I wanted to share about a technique that I’ve found hugely effective at shifting all kinds of negative feelings and emotions, from the superficial surface-level ones to those deep and sticky ones that seem to bubble under the surface for years on end.
It’s called the Sedona Method and it’s actually been around for over 30 years, although I must confess I hadn’t heard much about it. The name was vaguely familiar, but I’d never taken the time to check it out. But, oh boy, I’m glad that I did! It has been hugely helpful in so many ways and it is the essence of simplicity itself.
At the moment, it’s EFT that’s all the rage (Emotional Freedom Technique - a systematic system of tapping various points on the body in order to clear blocked emotions). However, having practised both, I have to say I find the Sedona Method far better: it’s much easier, simpler and you can do it absolutely anywhere at any time and no one will be any the wiser. Try doing EFT in front of your boss at work or on the bus and it’s surely only a matter of time before they’ll have the doctors in white coats knocking on your door.
The Sedona Method is almost ridiculously simple - but it works. As a species, we humans are incredibly emotionally retarded. We simply don’t know how to deal with the ‘bad feelings’ that come up. It’s not something we’ve ever been taught. And so we either suppress them and numb ourselves out with any of the Weapons of Mass Distraction (which include alcohol, drugs and any number of excessive and addictive behaviours even as seemingly harmless as compulsive TV watching and internet surfing) or we blindly react to them, often in very destructive and harmful ways.
I’m absolutely certain that there would be little problem in our society with drugs or violence if people were better educated in how to deal with their emotions. We’re a species of dysfunctional, emotional cripples and this really has to change if we’re to continue living upon this planet without blowing ourselves to smithereens.
I've always found Buddhist psychology far more 'switched on' when it comes to dealing with emotions, than anything else I've come across. I’ll never forget Thich Nhat Hanh’s admission that, instead of ignoring or denying or unconsciously reacting to our emotional state, we must instead befriend it and treat it as a young infant crying out for attention. If we bring our attention to it, our compassion and kindness, holding it in our awareness and cradling it like an upset child, it gradually lessens its hold and dissolves into peace. The light of our awareness - conscious, sustained awareness - is what heals emotion.
Also extremely helpful are Eckhart Tolle’s teachings on what he calls “the pain body”, the accumulated past pain that lives on within us as a kind of energy field, and which can be triggered by even the slightest event which might resonate with that past pain (such as issues of grief, fear or abandonment). This pain body can completely take us over, colouring our entire view of the world, of ourselves and others, making us behave like wounded animals, creating dysfunction in all aspects of our lives and relationships. Again, he recommends that the only way to heal this repository of emotional pain is to bring our conscious attention to it. Awareness changes whatever it touches. It heals. But it can take a long time and a lot of sustained, directed attention to dissolve some of the more deeply-ingrained emotional scars within us.
The Sedona Method works on this premise, and it works astonishingly quickly. I highly recommend the book ‘The Sedona Method’ by Hale Dwoskin. It’s a complete and comprehensive course on how to use the method yourself. I like the fact that this book isn’t simply some big advertisement which tells you all about the benefits of the technique and then on the last page tells you that in order to learn it you’ll have to sign up for some horrendously expensive course or an over-priced set of CDs. On the contrary, the book leads you through the entire process.
You can learn the technique in two minutes flat, but the book goes on to show you deeper and deeper ways to use it, to clear out all the emotional muck that’s been creating havoc in your life. It has worked wonders for me, and I’ve been teaching my family to use it as well. It never fails to work. I truly believe that this is the kind of thing that needs to be taught in schools.
You can try it now.
Identify something that’s causing you emotional pain, be it grief, fear, disappointment, hurt, jealousy, anger, or whatever it might be.
The process works by asking yourself a set of specific questions which lead you to simply release that feeling. How do you release it? This is actually something that happens quite naturally and spontaneously. If you pick up a burning hot object such as a lump of smouldering coal, how do you let go of it? You just do. You just drop it. You don’t even need to think about it. How do you let go of a negative emotion that is causing you immense emotional pain? You just do. You just drop it. You don’t even need to think about it. The moment you consciously decide to let it go and to stop holding onto it, it just disperses. The sensation is one of sudden relief and lightness, like releasing a tightly-clenched fist.
Here is the process. Try it yourself, right now.
- Identify something that’s causing you to be upset. Ask yourself: what am I feeling, right in this moment, about this issue? It might be a strong feeling or a subtle feeling, or a mixture of feelings. Try to identify what it is, but keep mental discussion and rumination to a minimum. Stay focussed on the emotion and where you feel it in the body.
- Ask yourself: could I allow myself to welcome this feeling? Most the time we strenuously resist feeling bad, but for this process it’s vital to welcome the feeling, no matter how painful. Allow it to be. Embrace it with your awareness and allow yourself to REALLY move into it and feel it. Witness the energy of this feeling.
- Next, ask yourself: could I let this feeling go? Allow a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to come. No matter the answer, proceed to the next step.
- Ask yourself: am I willing to let it go? Avoid mental debate, just see what answer comes up within you. If the answer is ‘yes’, proceed to step 5. If ‘no’, then ask yourself would I rather have this feeling, or would I rather be free? Work with this until you get a ‘yes’ answer or else proceed to step 5 anyway.
- The last question is, to simply ask yourself: When? This is an invitation to let it go NOW. You may find yourself easily releasing it.
- Repeat steps 1-5 as often as needed until you feel free of the initial feeling you wanted to clear.
If you find it difficult to clear something, then it might help to give yourself permission to hold onto it for a minute. Allow it to be there, in your attention for a while longer, until you move on to release it. Sometimes we have unconscious attachments to our feelings, even the ones that are causing us immense suffering. Bringing awareness to this and seeing the insanity of it really helps us dissolve that attachment. In any moment we can choose to hold onto our pain, or we can choose to be free.
Now, some people might say that to simply blast away our feelings like this is a bad thing, that our feelings are part of who we are. Whilst they can sometimes be helpful messengers, it is a grave mistake to think our feelings are ‘who’ we are or can tell us anything about who we are. The majority of the time they are simply the body’s reaction to the content of our mind and the thoughts we are thinking. To invest emotions with a sense of self is a dangerous thing, for when we become attached to our feelings - however painful they might be - we become chained to them and they literally sap the life energy out of us. It’s a perfect recipe for a life of misery.
Emotion might be thought of as energy in motion (e-motion). Like clouds in the sky, they drift by, ever changing. Emotions are not a problem in themselves, but when we get ‘stuck’ on them, and caught up in a certain emotional reaction, it creates a blockage in our system which will eventually lead to all kinds of mental, emotional and physical problems. So if you find yourself particularly attached to a certain emotion or emotional reaction/pattern, then this is a warning sign and an indication that you most certainly need to let go of it. It’s likely that you’ve invested a sense of ‘self’ in the emotion and this will create all kinds of imbalance and problems, as well as skewing your entire perception of reality. It’s important to be willing to release that emotion now...or even just to allow yourself to release your attachment to it.
Some might argue that it’s important for us to hold onto our grievances and anger, believing that without them we wouldn’t have the impetus to take action in life, or to tackle situations that require change. Letting go of our painful emotions does not make us less effective in life, however. On the contrary, it makes us infinitely more effective. It’s natural to be angry and upset at certain situations but the longer we remain choked by those emotional reactions, the more we tend to perpetuate and even worsen the situation.
Action is far more effective when it comes from a place of peace and balance, as opposed to anger, resentment and knee-jerk emotional reaction. That’s why I’m learning that when something upsets me, it’s important to first release the emotion and THEN take whatever action I can to change the situation. This enables us to be more effective and balanced in everything that we do instead of being walking tornadoes of emotional chaos and unrest.
To take this process a little deeper, you can trace each emotion back to one or more of the four underlying WANTS. Every emotional reaction that we have can be traced to wanting approval, wanting control, wanting security or wanting to be separate. Sometimes it’s a combination of these.
So, for each feeling that you are dealing with, ask yourself: what underlies this feeling? Is it wanting approval, wanting control, wanting security or wanting to be separate? Again, look for an intuitional rather than analytical response. Allow the answer to come to you.
Once you have identified the wants that are at the core of your emotional reaction, you can release them using the same process:
- Get a feeling for this sense of wanting approval, control, security or separation. Can you locate the sense of this want in your body? Where is it and what does it feel like?
- Ask yourself: can I allow myself to welcome and accept this want?
- Could I let go of wanting (whichever want it is)?
- Am I willing to let go of it?
- Repeat the process until you feel you have cleared the underlying want and then move onto the next if there is one.
By clearing the sense of want that lies at the core of the emotion, you can clear it by the roots rather than just by the surface. As with weeding your garden, tackling the issue at the root will allow for a deeper clearing and will usually prevent it from re-appearing.
It’s amazing when we realise just how much of our lives, our behaviour and reactions are based upon the desire for approval, control, security and from wanting be separate. Letting go of these wants frees up great amounts of energy within us, dismantling long-held pockets of resistance, allowing us to truly be free. Your mind might initially object to the idea of giving up wanting things such as approval, security and control. The thought of giving up such seemingly-important desires might seem insane. But, ironically it’s usually our deep-seated need for something that prevents us from ever actually getting it.
As the saying goes, “want doesn’t get”. Can you see where this is true in your own experience? Have you ever wanted someone’s approval so desperately that you unconsciously sabotaged yourself and ended up behaving like a complete idiot, therefore eliciting precisely the opposite response than you’d intended? Experiment with letting of of the four big wants. You will come to see that giving up ‘wanting’ something is usually the best and most effective way to actually get it! And the real bonus is that whether or not you do actually get it, you’ll be at peace.
I hope you find this process helpful. The book goes onto elaborate in greater detail, with a range of ways to apply it to your life in every area, including goals, relationships and letting go of resistance. You find that as you work with it, more and more things rise to the surface to be cleared. This is a actually a good thing and is not reason to be discouraged. We all carry so much baggage around with us and it all has to rise up in order to be cleared. It can be an exhausting process at times, but I believe it’s a necessary part of the journey if you truly want to be freer, happier and more at peace in life.
So, release, release, release! The more we let go of this crap, which is totally foreign to what we truly are, the more we come into contact with this deep and ineffable peace and joy which lies at the core of our being. When all the obstructions are cleared, it’s like stormy clouds dissipating in the sky, allowing the sun to shine unhindered, bringing everything to radiant life.
The Sedona Method is the perfect way to clear out the emotional aspects of an issue, and can be used well with Byron Katie’s The Work, which is excellent at clearing out the mental levels, such as negative thoughts and belief patterns. These are the two methods of psychological/mental/emotional clearing that I recommend the most. Psychologists would do well to adapt them into their line of work and, indeed, a growing number do.
So there’s really no excuse for continuing to pollute yourself and the world with our toxic emotional energy. It’s not that negative feelings will never come up again, for such is the nature of being human, but at least now you have the ability to deal with them.
So there’s really no longer any need to continue feeling mad, sad or bad!