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"Lofty Ideas"   

Yoga Loft News and thoughts from Chris, from  2020 and beyond

January 26, 2020

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Facing the Fear Beneath the Anger

 

It was an awakening moment when I read, many years ago, that beneath the emotion of anger, one can always trace the feeling back to an underlying fear.  Fear is the primary feeling.  Most of our emotions, if not all, stem from desire or fear.  Wanting and avoiding  are on opposite ends of our emotional magnetic pole.  Do we find ourselves drawn toward something we desire, or repelled by something we fear?  This seems basic to all our feelings.  I hope this is not an over-simplification, but it is certainly a starting point to self-inquiry. 

 

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, self-study is called “Svadhyaya,” which literally means ‘one’s own reading.’  This is meant to be practiced on and off the mat.  And since we know how inseparable our feelings are from the status of our bodies, down to the cellular level, we would be remiss to ignore the impact of our feelings and how we translate them into thoughts and then into beliefs that live in the psyche and govern our behavior and our health.

 

To take this to a practical note, I was mentioning in class yesterday how the condition of our hamstring muscles is related to the mind.  In a recent web video, it was mentioned that it has been discovered that a person with normally very tight hamstrings while conscious, can have very flexible hamstrings while under anesthesia.  The presence of the conscious mind seems to make the difference.  Another fascinating example of mind-body connection is that a person with multiple personality disorder can have a disease as serious as diabetes when under the control of one personality but is otherwise healthy and disease-free when another personality takes control of the body. You can read more amazing examples of this phenomenon here:                                           

https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/21/science/new-focus-on-multiple-personality.html

 

Just as our minds have methods of processing our experiences and emotions, our bodies' organs also are affected in the processing.  In Chinese medicine, the liver is associated with anger, the kidneys with fear;  the large intestines with control and letting go;  the small intestines with sorting things out, deciding what to assimilate and what to pass through ~ to name a few.  Below is a chart I borrowed from the Web that displays the further complexities of the emotional body:

5-Elements-Emotions-Chart

No one knows our feelings better than we ourselves.  This practice of self-study is incumbent upon us to practice, if we are interested in saving ourselves from slavery to the mind.  Today I have assembled some questions that can be asked in meditation to guide us through the process of exposing the fear beneath the anger.

 

Am I angry because…

 

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  • I fear that I am the cause of a problem and it would be easier to blame it on something or someone else? 
    • Does accepting responsibility for being the source of a problem cause me to lose self-esteem?
    • Am I unable to cope with feelings of guilt?
    • Am I unable to cope with feelings of inferiority?
    • Do I believe that guilt and inferiority are permanent conditions?
    • Have I been taught that some people are better than others and I fear being  less than anyone else?
    • Do I fear I can’t cope with the overwhelming feeling of having made a mistake?
    • If I blame myself does that bring up memories of being blamed by someone else, possibly for something I didn’t do?
    • Do I fear being caught for lying about something?
    • If I tell the truth, do I fear I will be shamed or viewed as inferior?
    • Do I fear I can never be forgiven? 
    • Am I unable to forgive myself?

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  • I fear that the difficulty over which I am angry has harmed me in some way, physically or mentally?  

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      • Do I fear that I am incapable of coping with that injury? 
      • Do I fear that I have sustained permanent damage?
      • Do I believe it is impossible to heal the hurt feelings and/or damaged self-esteem?
      • Do I fear that I am unable to move forward with my plans or dreams?
      • Do I fear that I am being punished for something I can’t even identify?
      • Do I fear loss of control over my life?
      • Do I fear there is no hope for me?
      • Do I fear there is no help for me?

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  • I fear that the difficulty over which I am angry has harmed someone I love, physically or mentally?
    • Do I fear that I am responsible for the person I love?
    • Do I fear I am unable to undo the damage toward the person I love.
    • Do I fear that I am at fault in some way?
    • Does my fear stem from the belief that life is unfair and cruel?
    • Do I fear I have failed in some way?
    • Do I fear I have a basic flaw in my character?

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  • I have been blamed for something I didn’t do and I fear I am unable to prove otherwise?  Or, I have been judged poorly for something I did do and cannot defend myself?
    • Do I fear not being loved or trusted?
    • Do I fear the way others perceive me?
    • Do I base my own self-esteem on what others say about me or what I assume they think about me?

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Starting this line of inquiry can be like opening the proverbial “can of worms!”  So begin with an ounce of courage and honesty.   But a word of caution:  If you intend to delve deeply and have serious concerns, gut feelings, about your ability to face your inner truth, consider asking a friend or even a counselor to assist you in the process.   It’s like deep cleaning your house.  You don’t expect to do every room in one day and might need a helper to carry out the trash.

 

On a lighter note, the inquiry can begin in a yoga class, right on the mat, even in a group setting.  How do you react in body and/or mind to the imposed challenge and stress of certain poses?  Are you self-judging?  Are you comparing yourself to others?  Are you struggling to maintain a certain self-image or to project an image to others?  And why would your mind go there in the first place?  Are you afraid of feeling “less than” and striving to be “better than?”  These we would call “ego emotions” and do not serve our well-being.  We can say a firm “no, no, no” to such thoughts and turn attention back to the breath.  Each of us is unique and whole in our own way.  We do not have anything to accomplish or any superior way to become.  The present moment is our richest.

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                                                                                  ~Chris Eisenschmidt, E-RYT 200

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