What is Emotional Mastery?

Emotional Mastery is about getting our emotions to serve us – to empower us in getting what we want from life. This requires gaining an understanding of how our emotions affect us and how we can use them to improve the quality of our lives.

I often find that it is an emotion that has not been recognised and responded to in an appropriate way that is the cause of poor performances and stress in peoples lives.

Most of us are uneducated in the roles and functioning of our emotions. When I teach this information, I am often asked why we are not taught about our emotions as we grew up? Our emotional aspect is a very significant part of our lives which we know very little about.

Due to our lack of emotional understanding, we are often slaves to the particular irks and quirks of emotional whims. We may be either emotionally out of control or control addicts. Very few of us know how to use our emotions in healthy and creative ways.

Emotional Mastery is about regaining control of our lives by developing a strong, healthy and stable emotional core. It means bringing our emotions into balance. For some people emotions are so intense that they fear being overwhelmed by them. Others spend much of their lives feeling very little and struggle to connect with and express their emotions.

Emotional Mastery happens when we become capable of allowing ourselves to feel our emotions and still to do what we want to do. We often avoid doing things that may bring up emotions (particularly fear, anger and sadness) because we do not know how to handle them in ourselves or in others.

For example, many times we let our fears stop us from taking action that we know would be in our best interest. We may avoid, going to the dentist, facing a looming problem we don’t want to look at, standing up for ourselves at work or stating what we want in our relationships. In this way our fear has mastered us, preventing us from doing what we want to do. We have become the slave of our emotions. Emotional Mastery is about allowing ourselves to be afraid, feeling the emotion and still taking the steps that we need to take.

Four Bodies = One Human Being

As human beings we have four bodies:

Physical – called our body.
Mental – called our mind.

Emotional – this body has no name*.

Spiritual – called our soul.

* During workshops people sometimes ask if ‘feelings’ would be a suitable word. Feelings though is a general term that can used to describe the physical, mental or emotional aspects of experiences.

Our physical and mental aspects tend to be associated with ‘masculine’ qualities being tangible, logical, finite and understandable. Our emotional and spiritual aspects tend to be associated with ‘feminine’ qualities being esoteric, nonlinear, not necessarily understandable or logical, infinite and mystical.

We have lain such heavy emphasises on our thinking capacities that we are out of balance with our feeling instincts. Our patriarchal Western culture, has emphasised our physical and mental aspects to the detriment of our emotional and spiritual aspects. One of the founders of our culture, Descartes, proposed that “I think, therefore I am”. His premise is that our existence has validity because we think. I say: “I think, therefore I am confused”.

Our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies are not separate from each other. They are dynamically interwoven. Think for a moment about how your physical body feels and the kind of thoughts you have when you are happy compared to when you are sad. Health studies are showing clear links between emotional traumas and physical illness. The question these days is not whether our emotions affect our health, the question is ‘How much they affect our health?’.

Clearly we are reaching the limits of the bias toward the physical and mental. Unemployment rages and pollution threatens our forests, rivers, oceans and our health. Youth suicide and discontentment are a real concern. The health care system is labouring under an overload of a burden that requires more and more money to keep it going. Marriage breakdowns are running at 50 per cent. Many people are feeling lost, empty uninspired and unfulfilled in their lives.

Humanity desperately needs to wake up to the neglected emotional (and spiritual) aspects of being human. We need to embrace our full nature: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Our physical body, emotional body and soul provide us with great sources of wisdom, but many of us have come to rely on only the wisdom accessible through our intellects.

Emotions are Real, Valid and Important

We live in a culture that tends to deny the reality of our emotional aspect. This is reflected in the fact that there is no name for our emotional body. A large number of personal, social and environmental problems have arisen because Western culture does not recognise or validate our emotions as real.

Emotions are often shamed and ridiculed. For example, when we are sad we are told to ‘grow up’, ‘cheer up’, ‘look on the bright side’, ‘think of how lucky we are’. Boys are told that they are ‘sissies’, ‘wimps’, ‘sooks’ or ‘girls’ if they cry. Girls are told that they are ‘bitches’, ‘nasty’ or ‘unladylike’ if they express anger. We are told not to be ‘so emotional’, not to be ‘so sensitive’, not to ‘take it personally’, ‘take a broader perspective’, ‘forgive and forget’ – anything but acknowledge that we are actually having a real experience called ‘an emotion’. Unfortunately emotions do not just ‘go away’ if we deny or ignore them. Instead they cause disruption to our inner state of well-being and affect our outer actions which in turn affects others which in turn affects the health of the planet.

Even the so-called ‘New Age’ movement does not fully acknowledge the important role our emotions play in our lives. In Melbourne we have a major festival each year called ‘The Mind, Body, and Spirit Festival’, Why is it not called the ‘Mind, Body, Emotion and Spirit Festival’?

During a ‘Breathwork’ session I had in 1992 I suddenly recognised my emotional body. I realised that this was a major part of me that I had not known existed before. I raced down to a large alternative bookstore in the city and asked for a book on emotions. The woman behind the counter looked at me blankly, scratched her head and said she didn’t think that she could help me. As we looked through the shelves on personal development we saw plenty of books about how to use your mind power but nothing on how to use your emotional power! Only recently have books such as Dr Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence’ started to appear. This is clearly a pioneering frontier!

Our emotions are real, valid and an important part of being human. We need to be emotionally proficient if we are to lead fulfilling lives in harmony with the planet. Emotional well being leads to satisfying relationships, inner happiness, personal power and harmony with all life.

Emotions are Energy

Emotions are energies that are created within our bodies in response to physical experiences we have and thoughts we think. As energy, emotions are our source of life force. They animate us and provide us with motivation, passion and the richness in life’s experiences.

Emotions are like electricity. They flow through our bodies like electricity flows through a wire. You cannot see emotions but you can feel them. Emotions, like electricity, never stay still. They are always moving.

The amount of electricity flowing through a light globe determines how brightly it glows. In a similar way the degree of openness we have in allowing our emotions to move through us determines the intensity of aliveness we feel.

There are four primary emotions. They are anger, fear, sadness joy . Each emotion is composed of the same basic energy, expressed in different ways. Different emotions arise in response to the circumstances that are being experienced.

For example, in days of old, when a man was threatened with being attacked fear would be created to heighten his senses and anger generated to empower him to stand up and defend himself.

The differences in the way each emotion is expressed is determined by the way the energy is directed by the consciousness of the individual.

For example, if the energy of anger is expressed in attacking and aggressive ways then it is destructive. If anger is expressed appropriately with directness and openness of heart then it actually adds passion to a relationship, clear blocks of resentment, bridges barriers of isolation and increases the intensity of love and depth of intimacy experienced.

Shutting Down Our Life Force – Suppressing Emotion

For most of us, growing up involved learning to shut down the expression of our emotions. As babies we expressed our emotions spontaneously, freely and fully. As young children controlling and suppressing our emotions was often a good idea: It meant that we were more likely to be acceptable and less likely to get into trouble. Young children are told to ‘be quiet’, ‘don’t answer back’, ‘not to shout’ and that ‘children should be seen and not heard’. They often get ridiculed and reprimanded for their expressing emotions. When in trouble they dare not answer back for fear of getting punished more. Eventually they learn that it is sensible not to express their feelings.

It is important to realise that because we did not feel or express any emotional energy outwardly, does not mean that emotional energy was not created. Often as adults we are not in touch with our emotions. We have difficulty feeling the full force of emotion that naturally arises in our lives. Sometimes an event will happen that triggers an emotion that relates to another event that happened a long time ago. For instance, when my friend’s kitten died, it triggered an outpouring of unexpressed grief over his father’s death, even though his father had passed away 8 years earlier.

The Price we pay

The price we pay when we shut down our emotional expression includes;

1. Loss of energy and passion for life – feelings of tiredness and fatigue

2. Diminished experience of all emotions

3. Loss of feelings of self confidence and self love

4. Loss of touch with inner wisdom, knowing what is right for us.

5. Pain, Inner turmoil – loss of inner peace

6. Poor health – disease

7. Relationship breakdowns, including diminished capacity for intimacy

8. Diminished concentration span

9. Stiffness in our bodies

10. Violence

Our Emotions are our friends.

When in proper balance each emotion contributes to our ability to live a healthy and successful life. Our fear is present to raise our alertness in times of potential danger, our anger arises to assist us to stand up for ourselves when we feel powerless, grieving our sadness allows us to let go of our losses and move forward and our joy is present to lift us towards the ultimate experience of life. Expressing any emotion opens our heart to greater experiences of love and aliveness.

Nicholas de Castella, President of The Australian Breathwork Foundation has 12years experience as a Breathwork practitioner. Founder of Power of Presence Seminar (formerly Passionately Alive Seminar) and author of ‘Keys to Emotional Mastery’, he conducts Breathwork practitioner trainings, facilitates weekly support group meetings and runs a private practice in Clifton Hill, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.