Deepak Chopra, MDHealth Blog - Wellness
Personal Transformation Tools: Seven Steps to Releasing Emotional Turbulence
Published on 2009-03-26 by Deepak Chopra, MD
The practical procedure to transform toxic emotions. By transforming painful experience we not only heal ourselves, but we can also use that process to help ourselves grow spiritually from that experience.
Emotional turbulence interferes with emotional well being and initiative. Fear, anger, guilt and anxiety are deviations from natural condition of balance and stand in the way of spiritual evolution. Restoring balance can be evolutionary in itself.
Patients suffering from life threatening illness often report that their diseases have taught them to love and value the other people in their lives more deeply than before they became ill. During recovery they learn to appreciate and understand areas of life that they took for granted before. Overcoming anxiety can bring the same disguised benefits that dealing with a physical illness can bring. Anger, fear, and worry are not diseases, but we can grow from them even as we process them to become the person we want to be.
By resorting to our inherent intelligence, harmony and creativity, we engage our ability to manifest a positive outcome, but if we are emotionally turbulent, then we are too agitated to access to that field of potentiality. Through meditation we experience our silent self beyond our thoughts and emotions. This is our internal reference point for equilibrium and from where we can create a desired outcome. To restore balance in our life, meditation must therefore be an essential ingredient. It is also important to support this with balanced activity in the basic areas of diet, exercise and sleep. Assuming these fundamental balancing components are in place, I would offer an additional exercise to specifically address what to do in the face of intense anxiety and fear.
Emotional distress is a form of pain. If we learn how to recognize pain as soon as possible, we can also learn how to effectively metabolize and eliminate pain. If we don’t deal with pain when it occurs, we can be certain it will resurface as compounded emotional toxicity later on. The remembrance of pain not processed appears as insomnia, hostility, or anger. If a past hurt has not been metabolized and eliminated there will be anticipation of having that experience again, generating fear and anxiety. As a further complication, if you don’t know how to deal with either of these feelings of anger and fear, you are likely to turn them inward at your self, believing “It’s all my fault.” That guilt depletes our physical, emotional and spiritual energy until any initiative or movement feels impossible. We feel exhausted and paralyzed leading to depression. Toxic turbulent emotions have one cause—not knowing how to deal with pain. Pain is normal to life, but suffering isn’t. When we do not know how to deal with pain, then we suffer.
Learning how to metabolize pain involves these steps:
• Identify and locate the emotion physically
• Witness the experience
• Take responsibility
• Express the emotion
• Release the emotion
• Share the outcome
• Celebrate the process
Set aside a few minutes when you won’t be disturbed. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. For a few minutes, just meditate in silence. Focus on your breathing or if you prefer you may use a mantra.
Now with eyes still closed recall some circumstance in the recent past that was upsetting to you. It may be a time when you felt you were mistreated, an argument with your partner, or perhaps a past injustice at work. Identify some instance where you felt emotionally upset.
For the next 30 seconds think in detail about that incident. Try to picture what actually happened as vividly as you can, as if you were reporting it for a newspaper. Here you are the observer watching this event. You are not the event, the argument, or the emotional upset; you are merely witnessing what is happening from the perspective of your silent self. You are carrying the effect of the meditation you just did, allowing you to maintain a vantage point that is not overshadowed by the quality of the emotions.
Now identify exactly what you are feeling. Put some word on the incident that describes what you are experiencing. Be as precise as you can. Do you feel unappreciated? Insulted? Treated unfairly? Give the feeling a name. Come up with a word that epitomizes the painful experience. Focus your attention on that word.
Gradually allow your attention to move away from the word. Let your attention wander into your body. Become aware of the physical sensations that arise in your body as a result of the emotion you’ve identified. These two elements—an idea in the mind and a physical sensation in the body, are what an emotion truly is, and they can’t really be separated.
This is why we call it a feeling. It is because we feel emotions in our bodies. Let your attention pass through your body as you’re recalling this experience. Locate the sensations the memory brings up. For many it’s a pressure in the chest or a sensation of tightness in the gut. Some feel it as pressure in their throat. Find where it is in your body that you’re feeling and holding the emotional experience.
Now express that feeling. Place your hand on the part of your body where you sense that the feeling is located. Express audibly, “It hurts here.” If you’re aware of more than one location for the pain, move your hand from place to place. At every location, pause for a moment and express what you’re feeling. Say, “It hurts here.” When you experience physical discomfort, it means that something is unbalanced in your experience—physically, mentally, or spiritually. You body knows it—every cell in your body knows it. Befriend these sensations and their wisdom, because the pain is actually leading you to wholeness.
Writing your feelings out on paper is a valuable way to express the emotion. This is especially effective when you can write out your painful experience in the first person, in the second person and finally from the perspective of a third person account.
Be aware that any painful feelings you experience are your feelings. These feelings are happening inside your body now as you remember the pain, even though nothing is actually taking place in the material world. You’re only remembering what happened, yet your body is reacting with muscle contractions, hormonal secretions, and other responses within you. Even when the painful incident was occurring in the material world, the effect was entirely within you. You have choice in how you respond and interpret this emotional turbulence. Recognizing this is taking responsibility for your feelings.
This doesn’t mean that you feel guilty. Instead, it means that you recognize your ability to respond in new and creative ways. Taking responsibility for your feelings, you can also gain the power to make the pain melt away. You’re no longer blaming anyone else for having caused the pin, so you no longer have to depend on anyone else to make it go away. Hold that understanding in your consciousness for the next few moments.
Now you’re ready to release the pain. Place your attention on the part of your body where you’re holding the pain, and with every exhalation of your breath have an intention of releasing that tension. Over the next 30 seconds, just feel the painful sensation leaving your body with every breath. Some people find that making an audible tone that resonates in that part of your body where the pain is localized helps to loosen and lift the contraction away. You can also experiment to discover what works best for you. For others singing or dancing does the trick. You may try deep breathing, using essential oils, or a taking a long warm bath. Finally, if you have written out your emotions on paper, it can be useful to ritually burn the paper and offer the ashes to the winds.
Sharing the outcome of releasing your pain is important because it activates the new pattern of behavior after the old painful pattern is released. Imagine that you could speak to the person who was involved in that original painful incident. What would you say to that person now? Bear in mind that he/she was not the real cause of your pain. The real cause was your response. In your transformed state you are now free. So you can share what happened without blame, manipulation or seeking approval.
Perhaps they intended to cause you pain, and you may have unwittingly collaborated in that intention. Maybe you would like to say you no longer intend to fall into such traps. Whatever you say is totally up to you. As long as you have an awareness of the steps we’ve taken so far in this exercise, whatever you say will be right for you.
Now you can celebrate the painful experience that had taken place as the valuable material that helped you move to a higher level of consciousness. What was previously a disconnected, destructive and disabled part of your psyche is now integrated and contributing its power toward your greater spiritual goal. Instead of responding to the situation with a pain reflex, perpetuating the problem, you’ve turned it into an opportunity for spiritual transformation. That is something to celebrate. Go out for a nice dinner or buy yourself some flowers or a present to honor the new you.
Use this exercise whenever you feel upset to free yourself from emotional turbulence and the underlying pain. When you do that, you’ll find opportunities will arise more often in every area of your life.
The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.