Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life
An Excerpt from Emotional Freedom
Introduction: Emotional Freedom: The Secret of Serenity
I invite you on a remarkable journey where you can embrace more happiness, peace, and mastery over negativity than you may have ever known. You possess the ability to achieve such emotional freedom; it’s closer than you might think. No matter how stressed your life is currently, the time for positive change is now.
Our society is in the midst of an emotional meltdown. People are restless, volatile, our tempers about to blow. In the past year, Prozac was prescribed for over thirty million people. Domestic violence occurs in one out of six of households. Fifty percent of drivers who’re cut off respond with horn-honking, yelling, obscene gestures, or even road rage. Half of our marriages end in divorce.
None of this is how we want life to be. Our pressure cooker society pushes us to our emotional limits. We deserve relief from getting crucified by daily stresses. We deserve to be happier, more comfortable in our own skins, to have nurturing relationships. This book empowers you to attain this high quality of life and to handle stress artfully. I’m excited to present practical new tools for mastering your emotions because conventional coping mechanisms just aren’t sufficient in our hyper-tense world. It’s lunacy to put up with being chronically anxious, fatigued, or depressed as so many of us have. I rebel against that cheerless status quo, and hope you will too.
Emotional Freedom offers the answer to reclaiming your happiness and heart. What is emotional freedom? It means increasing your ability to love by cultivating positive emotions and being able to compassionately witness and transform negative ones, whether they’re yours or another’s. This fundamental living skill liberates you from fear and lets you navigate adversity without going on the attack, losing your cool, or being derailed by it. The result? With true emotional freedom, you can choose to react constructively rather than relinquishing your command of the situation whenever your buttons get pushed, as most people do. This lets you communicate more successfully, gain more confidence in yourself and empathy for others. Then you own the moment no matter who or what you’re facing.
Though we commonly think of freedom as uncensored speech, emancipation from slavery, the right to vote and worship as we choose, you can’t achieve total freedom until you learn to take charge of emotions, instead of them running you. This is a radical paradigm shift we all can make, regardless of our present anxieties or past hardships. If you are painfully driven by emotions, this book will show you how not to be.
Your well-being matters to me. My mission is to increase your emotional freedom. It has always been within you, but you must know how to connect with it. I consider it my great privilege to help you say farewell to anything that imprisons--that keeps you afraid, small, or disconnected. Then you won’t inexorably be locked in combat with yourself or anyone else. I want you to be more fiercely alive. I’m presenting Emotional Freedom as a life-long guide to release you from the compulsive tyranny of negative emotions such as worry and anger so you can choose more joy.
I’m compelled to write this book because, as a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice and an Assistant Clinical Professor at The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), I work in a mainstream medical system where emotions are only partially understood. Even today, they don’t receive the total respect that they warrant. All too often, doctors ignore scientific data clearly linking emotions and health. During my psychiatric training at UCLA, I was Chief Resident of the Affective Disorders Clinic. We treated emotional “disorders” including depression and anxiety, as biochemical imbalances requiring medication. I’d meet with patients for fifteen minutes every few weeks, write a prescription, then send them home. Though I never saw medications as the whole solutions to their problems (despite the zeal of some of my colleagues), I did watch many patients experience at least partial “symptom relief,” an undeniable blessing and alleviation of suffering. However, in my subsequent two decades of medical practice, I’ve learned that emotional freedom is rarely just about removing a symptom. It involves much, much more.
Over years of working with patients and seminar participants, I’ve seen that emotional freedom comes from many sources, mainstream and beyond. This book gives me the opportunity to wed my fondest loves: traditional medicine, intuition, energy, and dreams--a mystical yet practical marriage. I’ve coined the term Energy Psychiatry to describe a new kind of psychotherapy I’m pioneering that synthesizes these multiple forms of knowledge. I’ll explain how I use each of them to help my patients find emotional freedom so you can find it too.
The intellect, stunningly incisive as it may be, has restricted vision when it comes to emotions. This is why bringing intuitive awareness to the feeling-realm is so liberating; it pushes beyond the limits of linear understanding. Intuition is a potent wisdom not mediated by the linear mind--a practical, smart, decision-making aid. Intuition can be a hunch, a dream, a “knowing,” specific guidance, or a warning of danger. During troubled times, intuition is a voice in the wilderness to get you through, and when things are good, it’ll help them stay that way. Contrary to what you might suppose, intuition is the antithesis of “woo-woo.” It can actually be perceived physically as a "gut feeling." Cutting-edge science associates this with a separate "brain" in the gut called the enteric nervous system, a network of neurons that learn and store information. Interestingly, Harvard researchers have linked the overall capacity for intuition to the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that informs us something’s not right and we’d better act on it.
Emotions also have an intuitive language that silently begs to be decoded in our bodies--“subtle energies” that move through us that can be sensed. These are what Chinese medicine calls “chi,” our vital life force, a growing area of scientific study. We feel emotions internally, while their energy expands beyond our bodies, affecting the world we touch, determining our affinities. Similarly, other people’s emotional energy impacts us.
Today, I am a woman who travels many worlds. My approach to emotional freedom utilizes the best of traditional and nontraditional realms to map the territory of the heart. In this book, I’ll discuss the four major components of emotions that shape your health and mood: biology, subtle energy, psychology, and spirituality. Why do I emphasize spirituality? I want to acknowledge that there’s a heightened sense of mystery to emotions. Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” To tap this, we must appreciate that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. It’s impossible to grasp how we tick emotionally without a cosmic perspective; everything about us, including our biology, is an expression of the divine. Seeing emotions as a training ground for the soul frames every victory over fear, anxiety, and resentment as a way to develop your spiritual muscles and be better able to love and cultivate goodness. Anything that keeps your from your light distances your spiritual connection too.
I’m unrelentingly dedicated to helping my patients and you combat the emotional forces of darkness that cause suffering. This has to be done. We all have suffering. When unaddressed, it ends up hurting others and ourselves. I’ve seen too frequently how the ravages of suffering can deform people. I’ll teach you how to dissipate negativity so suffering can be lifted and you can be more loving. Goodness doesn’t shy away from the dark. But achieving emotional freedom doesn’t mean becoming bland, numbing our feelings, or spewing them indiscriminately towards others. It entails striving to develop everything that is positive within us as well as being accountable for our full spectrum of feelings, mastering them, and realizing we’re so much larger than they are.
I’m also compelled to write this book as a testament to my own progress on the path towards emotional freedom. I come from a lineage of powerful, caring women who, despite their accomplishments, often grappled with fears of inadequacy that kept them from reveling in their own magnificence. My mother and my aunt, for instance, as very young physicians in Philadelphia during WW II, staffed an inner city emergency room. And my grandmother was a flamboyant seer who’d heal her neighbors with her hands during the lean years of the Great Depression. These wonderfully talented and complex women were my role models; for better and for worse, I’ve shared both their strengths and apprehensions on my own path to self-realization.
I learned much about the consequences of emotions from my mother. At seventy, with a thriving Beverly Hills practice in family medicine, her credentials in order, she nonetheless chose to take the national board exams to prove she was as “competent” as doctors fresh out of medical school. Everybody, including my father (also a physician), her other doctor friends, and me, said to her, “Why put yourself through it?” But, as usual, Mother was stubborn. Maddeningly, she still had something to prove. We were just spectators, loving her the best we could, hurting as she hurt. Preparation for the test was Herculean, requiring months of intense study. Even though she’d been an impeccably skilled, compassionate doctor, beloved by her patients for four decades, she was possessed by a sense of inadequacy. A thousand people could tell her how incredible she was, but if one person said something derogatory, she’d believe him. It was so much easier for her to be kind to others than to herself--a paradox shared by so many of us. Twenty years earlier, Mother had been diagnosed with a slow-growing type of lymphoma. It hadn’t spread, but it hadn’t gone away. Soon after the national board exam, however, the tumor changed to an aggressive form of leukemia. Though she heroically did pass her boards, she died within six months of doing so. Near the end, she told me she believed that the stress and fears that ate at her had accelerated her own death.
Witnessing my mother’s struggle with self-doubt gave me vital insights into emotional freedom. As a daughter, I saw the horrible toll negative emotions took on the person dearest to me. I ached with powerlessness as I watched her weaken. Even before she died, I experienced the cellular chill of having lost my mother. I stayed very close to her until the moment she turned bright gold and was no longer of this Earth. During those heartrending days, the mind-body connection was never more apparent. Ironically, not one iota of my mother’s being consciously wanted to die, but stress and fear don’t care about that. They beat relentlessly at her seventy-year-old immune system, already taxed by cancer, and her body broke down.
My mother, myself: Even now, at times I can’t stop my fears or inner slave driver, and it’s hell. However, one make-or-break difference is that I’m explicitly committed to not being ruled by negative emotions. I’ll fight to the finish to overcome them. This is my eternal vow, and I’m making sweet and steady progress. But Mother came from the old school where you tough things out, believe in achievement as scripture, and shy away from psychotherapy. It’s not that she didn’t want her fears to go away; during many conversations at our Saturday afternoon teas I’d listen to her yearning for inner peace. But she just wouldn’t commit the time and energy to get there, whether through contemplative introspection or with the assistance of a guide. And though she devoutly believed in Judaism, the traditional services she attended didn’t focus on the everyday spiritual meaning of emotions or help her get down to the nitty gritty of how to relieve fear. Even at the end, she lacked the tools for change. It breaks my heart that Mother, so gutsy and skilled, never fully realized her own worth. If she had, then maybe she would have lived longer and discovered another chapter of satisfaction in her life--a chapter that had nothing to do with achievement. But this is a passage that must be negotiated as you age, a grace one must seek.
My mother gave me many gifts, including the tenacity to follow my dreams and a love of learning. But from her life, I also learned the dire necessity to heal negative emotions in order to achieve my own inner peace and to help my patients do the same. The power of love is the champion of emotional freedom. We must respect the voice within that says, “Honey, be kind to yourself. You are enough. You are beautiful.” This compassion is in each of us: the ultimate answer, the one I aspire to, teach my patients, and shout from the rooftops.
In the spirit of compassion, you can use Emotional Freedom to grow joyful and strong. My book is divided into two parts. Part One, “Tapping the Power of Emotional Freedom,” introduces you to the four components of emotions. It offers a self-assessment test to help you evaluate your current level of emotional freedom so you can record its growth as you practice the principles contained in this book. I’ll also invite you into my romance with sleep and dreams, revolutionary states of consciousness that offer liberating wisdom. Everyone can access this realm, even if you’ve never been able to remember your dreams. You’ll gain relief from insomnia and learn to see nightmares and all dreams as allies and healing forces. Finally, I’ll show you how stay open without getting overwhelmed by an often-insensitive world. I take particular pleasure in sharing these solutions--including discovering your emotional type and how to optimize it--since I well know what it’s like to be a sponge absorbing the angst of people around me. I’ll also offer an “Emotional Vampire Survival Guide,” crucial tips to protect yourself from friends, family, or coworkers who emotionally suck you dry.
In Part Two, “Your Tools For Liberation,” I offer a hands-on approach for facing the seven most prevalent difficult emotions and building positive ones. Each chapter is called a “transformation” and tackles different emotions; some may be hotter issues for you than others. I present negativity as a means to an end, a form of suffering to confront and transform. It’ll periodically rise up, but you’ll learn to quickly shrink it again. I’ve paired negative and positive emotions in each chapter because freedom comes from practicing these transformations rather than getting stuck in pessimism. For instance, I’ll offer techniques to overcome fear with courage or jealousy with self-esteem. Similarly, I’ll show you ways to address loneliness, anxiety, frustration, depression, and anger to create a compassionate, vibrantly connected life. With each transformation, I’ll illustrate how the four components of emotions--their biology, spirituality, energetic power, and psychology--can help you achieve a more serene wholeness. Though misery loves company, so does inner peace. I’ll share my personal journey with each emotion, my challenges and my victories. You’ll also discover ways my patients, workshop participants, and friends have found emotional freedom so you can learn how to welcome it too.
I dedicate this book to people under emotional stress who’re overwhelmed but lack tools to implement change--those with demanding jobs, over-extended super-parents, or chronic worriers who long to master the exhale of life--and to everyone who feels lonely but yearns for a greater sense of connection. It’s aimed at those who suffer from problems labeled “psychosomatic,” such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, which are fueled by negative thoughts and feelings. You’ll also benefit from this book if you’re in a good emotional place, but want to feel better.
Let Emotional Freedom guide you through your emotional terrain. Go at your own pace. I swear by baby steps; they foster a sense of safety and comfort; they prevent you from getting overloaded. I’ve had it with epiphanies! As revelatory as these life-changing Ah-has! can feel, they’re often hard to sustain. A burning bush is miraculous, but I wouldn’t wait around for one or have your growth depend on it. I encourage you instead to make small changes with great love--then they’ll accumulate and last. Stitch by golden stitch, you’ll be sewn together, more whole. Keep it slow and simple. Use the strategies offered in each chapter. In my medical practice, I’ve seen everyone from stressed-out moms to hard-charging business executives benefit. During this process, you may move forward, then backslide a bit. Don’t worry: that’s just how it goes. A mistake is only a mistake when you don’t learn from it. Be aware that even with the best intentions, emotions can sometimes discombobulate us. They know just how to catch us off guard if we’re not centered.
Take frustration, the great tester of equanimity when obstacles, be they mundane or extreme, arise. Recently, I was running late for a dental appointment. As I pulled out of my condo, a monster U-Haul blocked the exit; I wasted precious minutes tracking down the owner to have it moved. While en route, I got a disappointing call on my cell phone informing me that a project for which I had high hopes had fallen though. Then, muddled by that frustration, I realized that my dentist had just moved his office, and I had parked in the wrong lot. So, in haste, I took a shortcut through a nearby bank, but got lost. Now I was really late. Then I lucked out. There was a security guard, decked out in a neatly pressed uniform and shiny gun, who could give me directions. I started feverishly asking him to point the way, but got no response. Suddenly, I realized he seemed awfully quiet. And then it dawned on me--I was talking to a dummy! I touched him….yep, he was stuffed. I heard someone chuckling behind me. I turned and spotted the real security guard on duty a few feet away.
“The dummy looks so real,” I said sheepishly.
“It’s okay,” he replied, “People do what you did all the time. They don’t realize he’s a work of art.”
Although I’m shamelessly amused by my own foibles, my mounting frustrations had gotten the best of me. There I was, asking directions from a dummy! A delectable, cogent reminder of how important it is to be mindful of our emotions. We don’t want to be blind to whom we’re talking, let alone follow some dummy’s advice. But if you do, be sure to get a good laugh out of it. Then immediately correct your course. Through all the emotional twists and turns of life, a sense of humor has been my salvation.As I’m writing to you, a winter storm passes over the Pacific. An expanse of white crests dapple my beloved ocean outside my living room. The tide is receding at twilight, my favorite time. Wind is whipping, whistling hard as golden rays penetrate the steely grayness that threatens to engulf the world. I love sitting here watching. I feel like the luckiest person as I gaze upon this glorious scene. Dark, light or the infinity of shades in between: I’ve come to cherish it all. Be apprised, my native tongue is intuition, that invisible, unspoken language that peers into the poetry of things, a mode of sensing and knowing that moves me more than any linear analysis or most words. Throughout the book, I’ll bring this aesthetic to our exploration of emotions and impart it to you. Be gentle with yourself on this remarkable journey. Enjoy the ride. Though we humans have a way to go, we are luminous still.
Judith Orloff, MD
Marina del Rey, California