by Leatrice Evanne Asher
“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
Balance is a fundamental principle in the universe. Applied to our lives, balance can be equated with equilibrium—evenness—a quality that allows us to move through the world with ease. Yet, how often do we wake up, go to work, relate to others with unresolved feelings and discontentment simmering below the surface? Probably very often.
Because feelings of discontent are uncomfortable and affect our field of functioning it is not only useful, but imperative, to know how to transform those feelings into a more balanced state. We all know how anger, sadness and other emotions, if not addressed, can lead to more extreme consequences, such as depression, murder, suicide. This article introduces a 5 step process that can restore your composure. This involves developing a witness, that aspect of self that can observe and note emotions when they arise without discounting, judging or overreacting to them. In this way, you learn to become master of your moods; otherwise, you will remain at their mercy and it will be too easy to justify staying stuck in them. You may still feel distressing sensations as you go through this process, but take note of how those sensations become less distressing as you remain steadfast in your intention to return to equilibrium.
The course we most often take to distance ourselves from painful uprisings is to deny their existence or, not knowing what to do about them, mask the uncomfortableness with food, alcohol, drugs, anything that removes the pain and makes us feel good again; in other words, we abandon that within us which is capable of growth and experiencing deeper, profounder levels of enjoyment, appreciation, relationship, and self-knowledge. When we think we are being controlled by pain and think that we have no options this feeling of helplessness can activate our fears; of course we will want the attendant sensations to stop, as quickly as possible. But this motion of trying to wrangle out of what we regard as bothersome only serves to entangle us further in it. This attempt to try and choke the experience is a frantic gesture designed to keep pain and the concomitant damage we expect it to inflict far away from us.
However much we try to disavow vexing arisings in our life, the catalyst that ignited them to begin with is not really gone. It’s just waiting around the corner for another similar event to deposit itself again. Because there is always a learning inherent in pain, a lesson will continue until that lesson is learned. Once learned, it is nolonger needed. We need only look to what continues to land on our doorstep to know if a particular lesson prevails. It may come cloaked in a different person, be a different scenario, but if this current event and the response that it elicits from us seems familiar it’s likely the same lesson trying to reach us, providing another opportunity for resolution and closure.
If you wish to become more familiar with the deeper regions of your being the intensity of pain can be a godsend, for we need something intense to make us explore these areas of ourselves. If pain weren’t so powerful—if it easily relented, didn’t make us feel frightened, angry, confused, if it let us ignore it, push it aside, if it didn’t demand recognition—it would have much less significance in our lives. But pain has tremendous power—power to break through our protective barriers, to provoke us into questioning our lives, into changing our habitual responses. It has the power to make us whole again.
We can’t really separate physical pain from emotional states because they are one in the same. If you have physical pain there will likely be an emotional component as well. Likewise, emotional reactions are often accompanied by physical ailments such as headaches, stomachaches, muscular pain. That physical ailments can become even more severe if emotional discord isn’t addressed is an added reason not to discount disturbances of mind. Since we most often experience disequilibrium from emotions that surface in relationship to others, these steps relate to the resolution of emotional pain. However, once correct action is discerned, the physical discomforts that accompany emotional states will often be relieved as well.
There are also times when inner disturbance isn’t related to another person but develops from feelings about one’s self or one’s body. In these instances, we are often judging ourselves for having what we perceive to be shortcomings. Because these thoughts are often accompanied with feelings of self-hate, anger, sadness, they create disturbance not only in our atmosphere but also affect others. Any state of disparity or imbalance that impacts our functioning in the world needs to be brought into equilibrium, and can be when we consent to this restorative undertaking. It’s painful to feel out of sync with one’s self but that pain is what awakens the desire to make ourselves whole again. When we honor it as such—a bearer of information; ultimately our healing, we set in motion the process of restoring ourselves. No one can do this for us; we have to fix ourselves. The more we directly experience how the results of our effort turns things around, and the sense of relief that follows, the less time it will take to show up and be present when faced with another life moment that disturbs us.
The best course, if you can manage it, is to stay with the sensations you are feeling without the need to do anything about them, except to be aware of your desire for those troubling feelings to go away. That very desire is how you’ve become unsettled by trying to squirm away from “Thine own self,” as Shakespeare says. Resistance will only make it worse. Staying present with what feels unsettling may mean some momentary discomfort that adds to your anxiety or tension. If you can continue to allow even those anxious and tense sensations, which are still just sensations, you will see how they too have movement and that you are not irrevocably stuck. Remember that you, as doer in the body, are the observer of sensations but you are not those sensations. Your ability to make this distinction is key. If we think we have no control and are just anxious, angry, afraid, acted upon, there will be no recourse, except maybe a temporary diversion in the form of some type of intoxicant or opiate.
If you are ready to experience the underground regions of your being, the place where unwanted emotions are deposited, these 5 steps can help you to turn around most difficult situations you encounter. The only requirement is your willingness to stay with the focusing process. Frequently we are encouraged to seek authority and guidance from others. Although this may be helpful, the most astute guide you will ever encounter is within your own unique being, so this is also learning to trust, and return to, yourself. As you feel your life changing from implementing these steps you will have all the incentive and inspiration you need to apply them whenever needed . . . and you will, because once you know how to bring relief to your perturbations it is unlikely that you will continue to recoil from bothersome events or on the other hand, get lost in them. Instead, you will automatically begin this process of rebalancing.
The 5 Steps:
Step 1: Acknowledge that something is bothering you
Because uncomfortable sensations disturb us we don’t want to feel them. This first step is to admit, “something is bothering me.” This may seem elementary but it’s necessary because too often we don’t acknowledge that something is troubling us; we just feel troubled. You will identify the source of those sensations in the next step so this is just letting yourself know, fessing up, that something feels off-center.
Step 2: Identify thesourceof the emotion that led to feelings of disequilibrium
When an emotion such as fear, anxiety or anger is present you then need to know the exact circumstance that led to that agitated state. Ask yourself, “When did I first notice this?” You may recall you first felt uneasiness after a phone call with your girlfriend or Mother. Maybe it was after a confrontation with a co-worker or an exchange with a grumpy salesperson. You have the ability to stay on point and clarify this information for yourself. This requires focus and keeping that focus in place until the answer is revealed. Once you know the specific circumstance that led to your present emotional state you need to know what exactlyabout that incident created a feeling of disequilibrium. For example: Did you feel your girlfriend was becoming less interested in you because of something she said? Did you think your co-worker was criticizing you? Did some interaction leave you feeling misunderstood? When you are clear about the exact catalyst for the uneasy feelings you are experiencing you are ready to go to the next step.
Step 3: Identify the main emotion
Now ask, what is the main emotion that has unsettled me? Anger? Guilt? Sadness? Anxiety? It may be a myriad of emotions you are feeling but see if you can zero in on the epicenter—the dominant emotion that has affected your equanimity. Once you can name it “I feel hurt” any concomitant emotions may also become apparent. Now you have two pieces of information essential to your return to a more peaceful state—you know the circumstance that was a catalyst for your ill-at-ease state of mind and you know the exact emotional state(s) causing that discomfort. Oftentimes, just understanding the source of our discomfort will of itself be enough to return us to equilibrium. It’s when we feel disgruntled and out of control or driven and know not why that we lose our sense of stability as those sensations feed and grow. With this information, you are ready for the fourth step.
Step 4: Ask what you need to do to return to equilibrium
That you have identified the source of unrest will in itself afford much relief but usually will not be enough. I am often asked, “How do I know when I haven’t taken care of something?” or “How do I know when to confront someone and when to let it rest?” As long as you are still feeling disequilibrium—a sense of unease or lack of completion—there is something more to be done, which might mean doing nothing at all. If, however, you find yourself feeling edgy, troubled, then ask yourself, “What would it take for me to feel okay again?”If you ask, and listen, you will be answered—from within your own operating system.
Now that you have isolated the circumstances that led to your discontented state you might determine that you need to talk to the person with whom those feelings first arose. Talking things over and expressing your fear or concerns is just one example of what might balance the acting influences. If this is what you decide is necessary, it’s important to keep in mind that it will be counterproductive to lambaste someone else with your anger or other discontented feelings. Doing this will often just create another agitated state of mind that you will have to go back and make right. Since this is about you and your feelings, your reactions, make “I” statements instead of “you” statements. It is much easier for someone else to hear, “I felt hurt” rather than “you hurt me.” Reaching out to a friend or family member to talk things over can be another means for you to feel reconciled or, having determined exactly what is bothering you, you may feel you need do nothing more at this time. There isn’t a pat answer because not only are we individuals with different needs but you are different in every situation that you encounter. When you come into a state of knowing—that is, when you’re clear about the best course to take to relieve the emotional pain—you then need to follow through with that course of action. . . or inaction; otherwise, you will have engaged in this exercise for naught. Trust yourself. You have the ability to heal the pain. You just proved that to yourself by completing these 4 steps.
Step 5: Feel the transition from disequilibrium to equilibrium
If you can practice these points whenever situations emerge that have you feeling off-kilter you will soon realize, through your own reality tests, that you do indeed have the ability to bring yourself back to equilibrium. You will know when you have returned to equilibrium by a distinct feeling of well-being. If you do not have this feeling then you have more work to do on the previous steps. The main thing to realize is that you do have the power to change your life from within.
When you work with this system of self-assessment for a while you will discover that the joy you feel in your ability to liberate yourself from emotional pain is inherent in the process itself. However, you may also want to do something more to acknowledge your willingness to break through old patterns and find new ones that leave you feeling freer. Find a way that’s meaningful for you—which could be anything from a silent offering of gratitude that you persevered to sharing your new understanding with a friend or loved one.
Once you see how quickly you can return yourself to equanimity you will be spurred on to continue the effort when any restlessness arises. By choosing to apply these points whenever you feel stuck you are triumphing over your resistance and fears and by doing so becoming freer and less encumbered by them. No longer will you long for peace. You will be it. You will also have achieved a wisdom that is too often rare—comprehending through direct experience the tremendous power within your own being to effect change.
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”