By Eric Beach
We've all heard it before, "This is just the way I am so deal with it!" or "This is just the way God made me, so get use to it!" These phrases are typically uttered with great passion, anger, and rage. They are conversation enders, not starters. Most often, these phrases are heard only after a fight or a challenge to change.
My dad use to say this a lot. He would blame his "French hot blooded nature" or blame his short temper on a character trait God had given him. I remember thinking, was anyone really meant to be that angry? Would a God really design someone to have such a short fuse and to be such a slave to emotion? If so, what purpose could it possibly serve the created being?
For me, I believe we weren't made, designed, or evolved to have volatile responses to conflict or challenge. I think we develop those intense responses when we are in survival mode. Much like a cornered animal, we react as if in a matter of life and death.
Passionate emotional response serves no purpose if viewed as a quirk or a personality trait. So if thats not the case, and these responses weren't hard wired into our personality, and we aren't animals fighting against the forces of imminent death with one last show of bluster, what purpose do they serve us?
I believe they are "spiritual" teaching tools using a simple biological process to alert our conscious mind that class is in session. That may be a tough or odd pill to swallow, I understand. Even the mere suggestion of this as a possible truth might be enough to illicit a scoff or some other form of emotional retching! But stick with me.
In theory, if we are perfectly healthy, if we are perfectly healed from all the wounds and scars left from life experience, and If we know who we are and truly understand love, nothing can come our way that we can't emotionally transcend and walk through in a clear, couscous mental state. Our emotions would be manageable, free from emotional hijacking. Is this attainable? I believe so. Will we all get to that level of consciousness? Perhaps not. But even falling short of this level of consciousness will allow you to live a far happier and more fulfilling life.
I believe anytime we are emotionally hijacked, or can't transcend the situation, the intense emotion is in fact trying to highlight an area that needs our attention. There is something bubbling beneath the surface, there is information we need to look at and integrate. Through the process of sitting with emotion and not judging it as good or bad, I have learned so much about myself and have even begun to start loving who I am.
Its hard to love that which you do not know...
Allow me to illustrate this concept with some personal examples.
A while ago, when women were first allowed into Ranger school, I was furious. My rage swirled around thoughts like, "Terrible idea!", and "Women can't do it and if they are allowed to try, people will die! What a disgrace Army!" I assure you this is the family friendly version of the thoughts that were in my head...
Now to be clear, its ok to disagree with an idea like integrating women into combat arms specialties in the military, or any other political issue... Its ok to disagree and have a civil discussion. Civility, I assure you, was not part of my emotional response to this issue!
I sat with those feelings for at least a year before I understood what they were trying to teach me. Ultimately they were protecting this definition of masculinity I had constructed in my mind, and failed to achieve. I gave the Army the power to define my masculinity. My logic was thus, "If I'm a Ranger, people can never question wether I am a real man or not!"
I never became a Ranger. When woman were allowed to go to Ranger school my worldview was challenged. If a woman graduated Ranger school, what would that say about my masculinity considering I never even tried to go through the school! My worldview was threatened so I raged in effort to discredit the threat and avoid the painful work of Self discovery.
One more example. This is one I'ver recently been made aware of and am still working through.
When someone misunderstands me, makes a character judgment against me, or in some cases disagrees with me while resorting to name calling, I get angry pretty quick. I've been sitting with it when the emotional response comes and trying to find themes of the same response all the way back to my childhood. I was on a run (being physically active which allowed me to journey inwards) and I made a huge discovery.
To "survive" my childhood was too avoid my father's ire. To do this, I needed to be quiet and unseen. Wether this was an accurate assessment of my situation or a false narrative I created based on bad information, the path I chose took my voice, stuffed down and buried it 6 feet deep in an unmarked grave. Only recently have I found my voice again, and I've been using it. Now, when someone attacks or judges, they touch on a nerve, on an archetypal energy. They become that aspect of my father and I want to finally stand up for the boy with no voice. Problem is, they aren't my dad.
My dad died a few years ago and we said goodbye in a healthy way, in good relationship. For that I am thankful. But, the emotional response of rage was alerting me to the reality I had some more work to do. I had to sit with the hurting, scared little boy and let him yell. I still have work to do in this area and I know life will afford me many opportunities to work on it.
Beneath most intense emotional responses, a valuable piece, or pieces of unintegrated information can be mined from the unconscious if we have the tools and the will to do the hard work. We must open to the process and make that choice for ourselves and no one else. Its a life full of challenge, anxiety, and is not easy. But its also full of love, reward, joy, freedom, servant leadership and is the only life in which we truly live.