Beyond guilt to grace: the sacred function of emotions

Beyond guilt to grace: the sacred function of emotions

English: Miley Cyrus plays in concert Polski: ...

English: Miley Cyrus plays in concert Polski: Miley Cyrus podczas koncertu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your emotions are sacred. They are holy. They are also very powerful, so unless you respect their power, their power can lead to challenging surprises.

Imagine driving a big, heavy semi truck for the first time and then going down a steep, winding mountain road. Do you know what will happen?

The momentum of the semi truck is greater than the momentum of a small sports car. To make it safer to drive a big heavy truck down steep, winding roads, a truck driver can change the gears of the vehicle so that the speed of the truck stays in a range that is easy to manage.

Since it takes a lot of braking to stop a heavy truck, keeping speed moderate is important. Also, a heavy truck cannot change direction with the ease of a sports car, so weaving down a winding road will be very challenging unless the pace is kept moderate.

Handling emotions can be a lot like handling a big heavy truck while driving on a steep, winding mountain road. The word emotion is related to motion, movement, and momentum.

When we have only a small amount of awareness about the power of emotion, then new circumstances in life can lead to challenging surprises. We can experience stress, like the experience that things are going too fast and getting out of control. How do we relate to stress?

Many people relate to stress as if stress simply should not exist. This can be called repression or suppression or simply denial. This can even be called terror.

I also call that guilt. Guilt is relating to something as if it should not be however it is.

So, if we relate to emotions as things that should not be how they are, that that is being guilty about them. We can relate to them or label them as emotions that should not be how they are (or “negative”). That can lead to desire and other emotions manifesting in sudden, erratic, and chaotic ways.

What do we do when we relate to something as if it should not be how it is (when we fear it and it’s power)? We hide it. We protect it from attention. We suppress it. We criticize it in other people and hysterically fear those who spark in us the thing that we sincerely perceive as a threat.

“In breaking news, today Miley Cyrus denied emphatically that exhibitionism is a call for attention and publicity.”

We may also passionately condemn whatever we identify as what should not be. We may protest reality as a threat to our ideology of what should be. We may even campaign for political solutions to offer us salvation from the “hell” of emotional stress. We can be foolish and stubborn and, most of all, terrified.

So, one common behavior is to label our emotions as negative or what should not be or threats or terrors. Of course, terror is an emotion, but when we suppress terror, then any emotional charge may tend to capture some of the charge of the latent terror, so we may end up repressing lots of emotion in order to keep the terror from surfacing.

Our terror of facing guilt leads naturally to avoiding it, though it may still come out rather explosively, like in a tearful burst of rage. Further, to face guilt or terror can be a stressful process. So, sometimes we may value partnering with an ally to assist and guide us in combing out the tangles of guilt.

We may also feel an impulse to simply unload our guilts by revealing them to someone who is not terrified of emotion. We may value confessing to a trusted listener who does not relate to emotions as terrifying threats and who reliably keeps all the personal details confidential.

Confidentiality is important because the terror of being vulnerable functions to protect us from the perceived threat of unwelcome attention from others. Those who are even more stressed than us might target us and punish us for revealing things that may be to them quite terrifying, disturbing, threatening, humbling, and related to shamefully as “what should not be.”

So grace is related to the word gratitude. What if rather than be fundamentally terrified of so many powerful emotions that we may claim should not be so powerful, we were respectful of their power or even grateful?

What if we respected that other people may be terrified of particular emotions, like a baby that is almost asleep but is easily disturbed? What if emotions were allies that we could use to recognize what matters to us?

Is it realistic to expect to never be disappointed (to experience grief)? If we are terrified of grief, then it can be very frustrating to stress over how to hide our grief. That frustration can take a trigger for grief and multiply the grief in to a grievance, then in to resentment, contempt, and so on.

We can relate to people and groups as if they should not be how they are. We can complain that they are too powerful or not as generous as they should be (according to us). We can argue over what should be and then fight over how to fix reality so that reality is made in to how it should be.

Then there are all the details. Who should pay for it (and how)? What private contractors should be hired to do the research and the planning and the implementation?

Reality can be related to as a problem. Who presents themselves as the solution? Who treats reality as a problem? Could that just be a marketing program?

But should those who sell us salvation (political salvation or otherwise) concoct problems just to promote their planned policies and their ritual sacraments as solutions to the invented problems? Haven’t we been trained to parrot hysterically an ideal that “they just should not do things like that?”

Would they tell us what should be just because they know that training the masses in what should be is a great mechanism for hiding things, for monopolizing certain methods, for terrifying the masses in to keeping quiet and focusing elsewhere, like on the latest scandal involving Miley Cyrus or some controversial politician or some exciting development in professional sports? Wait- exactly how much more did the CEO of my company make last year than what should be?

That is the spirit of divisiveness (inner conflict). That is the projecting of guilt. I can relate to life as if life should not be how it is, and as if I also should not be how I am, but then in order to distract myself from the desperation of my guilt, I focus on something more socially acceptable as a target of my condemnation and contempt (or I condemn myself and withdraw in to depression).

“Those people SHOULD feel so guilty,” I say, vilifying those who appear to me to act without regret. I am jealous of their lack of shame about their lack of physical tension and stress in regard to emotions.

“Did you see how ANGRY he got? People should not get so angry like that. I could just punch him in the mouth and then report him to the authorities for getting so angry. He is always trying to intimidate everyone! He is really just a big bully and that is just wrong. If he does not stop threatening people, then soon we are just going to have to threaten him, don’t you agree? It’s only right!”

When I insist that reality should be how it is not, then I may be guilty for not having fixed it already. The right thing to do is to fight for what is right, right? I invest my life in a stressful conflict with reality, opposing all people who are sincerely fighting for whatever version of “how reality should be” that they worship.

I protest what it is only right to protest. I pity the sincere idiots who fight for what is obviously not right. How can they be so naïve and angry and immature and confused? How?!?!

“In breaking news later the same day, Miley Cyrus again screamed even more hysterically that exhibitionism is NOT a call for attention and publicity!”

I support the bombing of the people and places that it is only right to bomb. I support the political solutions that it is only right to support. I condemn the current events that it is only right to condemn.

I am only doing what is right (according to whatever program of right and wrong that was instilled in me early in my impressionable youth). I am only right. Only I am right.

Reality should not be how it is and if you do not believe me, which you should, than I will defensively and hysterically point to someone else and then identify something about them that is not how it should be. If you get too close to what I insist that I should hide because it is not how it should be, then I will condemn you for not doing what you should do, for doing what you clearly should not have done. It is only right, right?

For one thing, you obviously cannot handle your emotions. You are like an out-of-control semi truck on a steep, winding mountain road.

Other people are frustrating me. That reminds me: you and I really need to talk about how I insist that you need to change. I know I just told you recently, because I am such a good person, but you obviously have not changed yet. So, in order to distract me from my own grief and my own desires, all of which should not be how they are, we need to talk about how you need to change.

Or maybe you are willing to question the momentum of all of that hysterical terror. Maybe you are willing to question why your emotions could be sacred and holy.

How can your emotions be sacred and holy if you are not sacred and holy? How can they be how they already should be if you are not how you already should be? How can you experience gratitude for the way things are already without fixing everything first? It’s only right, right?

Life is a big problem, right? I can even list out a bunch of  problems for you, right? Or, I could list a bunch of priorities for you.

Which realm do you choose now to invest in as your future: desperate struggle with problems that should not be how they are or courageous explorations of what could be but may not be yet? Which do you choose as your mode of relating to life: desperate condemnation (because it is only right, even if it does not actually work according to the fantasy ideals programmed in to the masses through widespread indoctrination) or courageous exploration (because that actually works)? Choose: either focusing on who is guilty and why or experiencing gratitude?

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One Response to “Beyond guilt to grace: the sacred function of emotions”

  1. CJ Says:

    Thank you for the link-up in your post. I very much appreciate that.

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