So what’s a person to do? They’ve laid the groundwork described last post, in some form. They’ve learned how to shift their emotions and started to open some meridians and points, experiencing a palpable uptick in their baseline mood and outlook on life. They’ve experimented with meditation and found a way that has started to deliver. They’ve experienced some moments of surprise at how deep this goes, seeing inside their mind and finding something a lot bigger than what they had previously reckoned as an identity, whose hitherto silent influence makes a better basis for living than the everyday stream.
That’s stage one. Sometimes stage two comes up automatically, sometimes it waits until the next phase of meditation is embarked upon. If the person is willing perhaps they’ve checked out the kinds of approach I favour, opened the energetic microcosmic orbit which loops up the spine and down the front of the body, tracked some other meridians more deeply, addressed the chakras, and so on. They’ve been building energy with particular patterns and intentions.
At some point they may have put food into their mouths and remembered how amazing it is to taste things, realising some of what their culture and lifestyle have done to degrade their senses and deep vitality. The warmth of building energy will have started to transform their bodies back to a youth whose immediacy had been lost, and a realisation that this is better than most ways of spending time may have obtruded. They’ll have experienced their body wanting to move in unexpected ways, sometimes perhaps doing so without permission. They’ll have had moments of superconscious clarity plus ESP episodes with others, and will be starting to think of Richard Dawkins as one of life’s less useful guides. Heck they may even be starting to realise they have a shot at some of the foothills of enlightenment.
At some point, nonetheless, the emotions will be triggered, and stage two of dealing with them will begin, which involves (as mentioned last week) more than just shifting them, instead tracing them through to an underlying nature by removing what could variously be called worldviews, social masks, personae, false maps etc., and coming to different viewpoints on life than held formerly in the process.
Why does this have to happen? The first stage already starts clearing energy, the second intensifies the process and begins to put a new connectedness in place which has major effects on the psyche, showing undreamed-of possibilities of healing which have nothing to do with the old expectations. But those older expectations are still present, along with their emotional patterns. They are sometimes very well rooted and will conflict with the deeper truth so these conflicts need resolving. The effect is almost like a part of you saying, “if all this new stuff is so great why didn’t that part of life work out?” Forgiving and letting go are going to free up a goodly segment of previously blocked capacity. Since many of the old patterns had survival upmost in mind, this can be referred to as a death-rebirth process. Emotions guide here.
What exactly are “emotions” anyhow? There are theories of them scattered throughout spiritual philosophy since humans have been through the above process enough times to learn a thing or two, but I really like modern ways of looking at this and have found uses for them that tie into the process. Of the scientific attitudes to emotions, when psychology can be bothered to admit they even exist, you have broadly two to investigate, cognitive and somatic (body-based). I think the cognitive stuff is great for some purposes — it basically gives you a belief structure to hunt down for each emotion, for example Richard Lazarus would tell you that if you are angry, it is because some essential aspect of what you consider important has been violated. That is obviously true and can be helpful when you take it to a higher level as he has.
But the approach I tend to take in this context is the somatic one which implies a feeling orientation and a kinaesthetic awareness. Babette Rothschild, in her excellent book on trauma therapy, The Body Remembers, 2000, uses a simple sixfold emotional taxonomy that gets people who’ve been scared out of their skins back into their bodies, and will work for anyone when discordant emotion strikes (pp. 57-8). Muscular tension, particularly jaw/shoulder, accompanied by a desire to yell and fight, is associated with anger; redness in the neck is a sign on the outside. A feeling of rising heat in the face accompanied by a desire to avert gaze or hide is a good sign of shame. A ‘lump’ in the throat and a desire to cry would be sadness whilst a feeling of nausea which makes you want to wrinkle your nose is a sign of disgust, and so on.
People can easily start to notice these (the term ‘mindfulness’, borrowed from Buddhism, is a current buzzword) and may realise some feelings have hung around a decade or two without being expressed because our cortex has the power to interrupt their flow and that power is not always helpful. As you get deeper life looks different. It might not be realised that some aspect of gait or posture is a frozen emotion, with a life-context attached and waiting to be explored. Soberingly, most such potential realisations never happen in most people. The neuroses then get passed on to the children, remaining unacknowledged in the parental shadow for the next generation to have a try at.
As Rothschild says:
There are several theoretical models of emotion. What to call individual affects is subject to debate, though most models include some form of “anger,” “sadness,” “fear,” “disgust,” “happiness,” and “shame” among their lists.
To read any of the theories from Darwin to Damasio may be smart, but even better could be a personal experiential understanding based on sitting and doing lots of actually feeling. I do like Peter Levine’s explanations based on the polyvagal theory of Porges, but Levine and Rothschild, and other trauma therapists, are perhaps relevant more because they have a practice that works to clear traumatic feelings. And part of that practice involves carefully feeling into the body, based on such cues as outlined above, willing to put brakes on if should it get severe (which is less relevant if prior groundwork has been laid but good to know), and gradually coming to understand what the body itself is saying. Another type of work that goes that way is Gendlin’s Focusing which is non-trauma-based and suitable for everyday enquiry.
Then the task is to get down to the quick and resolve things, which can be done in many ways. Wanting to feel or behave differently on a particular subject or environmental trigger will kick off the process, or else a problematic emotional surge will arise indicating something unresolved. But what then? I’d stress with Rothschild (see the excellent Body Remembers Casebook in particular, that’s a real motherlode of examples of healing tough stuff) that the more ways you know of proceeding at that point, the better, even if it’s just yourself you’re working on. Some find that simply bringing emotions up and letting them go does a lot, but I’d like to widen the palette here with a couple of favourites of mine.
As the Reading List attests I’m a fan of systems that work with so-called subpersonalities. Some of these call themselves ‘parts therapies’ (as in, “part of me feels x”) or ‘ego states therapies’. The idea has much in common with Jung’s old notion of complexes which is by no means unscientific. The two things on the List that work in that way, and which I particularly recommend, are Internal Family Systems therapy and Psychosynthesis. My review of Earley’s book on the first, IFS, is here. This can be a fertile path even for the soloist.
How would someone get into that? Well tuning into the bodily feeling may already have given the sense of a personality that is in some way separate from the one called “me”. The realisation can dawn that “it” feels a certain way about the subject matter at hand, where “I” am quite sure “I” feel rather differently. Should the idea come up of asking “it” why, and should “it” answer, accompanied by shifting body sensation and using words and attitudes not a part of the everyday persona — that’s the subpersonality thing. (It’s probably quite obvious how that relates to getting past social masks.)
There are various ways to proceed from here. The IFS system, as the name implies, involves multitudes of parts simultaneously which can be fun to try but honestly I didn’t find it necessary in the end, although who knows, I might look at it again and it’s a nice option to have. What I do take from IFS which I’m sure is true is that childhood difficulty, or possibly an actual trauma, will underlie a problematic part. In meditation you are always looking to get into the present moment. Problematic stuff on the past and future will therefore always need addressing as you try to get parts of you back to the now. Here’s an example of that happening in real time as a direct result of biophysical work:
Ilana [Rubenfeld, inventor of Rubenfeld Synergy] went to work on my feet… I closed my eyes, went into no-mind, and turned my attention inward to see if I could catch any of her skills. She stretched my legs out and started a little relaxation massage when all of a sudden these nuclear bombs of energy started to flow up my meridians to explode behind my eyes. I was lost. She had me… I was semi-comatose [= tranced with high absorption] when I heard her saying, “What’s going on? How old are you?” I heard myself replying, “Five,” in a small high voice. “Why are you crying?” she asks. “I’m being beaten by my Sunday School teacher,” I wail. “She caught me eating the oatmeal paste and she’s mad.”
We then went into a three-way discussion with adult Glenn, little Glenny, and Ilana as interlocutor. We had a lot of fun and wrapped it up with me giving the little tyke words of wisdom like “Eat the goddamn oatmeal. It too will pass.”… That oatmeal incident could explain a lot of mistrust of authority.
– Path Notes of an American Ninja Master, 1993, pp. 147-8
Great example of a subpersonality issue being resolved. I don’t suggest the oatmeal was any major trauma, but although longer, the process of handling something stronger wouldn’t have to be too different. As mentioned, Earley, Schwartz or Firman & Gila would be good reads for anyone who wants work out how to get into such a ‘three-way discussion’ when there’s just ‘oneself’ (for want of a better term. ^_^)
It’s only really doing stage one that allows you to do stuff like that solo. Without some minimal stability and ability to see the mind as separate from the thoughts plus social chatter/emotional flow I can see it getting too confusing and possibly upsetting. That is what basic energy, ch’i kung and meditation are for — they give anyone a space where they can operate.
(That Glenn story is also a classic example, by the way, of how physical touch with energetic additions can operate as a trance induction just as the early handwavers of ‘animal magnetism’ I talked about 2 posts ago, who didn’t regard speech as part of their induction, would have said.)
Longer term readers won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve also used trance directly for emotional transformation, with success. This is an incredibly fun way to go and it’s quite easy to do as a lone individual. I like to get company in doing it from time to time for the sake of companionability but most of what I do self-resolves. Unfortunately space restrictions mean I can’t show a whole lot here but maybe I will later.
My choice for the most important technique on emotional transformation doesn’t require literal ‘hypnosis’ (whatever in the cosmic order that might be) and although it’s not quite so conversational as the previous example, I prefer to make it loose. I don’t do a word-by-word ‘script’ or recording. Call it a semi-improvised guided meditation. Very deep trance in which you are ‘semi-comatose’, as Glenn was there, sometimes (temporarily) cuts off superconsciousness (“I was lost…”) and if I’ve just been meditating I don’t want to lose that. Also in deep trance I find it hard to feel emotion in an expressive manner — to cry for example. This being about transforming emotion, sometimes in this process I like to do that, so a lighter state helps.
I have no definite way to know, but I suspect anyone could do this. If you are naturally high on the absorption scale like me, have enjoyable experience with hypnosis, guided med or altered states of any non-chemical variety, and/or are able to fantasise with strong involvement, you are probably particularly suited. If not, try spending some time in a dark room earplugged and blindfolded, as this will up your susceptibility according to some good science. (Areed Barabasz did nice work on that using floatation tanks after observing a hike in hypnotisability with men wintering in Antarctica — he called it REST, for reduced environmental stimulation therapy.)
The point of this process is to trigger one’s own subconscious mind and genius to show a different way of looking at the problem which caused the emotion. Yes, an Ericksonian idea, no-one is surprised. :) For more on the basics see the three volumes in the Reading List but I’ve added a lot that makes this specific to the goals under discussion. For me this is a most elegant way because the emotion clears, but not only that — when I’m going about my daily business I’ll get constant ideas from out of nowhere which show me a better way to think or behave on the topic in question. And the result is that the issue shifts. It will always expand my world. That’s something I’ve always taken away from this. Sometimes reading virtue ethics in old lore you get the impression of restriction but the cure for a mask is freedom, creativity. (Yes this is also a humanistic psych approach.)
Since this isn’t hypnosis, what is it? I guess if you saw a person doing this they would be glancing at a piece of paper and then staring off into the distance for a while, rinse and repeat. It doesn’t take long, depending on how much you want to do. The staring-off part could be mildly tranced but is basically just a visualisation. One starts with a few written notes that are skeletal, presetting a few things to anchor the process. The absolute bare minimum, although I don’t usually go so basic any more, requires just two elements: 1) A visualisation that transforms the particular emotion into something positive, followed by 2) A visualisation of a beautiful environment (free choice) which works as a rest or safe place wherein one suggests to oneself that the subconscious is finding a new way to look at the issue which has been triggering the emotion.
That’s the whole skeleton, believe it or not. For part 1 you can use many different things. The Earley IFS book I mentioned before gives examples of transforming by elemental symbolism which works, eg. you take off a cloak of sadness and burn it in fire, transforming it for the good of all beings. You can get ideas from visualisation books too. There’s a charmingly eccentric medical visualisation book by Gerald Epstein that has good ones such as unknotting a rope around your neck for getting rid of habitual anger. I always use a visualisation of giving the substance of the emotion to light for healing, too. Part 2 can take place anywhere, so a person can pick a rainforest or a Venetian Palazzo etc., and the main thing is the assurance of beauty and safety all around and within, plus as mentioned the suggestion that the subconscious is finding a new way to see the problem. You explore the environment and can employ a huge number of more interesting approaches.
Following are some of the possibilities that really make this worthwhile, once you have the basics. I know there are some keen readers who will take a hint, but also, if you’d like a more detailed explanation later use the comments or ‘Contact Me’ box, etc. I’m talking about elaborations such as:
1. How to heal the body simultaneously with the emotional problem. (Having somatically experienced one’s feelings it may be noticed they are interfering with sinuses, liver, sacrum, whatever. A sequence can be built in where you travel through the body and make adjustments. For doing just this, see the Epstein book or Achterberg. Use also any knowledge of meridians, chakras etc. that you have got.)
2. How to transform energy directly in the process too. How to take energy from a particular subpersonality and transform it.
3. A hundred other ways to shift emotion. For example, do the whole thing in the third person, meet other people, use a narrator etc.
4. Other ways to signal the subconscious. For example, shifting symbols subconsciously. Getting the subconscious to design the visualisations.
5. Use of chakra psych to build particular emotional states.
6. Build an Ericksonian metaphor into the environment to work on specific aspects of the problem.
7. Further uses of the safe place. After you’ve done this a few times you can use it in every day life and it’s like a switch that transforms emotion. This is the use Babette Rothschild makes of it.
The beauty of this technique, as with all similar ones, is that you just relax into the results and it is absolutely natural to change. You just find yourself doing it. There is an underlying theory for this to do with how emotion is transformed but again I haven’t the space right now.
As well as everyday belief and behaviour changing I must add that events in the world ‘out there’ seem to shift themselves too. Jung called this synchronicity and it’s real. One of the main reasons for needing to see past worldviews is that they do to some extent have a determining effect on reality. If what I’m working on could use a meeting with a certain person or book it will show up as a result of the practice. Particular possibilities are actualised by particular focuses. I relate this to William Temple’s dictum, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.” I bring in superconsciousness and interact with presences in the safe place (beyond this post’s remit) so the comparison with prayer isn’t that much of a stretch.
(“The Secret”/”Cosmic Ordering” commercial gak has turned this vacuous to the point of drivel — I don’t see Buddha interrupting sutras to describe how you can summon up a villa in the Seychelles — but the synchronicity thing itself is certainly real.)
Obviously transformation of emotion is only one part of spiritual awakening but it’s big. All spiritual systems have ways of getting through it, from the primitive to the sophisticated. Glenn’s chakra psych is very relevant as are things like the Fusion of Chia. The end result of meditation and kundalini is a much higher state yet in my opinion, where identity is permanently bonded to the non-physical with the result that the world looks very different and is something one is constantly seeing past/through. The worldviews and masks kind of turn out to have been what everything was composed of. Emotion is rather different at that point although one is still human. I’m not trying to touch high spiritual stuff in this blog yet but most spiritual systems are clear about that. Whatever methods are used, whether those above or others, the idea is really to learn and transform, to shift, to know you aren’t stuck, and to find the deep place that was hidden. I probably don’t need to say how wonderful it is to be free of the load. It really is like being reborn.
Afterword & Jin Shin Jyutsu
I should mention that all the stage-one practices can find a home in stage two as well. Meditation is the most obvious — if you practice a thought-watching or insight-meditation approach you can often see to the heart of issues.
I’ve been experimenting with Jin Shin Jyutsu and I’m going to give it an extra boost here because it’s now officially one of the best things I’ve ever come across. I won’t be giving up my favourite basic acupoints but this system gets results that have really amazed me and after much thought I’m going to recommend it ahead of ordinary acupressure. It has great depth, ability to address enormous amounts of emotional and spiritual issues, and always seems to work immediately, consistently and cumulatively.
I’ve got just one book on this, the now-standard one by Burmeister and Monte, and it has everything in it to keep me happy a long, long time. It includes things for individual ailments and general tuneup energy locks plus the ability to work on the orbit. Using the ch’i generated from my practice I can really spread things beautifully through the system and have experienced bliss from this alone. The organ cleansing locks are particularly cool. The system is extremely easy to use. One day I may get certified.
As a final point on this recommend, some of the holds in JSJ are things I was prompted to do by the energy itself before I saw them in a book. I’ve never seen that happen before on this kind of scale and it’s a great sign. In addition I’ve seen Jin Shin creeping unacknowledged into other systems — the Gach/Henning acupressure book has holds that must have come from JSJ, Mantak Chia presents finger-wrapping techniques in Chi Self-Massage, 2006 that are lifted from JSJ (pp. 23-4) and Rob Williams in Hoshinjutsu, 2009 has a method of clearing the orbit (pp. 74-5) which comes directly from JSJ. Possibly these authors don’t know the origin of what they’re presenting. Either way, the reason those things have spread outside their original context is because they work.
If you have this method available at stage one your stage two will be easier particularly if you work it Glenn’s way because the energetics are compatible. And you will have a much better time overall. I’ve tried things like Eden’s Energy Medicine and a little EFT and this outperformed it by a long, long way.
Next time I’ll be returning to some questions like: what are paradigms and alternate realities, and how do they relate to this one? See you next Saturday.