Part I of this article examined the source of emotional pain and found it in the inability to handle a negative experience in the moment that it occurs.
Our inability to handle negative experiences stems from survival programming. This unconscious programming works on the basis that in order to survive we must belong to a tribe. To belong to a tribe we must conform to its social rules and expectations. If we don’t we may be rejected—and may not survive.
As I have written elsewhere, survival programming entered our DNA with the emergence of patriarchy some 5-6,000 years ago when habitat loss forced previously peaceful tribes into conflict. Behaviours that enhanced the tribe—such as fighting and childbearing—became ‘good’. Behaviours that weakened it—such as displays of emotions and sexuality—became ‘bad’.
This social adaptation was so successful that, over time, almost every egalitarian society in the world became an emotionally repressive patriarchy.
The outcome of the pressure to conform was society-wide emotional repression. This affected not only our ability to express our emotions but also our ability to handle emotionally charged—i.e. peak—experiences. This emotional shut down is the source of the constricted ‘emotional diaphragm’ described in Part I.
The more open hearted, laid back, emotionally expressive we are, the more we can flow through life’s ups and downs without excessive emotional pain
The extent to which this diaphragm is constricted is in direct proportion to our discomfort with our emotions. The more open hearted, laid back, emotionally expressive we are, the more we can flow through life’s ups and downs without excessive emotional pain. The more constricted, up tight, emotionally repressed we are, the more negative experiences affect us—not just in the painful NOW moment that they happen but on and on into the future.
This is because whatever emotions we experience that we cannot process in the NOW moment become trapped in what is termed our ‘emotional body’. This unprocessed psychic material accumulates in our unconscious or subconscious, depending on our sensitivity, where it continues to affect us long after the actual event has passed. This is how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder develops.
Science has now demonstrated that trauma can be passed from one generation to another through epigenetic inheritance. So constrictions to our emotional diaphragm may be the result of trauma experienced by one of our ancestors.
The key to expanding our diaphragm to be able to handle peak experiences without pain lies in acceptance. Acceptance is what helped some people survive the concentration camps without crippling trauma. They laid aside the belief that they were ‘good’ and that only good things would happen to them. By accepting the reality of their brutal detention they were better able to adapt to life in the camps and, ultimately, better able to survive.
You, too, can cultivate acceptance.
Acceptance does not mean being morally OK with a violent or abusive act by another. It means not being in denial about the reality of what is occurring. It means replacing our unconscious classification of events as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with the conscious decision to suspend judgment and let the entirety of the NOW moment flow through us. Master this and you will be free of pain.