“One may understand the cosmos but never the ego; that understanding of the self is more distant than any star.”
The path to peace is also a path that is willing to confront negative emotion.
What is a negative emotion? It is an emotion that is toxic to the body and interferes with its balance and harmonious functioning. Fear, anxiety, anger, bearing a grudge, sadness, hatred, intense dislike or jealousy, all interrupt the normal integration and life energy flow through the body. These emotions affect the heart, the limbic system, digestion, production of hormones, and so on. Mainstream medicine, although it knows very little about how the ego operates or how the spirit is meant to be the natural resting place of the soul, is beginning to recognise the connection between negative emotional states and physical diseases.
The harm caused by negativity contaminates the environment we exist in.
An emotion that does harm to the body also affects the people we come into contact with, and indirectly, through them, a chain reaction can take place. It is capable of contaminating countless others we will never meet. In fact we are either a life-giving factor in all of our social systems or a life taking factor. Energy and hope are either building in the relationships we are a part of, or entropy is taking place – the winding down of life and hope giving, collective energy.
Unhappiness is a generic term for all negative emotions.
I have seen whole corporate cultures become destabilized, unhappy and therefore unproductive, when infected by negative and destructive emotions. Because the ego is driven by a need to look good and be right, these situations are difficult to turn around without significant attitudes of humility in key opinion formers. If this doesn’t happen, because the opinions formed are ego-driven, those involved will tend to blame everything except their own blindness for the situation. Scapegoating will never bring resolution.
But what of positive emotions?
Do positive emotions have the opposite effect on the physical body? They do indeed, but we need to differentiate between short term positive emotions that are ego centred and ego generated, and the deeper emotions that emanate from our natural state of connectedness with our spirit.
The ego is always looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Happiness for the ego comes when happenings are going the way the ego wants them to go. In contrast, our spirit always wants to lead us to joy. Joy comes through our spirit harmonising with and finding its place in, the divine narrative that is continually unfolding. It is an experience that has a unique quality.
Why ego happiness is always anxiety prone and contaminated
What appears to be positive emotion generated by the ego already contains its opposite, which it can quickly become. Here are a few examples: What the ego calls love is often possessiveness and an addictive clinging that can turn into hate within seconds. Anticipation about an upcoming event that looks like hope is really the ego’s infantile overvaluation of the future. It easily turns into its opposite if the event doesn’t fulfil the ego’s expectations. It will only be to normal for feelings of anger, disappointment or of being let down, to rise.
Whichever way you see it, the ego’s happiness is always conditional. Praise and recognition may have you feeling alive and happy one day, while being criticised or ignored will have you dejected and unhappy the next. The attention paid to you by a member of the opposite sex might send you to cloud nine, but the removal of that attention can let you down badly.
The ego’s pleasures are always vulnerable to change of circumstance.
The pleasure of a wild party can quickly turn into the bleakness of a hangover the next morning. The ego’s so-called happiness is transient because it stems from the mind’s ego-centred identification with external factors. These external concerns are unstable, being tied to circumstances that are liable to change at any moment.
Joy and peace are unconditional spiritual states of inner being.
What we call the deeper emotions are inner conditions that are not really emotions at all but spiritual states of being. These are the states of being Jesus taught his followers and tried to lead them into. The first lessons he attempted to teach his new followers were found in the gospel of Matthew chapter 5:1-12 (we call them the Beatitudes.) In the Greek, from which they are translated, there is a remarkable psychological paradigm. It’s a shame Freud didn’t take the time to study and learn from the Master Teacher. There is nothing in The Beatitudes that will let them inflate the ego; just the opposite. They are all about living a life detached from the powerful demands of the ego.
Happiness is when happenings are going the way our ego wants them to go.
As already mentioned, emotions that the ego pursues as pseudo-happiness all exist within the realm of opposites. In sharp distinction ‘spiritual states of being’ have no opposite because they emanate naturally from deep within the wellsprings of our own spirit. Thus we can learn to live with a joy that is not dependent on circumstances.
From within this spiritual state of being comes its fruit – love, joy, hope, peace patience, etc. These are all expressions of an ego free of the need to look o.k. because the spirit that transcends the ego knows it is ok. Integration and authenticity without a drivenness to be something else are the clear hallmarks of a spiritual state.