Some people believe that emotions and "emotions alone" give meaning to life, that the ability to laugh or cry, to feel alternately pensive or blissful, imbues our existence with beauty and value. Doc Childre’s from HeartMath asks, "What would it be like if you somehow managed to climb to the top of Mount Everest but couldn’t feel the exhilarating rush of excitement? What if you spent time with family or close friends but couldn’t feel the love between you? Our emotions are such a natural part of our existence that we take them for granted. They allow us to experience the textures and colors of life. Without them, we can still climb Mount Everest and spend time with our family and friends, but what’s the point?" The tricky part about emotions is that they can enrich our lives or destroy them. It is perplexing though when Childre says that "emotions are strong feelings," but our emotions "are not really intelligent."
We have said that the heart represents the basic capacity to feel. All of our feelings matter. All our feelings have intelligence. All have a purpose. But people and children have a very strong tendency and need to diminish the importance of feelings, and especially those of others. There is a basic conspiracy between human beings which tends to depress and repress the heart and its feelings. This is a collective conscious defensive mechanism and we see it clearly expressed when young boys who are told not to cry. Almost universally feelings are down graded in importance as reason and logic are held up high. This has led, especially men, to try to repress feelings in order to reveal less about their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. As a race we have collectively run over the universe of the heart. Hurt is one of the basic experiences that we try to defend ourselves against by closing ourselves to that part of ourselves that gets hurt. We closed ourselves off with walls of separation so as not to get hurt. And we learn as much as possible to not expose our vulnerabilities and feelings of hurt so we don’t have to show others how much we are hurt. The English are famous for this "keeping a stiff upper lip" trip. This is a literal bodily expression for the expression of vulnerable feelings can easily cause the upper lip to tremble and quiver.
Childre’s declaration that emotions alone give meaning yet they lack intelligence flies in the face of emotional intelligence and the genius of Einstein who said "emotions don’t lie." If emotions and feelings represent "truth" this points to some natural intelligence that exists within either the emotional mind or the hearts deepest sense of feeling and care. Both heart feelings and the emotional minds responses to situations are built in radars for danger. They warn us of danger or changing circumstances and mobilize us to respond to urgent events without waste of time. The deepest part of ourselves, our hearts and beings, often feel the need to respond and react without taking time to ponder. The heart and emotional mind are far quicker than the rational mind, springing into action without pausing even a moment to consider what it is doing. This is the risk of the heart. But in a moment of doubt or fear we short circuit this emotional intelligence and do nothing.
What is moral is what we feel good after, And what is immoral is what we feel bad after.
– Ernest Hemingway
Emotions are energies that we feel. We feel our emotions and that is why we mostly identify our sense of self with emotions. Emotions are our beings way of feeling our thoughts. They reflect the quality of our thoughts, actions and even our non-actions. They often mix the present and the past together into some incomprehensible experience that we find difficult to understand.
Core heart feelings carry a vast intelligence that more surface type of emotions cannot compete with. But our emotions still have intelligence because they tell us something about our thoughts and ourselves and where we are in relationship to others and ourselves. Negative emotions are what we normally experience as suffering and pain. When we say the heart can bleed like no part of the body we are saying that the emotional heart center can get obsessed and caught up in a never ending treadmill of emotional suffering that can bring us down into a darkness where every thought is an attack on our soul. Suicide is the solution of last resort for those whose negative emotions are choking their soul. And the broken heart syndrome is known in the medical community to end up in death for older folks who loose their spouse of many years. Emotions build up like standing waves or walls of energy and get experienced heavily by the body. The way we carry ourselves is evident in our emotions. Depressed people look down not up. The way a person stands, uses their shoulders, the way they walk all mirror basic emotional patterns.
Emotions can be seen as a reflection of deep hurt on the level of pure being. They can represent our resistance to something as awesome as the fully awakened and vulnerable heart. This is strange for the emotional mind suffers a nightmare that often seems without end. Is it possible that this is all because we are afraid of the brief experiences of vulnerable heart felt feelings and fear of their expression? Are many of our emotions mere reflections of separation from more pure feelings? Do they represent separations from being in the present moment? Separations from our own "God" self?
It is in childhood and infancy that our first emotional patterning happens. Many things happen in childhood that the child or infant cannot defend against. From the general lack of love and attention to actual child abuse, (family and educational) which is more wide spread than anyone ever wants to imagine, children are hurt and they suffer and they defend against that suffering. Thus most of our emotional reactions in the present are mirrors of these defenses from the past. When some feature of an event in the present appears similar to and emotionally charged memory in the past the unconscious emotional mind reacts with the feelings and patterns of the remembered event. We thus transfer the past into the present and this is the basis of transference that psychologists deal with.
The emotional mind reacts to the present as though it were the past. Our feelings are more honest with the present. We have to live with both our present and past selves until the past is completely healed. This takes the love, caring, feeling, and empathy of the heart. We often suffer for what actually is going on in the present as and we are trying to heal what has happened in the past. Seen together we can see that our challenges are daunting as human beings.
The main difference between the head and the heart is seen in their relative approaches to suffering. The mind is into avoidance and repression, denial and blame. The heart on the other hand embraces pain and suffering and uses these feelings as a way to heal, as a way to experience the full quality of beingness.
How we approach our suffering holds the key to our joy. When we avoid the suffering of life that Buddha talked about we avoid life, we end up avoiding the heart, and thus we miss out on its true capacity for love. When we avoid suffering we avoid our real ability to feel joy and the pure joy of feeling and knowing our own being. Diana Richardson said this well. "The point is that our conscious feelings contain our heaven, while our unconscious emotions contain our hell, and we create our hell through not expressing our heaven." When we look at emotions as a defense against the real deep instantaneous feeling and expression of the heart we see the perfect sense in this. For she continues, "At times heaven may look like hell in the form of a tragedy, a loss or a disaster, but if we allow the real feelings to rise, the anguish, agony, and pain, we feel much better, even uplifted." She is speaking of the magic of the heart when allowed full expression.
The sufferings of the heart must be approached with empathy or we risk creating more hurt through our judgments and yet this is what most people do. Simone Weil said, "The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all who think they have this capacity do not possess it." What many people do not want to see is that one of the deepest reasons that we do suffe to r on earth is that suffering is one of the only ways we learn about empathy. It is a lesson that comes the hard wayhumans hardened in their minds.
Some people have to go through extended periods of suffering and through this they learn many mighty lessons. There are no real shortcuts when it comes to our soul evolution and we cannot avoid the necessary sufferings though most would love to. There are so many feel good and think positive techniques and philosophies that secretly have as a motive the avoidance of suffering instead of embracing the full fires of feeling.
With the full fire of our joy we also know, or need to know, the full flavor of suffering and remorse for the cornerstone and foundation of empathy hinges on our capacity to feel and to suffer consciously. And we build this capacity more through our own conscious sufferings than through our joy though in the end it is joy we are after. The more open we are to our own emotions and feelings the more we can feel and empathize with others.
HeartHealth is about developing the capacity of feeling. Thus it is about developing the sense of intuition, the sense of empathy, and most importantly, our deep sense of compassion for all of life.
When we look at the fact that most communication research says that 90 percent or more of most communications between people are nonverbal and that peoples emotions are rarely put into words, we see how deeply attuned we need to be to our inner world of feelings to be able to intuit another’s actual feelings. This is the key to reading other peoples feelings through tone of voice, gesture, facial expression and the like. John Suller, a well-known Virtual Psychologist suggests that with intuition fully engaged, we can do the same with our virtual and digital communications. We can read in-between the lines in the space between the words. We can feel a person and their feelings even in cyber space if we have the openness to do so.
In the midst of life on earth, with all its suffering and difficulties, we need to remember that as we look for peace we need to try to be conscious not to get overly attached to it. On this planet almost any attachment ends up being a problem including the attachment to happiness and joy. But attachment aside, joy and happiness, serenity, tranquility, peace and humility are all destinies that await us as we move into the center of true heart intelligence. But on our way there the true heart never loses sight of the suffering and the general lack of love in human life and in ones self. The saint after all is the one who is able to always see and feel his or her own limitations of love and feeling when those limitations arise in consciousness. Such self-insight fuels the will to reach for higher states of love and feeling. Goleman recognized the link between suffering and empathy when he said, "Many such people are gifted at sensing what others around them are feeling, and it is quite common for them to report having suffered emotional abuse in childhood."
Sadness for instance, even the happiest person is bound to confront these feelings and the experiences that provoke them. To feel grief or sorrow is a deeply human reaction to the loss of a loved one. These feelings naturally help us adjust to significant losses by drawing our energy inward toward an introspective type of awareness that creates the opportunity to mourn a loss. Everyone experiences losses in life and it is not only with the death or separation from people we love. People face powerful feelings when their hopes are frustrated or blocked. We don’t always get what we want and certainly almost never when we want. All great changes often demand that we look deeply inside. Grief and sadness can turn us inward and prepare us for new beginnings. The loss of love is sad. To be happy at the loss of love is pathological.
Our circuits are built naturally to respond with joy and happiness when love is increased and to sadness and grief when it is reduced.
The temporary feelings of sadness, grief or sorrow are both natural and in tune with natural intelligence. But when we mix in the ego mind we can go down the tubes into despair, gloom and into a pathological depression. Brief feelings of depression can alert us to the closing off of the natural river of heart energies but clinical depression indicates that state where all emotional intelligence gets lost. Self-pity or gloom are states of dark moods that indicate a lack of positive action which feelings and more intelligent emotions propel us toward. The fact that clinical depression is rising vastly is an indication of how society is moving people further and further from the wisdom of emotions and feelings, away from the heart.
The world of today does not support much heart and the price modern man pays is enormous stress and moods that are attenuated by Television and a host of mood changing drugs, i.e., cigarettes, alcohol, prescription and non prescription drugs and even sexual addiction all mark our pathways of separating from the heart. Disease is the natural result of the loss of heart intelligence. But even the darkest emotions, that show little actual emotional intelligence are messaging to the organism, and to the hearts of others, who might choose to help, that something is wrong and in desperate need of change. Thus all emotions have their intelligence. They all say something though we might not like what they say.
The main thrust of the HeartHealth’s pages on suffering is to find and feel the meaning of our suffering so we can change and move deeper into the heart. It is fortunate that the cosmic intelligence created the universe in such a way that everything has meaning even our negative emotions and physical disease states. If we are willing to look, see, and feel what is going on, we can move beyond. In general HeartHealth is all about processing and refining the whole emotional feeling complex of being. When we constantly work on this aspect of ourselves we not only move toward ever more positive thoughts and feelings but we also open our heart to new dimensions of love.