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Embracing Difficult Emotions

Embracing Difficult Emotions

Are we allowed to feel what we are feeling?

Even the big, uncomfortable, difficult emotions?

Do you sometimes get the sense that actually feeling our feelings isn’t okay? That they are something we should control and manage, rather than ‘indulge’. That we really just need to get on with our life in spite of them, and keep them from causing chaos. And, that some of these more uncomfortable emotions probably aren’t actually very ‘spiritual’…

No wonder we tend to get stressed when we get emotional! Wait a minute - isn’t that just more emotion piled on emotion?! Yet, these two things - feeling strong emotions and feeling stressed - do not need to go hand-in-hand.


Many of us learned at a very early age to see emotions (especially the big ones) as messy and inconvenient, and to try to keep them under wraps. However, this kind of relationship to our feelings is not innate to us; rather, it is cultural. It comes from an innocent misunderstanding of the gift and grace of our emotions, and leads to many people losing touch with an organic and natural relationship to their emotional self.

What if our emotions - any and all of them - are not messy, inconvenient, chaotic or dangerous?

What if it is our fear and misunderstanding of them that puts us at odds with something that is in fact deeply intelligent and healing? A feedback, integration and alignment system that sits at the very core of who we are?

What if we could have more acceptance and understanding of the highs and lows of our psyche? A balance point where we are not being pulled hither and thither by every single emotion, but neither are we distrusting and stifling them.

What if they are here for us, and offer us back to ourselves at the deepest and purest level? That which we can rest in and trust, rather than resist?

To explore this, I want to take you back to a fundamental piece in the Three Principles understanding.

Energy in Motion

Image of butterfly and flower symbolising freedom and movement

There is a lovely phrase that many of you will have no doubt come across, that ‘emotion is energy-in-motion’. It points to something powerful, helping us to unlock an understanding of what feelings are, why they come and what they offer.

We tend to think that we have feelings because of things that are going on in the world around us, or in our lives or our bodies: i.e. we believe that there is an ‘external’ cause. So, when our feelings are disturbing, we will look for something in our world to blame: the weather, a loved one, our boss, a certain incident or circumstance, our tendency to anxiety, etc. We pin the cause on something.

This is known as an outside-in understanding of life: we think that our feelings are caused by something out there or some condition, state or behaviour that we ourselves have and cannot change.

However, in 1973, Sydney Banks - a self confessed ordinary man, a Scottish welder who had emigrated to Canada - had an enlightenment experience. He saw something different. He saw that our feelings arise from our thoughts in the moment. And he was not alone in seeing this. It is something that spiritual teachers have been pointing to for a very long time. However, Syd saw this in a particularly clear way. He realised that our feelings are never telling us about the world out there; they are only ever telling us about our own thinking.

This is known as an ‘inside-out’ understanding of reality: life is actually an inside job.

We are always and only ever feeling the effects of our own perception and our own level of consciousness in any given moment. When our thinking shifts so does our experience.

You can test this for yourself: watch how your thoughts change about yourself, someone you love, or life in general when you are viewing it from a state of stress. And watch them change back again when you view the same situation when you are relaxed and at ease. Same people, same ingredients - different experience.

The Intel in our Feelings

Image of deep purple flowers

The fact that life is an ‘inside job’ doesn’t mean that your emotions are made up or that what you are feeling is just in your head. Indeed, people sometimes misconstrue Syd’s teachings in this way, thinking that he is dismissing any and all feelings as ‘just thought’.

The truth is you are a physical, feeling, sensory being, and your spiritual essence is seated in this responsive physicality.

The intersection point of our spiritual and physical nature is our feelings.  

And all of our feelings - especially the big ones - are a package for us to unwrap.

Feelings come with intel. They give us specific and immediate feedback regarding our consciousness in this moment and how we are viewing (thinking about) ourselves, our world, or the people and circumstances we find ourselves in. They also alert us to the feelings of others as we pick up on their energetic frequencies via our own sentience, experiencing them within our own being.

We are constantly receiving this intelligence, and it is expressed through and to us as feelings - as energetic sensations that we experience directly within our body and being.

There is more to this package though: we are meant to be moved by life. We are not meant to be static and unresponsive. Emotions are the vehicle through which this movement happens (energy in motion): life literally touches us, and we are responsive to this. If we resist the ‘touches of life’, or find them unpleasant and inconvenient, we begin to harden against life itself - we are more reactive, edgy and prone to bad experiences.  

Yet the journey emotions invite us on is always and only into our own being.

We are being invited to fully feel this life - all aspects of it. When we open our cells to the energy moving through us, our cells fill with the life-giving and loving intelligence of life. We are moved by life, and in being moved, we end up somewhere slightly different - more aligned, more connected, more aware …

We don’t want to switch any of this off. It is all valid and vital.

Being Moved is Part of the Deal

Wisteria flowers symbolising flow and blossoming

Our feelings help us know how we are and where we are in our being. They alert us to what is going on in our head. They alert us to our relationship with this world around us in that moment. They invite deep connectivity and responsiveness. They move and place us.

Being moved, then, is part of the deal as a human being - as a feeling being. We can’t get away from our nature. Nor do we need to.

So how do we let ourselves be moved safely? What about when we feel as if grief or anger or jealousy takes us over so entirely that nothing about this experience feels helpful?

The way we describe an emotion in our own heads, and the story we tell ourselves about it, is an ‘extra’, an ‘add-on’. A process that gets superimposed onto the feeling itself, because we have learned to respond to strong emotions in this way. However, it is not the thing itself.

In a moment of intense feeling, ALL that is happening within us is a surge of energy coursing through our being. We simply need to meet it and make room for it, allowing it safe passage through us. As we relax and let this energy surge be, it stops begin something that is happening to us; instead, we stand in the sovereign responsiveness of our own being.  

Our role is surprisingly simple then: to soften, to be available and to let be, trusting the energy of emotion to deliver the intelligence we need and make the necessary adjustments in our being. We simply need to bring love, patience, curiosity and permission to this movement in our being. To let ourselves be and trust that this being is not madness or excess, a bad trait or something wrong with us: it is a natural movement, a gift of intelligence, an act of inner alignment. As we soften to it, it can work within us rather than against us.

A barn owl sitting in a meadow of yellow flowers symbolising peace and tranquility

Difficult Emotions Dissolve When We Turn into Them

Next time an emotion feels big, uncomfortable, threatening or inconvenient, perhaps you can question those labels and those judgments that are telling you that it is not right to feel this. Perhaps instead, you can begin to embrace this as a rich and vital communication. When we move towards a difficult or strong feeling, it begins to soften and disperse with gentle, curious attention.

Can you allow yourself to be a fraction more available and come in a little closer? Can you take a moment to recognise that something in you needs tending and make space for yourself to feel what you feel? Can you suspend the need to label the feeling and, instead, let it unfold and reveal itself to you?

Can you allow your energy-in-motion to reveal You to you?

If you think this blog post would be helpful for a friend or family member, please feel free to pass it on. And if you have any thoughts, comments, or wish to share any insights with me after reading this, please let me know - I would love to hear how this has landed with you.

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