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Take a step toward better emotional health

By Randall Buskirk

THU OCT 28, 2021

Here is a great first step—maybe even a giant leap—toward good emotional hygiene and increased emotional intelligence.

Let go of the idea of positive and negative emotions. Let go of valencing them—all of them—as good or bad.

It's a difficult step to take because we've all learned about negative emotions and been taught to avoid them, whether for health reasons, social reasons, or moral/religious reasons.

So you're going to be bucking the crowd and most well-meaning messaging you are exposed to concerning emotions.

You can do it, though. It might be a halting, unsteady step at first, and likely for quite a while, just like learning to walk. Forces will push against you and try to keep you in the same place. These forces might feel like internal forces as well as external.

You will need energy for this change of heart and mindset, and the energy you need will come from those forces themselves. You can judo your way around these forces of resistance and old ways of thinking and acting.

And that's because the energy of resistance is also the energy it takes to learn something new, to create new neural pathways and ways of understanding and perceiving yourself and the world.

This energy will tap you into even greater energy that has been pent up in separating your emotions—in effect, separating yourself—into positive and negative. It's as if you have been trying to pull apart a magnet by dividing it into poles. That's an old physics of the self. The modern physics of the self recognizes that all your emotions are intelligent powers from your very core, your heart of wisdom.

And the heart is indivisible.

Here's a silly metaphor. Imagine you divide your feet into positive and negative. Your right foot is positive, your left foot is negative. You try to inhibit your left foot, to shun it, to hide it as evil and less than human, and you only move forward with your pure right foot, your positive good foot. How far do you get? How much effort does it take?

Silly, right? Both feet are there to move you forward. Likewise, all your emotions are there to move you forward in life, and if done with enough practice, skill, and grace, to make it a dance.

If you feel like you have two left feet when it comes to your emotions, take the first step of emotional wellbeing by unvalencing them—your emotions as well as other people's emotions. Resist the view that sees the emotions as positive and negative. Learn to see them all as necessary and intelligent expressions of life and being human.

Ultimately, your emotions are vehicles or carriers of meaning and value—they are vessels of the heart. That's what it means to listen to your heart. Learn to partner with your emotions and befriend yourself. Peace, as they say, begins at home.

For more practice of the yoga of emotions, see this course