3 Powerful Practices for Working Through Fear and Negative Emotions

Lite Blue Night LotusJustin Faerman, Contributor
Waking Times

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

It has been said that until you learn to control your emotions, they will control you. This is because virtually all human behavior is motivated by the pain/pleasure principle, which states that:

All behavior is driven either by the act of seeking some perceived pleasure or the avoidance of perceived pain and the avoidance of pain is virtually always a stronger driver than the possibility of pleasure.

When looked at through this lens it becomes clear why fear and other negative emotional states are such powerful and often self-limiting and self-destructive forces in our lives: negative emotional states are uncomfortable, and often painful to experience, which means we will avoid people, situations and circumstances that trigger them like the plague. For most people this translates to things like being afraid to quit the job they hate for something better because they have a fear of the unknown or not pursuing their passions and dreams in a big way because they are afraid of failure and not trying means that they can’t fail, or not forming deep meaningful connections with other people because they have a fear of rejection. As you can see from these examples, this leads to all sorts of behavior that keeps us from living lives that are wildly fulfilling, often sacrificing our deepest desires to stay within the limits of our comfort zone, lest we trigger any uncomfortable or painful emotional wounds. This limits both our personal and spiritual development because what we need to do to grow and expand along those lines often triggers insecurity and fear within us as we are stretched outside our comfort zones.

But the irony is that this dance between pain and pleasure is a double-edged sword, because ultimately the healing and transcendence of fear and old emotional wounds and patterns leads to great joy, connection, confidence, fulfillment, success and growth, which are all strong pleasure drivers, and what we all secretly or not so secretly crave. As you release fear and old emotional patterns, I can guarantee that your life will get exponentially better. They tend to act like storm clouds—obscuring our perception and blocking the sun from shining into your life. When they finally pass, you find that everything is brighter, warmer, more enjoyable and rich.  And because emotions so heavily influence our decisions and the decisions we make control what we experience in our lives and ultimately our destiny, working through fear and other limiting patterns reliably leads to major positive shifts as we align ourselves with a more expansive, free and joyful version of reality.

  • Working With Fear and Other Emotions

    As with most things in life, it is the path of least resistance that gets the best results, and this is especially true when it comes to working with emotions. Whatever you resist, persists and yet this is how most people deal with fear and other negative emotional states. What I’ve learned over the years helping clients heal deep emotional wounds is that every negative emotion we experience is a reflection of a deeper, unhealed aspect of ourselves. When we trace these feelings back to their source, we find their cause, which can ultimately be healed and released, the process of which erases the emotional charge altogether. This means lifelong patterns of fear, insecurity, worry, shame and so on can be eliminated rather quickly simply by letting go, understanding there is a deeper wisdom at play and ultimately looking within to discover their origins.

    There is a beautiful quote from Eckhart Tolle where he states that:

    “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”

    I find this to be a helpful perspective for working through fear and other negative emotions because it reminds us that when they surface, they are actually seeking resolution. And, like Eckhart observed, this deep inner healing work is perhaps the fastest path to not only the evolution of consciousness, but also to a life filled with a deep sense of joy, peace, self-love, connection with yourself and the world around you and almost effortless growth and expansion in whatever direction you choose.

    Practices for Working Through Fear and Eliminating Negative Emotions

    1. Cultivate Unconditional Love

    It is love, not time, that heals all wounds because it is the lack of love for ourselves and others that creates all wounds. All fears are self-created. We know this because what one person finds scary another finds exciting or even boring. Therefore there is no objective determination of what is worthy of fear. It is our subjective interpretation of events that labels them fearful or worthy of any other emotional reaction for that matter.

    This means that we can change our conditioning around an event, person or circumstance that removes the fear or any other negative emotion that we’d rather not experience. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by transforming our negative experience of someone or something (including ourselves) into one of love. We can literally train ourselves out of the experience of fear, shame, worry, anger or anything else for that matter. This is because our nervous system is literally conditioned to react to certain stimuli in much the same way we originally or most often experienced them. By consciously choosing a different reaction, or even more powerfully, by letting ourselves have a deep, somatic experience of love in the face of fear, we can reprogram our nervous system in a positive direction that eliminates any negative emotional response.

    Exercise: Healing Emotional Wounds with Unconditional Love

    Love begets love and so the best way to begin to retrain your body and mind to begin reacting with unconditional love is to give yourself a direct experience of it. And by bringing the experience of love to our deepest emotional wounds we can release years of conditioning, trauma and stuck energy in a remarkably short period of time.

    1. Think of a significant past event, situation or person (which can include yourself) where there is some kind of negative emotional charge (anger, fear, shame, jealousy, hate, rage, anxiety, worry, etc.), hurt, grievance or trauma and simply observe what comes up. Don’t resist or judge, simply mindfully observe what you are experiencing, feeling and remembering.

    2. Then after a few moments, tell yourself “And I love that this happened to me,” (it can help to say this out loud), and let yourself move into a state where you actually begin to feel love in your body for yourself, the situation/experience and anyone involved. Really let yourself feel and drop into an authentic experience of love—as it must be genuine for this to work.

    3. As the feeling of love deepens, let yourself move into a feeling of forgiveness for yourself, the situation/experience and anyone involved. As you move deeper into the authentic experience of love and forgiveness, it reconditions the way your nervous system is wired to respond and heals the emotional wound around the incident/experience permanently.

    Emotions are not static, they shift and change in an instant and this exercise allows us to reimprint how our nervous system experiences old memories from one of pain to neutrality or even joy.

    4. Close the practice by taking a minute to meditate and observe what good has come of this experience that you may not have noticed before. Really challenge yourself to look at the experience through new eyes and discover positive things that you may have previously been unable to see. This helps to further repattern your mind and nervous system to change the imprinting of the experience from something negative to something positive.

    5. This technique can also be used in real time to deal with reactions that come up in the present moment as well. When you regularly begin to meet all fear and negative emotional responses with love, you literally train your body and mind out of the experience altogether.

    This work gets easier over time and most people have no trouble staying motivated to continue after experiencing the emotional catharsis and release they experience after one session.  You can literally feel yourself evolving, and it is not uncommon to experience major positive shifts in your life, your mood and your health after even a single session.

    If you find it challenging at first, stick with it as it may take a few attempts before you are able to really let yourself move into a space of authentic love. After all, you are undoing years or perhaps even decades of emotional conditioning.

    The art of cultivating unconditional love is at the core of our personal evolution and spiritual development, and so I recommend that you learn everything you can about it, which will help you on your journey of moving more deeply into the experience. A great starting point is the work of Harold W. Becker, who covers many important practices and distinctions for cultivating unconditional love here: consciouslifestylemag.com/unconditional-love-self-and-others/

    2. Holotropic Breathwork

    Developed by Stanislav Grof throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, Holotropic breathwork is a set of practices designed to stimulate the body and mind into expanded awareness and non-ordinary states of consciousness frequently experienced by those on LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs without the use of mind-altering substances. Grof developed it as a successor to his LSD-based psychedelic therapy, following the suppression of legal LSD use in the late 1960’s.  Holotropic breathwork involves intense rhythmic breathing for extended periods of time and is usually accompanied by music that is evocative and conducive to the experience. Typically about 5-20 min into the process, people will begin to transcend waking consciousness and slip into expanded states of awareness, frequently experiencing deep, cathartic emotional healing, ecstasy and bliss.

    Grof claimed that the Holotropic breathing process “activates the natural inner healing process of the individual’s psyche, bringing him or her a particular set of internal experiences. With the inner healing intelligence guiding the process, the quality and content brought forth is unique to each person and for that particular time and place.”

    Similar to the emotional healing practice outlined above, Holotropic breathwork reliably leads to the healing and release of deep emotional wounds and trauma, which naturally creates feelings of joy, ecstasy and bliss as we reconnect with our true nature which is an expression of unconditional love. However, Holotropic breathing works on other levels as well.

    Although our emotional states are in large part governed by our internal psychodynamics, they are also determined by our physical health. Breathwork of any kind and specifically Holotropic breathing, creates a natural high as the body is infused with life and health-giving nutrients and energy. The practice infuses the body with large quantities of oxygen and Qi (mandarin for “life energy or force”), which stimulate deep healing, cleansing and rejuvenation of nearly every system, organ, gland and tissue. Most people typically use only about 25% of their lung capacity, which keeps them chronically under-oxygenated, depleted and their body and mind operating at below optimal levels, as cells require abundant, oxygen-rich blood for proper functioning. During the extended practice of Holotropic breathing, the body and mind are essentially supercharged with oxygen and Qi, which reliably leads to elevated emotional states.

    While it is possible to practice Holotropic breathing on your own, it’s best to experience it for the first time under the guidance of a trained facilitator in order to get the hang of it and understand the subtleties of the process. A quick google search should help you locate a workshop, training or facilitator in your area and there plenty of videos online documenting the process.

    3. Ecstatic Movement and Dance

    Ecstatic movement and dance have long been used by indigenous cultures from around the world as a way to elevate consciousness, release emotional trauma and blockages, and induce states of bliss, ecstasy, oneness and expanded awareness. Similar to Holotropic breathwork it induces healing in a variety of ways both on an emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical level.

    Ecstatic movement and dance are different from normal movement and dance in that they are typically spontaneous and non-linear, meaning that there is no “move” or pattern to follow.  Instead, the natural impulses and intuitions of the body are allowed spontaneous, real-time expression, which translates to letting whatever feels good or right in that moment guide your expression and movement.

    This could range from subtle shaking to wild arching movements of the limbs and spine to complete stillness and everything in between. There is no form, only formlessness and spontaneity. While it is not fully understood how and why ecstatic movement and dance are such powerful healing tools, they have been used for thousands of years to reliably induce states of ecstasy, bliss, catharsis and healing.

    Best of all they are fun, safe and require no training to become an expert, although you can certainly get better at the process of letting go and becoming more self-expressive over time.

    Part of the reason why ecstatic movement and dance are such powerful modalities is that they tend to remove energetic blockages in the meridian and nervous systems of the body. Chinese medicine philosophy explains that energy can and does become trapped in our bodies along our meridians and throughout the nervous system in response to both everyday stress and old emotional wounds that we have not yet let released. This is the foundational idea behind the practice of acupuncture, which is aimed at freeing this trapped or blocked Qi in the body through the use of strategically inserted needles, which stimulate and balance the meridians and often lead to profound mental, emotional and physical healing.

    Ecstatic movement and dance work in much the same way as acupuncture as the rhythmic shaking, dancing and movement of the body works out these blockages by stimulating the meridians and nervous system without the use of needles. If you observe a baby for any length of time you’ll notice they are constantly wriggling and shaking somewhat spasmodically. This is actually emotional energy running through their nervous system and meridians releasing themselves organically from the body in a more mellow form of ongoing ecstatic movement. It’s a natural process of the body to release emotional energy through movement, but seeing as how most of us learn to censor our self-expression as we get older to fit in with the expectations of societal and cultural norms, that spontaneous emotional release and expression becomes stifled, creating energy imbalances in the body.

    Ecstatic movement and dance allows us that freedom of movement and expression we deeply crave and is a powerful tool for the healing and release of fear, and for that matter, any negative emotion.

    Exercise: Healing Fear and Negative Emotions with Ecstatic Movement and Dance

    1. Find a space either indoors or out where you can move wildly or freely without injuring yourself, and put on music you enjoy that makes you want to move or dance. This can be done without music, however, most people tend to find it helps the process.

    2. Spend 5-10 minutes or more moving or dancing in whatever way shape or form feels most natural and pleasurable to you in the moment. If you are not sure what to do at first you can begin by letting your body shake somewhat forcefully all over. Then as you get into a flow and begin to loosen up, start expressing whatever type of movement intuitively feels right in that moment. Don’t be afraid to really let yourself go and get into it. The more you are feeling the somatic experience of it all and the less you are thinking about everything the better.

    3. When it feels right stop, and become totally still either standing straight up in a relaxed position or laying flat on your back with your arms and legs stretched out in a comfortable position.

    4. Be still and let yourself feel and tune into the energy coursing throughout your body and in the immediate field around you. Remain in this state as long as you like.

    At this point, if you really let yourself go and got into it, you’ll likely feel intense ecstasy, bliss and energy moving and surging throughout and around your body. Often times old emotions come up and are released either during or after the ecstatic movement and dance session, and if they do for you be sure to give yourself space to work through whatever is present. If something is intense, feel free to combine exercises and move into a space of love and forgiveness and use that as a tool to work with whatever is present.

    Advanced Practice

    Ecstatic movement and dance can be proactively used to clear out fear and old emotional wounds as well. Here’s how:

    1. Think of a significant past event, situation or person (which can include yourself) where there is some kind of negative emotional charge (anger, fear, shame, jealousy, hate, rage, anxiety, worry, etc.), hurt, grievance or trauma and simply observe what comes up. Don’t resist or judge, simply mindfully observe what you are experiencing, feeling and remembering.

    2. Then begin the ecstatic movement and dance practice outlined previously from step one.

    In this way, you can more rapidly work through old emotional patterns and memories without waiting for them to surface on their own, which may take time and is heavily influenced by the degree to which they are being repressed, either consciously or unconsciously.

    Like the unconditional love practice, this technique can also be used in real time to heal and clear fear or any other negative emotional response that comes up in the present moment as well.

    About the Author

    Justin Faerman is a visionary change-agent, entrepreneur and healer dedicated to evolving global consciousness, bridging science and spirituality and spreading enlightened ideas on both an individual and societal level. He is the co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and a sought after coach and teacher, known for his pioneering work in the area of flow. He is largely focused on applied spirituality, which is translating abstract spiritual concepts and ideas into practical, actionable techniques for creating a deeply fulfilling, prosperous life. Connect with him at consciouslifestylemag.com and artofflowcoaching.com

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    This article (3 Powerful Practices for Working Through Fear and Negative Emotions) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Justin Faerman and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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