from “Letting Go: the Pathway to Surrender,” by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.

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