Today’s article is based on the teachings by the great Argentinian Psychotherapist, doctor Norberto Levy.
Dr. Levy’s teachings on the basic emotions which hinder and cause us the most suffering throughout our lives are very concise but quite accurate. Such suffering is mostly the result of our poor emotional intelligence and our lack of understanding the real reasons behind the emotions that arise within our mind; above all our inability to know how to manage these emotions properly.
Although the tittle of this article is called “Emotional Sins”, ignoring the function of our emotions is not in any way a “sin” but a great limitation. It shows a great difficulty in knowing how to integrate and adapt to our surroundings without losing our own unique sense of self. This lack of integration is the doorway for most of the suffering within our lives, suffering which can take hold of us and which can be very difficult to shake off, to the point of pushing us to various levels of self dissociation.
Hopefully by resuming his teachings within this article, it will help you take a good look at these “dark emotions” from another point of view; a more healthy and realistic one; with understanding and awareness, not with guilt, fear or anger…
As those of you who follow my work or who have worked with me directly already know, one of my main goals is to be able to raise awareness on topics seldom discussed, to help others give themselves permission to look at their own “shadow” and work to integrate self; this can give anyone a well rounded sense of who one is without denying all the range of emotions locked within….
I hope you enjoy reading on Dr. Levy’s teachings which are helping me a lot to continue progressing in getting properly acquainted with my own emotional world; how could it be otherwise, I am here to share my learnings and experiences but everyday I continue being a student in my own field and a student of life.
- Guilt.– Guilt has for long had a very bad rep, understandably so as it can be a great source for suffering. Believe it or not Guilt can be your friend, so long as it is a “Functional” guilt. “Dysfunctional” guilt on the other hand is the type of guilt which does not offer an insight or solution, rather it “punishes” and gets you locked in a futile fight with your self. Each one of us is raised with a given set of “values”; right or wrong we all are given a specific set; when we commit an action which goes against that set of values then guilt kicks in. Functional guilt can be equated with your soul trying to talk with you, guiding you to look in and allowing you room to identify whether or not your values are correct or if they need to be modify; it is introspective and it stops once a resolution has been reached. Dysfunctional guilt on the other hand does not allow room for questioning your values and tends to berate your self esteem; leaving you feeling less than valuable and incapable of modifying your behavior or the circumstances around you; this type of guilt doesn’t tend to stop but its constant. Dysfunctional guilt is usually the result not of your soul talking rather of someone else, whom at some point; in your early life; most likely left you feeling not worthy of love or worthy of it only and when you did as you were told without ever questioning or expressing your opinion. Dysfunctional guilt is usually the reflection of a person of authority ( parents, pastor, teacher, aunts, uncles, etc.) As you can see dysfunctional guilt is one we can do without; it holds nothing useful. On the other hand functional guilt can mentor us into learning to make the appropriate choices for future situations without wasting energy crying over spilled milk. So the next time you hear a voice inside of you, take a second to identify if it is a friendly voice or if it is leaving you feeling less than worthy; if the second let it go. Do not give dysfunctional guilt any room in your mind, it has no place in it. The person or persons behind that voice no longer have the right to continue punishing you. You have the power now to choose whether you let them demean or abuse you once more.
- Fear.- Fear is a universal emotion; no one can claim to have gone through life without experiencing it. In society there seems to be a great level of ignorance on how fear is perceived. If someone experiences fear within a given situation and another one doesn’t, then the person who experienced it, is called a coward and the other person is called brave; yet every situation is different. Fear is usually instilled within us as children. Those who tend to compare a child to his peers, constantly reminding him how others can do the things he fears, aren’t helping that child, instead they are raping his soul. The child is left with no choice other than to make fear part of his very core, or in a desire to please that child may choose to learn to deny self, to stop listening to himself in order to please; the child then is learning not to trust himself. Healthy fear is a marvelous gift; it allows you to recognize the “threat” in front of you and weigh it against your own “resources” at that given time, it does this only to inform you and protect you. It is meant to point out where you are lacking so you can prepare yourself appropriately; therefore stopping the feeling of fear from reoccurring. If fear was acknowledged instead of mocked, it would not attach itself to a negative emotion; it would simply be embraced as an emotion meant to inform and strengthen you. It is time to vindicate healthy fear and give it its proper due by treating it with the dignity it deserves.
- Envy.- Envy is another emotion which has been treated with so much ignorance. Envy is the not a healthy emotion but it is not something which only affects some of us. Any one of us given the “right” set of circumstances in the “right” areas of our lives will feel envy. Envy can result given to 3 things: a) Someone is achieving something you desire but which you have not been able to achieve. b) You feel you are not achieving what you desire, you don’t have the resources for it therefore you feel it will not ever be possible to achieve. C) You look at your life and you feel you don’t have enough goals accomplished to compensate for the pain caused to see someone else achieve a dream you may have……Given any of these 3 circumstances, any human being is capable of experiencing envy. The pain we experience when feeling envy is the result of our own evaluation of what I have vs what I perceive. Envy isn’t the equivalent of hate. Envy can be transformed into hate if instead of looking in at what I need to do in order to transcend and achieve my own goals, or set new ones based on areas of strength, one chooses to simply sit and do nothing. If one instead chooses to take a good look at one’s life and re-evaluate, reinvent one’s choices and life path towards a more fulfilling life, according to what brings joy to your heart (not out of a desire to compete) then envy transforms into admiration/appreciation.
- Anger.- One of Marcus Aurelius’ famous saying was “how much more saddening are the consequences of anger than the reason why one was angry”. He was already warning us how every time we give in to anger we only make things worst. He was never telling us no to express our anger, as doing so only leads to accumulating such energy and exploding at a later time in much worst ways. To feel anger is perfectly natural; it is an emotion which arises from feeling someone committed a transgression against us or our “code” of values. Feeling anger is not the same thing as having a anger “tantrum” or becoming someone who “punishes”. Punishing out of anger seems to be associated with feeling anger as if the two were attached, when in reality this could not be further from the truth. Feeling anger is simply that…a feeling. In order to connect with our anger and properly express it, it is necessary to be willing to communicate to the other person your frustrations, without making demands or punishing the other person by berating them. It is healthy to let the other person know you are angry and why and what could be done in order to stop the feeling of anger. To guide anger it is important to first ask yourself what could be done to calm your feelings of anger, then approach the subject. It does require you approach the subject willing to listen to the other person and willing to compromise; seeking for a resolution which does not violate you or the other person.
- Demanding.- To be demanding is a beautiful thing, so long as you are demanding something which is conducive towards excellency. To be demanding of yourself and others can be torturous if you are only demanding but your demands do not contribute to achieving excellency; personal or otherwise. To be demanding is only bad when one seeks to be controlling or communicates one’s thoughts in an ignorant way, unwilling to see the other side. Demands strictly within human nature are made of two parts “programmer” (mind) “executor” (body). When the mind ignorantly attempts to let a body know of something it considers dangerous or a “better way” is expressed in demeaning ways, that is when a healthy demand or “request” becomes unhealthy or “control”. Such ignorance arises when the “programmer” wrongfully believes the “executor” does not have the right to think for self. To appreciate the value of making demands of self and of others, one first has to learn to listen and to respect the fact that other parts of you, such as your body, have a certain level of autonomy. When it comes to others, it is about accepting they have their own autonomy and right to choose. Too many times I see people willing to make so much demands of themselves to the point they are unable to cope and given in to “stress”, I have also seen people who like to demand but they call it a proposition, when in fact they are not willing to meet the other party halfway; if the other party puts forth a proposition such people will call it an “unhealthy demand”. The biggest learning an ignorant mind has to make, is to accept to learn to ask after proposing… “What do you think?” &“what can I do for you?” These questions are the ones which will help transcend an ignorant demanding mind into an educated mind, willing to learn and transcend.
- Forgiveness.- Too many times the word “forgiveness” is misused. People fail to learn that understanding and forgiveness are closely connected. If you have not been able to understand the reasons why someone did something, then you cannot claim you have truly forgiven that person. In some lines of beliefs, forgiveness is treated as if it was something which happens automatically, as if we have a button to press and magically all disappears; if not then you are not a good person. How awful, considering all that line of thinking is doing is giving false rewards for false forgiveness. As a matter of fact Aristotle used to say that when people truly understands the concept of forgiveness, then the word actually disappears of their vocabulary. To forgive someone shouldn’t be something people say only to impress others in order to look good. Neither is real forgiveness when you claim you have forgiven someone yet go around trying to cause trouble in that person’s life. It takes more courage and integrity to accept you aren’t ready to forgive than it takes to pretend to forgive. You may not be ready to offer forgiveness to the other person because you fail to understand the reasons why something took place or you fail to see your own responsibility in the whole thing. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing but it can only happen organically, when we have learned to fully understand the other person and ourselves. Forgiveness isn’t a medal one gets for portraying the hero or the victim. It is a quality of soul developed through life experiences….it is better to say “I am learning to forgive” “I am struggling to understand but I am trying” than to claim forgiveness while harboring resentment or while being unable to face your own shortcomings “shadow”, choosing the victim seat. It takes zero strength to play victim; it takes a lot of strength to choose not to give in to the victim role.