Emotional Competence vs. Emotional Suppression
People sometimes think that they are good at handling their emotions because they have become good at suppressing them. But emotional suppression is not emotional competence… far from it.
Every situation in life that produces an emotional reaction has two basic components to it. There is the situation itself and there is our reaction to the situation. When the situation is over it is typically over and long gone. But our reaction is the part of the situation that lives on, sometimes for a very long time.
The roots of not being emotionally competent begin in early childhood. Most people become deeply habituated to suppress their emotions or be swept away by them into emotional reactivity as a consequence of a seemingly universal experience from early childhood. That universal experience is getting emotionally overwhelmed. It seems to happen to everyone. And I’ve yet to meet anyone who liked it. We dislike the experience of emotional overwhelm so much that we do everything possible to avoid the experience of intense emotions, especially if they are painful, which they often are.
As a result of getting emotionally overwhelmed we react in one of two ways:
- We attempt to avoid experiencing the sensation of the emotion in our body. Especially if the feeling is intense – we do our best not to feel it. This is emotional suppression and most people become quite good at doing this.
- We collapse into the emotion and get swept away by it. We cry or get angry or feel anxious or depressed and we seem to be consumed by the emotion. Most people are also quite good at doing this.
Because these experiences of feeling avoidance and being swept away into reactivity happen a lot when we are little, we get deeply conditioned to respond to emotions in these two fundamental ways. Some people are much more suppressive and others are much more cathartic or reactive but we tend to be skilled at both of these emotional responses.
The problem is that neither of these responses constitutes emotional competence. They are simply commonly shared and deeply conditioned reactions to having emotions occur. That doesn’t mean that they are useful ways of responding. In fact, they are completely not-useful, a total waste of life energy and even draining or damaging to our health.
Emotions are made of energy
The thing about emotions that makes us so uncomfortable and so feeling avoidant or feeling consumed is the “energy” of the emotion. The energy of the emotion is what you experience as the sensation of the emotion in and around your body.
Everything in nature is made of energy and radiates energy out into the space around it. This is true of molecules of matter, your cell phone, your lunch, and your emotions. It’s true for everything. And when it is an emotion the pattern of the energy gives the emotion its quality like fear, anger, frustration, sadness, etc. It is the pattern of energy that we experience that allows us to distinguish one emotion from another. If an emotion has no energy then there is no sensation and it is essentially gone. The energy that you experience as the sensation of the emotion in your body is what gives it life. It is the energy of the emotion that makes it a problem because that’s what causes your discomfort… and you are deeply conditioned to not handle this very well.
With emotional suppression what happens is that by avoiding the experience of the uncomfortable energy field of the emotion we don’t complete the experience of it. It seems that the body creates the sensation/energy of the emotion because there is something in the experience of the sensation that we need to complete. We need to fully get whatever it is that the body is trying to bring us from this emotional energy. This doesn’t mean “get it” in the sense of intellectual understanding. It means “get it” as a direct experience of the sensation. And because we are so deeply conditioned to either avoid or collapse into the emotional energy, neither one of these completes the experience. As a result the body continues to want us to “get” whatever there is to get from this experience and it keeps producing the energy causing further suppression or continued reactivity of crying, anger, anxiety, etc.
Here’s a chart that shows the consequences of our conditioning around emotions. We collect two databases of “not-useful” emotions… incomplete experiences and reactive emotions.
So what’s the alternative? The alternative to emotional suppression or reactivity is to learn to do the exact opposite of what we are deeply conditioned to do.
Resolving suppressed emotions – incomplete experiences with the CORE Technique
Instead of suppressing an emotional energy and adding another incomplete experience to our database of old unresolved emotional pain, we need to learn how to stay present to the sensation. In fact we need to learn how to bring our awareness closer to it rather than go away from it. Getting closer to the emotional energy doesn’t sound like such a good idea to the deeply conditioned part of us that is used to emotional suppression. That’s been the only way we have known how to deal with them. But what we find if we bring our awareness closer to the sensation is that indeed there is a field of energy there. And in the energy field there is an area within it that seems more condensed, more intense than elsewhere. This more intense area is usually toward the center of the energy field.
What I’ve discovered by “boldly going where no man has gone before” (getting closer and closer to the energy field of the emotion) is that if you focus on the center of intensity and get close enough you will discover that there is a small opening right in the center of the most intense part of the energy field. This opening is like an “eye of the hurricane.” Now no one knows that this eye of the hurricane is there because you never go there. You are always going away from the energy field of the emotion not getting closer to it. But I’ve discovered that every one of these incomplete, emotionally painful suppressed emotions has this eye of the hurricane opening, right in its center. I’ve never been inside an eye of an actual hurricane but we have all heard that in the eye it is calm. I have, however, been inside the eye of the energy field of many, many incomplete emotions and it is indeed calm inside the eye.
It also seems that the energy of the emotion is sprouting into manifestation right out of the center of the eye. This is an important observation because if in fact the body is trying to get us to experience something from this emotional energy, then the best and easiest place to “get” what the body is trying to bring us is right in the center of the eye. The energy is just spinning out into existence from the center fo the eye. It’s the least intense expression of the energy of the emotion but it also contains every bit of “pattern of information” or “experiential wisdom” that the body is trying to bring us.
So if you bring your awareness closer to the energy field of an incomplete emotionally painful sensation, and if you get close enough to find the eye of the hurricane, what you can do is to dive into the opening at the top of the eye and allow your awareness to feel down the vortex of the eye all the way to the bottom of the energy field. As you glide down the center of the vortex of the eye it feels like there is a swirling chaotic mass of energy all around you. But if you stay the course and don’t bounce off the walls of the vortex and just continue to feel down into the essence of the energy that is in the center of the eye, when you get to the bottom the experience changes quite dramatically. What happens is that you “come out the bottom” of the vortex and you are in an expansive quiet place. This place is the experience of your own awareness. It is the limitless source of energy from which your body created the emotional energy field in the first place. But now you are at the source, not inside the expression of the energy as the emotional sensation energy field. And the energy now feels like it is dissipating and moving away.
I call this process of feeling into the eye of the hurricane to completion the CORE Technique. CORE is an acronym for Center Of Remaining Energy. It describes the technique quite well.
When you learn and use the CORE Technique and feel into the essence of the energy until there’s nothing left to feel, you complete the experience that the body has been trying to bring to you for so long. When this happens it is as if the body “gets it” that you have experienced everything there is to get from this emotional energy so the body doesn’t have to produce it any more.
In fact it stops producing the energy and that particular incomplete emotional energy field is now gone. And it’s gone for good because you fully “got” what you needed from the experience. You just completed an incomplete experience but you did it in an efficient and effective way by catching the experience of the energy just as it was sprouting into existence. This is emotional competence.
We now have a critical distinction between emotional suppression and emotional competence.
Emotional suppression is the avoidance of the sensation and energy field. It doesn’t complete the incomplete experience, in fact, it keeps it incomplete. The body is trying to get us to experience the energy. That’s why there’s a sensation there. It is as if the body is saying to us, “Come on! There’s something here you really need to experience!” But our conditioning has long been responding with, “No thanks! Maybe I’ll feel it later, or maybe never if I can get away with it!”
As a result, we accumulate entries into our database of not-useful, incomplete, emotionally painful experiences. These become significant barriers to many things in our life and also can harden into physical health problems of all kinds.
Emotion competence, on the other hand, is attained when we learn how to be fully present to the energy field of the emotion, get closer and closer to it, finding the “eye of the hurricane” of the energy field and diving in and feeling all the way down the vortex of the eye until we come out the bottom, thus completing the incomplete experience. There is a feeling lightness and freedom that comes with completing incomplete experiences. It’s quite wonderful and totally different than suppression.
So there’s the difference. Emotional suppression accumulates emotionally painful incomplete experiences. Emotional competence completes and removes them.
Although the conditioning of emotional suppression is wide spread and most people are so good at doing it that they aren’t even aware that they are doing, with just a little guidance you can become quite skilled at doing the opposite of what you are deeply conditioned to do. After all the fear of being emotionally overwhelmed that is driving the habit of emotional suppression is really based on the perspective of a very young child. Most people have a three your old running their emotional life and they are not aware that this is so.
But you are an adult now or certainly not three years old if you are reading this article. And your capacity to feel things fully to completion is far greater than you realize. That’s because it is so totally underutilized. It is your inner three year old decision that has been in charge. When you learn how to feel into the eye of the hurricane and successfully complete an incomplete experience, you’ll be amazed and how easy it is to do that.
It’s not that difficult at all. It’s not like trying to feel the entire hurricane of the energy field. Now that’s difficult. And it is completely unnecessary if you know how to find and feel down into the vortex and complete the incomplete experience. What a difference! When people learn to do this it is quite common that they are truly amazed at how easy and quick the whole process is.
It is important to note that when first learning the CORE Technique some people don’t seem to be able to get close enough to the energy field to find the eye or the hurricane, the opening at the top of the vortex in the center of the most intense part of the energy field. That’s OK because it is also possible to just allow your awareness to feel down into the center of the most intense part of the energy field until you have felt into the essence of the energy so thoroughly that there is nothing left to feel. The result it the same, it’s just a bit easier if you can find the opening at the top of the eye and glide down the center of the vortex. But either way works to complete the incomplete experience.
Resolving Reactive Emotions with the SEE Technique
The other aspect of emotional competence is learning how to come out of the grip of reactive emotions such as catharsis, anger, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, etc. These energy fields are quite different from the CORE Technique ones. The CORE Technique energy fields feel like they are more contained inside of the body. The SEE Technique energy fields are not hurricane-like in their structure. Instead they radiate out from the body into the space around you and feel like a cloud or aura of energy that surrounds and engulfs you. You feel trapped inside of it.
This cloud of energy that engulfs you creates a sense of being inside of the energy field. In addition, you are, as if, looking through the energy field at the world around you. It’s a bit like having dark glasses on. The energy field of the reactive emotion “tints” or colors everything. This creates the feeling that the emotion is very “real.” That it is really a part of our reality. But what’s really happening is that you are having an emotional reaction to a story that you are making up in your mind. It’s not a reaction to something that really exists. It’s a reaction to something that doesn’t exist anywhere except in your mind.
There are two kinds of these reactive emotional stories as you can see in the useful and not-useful emotions chart above. They are Expectations and Projections.
Expectations are stories that we make up about how we want life to show up, what we want to have happen. These are not simple observations or perceptions of real things in the world around us. They are fabrications in the mind. And when life doesn’t acquiesce, when it doesn’t bend to our will, when we can’t coerce the universe into having life show up the way we think it should, then we react with anger, sadness, frustration, etc.
This means the projecting of possible negative outcomes onto the future. This is the basis of fear and anxiety. We make up a story that something negative might happen and they we create a reaction of fear that it will. The thing doesn’t exist. It is a story that we are making up in our mind. And the event hasn’t happened yet and the possible negative outcome may never come to about. So we are having an emotional reaction to something that doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind. We’re making it up.
But in both cases, both having reactions to unmet expectations and projecting possible negative outcomes onto the future, we are having emotional reactions to stories about things that don’t really exist. Interestingly, understanding this intellectually doesn’t get us to stop doing it. These are deeply engrained habits and they don’t change from simply understanding that we are doing this.
What’s needed is to learn how to extract yourself from the big cloud or aura of energy. With the SEE Technique you learn to take your awareness out into the space around you, through the field of energy. As you expand your awareness further and further what you are looking for is the outer edge of the energy field where the energy fades off into the surrounding quietness. That surrounding quietness is again your own awareness. It is the background of silent awareness in which the big energy field is occurring.
The moment that you reach the outer edge of the energy field and access the surrounding quietness, in that moment you extract yourself from being inside of the energy field. As soon as you are outside of the energy field your whole perspective suddenly changes. You are no longer looking through the energy field, you are outside of it now looking back at it.
What happens then is that the energy field will start to shrink and fade away. You see the whole situation in a new light. You are no longer “looking through” the energy field. It doesn’t seem so real. And now you can really easily see that you are having a reaction to a story that you’ve been making up in our mind. In fact the perspective is so different and you become so unattached to the story that often the whole think starts to look quite ridiculous. At the very least is all seems unnecessary to continue running the story that you’ve been making up in your mind. You have a much greater sense of being at choice about whether you keep the story going or not. As soon as you recognize all of this and stop feeding energy into the story, the story and the shrinking energy field collapse back into the nothingness out of which you created all of this in the first place. And now once you SEE the reality of the situation there’s no way that you would bring that particular story back. You very likely have plenty more of them but that one is now finished and you feel completely free of the grip of the energy that you felt imprisoned by before.
With both the CORE and SEE Techniques, when the energy appears to be gone we think of the original issue and see if there is any energy left. If you have done the technique to completion then when you think of the original issue, there won’t be any charge left. There won’t be any emotional energy left. And without energy to give life to it, the not-useful emotion is gone… for good.
People who have learned how to do the CORE and SEE Techniques consistently say that these two simple techniques are some of the most useful and powerful things they have ever learned in their life. Getting good at doing the techniques and using them instead of going back to suppression or reactivity is the process of becoming emotionally competent. This is a significantly upgraded definition of emotional competence from what it has meant in the past.
One definition of Emotional Competency from the web site of Leland R. Beaumont is –
Emotional competence refers to one’s ability to express or release one’s inner feelings (emotions). It implies an ease around others and determines one’s ability to effectively and successfully lead and express. It is described as the essential social skills to recognize, interpret, and respond constructively to emotions in yourself and others.
Our upgrade to this definition is that Emotional Competence is the skill of resolving not-useful emotions thoroughly and completely so that they no longer produce problems or suffering for you. This does produce a high quality of the social skills to recognize, interpret, and respond constructively to emotions in yourself and others. But this definition includes how to not just understand your emotions but create a state of being in which the not-useful ones get completely resolved. This is a major upgrade over the previous concept of emotional competence.
Further, something that the CORE and SEE Techniques add to the field of emotional competence is that with both of them, at the end of the technique you are in the direct experience of your own awareness. In this state of your own awareness you are no longer caught in the grip of the emotion. You have completely resolved it. So this is a major upgrade over just managing your emotions. It is true mastery of emotional energy so that you never have to be the victim of your emotions ever again.
Do you think it might be a good idea to get good at these techniques?
Would you like to learn how to do that?
Click here for more information – Becoming Emotionally Competent