Anger can be a very ugly thing. Sadness, shame, guilt.. these emotions are difficult to handle. We all struggle with them at one point or another. It is part of being human, and we cannot surgically remove certain emotions from our experience.
However, according to some schools of thought, we should evolve past having these certain emotions that are base, ugly, and “lower” than others. This philosophy comes with a mass of platitudes and attitudes that are often the norm in “spiritual” communities- namely yoga, meditation, and energy-healing or light-worker circles. Although the intentions are good, these concepts are unhealthy, and end up creating more issues to be dealt with later. They wound people, and take advantage of the automatic trust that we tend to grant people in places we consider safe or in roles we look to as experts. Sometimes it actually takes years before the problem becomes clear, and still more years to fix the damage. I know this, because I have not only seen it in action, but experienced it myself.
Not only is this an issue in the contemporary spiritual community, but in contemporary psychology, and culture-wide in America. If you have anger, most doctors or psychiatrists will happily prescribe you a pill to subdue that anger, instead of teaching you how to healthfully deal with that anger or discover its meaning. Basically the equivalent of saying, “Here’s a bandaid for your cancer.” People are expected to remain rational at all times, and crying is enough to get someone dirty looks, or to feel the stigma of societies great fear of “craziness”. Or even those closest may tell them “don’t cry”, effectively trying to brush away the difficult emotions, and make someone more easy to deal with for themselves. Granted, no one likes to see another person in pain, but asking them not to cry is more selfish than helpful. And it makes the person who is struggling feel like they are a burden because they hurt, and makes them feel guilty, ashamed, or as if they should deal with their pain by themselves, so as not to be such an overwhelming issue to others. It’s not helping anything, it’s just keeping the environment more “normal”, at the cost of human suffering.
It’s the opposite of what a person needs, and the opposite of what real love asks us to do. Love is a supportive energy. It loves because it does, not because it requires someone to be in a particular mood or state. When someone hurts the most, they need love and space held the very most.
The probelm with demonizing entire ranges of emotions is that you don’t stop the emotions from occurring, as they are natural, you just suppress them, and encourage people to disassociate from, or pretend that they don’t experience, what they actually feel. Instead of teaching people how to feel the feelings and let them be processed before they decide their real meaning, they are encouraged to basically do the equivalent of looking away or sticking their fingers in their ears, chanting, “La la la la”. Standing around like a stubborn child declaring “it’s not raining, it’s not raining!” When it clearly is, is simply NOT an effective life strategy. You could choose to chant la la la for your entire life, but if you distance yourself from your emotions, you not only limit your growth, but ability to form satisfying relationships with others. But if you think you are staying single because it’s easier and you have convinced yourself you are spiritually superior, just like you are spiritually superior for being above anger, frustration, confusion, guilt, or doubt, this will serve your agenda quite well. However, if you have a desire to grow as an individual through deep & honest relationships, both with yourself and with others, you are going to hit a brick wall, unless you only allow yourself to coexist with other superficial people.
When you declare certain emotions inferior, not only do you create trauma and shame around the very natural experience of those emotions, which creates more unnecessary suffering by telling people that they are failing if they are hurting, but you are, as a community, participating in emotional abuse.
It is a form of gas lighting, to tell someone that they do not experience what they do. When you state or imply that it’s because they deserve to suffer since they aren’t “manifesting” well enough, you undermine a person’s self-esteem, and trust in themselves. You are victim shaming. You are effectively doing the same thing as pointing to a rape victim and saying, “what did you expect when you were dressed like that?”.
Some of the abusive phrases that are passed around like snake oil include:
- “Don’t worry, this is just what your soul needs for its growth”
- “If it’s meant to be it will happen.”
- “That is shameful and beneath you to feel that way. It’s low vibrations.”
- “Just let it go, why are you holding on to that?”
- “None of this exists”
- “The past doesn’t exist.”
- “Are you being rational?”
If you have been the victim of this immature and destructive guilt-trip, or innocent of intent, but have fallen for it and become a proselytizer for the cause, first, try to forgive yourself. I have been in both roles, and I know that you don’t lay destructive platitudes on others that haven’t been laid on you. You don’t advocate for this unless you were first a victim to it.
What happens when you fall victim to this mindset is that you sometimes really feel great, because you are, quite frankly, ignoring the shit that bothers you. You are ignoring everything difficult in life. You are meditating, practicing yoga, chanting mantras, communing with nature, or doing breathing exercises to distract yourself from what you really feel, instead of actually embracing and engaging in it. You misuse the practices. Or maybe you are using TV, social media, food, and drugs or alcohol to distract you. Even more dangerous. (But oh so human.)
After a while, or at times, you will become very strained. It reminds me of treating emotions the same way an anorexia sufferer treats food.. and I have indeed suffered from anorexia firsthand and recovered, so I know. You will eventually bottleneck so many painful emotions that you become bitter and explode, and then feel like an inferior failure. And some of that bitterness will be released in your practices, and some may be released in other places where one feels superior and justified, such as when you find someone who is allowing themselves to feel the emotions you aren’t facing yourself. You get to burn some of your pain to put them down. Not okay.
It will take several articles on several topics in order to inform you of the basics of the healing process, but I can summarize it here:
You are divinely human. But you are still human. There is no holiness achieved as a person that is not human in nature. Or else it’s just an ego trip.
Just because in yoga philosophy the quantum physical level of existence is considered “more real” because it is basal, do not fall for the bullshit that this level of reality is less real. We feel pain. This isn’t fake. Yes, we are all dancing energy. And we have very real experiences as energies embodied in these earthly energy vehicles (the body itself). This exists. In my lectures I used the example that if one is stabbed in the leg with a fork, they are going to hurt, because this level of reality is real. And would you be “ultra spiritual” if you acted like you didn’t feel that pain????? That is precisely how ABSURD it is to pretend that you don’t feel what you feel in order to appear more holy or to aggrandize oneself to gain esteem in a crowd of peers pulling the same shenanigans.
Do not, I repeat, do not, let ANYONE, no matter how forceful, flashy or widely-venerated, invalidate your experience. Just like you have every right to exist, because you do, you also have every right to feel what you feel, because you do. If you feel it, it’s real. It’s your ideas about what you are feeling that need to be sorted and investigated with a level of skepticism, because we humans have a funny way of distorting what we expeience and building false stories of our own worthlessness or creating absolutes (always, never..) upon fleeting circumstances. But your emotions are justified and real. They come from within you. They are as real as the signals to urinate and defacate that you feel. Please don’t let those who act like they are so pious and pure that they no longer urinate or defacate make you feel guilty for being a full-fledged human.
Pretending that you are above the messiness of life isn’t holier and isn’t worthy of respect or imitation. Do you know what is? Digging into the messiness of being human, and not letting your heart grow hard. Being unafraid to be scared, to get lost, to make mistakes as you learn and grow, and to follow your heart whether it’s logical or not. Striving to be a person of integrity, and to treat others as whole human beings with personal autonomy, even if they are making different choices and struggling through. Being brave enough to feel the feel weight and breadth of each and every emotion you experience in this life, to face what it seeks to teach you about where you have been, how you saw yourself, and what you want and need for your greatest happiness here and now, as well as how your heart beckons you to move forward.
You aren’t less spiritual because you feel anger- you feel anger because something isn’t balanced or right for you in the moment, and the anger is a symptom to help you wright the direction of your life.
The high spiritual goal is not to eliminate these emotions by force. It is to eliminate them by developing such a strong integrity with the subtle needs of your heart and body that they simply don’t visit you often if ever at all. You don’t gain harmony ignoring what you feel, you find harmony by becoming so honest with yourself that you don’t pretend a single thing.
Laura Harrison is a yoga therapist, mindfulness instructor, and emotional health educator. She helps others to understand their inner experiences and work with them to heal from the past, fully own their present, and create a life that brings out their inner light, deepest happiness, peace, and passion.
See more about her work, including books, albums, lectures, and more on Laurainspires.com and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @Laurainspires
Laura is also the founder of the Natural Yoga Method, and have been a certified fitness instructor since 2002, and a practitioner and certified yoga instructor since 2005.