For the Week of May 14 - 20:
The Violence of Negative Emotions
Marc Chagall, Resistance
Jesus called the crowd to him and said,
"Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.
Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them.
Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them. If anyone has ears to hear, let them listen! …"
He went on: "What comes out of a person is what defiles them.
For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come—
sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
All these evils come from inside and defile a person."
- Mark 7: 14-16, 20-23
"This Work is all about ___________." Fill-in the blank. It's a bit of a game among Work students to find all the different ways that Dr. Nicoll answers this question throughout the five volumes of the Commentaries. Arguably, the way this question is most frequently answered is "purification of negative emotions" or "purification of the emotional center."
As we explore this teaching, it is important to note that "negative" does not mean bad; it means an emotion that negates or denies, one that says "no" to life. It is simply an acquired energy pattern with ingrained grooves in the brain, body and behaviors that resists life.
Here are the key teachings of the Work related to negative emotions:
It is negative emotions that govern the world, and not sex or money or power.
All negative emotions are learned and acquired; we are not born with a negative part of the emotional center.
One of many I's of the multiplicity, the inner critic is a product of acquired negative emotions.
All negative emotions lie and distort our perception. For example, observe what the state of suspicion or fear produces in oneself. These negative states gather evidence (thoughts) to justify, support and reinforce the state.
Because of this distortion, negative emotions interfere with the digestion of all three foods (air, food and impressions), thereby creating imbalance and illness.
No one causes us to be negative; the negativity arises within us as a mechanical reaction for which we alone are responsible. This mechanical reaction to life is born of deeply ingrained patterns beginning in early childhood, and maybe even earlier.
We unconsciously love our negative emotions because of the "juice" we receive by being negative. We must see and verify this for ourselves.
All negative emotions drain our force; negative I's feed upon us – they go on and on by themselves, creating fresh negativity long after the "cause" is removed.
When we are negative, we remember only unpleasant things; when we are not negative, we forget them and remember differently.
Undirected imagination makes us negative.
The most negative and dangerous I's may come forward when you are alone. You may have well-rehearsed songs that only come when you feel no one is looking.
Unchecked, negative emotions lead to violence in oneself and toward others.
The negativity or violence I see in another is in me. Through honest self-observation, I can verify this.
Work on our own violence decreases the violence manifesting in our homes and in the world. The healing of the world begins with ourselves. Thus, our first line Work impacts both the second and third lines of the Work.
In the Work, the term positive emotions has a particular meaning and does not point to "being nice."
"All inner resistance is experienced as negativity in one form or another. All negativity is resistance … [it] ranges from irritation or impatience to fierce anger . . . The ego believes that through negativity it can manipulate reality and get what it wants. It believes that through it, it can attract a desirable condition or dissolve an undesirable one. … The fact is, of course, that negativity does not work. Instead of attracting a desirable condition, it stops it from arising. Instead of dissolving an undesirable one, it keeps it in place. Its only 'useful' function is that it strengthens the ego, and that is why the ego loves it. Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry, or hard-done-by person. … This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane."
- Eckhart Tolle, The Practice of the Power of Now
What tools are useful to work with and heal negative emotions?
First, we must become aware of our negativity through self-observation over time, accumulating three-centered photographsof our negative states and patterns.
Refrain from expressing negativity or speaking it aloud. This gives it more energy.
Inner taste. "'Inner taste' makes a man realize when he is negative. Then a struggle starts. He wishes to say something – and cannot. When this happens, when the Work brings him to this point, the Work is then 'working in him'. … Then he begins to see that he must work on his negative emotions more internally, and then conscience will help him. … But for the faint indications of Real Conscience that this Work begins to evoke in people, and its inner help, the struggle with negative emotions would be impossible. That is, unless we had conscience somewhere in us, negative emotions would be unconquerable. Life would be too strong." – Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Wrong Work of Centers," November 28, 1941, Vol. 1, pp. 85-86.
Affirm "I have a right not to be negative." "Now the Work says you have a right not to be negative. As was pointed out, it does not say you have no right to be negative. If you will think of the difference, you will see how great it is. To feel that you have a right not to be negative means that you are well on your way to real inner work on yourself in regard to negative states. To be able to feel this draws down force to help you. You stand upright, as it were, in yourself, among all the mess of your negativity, and you feel and know that it is not necessary to lie down in that mess. To say this phrase in the right way to yourself, to feel the meaning of the words: 'I have a right not to be negative,' is actually a form of Self-remembering, of feeling a trace of Real I, that lifts you up above the level of your negative I's which are all the time telling you without a pause that you have every right to be negative." – Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Note on Negative Emotions," August 15, 1942, Vol. 1, pp. 160-161
The Welcoming Prayer. This inherently non-critical, affirming practice starts with the body and the body never lies. By learning to self-observe or drop one's attention into the body first, one can be with the negativity as simple energy. Over time, the practice may allow us to pray with the energy before it engages and co-opts thought patterns. The three movements of the prayer practice, which are movements of self-observation, non-identification and Self-remembering, work to heal and integrate the emotions and energies.
Wish and daily aims. "In [one's] practice, one transcends the negative by merely choosing the opposite. With the internal discipline that stems from passionate commitment, the negative choices are no longer seen as options. We all then become conscientious objectors when we draw the line and set boundaries. This rather automatically occurs as a consequence of choosing spiritual goals that we value above the goals of the world." - David R. Hawkins, The Eye of the I: From Which Nothing is Hidden
Future memory.With enough photographs acquired through self-observation, we become aware of recurrenceand can be more prepared for people and events that routinely trigger mechanical reactions. In a state of Self-remembering, we can visualize an upcoming encounter or recurring pattern and send ahead conscious energy and intention for a Work idea/tool to come and meet us there so we can choose differently. We see and feel ourselves "stand upright" in the Work.
Changing centers. If the emotional center is running amok – sometimes referred to as the "rogue elephant" in the Work – we can use our other centers to guide the energy. We can do something physical, like walk in nature or clean the house. We can do something requiring directed attention, like learning a new skill, fixing something, reading or writing.
Pray for help, especially for deeply-rooted resentments, despair, hatred, fear, etc.
"The Gospel calls us forth to full responsibility for our emotional life. We tend to blame other people or situations for the turmoil we experience. In actual fact, upsetting emotions prove beyond any doubt that the problem is in us. If we do not assume responsibility for our emotional programs on the unconscious level and take measures to change them, we will be influenced by them to the end of our lives."
- Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ
"Self-gifting love is the true goal of contemplative practice, not self-actualization, and it is this love which gives us true poise and freedom from anxiety. We become free to witness courageously to the world and to respond appropriately and unreservedly to suffering.
"If the clandestine enemies of the world are greed, hatred, envy, strife, murder, apathy, corruption, partiality, rapaciousness, and so on, then we need only sit down quietly to find them. This sitting down and facing them is the prophetic action of the true contemplative. He is not playing games; he is not running away; he is not trying to be spiritual or make a show. He is merely responding to the imperative of the world, and by doing so, taking deep social action by remaining still."
- Fr. James Krueger, from "This Restless Sea: Contemplative Practice and Prophetic Witness Amidst Violence," an article for OnBeing.org.
Observe recurring negative emotions as a "no" to life, trying on the idea that no one causes us to be negative; the negativity arises within us as a mechanical reaction for which we alone are responsible.
Which negative energy pattern are you called to work with now? Use one or more of the tools suggested above.
Work with delight. Practice Self-remembering.
- All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and how they are landing in you: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only.