The Importance of Feeling All Our Feelings, Including Fear

Just what is this spiritual path of which we speak, overall? For people committed to the intensive work of self-confrontation, growth and healing—in short, for those walking a spiritual path—it would helpful to have an outline of the principles that guide our way. Knowing this may allow us to sort out how we fit into the cosmos. What exactly is the point?

And while we are all at different places or phases on our spiritual journeys, there is a general picture we can paint that is applicable to all, including relative newcomers who benefit greatly from the work done by those who have gone before. It’s like those previous efforts have paved the way, making it possible for everyone to now accomplish more and do it more quickly. Perhaps thank-you notes are in order.

One thing that most people are catching onto is how essential it is to face everything inside ourselves—our feelings and convictions, attitudes and negative aspects—that we are either completely unaware of, or not sufficiently so. If we don’t cultivate this awareness, we will never find the center of our being, and that’s really the point: to reach our core where life springs eternal. In the nucleus of our being is where we’ll find our connection to God—because that is God. Or at least an aspect of God. But still, that is everything.

The place to start then is by considering just what is it we must become aware of and contend with. The laundry list includes our selfish feelings and our hostile attitudes, our cruel impulses and all our destructive, negative ways. Plus we need to get a handle on how our defenses work. What a huge difference it makes to start to see ourselves in action.

When we stop trying to be so perfect and quit sticking up for our woefully ineffective defenses, we discover that we can own up to our foibles. We are all fallible humans who are vulnerable and irrational as well as needy and wrong, not to mention weak and unhappy. Admitting this makes us stronger and not so self-righteous, which leads to being truly right and independent, and therefore fulfilled.

The grand irony is that admission of inadmissible feelings is the gateway to inner unity; it’s the bridge to expressing ourselves fully. When we accept our hate, we become more loving; accepting our weakness is the doorway to finding our own strength; accepting our pain is the way to find our bliss. No question, a spiritual path is filled with many a paradox. When we shed our defenses, we become more real, which makes it easier to take the next step and the one after that. This is good to know, because frankly, the first steps in beginning any new phase are always the roughest.

The reason it’s so incredibly difficult to remove our illusions about ourselves is that we all vaguely believe that the truth hidden below the surface—currently out of our awareness—is unacceptable. And that makes us unacceptable. This double-whammy needs to seen and ousted: it’s not true what we believe, nor is the cover we use to hide it. Let’s not kid ourselves, this excavation work isn’t going to be easy. And we won’t complete the job in one fell swoop. The going is tedious and proceeds in stages—and usually also in fits and starts.

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While we’re busy unearthing the bones of what’s lurking in our unconscious, we need to start understanding, on a deeper level, where our destructiveness comes from. What’s the origin of this evil we’re uncovering? Actually, the real evil lies in our denial of what exists: our vulnerabilities, our shame over our feelings of helplessness, and our feelings that we are unlovable. These themselves aren’t the evil—the evil is that we won’t look at them and come to terms with them.

To be evil then is to defend ourselves against suffering. Wow. Because all our defenses do nothing but create more suffering, along with a helping of confusion, and then we can no longer connect with our real feelings. We lose ourselves.

Obviously then, if we want to move on down our spiritual path, we must directly concern ourselves with what hurts. We have to look at the suffering we endured as children and have gone on to defend ourselves against feeling. We need to allow ourselves to express our until-now unfelt feelings, and then we’ll have the realization—the felt reality—that denying the original hurt is what compels us to recreate it in our lives, again and again. And every time we recreate the denied painful experience, we rub salt in the wound. Now it’s time to feel things in a new, intentional way that can be done safely and that leads to finally healing what hurts.

For many of us, we know in our heads about our childhood suffering and the extent of our unhappiness. But we don’t have a felt sense of this. Often, we go on believing for a long time that the opposite happened. Things were fine. But before we can be prepared to experience the truth, we have to gain knowledge of it. This alone will begin to weaken our defenses against feeling the pain that we need to safely re-experience so we can heal.

Our defenses work by blocking access to our emotions, so they choke off our ability to get to our feelings. We’re going to need to lower our weapons. But we should avoid suddenly crashing the gates, hoping to mow down our defenses, as that can injure the psyche.

But when we’re ready, we can venture into the depths of our being, where can let go and give ourselves over to all the feelings pent up there. That’s the only way they’re going to leave our system. If we don’t do this, the gates will remain locked, with the source of our ongoing pain held in and our accumulated feelings not allowed to return to their natural state.

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There is an interesting link between our feelings we haven’t yet felt and laziness. First, we must realize that laziness isn’t an attitude one can give up at will, if only we’d come around to being more constructive and reasonable. It’s not a moral issue. Laziness results from stagnant energy in the soul that shows up in the form of apathy and paralysis.

Stagnant soul substance comes from not feeling our feelings, which is tied to not understanding their true origin or significance, causing them to build up and the clog up the flow of our life force.

Knowing and feeling then are bookends on the same phenomenon; they aren’t separate functions. Knowing is needed to make room for our feelings to surface and be expressed. We can start by logically deducing that, yep, we must have certain past feelings stuck in us that are magnetically attracting our present unpleasant situations. This is a necessary first step, but we must go further.

But this can get tricky. Sometimes the knowing becomes a barricade; we replace the feeling with the knowing. Then the unity of knowing and feeling working in concert gets interrupted. We might have feelings but not know what they mean or where they came from or how they are still directing our life now.

There are no rules that tell us when knowledge is being used to block feelings, and vice versa. So we just need to watch for misusing the interplay between knowing and feelings. It’s never true that if we don’t know what we feel or where our feelings come from, we can’t be hurt by them. They fester in our soul, becoming poisonous from not being released. The way out is to feel, know, express and live through them as fully as we can.

So all that is evil—our negative, destructive ways—results from defending against feeling pain. This denial of undesirable feelings causes our energy to stagnate, which makes it hard for us to move. Feelings, which are moving energy currents, will change and transform as long as the energy is flowing. But freezing our feelings stops the movement and therefore stops life, making us feel lazy.

In laziness, we only move when we are painfully forced to move by our outer will. Hence the hankering by so many to lead a sedentary life; being inactive seems highly desirable. It’s not that people are just immature and find the difficulties of life too much for them. This only labels or explains the effect.

In truth, when the natural inner movement of energy is spontaneous and free flowing, it is never painful or arduous; it isn’t tiring or undesirable to be in motion. But when we stagnate, becoming lazy, passive and inert, we desire to do nothing, and then often confuse this state with the natural, spiritual state of just being. But there’s a big difference. And knowing this gives us a good gauge for whether there are feelings inside us that have congealed into a toxic psychic dump because we were so loath to let them be.

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Our stagnated energy doesn’t only trap feelings, but concepts too. We take a single event and base a false generalized belief on it, which we then hold onto. It’s rare when stagnant feelings don’t hold equally stuck concepts about life in their amber. Often these wrong conclusions about life, what the Guide calls “images,” are tucked far from our waking mind.

Due to our images, we are compelled to re-experience Groundhog Day over and over and over. We will keep recycling painful experiences until we summon the courage to now live through what was not lived through before. Good intentions will not be enough here—we can only move the needle through really and fully re-experiencing our earlier emotions. There’s no substitute for feeling our feelings.

We must make our away across the barriers we constructed, behind which are deeply buried feelings we’ve consciously forgotten about. It’s our forgetting that causes us to delude ourselves into thinking that bad moods and unhappy situations just befall us out of the blue. It’s either that or we must have bad luck.

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The basic human predicament is that we live in a land of duality—a world filled with dualistic splits—and we don’t realize that these are a mirage, nothing more than a delusion of perception. One facet of this delusion is that human consciousness itself is split. On a regular basis, we are known to feel one way, believe something else, and act without knowing how these two things affect us.

A further facet of our split is that we aren’t aware of what we actually feel and really believe. So when we unify knowing and feeling—ta-da!—we mend our inner fences and feel better. We wake up, becoming more integrated and whole.

Not experiencing our feelings in their full intensity makes our inner life flow like molasses. We find ourselves feeling inexplicably paralyzed, with our actions ineffective and our desires blocked. Doors are closed on our talents, and our needs lie fallow and unfulfilled. We feel lazy and our creative juices won’t flow.

We may feel despair, which we’ll rationalize away using the difficulty-of-the-day, and we’ll feel swallowed up by a sense of futility and confusion about life. All this because we resist living through the feelings we’re hiding. Then we go on harboring them like fugitives that will harm us if we let them out.

In most cases, these old feelings have been on the run for more than a few decades—it’s been centuries and even millennia for some. In every lifetime, we have a chance to do some more housekeeping, purifying ourselves until there’s no more waste left inside. Every time around the horn is another opportunity to clear previously accumulated waste, but our memory of previous visits is always blotted out, so we only have this life to draw on.

Anyone who denies the feeling experience—so really, that’s all of us—has to go through the memory-dimming deal, which is a byproduct of still being involved in the cycles of life and death. When we refuse to become aware of what’s gone on in this very life, we add more gunk to the reservoir, instead of emptying it out, with more dimming then to follow. In this way, we’re the ones perpetuating the ongoing birth-and-death cycles, which involves that nasty break in consciousness we’re none too fond of.

Conversely, we could eliminate that interruption of our awareness—along with the whole cycle of dying and being reborn—by living through whatever we’ve accumulated in this lifetime, to whatever extent we can hook up our memory links. Here’s the good news: if we do this, we will automatically clean up all the trauma from all our previous lives, because the trauma of now is only a trauma due to our past denial of these pains.

People, we can do this. But we have to let go and trust the process of healing. Here again we stub our toe on the basic problem. We can’t let go if, in our innermost being, we’re defending against feeling our feelings, which frankly we know good and well, on some level, exist—or we wouldn’t work so hard to deny them. What we struggle against is establishing a link between these feelings and our inner knowledge and our current patterns of behavior; we’re defended against hooking all this up.

And that paralysis we feel—that we deem as our laziness—about which we wag our tongues in moral judgment, should instead be looked at as an indirect symptom of a problem. We have the perception that the symptom—being lazy—is what’s preventing us from living, but what’s really stopping us is our fear of our feelings. Our real problem is our resistance to living our feelings that we didn’t accept when they first painfully appeared.

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Movement has a way of stirring up what’s stagnant, so we use laziness as a way to protect ourselves against any movement that might bring up these buried old feelings. We think we can manage to block the feelings—but we didn’t realize that this would block our very life. Didn’t see that coming. So laziness isn’t just an effect, it’s also a defensive strategy. This bit of information can encourage us to redirect ourselves to overcoming self-induced protective stagnation—aka, laziness. Which of course means we’ll need to have the courage to feel what’s there to feel. Oh boy.

To be serene, which is what we’re all secretly longing for whether we know it or not, doesn’t mean we’re cautious and passive. In the true state of being, we’re active, but in a calm and relaxed way. It’s joyous movement. But the fearful self will kick up a frenzy as a counteraction to stagnation.

It’s like we’re fighting hard against stagnation by overlaying compulsive action over our resistance. This alienates us from the truth of the stagnation, making it really tough to sort out the reason for the stagnation—hint: it was that fear of feeling all our feelings, including fear. Wound up in knots much?

It’s only when we stop fighting that we can dissolve all these convoluted tensions that are caused by our resistance to feeling our feelings. Then we can come clean of our frenzied activities as well as our paralysis. We have to feel the fear that’s under the spell of the poppies of our laziness.

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All of us harbor fear in our bellies, even those of us who are not outwardly lazy. It’s a basic human condition to have fear, and we need to give ourselves space to express this. We need to work with trained helpers who can make room for our fear to have its say. When we do this, we’ll find it holds two basic elements.

First, there is the childhood situation we found to be so painful that we cut off our feelings so we wouldn’t have to feel that. And second, and even more importantly, we became afraid of experiencing the fear that we cut off. The real harm lies in this fear of the fear, because it creates a self-perpetual motion machine that multiplies whatever is denied.

So when we deny our fear, this creates a fear of fear, which leads to the fear of feeling the fear of fear, and so on. We can take any feeling and plug it into this formula, and get a similar result. Denied anger will make us angry at our anger, and denying this makes us angry for not accepting our anger. Frustration, which is bearable if we will just go into it, becomes more frustrating when we think we ought not be frustrated. We could do this all day.

No matter how undesirable a feeling is, we compound our pain when we won’t feel it, and that secondary pain is all bitter with no sweet; it becomes twisted and unbearable. But if we accept and feel our pain, it starts the dissolving process automatically. When we drop directly into our fear, the fear will quickly give way to another feeling we’ve denied. And that will be easier to bear than its denial—which is the fear. And that’s easier to bear than the fear of the fear.

We need to gather ourselves and use whatever ground we’ve already gained to go right into the deep end of painful, hurtful, frightening feelings. Eventually we’ll find the nucleus of old toxic energy made up of denied feelings. But that still feels better than it does to keep running away. And fighting only makes the effort harder than it needs to be. The only way out is in and through.

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Now would be a good time to focus on meditation. If we do, we’ll discover how consciously directing ourselves in this way elicits a balanced measure of inner guidance that we can then apply to our lives. We have to work at this in a two-fold way. First, we must commit to go in and through, and not around. Humans, by and large, have a strong preference for going around.

But our declaration of our intention to follow a steady and direct course will get the attention of our inner selves; it will literally set up new conditions in our soul substance. Then, second, we can ask for extra help and guidance, which goes a long way toward loosening up some of that stagnant matter. It’s like a rototiller for the soul. This will help clear out some of that laziness that makes us procrastinate and avoid and postpone. Once that sufficiently clears, it will set a new influx of energy into motion. How cool is that.

The best way to get started is to state in our meditation that we want to feel whatever is trapped inside so we can rid ourselves of the waste. Then guidance will appear—both within ourselves and from others—that will help us through our personal situations. We can learn to attune ourselves to this guidance, so we don’t miss out because we’re blind and deaf to it.

Guidance is always around us as a waiting potential, but we must voluntarily tap into it, and then the involuntary part can take over. Like when our voluntary commitment to going in and through leads to an involuntary influx of energy and activates the guiding wisdom of our divine self.

There are two completely different ways for the involuntary self to manifest. There’s the Higher Self with its higher wisdom and guidance just mentioned, and then there’s the surfacing of young inner aspects of the self that still deny the residual pain of long ago and which are sitting in pain. The first part helps and guides the latter.

If we use this meditational approach of connecting our Higher Self with the wounded inner child, energy will be freed up that can be used for the all-important purpose of healing these young, hurting parts of ourselves. We may think we don’t have the time or energy for this effort of going into our feelings. But we sure do have plenty of energy to spend on other activities that seem more important to us. Folks, no matter how important those other activities might be, nothing is more important than doing this working of healing—than attending to our task for this lifetime. It’s our true reason for being, and it’s the key to living a productive life.

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A second important aspect of meditation involves summoning the faith that going in and through our feelings won’t kill us. Without this faith, we won’t have the guts to go through with it. Said differently, if we don’t feel safe about dealing with our feelings, we will concoct a story about how much we doubt that this process is safe. We will cobble together a scenario in which we avoid “going in,” thinking to still manage to become integrated and lead a full and healthy life. Here’s one we can bank on: when we avoid feelings, we always end up sideways in a dualistic paradox of false hope and false doubt.

As we go along our merry way of spiritual development, purification and unification, there will be many junctures where we must let ourselves fall into what appears to be a bottomless abyss. This is one such juncture, this letting go into the apparent abyss of our blocked feelings—our painful, fearful feelings.

The notion of falling into it will seem to threaten to annihilate us. So there we will hang, crouched at the edge, holding on for dear life, not daring to jump. That’s a miserable spot to be in. But unless we do this, we’ll stay stuck in an uncomfortable position for a very long time. And it’s not really possible to get much enjoyment out of life that way.

Yet the misery of remaining perched in our cramped, fearful position, clinging to our worthless defenses, seems better than the alternative: total annihilation. Only after we finally crank up the courage to take the risk and fall face forward into the apparent abyss do we discover that, son of a gun, we float. We need to cross many such junctures, repeatedly making the decision to take a risk, before we discover that it really is safe to jump. To feel.

The faith needed to make this leap can be ignited by examining what’s at stake, and squaring our shoulders to the issue. We can ask ourselves: “Does humanity really rest on a bottomless pit of evil and destruction? Or is it possible that these are aspects in distortion and they don’t really need to exist?” If it’s true what they say, that the universe is 100% trustworthy and completely good and safe, then why should we be afraid to be what we are?

Of course, along the way, our faith will be tested. We will have to face the gap between what we actually believe and what we claim to believe. If indeed we have true faith in the ultimate spiritual nature of mankind, then there’s nothing to fear. But if we don’t, we’ll have to surface our doubts and face them.

With our doubts out in the open, we can poke at them a bit. Do we really believe that human nature is ultimately bad? If so, what’s our deeper motive for this belief? Again, we can only close the distance between what we think we believe and what we actually believe by honestly working this through. This applies to more than just our doubts—it applies to any issue that’s important to us. And back to our first reason for meditating, we can activate help and guidance for the specific purpose of sorting ourselves out.

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While we’re meditating, we can also state that we want to see how we avoid, and ask for help in not deceiving ourselves any longer. If we’re going to cling to the edge of the abyss of our feelings and not jump, let’s at least know we’re doing this and why. That’s better than denying our fear and pretending we’re not afraid. It may seem counterintuitive, but we’re more in touch with ourselves when we admit our fear than when we deny it. By facing our fears and challenging their validity, we may notice that the real reason behind the fear is our shame and its partner-in-crime, pride.

Because guess what’s a formula for creating fear? Denied shame and pride. We think we shouldn’t be where we are—we should be better than we are—and that it’s humiliating to be vulnerable and have certain feelings. We have the sense that we suffered as a child because we are unacceptable and unlovable. All this makes us deny what’s real, right now.

This denial creates a pressure that we experience as fear, and in turn, our fear compels us to concoct theories to justify why we’re afraid. If we convince ourselves that it’s dangerous to feel, we may be headed for a crisis and a breakdown that is nothing more or less than a result of this deep-seated conviction. Like it says in Scripture, “According to thy belief it will be done onto thee.”

There’s no magic here, just spiritual laws at work. Strong feelings of fear can lead to terror, which can bring about acute crisis. But under all this will be the original kernels of shame or pride. We believe we suffered as children because we weren’t worthy of being loved. And we are ashamed to expose this personal inadequacy.

So guess what has the power to dissolve fear? Crossing the barrier of our pride, shame, humiliation and embarrassment. These we have to face. We have to let go into the abyss of these feelings. We can call for support in our meditation, without which the terrain is unnecessarily rocky. We can build for ourselves the climate we need to be able to venture into the abyss of fright and loneliness, pain and anger, plus the helplessness of enduring all our suffering.

Every tear not shed is a block. Every protest not spoken sits like a lump in our throat, causing us to lash out inappropriately. These feelings feel like bottomless pits. But once we leap, we’ll find a deep well inside that is filled with the divine. It is light and alive, warm and secure. We’re not making this stuff up—this is a stark reality. But we can only experience it by going in and through the feelings we have avoided.

Just behind our sadness and our pain is our spiritual self, filled to the brim with peace and joy and safety. But we can’t activate this with our will. We also can’t get to it with any practices or actions that don’t include all our feelings. But as soon as we turn our bow into the storm of rough waters, the sails of our spiritual center fill completely, as a natural byproduct of the tack we’ve taken.

We won’t realize that the fear is not real—it’s truly an illusion—until we feel it and go through it. We find our strength by feeling our weakness; we find pleasure and joy by feeling our pain; we find safety and security by feeling our fear; we find companionship by feeling our loneliness; we find our capacity to love by feeling our hate; we find true and justified hope by feeling our hopelessness; we find fulfillment right now by accepting the lacks of our childhood.

When we experience these various states and feelings, it’s imperative we don’t delude ourselves into believing they are caused by anything going on right now. They’re not. Whatever is coming up now is only a result of a past we’re still nursing in our system. But if we walk through these gateways, we’ll step into life.

Any spiritual path that encourages us to reach the Holy Grail without going through the weeds, is full of wishful thinking. There’s simply no way around what lies poisoning our whole system—spiritual, psychological, and often physical. Once we wake up to this reality, like Pinocchio, we’ll start to become more real.

 

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