(I wrote this in the Fall of 2015 shortly after the attacks in Paris, France. But this of course applies to all acts of violence and hate.)
In light of all worldly events that occur out of humans ‘doing’, I wanted to write this to bring forth some ideas that I know to be true from my work; from speaking with colleagues, close friends and from simply witnessing the insidious slurs in recent world events. It has to do with these three words: fear, anger and hate.
Let me explain.
1 > Fear is not bad, it’s a basic biological emotion.
The word “fear” has become a buzzword in wellness, health and self-improvement circles and it’s getting thrown around carelessly.
‘Let go of your fear.’
‘Free yourself from fear.’
‘Feel no fear.’
(A recent click on Amazon with the word “fear” gives you a plethora of titles!)
But without fear, without this basic biologically body-based emotion, we would have no signals to let us know that something isn’t safe. We wouldn’t know when to run, to fight, or to play dead. We need fear. But we get into trouble when we freeze alongside our fear and stay frozen.
I call this Frozen Fear.
When we get stuck in Frozen Fear, it’s really tough to have good, solid internal knowledge of what is safe and/or unsafe — so we may think we need to be afraid of something that actually isn’t a threat to us.
Or we don’t realize that something might not be safe, and we get closer to it, and before we know it, we are back in a situation of threat/helplessness.
(We call this re-traumatization in the trauma world.)
2 > Anger is a biological necessity.
Imagine if a mama grizzly bear didn’t have an anger response when a dangerous predator was approaching her precious wee cubs? Or if she saw that predator, but didn’t express her anger? Kind of impossible to imagine right?
Like fear, anger is critical for us.
Yet we, as humans, have lacked an apprenticeship to know how to feel and process this potent emotion and body experience. And we don’t have it as simple as animals in the wild. Threats in the wilderness are much more black and white. In the ‘human species wilderness’, there are more shades of grey (and purple, red, blue and green).
The bottom line is this: we’ve been taught that any expression of anger, and the intensity that comes with anger, is bad. Many of us have either a) a default that works to repress and suppress our anger or b) a default that goes the ‘out of control’ route and turns it into rage or even worse, hate.
3 > Hate is not a biological emotion*
From a humanistic perspective and from what I’ve witnessed, hate is a by-product of the faulty metabolism of our basic survival energies; the emotions of fear and anger. When we can’t process our fear and the intense emotions that follow – meaning anger and/or sadness – these emotions get denied, repressed and/or suppressed.
(Think of all the western societal sayings that teach us to suck it up: put on your game face or I’m fine or be positive or forgive or don’t get mad)
All that biological energy gets deflected outwards.
The result? You look for someone or something to blame or to hate.
My husband said to me not long ago, when we were chatting about this topic and the recent rise of “hate” energy towards the refugee crisis and the attacks in Paris:
“Anger, coupled and intertwined with fear that’s never been felt and properly processed and is stuck inside a human being, turns into hate.”
Fear and anger are on a continuum. They need each other.
Enter The Spiritual Bypass
Because we have neglected to teach our people, our children and our cultures to effectively process our fear and anger, we’ve gotten into this pickle of what we call hate. Instead we ‘manage’ our fear and anger with a bunch of calming practices that deflect intensity and addictive tendencies and only serve to numb us out and cause us to avoid anything to do with processing fear and anger.
Welcome to the rise of consciousness and these ‘mind-body’ practices that don’t help us to heal and only help us to remain far from our real internal situations, sensations and feelings.
I generalize here. I have many colleagues, myself included, who teach ‘mind-body’ practices from a very different slant that includes trauma physiology and the environment in relationship to our biology, but we are the exception and not the norm.
So if you are using meditation and/or some other form of compassion-based practice to try and calm yourself down without first properly processing, metabolizing and integrating the agitation, anxiety, fear and anger, then it’s only adding more toxicity to your world.
Remember that each one of us is a small cell of this planet and keeping all that ‘energy’ inside of us, in my belief, is a version of environmental pollution.
Some have called this unrefined version of consciousness, and the practices of the mind-body that go with it ‘spiritual bypassing’ and I would agree with that.
So, back to the current state of affairs in our world…
Yes, there is a lot to be pissed off about right now, and it might seem that to counteract all the crap that is floating around we need to instill lots of calming and nice soothing actions as a first line of defence, but fuck that. That’s NOT the way to go.
If there is an energy inside you that is pissed about things, be it globally or right in your backyard – you need to process that shit.
Don’t stuff it down.
Then, and only when you have processed it, then you can sit and
Be. Very. Still.
Because it’s really hard to sit and be still when all that unprocessed emotional energy is floating around inside of you.
(This is why so many people find it hard to sit still and meditate; to calm the mind. The system isn’t ready for this advanced practice – and we can fall into a trap by trying to force it to calm down when it isn’t ready for it.)
For me, my version of mindfulness is far from the mind: it’s to be in my biological birthright (my body) and actually feel my emotions and my sensations. It’s to work out the energy that’s inside so it doesn’t turn toxic. ‘Cause it will if I don’t. I won’t deny or deflect that bubbling up of primal energy. No matter how awful, disgusting or sickening it may feel.
How about you?
How’s it going for you as we see our world become even more divided?
I actually believe we need to swing far over to a greater divide before we can swing back and find harmony. I wholeheartedly believe that processing our collective fear and anger properly is going to be a massive help to world consciousness and healing.
Here are some basic questions to consider:
1 >> How have you kept your primal energies and survival instincts at bay over the years?
2 >> How have you put on a happy face when in fact you are dying inside and in massive emotional turmoil? How has this helped? How has this harmed you? Did you learn this from a very young age (hint: most of us have)?
3 >> Do you know how to work with those primal biological energies?
4 >> Or do you, like so many, simply shove them down deep and hope they just disappear and dissolve away? (They won’t, by the way. They’ll come back in some form that’ll be toxic to you.)
To end on a note that might seem cliche but is fact: we are all one.
People are always asking the question: what can I do to help these world crises when I’m just one single person? Here’s the answer: take care of the toxicity that might be sitting and seething inside you. Do what it takes to get knowledgeable about working with your biological energies. This will help our planet.
It’s really that simple. The hard part is having the guts to confront and experience the emotions and sensations you’ve left behind and ignored.
But it’s totally doable and I highly recommend it.
Thanks for reading this.
* Well over a decade ago I read about the Gombe Chimpanzee War documented by primatologist Jane Goodall in her book A Reason For Hope, A Spiritual Journey. This war shocked her community of fellow researchers. And although this is evidence that war, hate and general evil exist beyond the human species, I think it’s safe to assume (or at least I will for now) that the majority of the mammalian animal kingdom do not match up to the levels of human war, hate and evil that exist today. There was also some speculation that her research was causing a certain level of stress amongst the chimpanzee tribes, putting these animals “out” of their natural way of living. But that’s kinda what we are up against and confronting as humans: our stress levels are so high, and we aren’t bringing them down..