Module 8: Facing Fear & Other Pesky Emotions
In the last module I talked about emotions as a form of inner guidance: Emotions are indicators of alignment with your Large Self. This means that the better you feel, the more in alignment you are—and the worse you feel, the less in alignment you are. In that module, and in Module 5 about learning to dissolve limiting beliefs, you practiced identifying and challenging the stories—the beliefs—that trigger your “out of alignment indicator,” which you experience as negative emotion.
Keep practicing! Over time, the practice of recognizing and letting go of limiting beliefs or stories becomes a natural aspect of your expanding self-awareness. You simply notice old habits of thinking that don’t serve you, and consciously choose to focus your attention instead on what comforts, supports, or empowers you.
What I haven’t talked about yet, though, is how to navigate through the negative emotions themselves. It probably won’t surprise you to know that most people find it difficult to let go of old beliefs and create more empowering ones when they’re right in the midst of feeling frustrated, despairing, worried, or angry. The emotions themselves are like static interfering with calm, clear thinking.
Another way to look at it, drawing on the understanding of emotions as indicators, is to use a metaphor of emotions as the alarm on a smoke detector. Once the alarm has done its job and you’ve been alerted to possible danger (and have responded), you need to turn it off so it doesn’t continue to distract you.
With emotions, though, you’re not turning them off. You’re letting them run their course without interference—meaning you’re not judging them or ignoring them or analyzing them. And you’re not perpetuating and expanding them by continually telling your scary stories. You’re simply feeling them.
In this module I’m going to introduce you to a simple and effective practice called Diving In, created by Divine OpeningsTM originator Lola Jones. The essence of Diving In is to drop the story and feel the feeling. It’s pure and simple, yet because we’ve been conditioned to respond to emotions in more complicated ways, it requires practice. If you’re like most people, the more you know about Diving In and how it works, the more likely you are to actually try it! So I’m going to give you a high-level overview of Diving In to help you better understand what it’s all about. You also receive, with this course, two Diving In tracks I recorded. The first is a basic introduction to the practice, and on the second track I actually lead you through the process.
Right now, let me start by telling you why taking the time to learn and practice Diving In is a wise thing to do. Quite simply, it is tremendously liberating. It keeps your energy flowing and moving toward the higher vibrations where you have greater access to inspiration, clarity, and wisdom. I often tell clients that Diving In is their best friend, and those who do it have experienced welcome shifts both in how they feel and what they’re able to manifest in their lives. It really is that powerful.
I was first introduced to a version of Diving In when I was a student at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, which offers an intense 4-year program in the study of energy and consciousness. We were led through an experiential activity of, first, holding a thought or image that generated within us a strong emotional reaction—then, intentionally letting go of the thought or image while keeping our awareness centered in our bodies, where we could feel the energy of the emotion itself.
As we were guided to keep our attention in and with the emotion—and not the thoughts giving rise to it—a miraculous transformation occurred. In this particular case we were exploring the emotion of anger, and as we kept our awareness focused in our bodies, where the emotion was most strongly felt, the anger morphed into something else. For me, it became a very grounded sense of power and exhilaration. I had one of those “aha!” moments of grasping that emotions ARE energy, and without our stories and labels that energy can be liberated to find its highest expression.
Fast forward 13 years to my discovery of Diving In, which I immediately recognized as a more focused version of that experiential activity I had been exposed to years ago at the Barbara Brennan school.
The essence of Diving In is to drop whatever story you have about what’s going on in your life and feel how that story is making you feel—drop the story, feel the feeling. Not talk about the feeling, or analyze it, or even witness it—but feel it completely, which, ironically, is something we rarely do with our feelings. Yet feeling them is often the very thing that’s needed in order for the energy to move and shift in vibration.
Of course, as we’ve explored in previous modules, you can also learn to shift your focus and create new interpretations of what is going on that move you up the emotional scale toward empowerment. But when a strong negative emotion has been triggered, it’s often better to dive into the emotion first. Later, when you’re feeling more at peace, you can look again at the situation and intend to see it from a wiser and more loving perspective. So you might think of Diving In as helping you “clear the static” of strong emotion in a healthy way.
And that brings me to the two things that are really helpful to understand about emotions and why Diving In works. First, emotions are energy. (Everything is.) And emotional energy needs to move. Second, as we’ve already discussed, their purpose is to let you know whether you’re currently focused in a way that is aligned with your true, magnificent nature—or if you’re not.
Let’s look at that one. Your emotions are a part of your inner guidance system, as we discussed in the previous module. Their purpose is to alert you when a shift is needed in your thinking. When you’re focused in a way that is loving and empowering, you feel good. When you’re focused in a way that is judgmental or doubtful or disempowering, you feel bad. The design is simple and elegant, yet it’s easy to get tangled up in the emotions themselves and lose sight of their message.
Normally when people experience negative emotions, they do one of two things: they either wallow in them by telling their story over and over again (to themselves or others), or they try to ignore them, to do what I call “the pasteover.” They tell themselves they shouldn’t be feeling that way—or maybe that they don’t have time to feel that way—and move on.
But in both cases the feelings are still there, because they haven’t acted on their guidance or responded in a way that allows them to move.
Which brings me to the energy piece. Think about emotions as energy vibrating at different frequencies. The introduction of a thought or story shifts the vibration of the energy. For example, the feeling of optimism is a particular vibration. But if you introduce the thought, “But I have no reason to be optimistic about this; there are so many things that could go wrong!” that vibration shifts and you’ll experience a different feeling, perhaps discouragement. It’s still energy, but now it’s become entangled with a thought that affects its vibration.
If you keep focusing on all the things that could go wrong, or talk about it with your friends and listen to all of their fears and concerns, you keep alive the thought that created the “discouragement vibration,” and the feeling persists. If you try to paste over the feeling by telling yourself not to be so silly, you haven’t addressed the part of you that still believes things will go wrong—and so again the feeling persists.
What’s needed is to pause and untangle the feeling from the thought, so that the energy can be restored to its higher vibration and you can think from a clearer and more loving place. And that’s where Diving In comes in. The very act of focusing your attention on the feeling itself—bringing awareness to the feeling and a willingness to actually feel it—is the alchemy that transmutes the feeling energy to a higher vibration.
So Diving In is literally acting on your intention to drop the story and feel the feeling so that your vibration can shift. The challenging aspect of this for most people is dropping the story, and the simplest solution is to focus your attention in your body where the feeling is most prominent and can be most strongly felt. When your attention is anchored in your body, it is less likely to wander off into thinking-land.
Another important aspect of Diving In is to let go of any need to direct or control the experience. You’re not trying to make the feeling go away, which would be an act of self-judgment. You are simply intending to feel it completely so it can be experienced as the pure energy that it is. It will shift as it needs to shift without your efforts to make it shift. Your only job is to breathe and to feel.
Diving In is fundamentally simple but it takes a little practice, and most people find it immensely helpful to be guided through it a few times at first, which is why I created the audio recordings I previously mentioned.
Now, don’t go digging for things to dive into! Just be willing, when negative emotions surface, to pause your story about what’s going on and dive into the feeling. Sometimes it’s not practical to find the private time and space to dive into strong emotions the moment they arise, such as when you’re in the middle of a meeting at work. Just do your best to breathe through them without acting on them at those times, and promise yourself you’ll dive in later.
When you do dive in, just bring enough of the story to mind so that you can feel the feeling again. Then gently but firmly shift your attention away from the story and into your body, where you can feel the feeling. Again, I’ll guide you through that on the audio recording. For now the important thing to remember is to be willing to actually feel your feelings when they arise. You’ll be surprised at the insights that naturally surface when you respond to your emotions in such a loving and intentional way.
Before I close this section, I want to add that something I really love about Diving In—aside from the fact that it works!—is that the practice itself is an act of self-acceptance and self-love. It’s a way of being there, for yourself and with yourself, without judgment. It’s a way of honoring your feelings without getting lost in them. It’s a way of taking good care of yourself.
And speaking of taking good care of yourself, here is another powerful practice for navigating through fear and other tender or difficult emotions:
First let me say that you are never too old to soothe yourself. That would be like saying you’re too old for kindness. But if you’re like a lot of people, you’ve come to believe that responsible adults shouldn’t need soothing. You might think you have to be tough on yourself, to “suck it up and get the job done” and whip yourself into shape with stern reprimands when you fail to meet your objectives. The idea of soothing yourself probably seems akin to treating yourself like a baby.
Well, guess what? Treating yourself like a baby—like a precious being of life and light that require tenderness and care—works like a charm. There are a number of reasons why this is true, but the one I want to draw attention to is this: what you focus on is what expands in your life. When you take the time to recognize, honor, and empower what is alive and sweet and passionate within you, you expand your aliveness, your sweetness, and your passion. You begin to flourish, just as any life form flourishes when given the proper attention and care. Being kind to yourself is like watering a parched plant, rather than yelling at it to learn how to take the heat of the sun.
Of course there are times you need to be lovingly firm with yourself—that’s a subject for another time. For now let’s explore the art of self-soothing as a way to cultivate genuine self-love and support yourself through negative emotion.
The intention of self-soothing is to release judgment and offer a fresh perspective that is loving and supportive. Self-soothing is looking for the kernels of deep truth that affirm your highest qualities while acknowledging your tender places. It is about relaxing into acceptance of what is, without resistance, while maintaining a spirit of possibility.
It is about being your own best friend, one who loves and cherishes you.
Here’s how it works. When things aren’t going the way you wanted or planned, and your mind begins telling stories about how dire things are and how poorly equipped you are to handle them—stop. You may have worked up quite a head of steam with this story but, as soon as you become aware that you’re making yourself feel worse rather than better…just stop. Take some nice, relaxing breaths. (You may need to Dive In if the feeling is particularly strong.)
Simply decide, then and there, that you will not speak to yourself that way. Wrap your actual or metaphorical arms around yourself in a loving hug, and consciously look for a deeper truth about what’s going on—and about you—that is soothing, comforting, or even inspiring.
Here are a few examples that might be helpful:
Your fearful or judgmental story: “I can’t believe I ate all that junk food last night; I feel terrible this morning. I just can’t seem to get it together with my eating habits. I’d better go back on that strict diet I tried last year but gave up on too soon.”
Your soothing reminder: “It’s actually good that I don’t feel good about what I ate. That’s my body’s way of telling me that it’s time to make some shifts. This time I’m going to look for a new approach.”
Your fearful or judgmental story: “I still haven’t received payment from my client for that invoice I sent two months ago. It figures, that was the biggest single invoice I’ve ever issued. I wonder if I overcharged? It doesn’t matter. They’re probably on the verge of bankruptcy and I’ll never see a penny.”
Your soothing reminder: “I need to call the client and remind them that payment is now past due. This is good practice for me, speaking up to request payment, because I want to feel comfortable dealing with larger amounts of money. It’s helping me become very clear about the value of my services.”
Your fearful or judgmental story: “It’s been almost three years since I realized I didn’t like the work I’m doing, and here I am, still at the same company and still miserable. Why can’t I get myself unstuck? Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to live a really fabulous life. I’m not a risk-taker.”
Your soothing reminder: “It’s far better to give myself time to get comfortable with taking a big step like leaving my job, rather than forcing myself to do it and just hoping it will all work out. It’s good not to overreact and jump ship just because I don’t like something. And today is a new day. I wonder how I can get myself more comfortable with the idea of creating work I truly love?”
Notice that self-soothing is not the same thing as justifying behavior you know isn’t serving you, or blaming others for your unhappiness.
- In the first example, self-justifying might have sounded something like, “Well, it’s no wonder I ate so much! Mary kept piling those nachos on my plate and she wouldn’t take no for an answer!”
- In the second example, it would have been easy to simply wallow in blame: “They’ve been difficult to deal with all along. I’m not surprised they don’t have the professional courtesy to pay on time!”
- In the third example, self-justification and blame might have taken a turn like this: “They pile so much work on me, I barely have time to get the basics of life handled, much less look for a new job!”
Don’t get tangled up in figuring out whether your statements of self-justification are “true” or “false.” As an immediate interpretation of your experience, they feel true to you in that moment. (And as we explored in depth in Module 5, anything that shows up in your experience is a true reflection of your vibrational mix.)
The point to bear in mind, as we’ll explore in the next section, is that thoughts of complaint, blame, or criticism are simply not helpful. They disempower, rather than empower, you. And how can you love yourself fully if you don’t empower yourself to create a life you love?
That is why soothing is not “babying.” It is empowering. It liberates you from the kind of thinking that keeps you small and stuck, paving the way for possibility and inspiration. It softens you, and in that softening you open to new ways of thinking and acting.
And self-soothing feels good, which means it moves you up the Instrument Panel and into greater alignment with your Large Self.
Let Go of Blame, Complaints, and Judgment (but feel them first!)
Let me say this right up front: Complaining or blaming or judging others (or yourself) doesn’t make you a bad person. Learning to let go of these habits of thought is not about being good or being spiritual. You are already good. You are already worthy and magnificent.
But when you forget that, you take on small-self habits of thought that are not aligned with the truth of who you are and what is possible for you to create. And from that small-self perspective, complaining and blaming are ways of feeling better about feeling disempowered.
Take a look once again at the Instrument Panel. You’ll see that blame is further up on the scale than despair and grief and unworthiness, which means it gives you access to more power than you have at the bottom of the scale. Yet it’s still pretty far away from the top, so if you hang out there for an extended time, you deprive yourself of the truly expansive and joyous emotions such as passion and optimism and enthusiasm that signal your alignment with your Large, powerful, creative Self.
That’s why I want you to learn how to let go of the tendency toward complaining, blaming, and resenting others. Letting go gives you access to far greater power than you have when you’re stuck in those patterns.
And the good news is, you already have the tools to make that shift. So it’s really just a matter of using them when these emotions arise.
But before just mechanically applying tools and practices, take a moment to pause, get still, and feel your own truth about this. Can you sense, or at least intuitively understand, how complaining and blaming and resenting keep you stuck? Can you find your own genuine willingness to shift those tendencies, even though much of the world would support you in maintaining your righteousness?
And can you give yourself permission to be imperfect at this?
Good. Because I can tell you with complete confidence that self-judgment will never move you in the direction you want to go!
Okay, so let’s move forward on the assumption that you’re willing to practice letting go of complaining, blaming, and judging. Here are the basics:
- Acknowledge your intention to do so. Never doubt the power of your intention.
- When the feelings of resentment, frustration, etc., arise—dive into them! Dive in, dive in, dive in. Move that energy. Don’t just pretend that you’re okay with everything.
- For recurring or particularly challenging situations, use Effective Questions (Module 4) and Anchor Statements (Module 6) to shift your focus. Here are some examples:
- What else might be true about this person (or situation) that is more helpful for me to focus on?
- How can I get my power back?
- How might this be helping me see more clearly what I really want?
- What inner and outer resources do I have to shift this?
- What if I could just let go of this and move on?
- What good might come from this?
- I have the power to create a life I love.
- No situation is more powerful than my desire to live a fulfilled life.
- My happiness is not dependent on things going just one way.
- This is only temporary.
- This is my signal to take my power back.
Remember, you would have no impulse to blame or complain if you understood, as your Large Self does, that you have the power to create a life you love, regardless of what any other person(s) says or does. Keep intending to expand into your Large Self perspective.
For a further exploration of reclaiming power by releasing blame and resentment, read the PDF “Power Play.”
But what about…?
I’ve always thought of venting and complaining as blowing off steam, and I usually feel a lot better afterward. So can’t venting and complaining be a good thing?
As mentioned, blaming and complaining are higher on the Instrument Panel than, for example, despair, so if they help you move up from a lower vibration, you benefit from that shift. But keep in mind that if you stay there, you limit your full creative power. Look how much further up the Instrument Panel you could go! And the higher you go, the more freedom and power you experience.
The risk in blaming and complaining with other people is that they will reinforce the story giving rise to the feeling, and you’ll remain stuck. You won’t shift the vibrations giving rise to whatever you’re complaining about. When you feel a strong urge to vent or blame or complain – dive in!! Feel that strong feeling and let it move. Then you can experiment with shifting your vibration, as suggested in the Activities & Practices section, next.
Activities & Practices
Consider a current circumstance or aspect of your life that is clearly not aligned with the kind of life you want to live, one in which you experience fairly strong negative emotions. Listen to the Diving In audio tracks included with this course and, using these tracks as your guide, drop whatever story you have about what’s going on and simply intend to feel the feeling completely. Drop the story, feel the feeling.
Introduction to Diving In audio track (you only need to listen to this once)
Diving In experience audio track (you can listen to this one any time you need to dive into a feeling)
After you have felt your feelings, and when you are in a more neutral or peaceful place, consider whether your habitual thoughts about this circumstance – your story – are judgmental toward yourself, toward others, or both. If you’re judging yourself, reread the section in this module on self-soothing and practice talking to yourself in this new way. It may be helpful to actually write your soothing comments in your journal.
If you’re judging or blaming or resenting others, reread the section in this module about letting go of complaints, blame, and judgment and experiment with the suggestions offered to help you shift that way of thinking. You might also want to revisit Module 5 for support in becoming more aware of the beliefs and stories you’re holding – stories about being powerless – that are giving rise to the current circumstance.
Don’t turn this into a huge work project! Intend to reclaim the power you’ve leaked through complaining and blaming, explore the techniques offered, be curious about what works best for you, and keep experimenting.