Learning to Listen to Your Intuition
Last week I spoke on a panel for World Mental Health day and one of the big topics was about ‘the Shadow’ that exists in the human psyche. Carl Jung defined ‘the Shadow’ self as the parts of us that we have banished, or deemed unacceptable.
As human beings, we are subject to the full spectrum of emotions and experiences, however, certain feelings and experiences in our culture are judged as being ‘wrong’ or ‘negative’, for instance, anger.
As a young girl growing up I wasn’t allowed to feel angry because it was ugly and unladylike, and no one liked an angry young girl. I learned to cast my anger into the shadow area of my psyche, where I thought it would cease to exist, but shadow parts of ourselves are still very much alive even when we banish them from our conscious.
Its sort of like our plastic garbage problem these days- you might think that just because you took the garbage out to be collected that it is gone forever, but the fact is that it continues to live long after you’ve thrown it away, and because you aren’t bringing it into the light of your consciousness, it becomes a huge problem in other ways.
Feelings and emotions are part of our holistic intelligence and serve a major purpose in our lives. For instance, anger is something that happens when a boundary has been crossed- we get a wave of anger which is the energy needed to reinstate your necessary boundary and communicate our limits. If we are not allowed to feel certain things, we are crippling ourselves from having emotional intelligence.
There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ feelings. Think about a young child, how they feel everything to the fullest extent, and can move on so quickly from feeling to feeling, not getting stuck in the past, or holding on to the emotion. The feelings are flowing. That is a healthy state of being.
When we have cast certain feelings into the shadow to not be felt, they become emotions that exist as ‘states’ or ‘moods’. When we deny our feelings, they start to fester and get stuck in ‘mood’ states.
Feelings are gentle flowing sensations that tell us how we are doing at the moment. We are supposed to move with them like a child. Each feeling has a unique energy to it and when we can learn to be with these energies, then we are in direct communication with our intuition. Our intuition is our deepest form of knowledge and insight!.
With that, I would like to go through a list of the major feeling categories and what each emotion is trying to tell us in the hopes that it empowers you to feel your feelings and know yourself better. (This is a very condensed and basic list, and if you would like to learn more, I highly recommend Karla McLaren’s book ‘The Language of Emotions’.)
1.) Anger: As I mentioned before, anger has a lot to do with our boundaries and limits. Anger helps us maintain our honor, it fuels our convictions, helps us create healthy boundaries, helps protect ourselves and others, and also create a healthy detachment from our outer world. When we feel angry it's helpful to ask ourselves ‘what must be protected?’, and ‘what boundary must be restored?
2.) Apathy & Boredom: These two emotions have a very close tie to anger as they will often show up when you are trying to hide your anger. Apathy and boredom are essential feelings in healthy separation and taking time out. When you are feeling bored, ask yourself ‘what am I avoiding?’ & ‘what could be made conscious?’ When apathy and boredom are present it might be time for you to separate from your situation for a moment to be with yourself and your own energy. Using the anger underneath apathy is a great way to reset your boundaries.
3.) Guilt & Shame: Ohh! These two are so very difficult to feel, and thanks to Brene Brown we have all learned that there is definitely an unhealthy amount of shame in our lives. Most unhealthy shame has to do with trauma and manipulation. Guilt & shame DO have a healthy place in our emotions repertoire, however; for they help us to restore our integrity & self-respect when we have truly crossed our own boundary or limit.
Unless you are a psychopath, hurting another person or crossing another person’s boundary will cause you to feel guilt and shame- that hot liquid sludge that runs down the back of your neck and makes your cheeks hot. When healthy guilt and shame come up it's good to ask yourself ‘who/what has been hurt?’ & ‘what must be made right?’. The feelings of guilt and shame are necessary for atonement and behavioral change which would have a nourishing effect on the spirit. It's a great start to heal your own heart and your relationship with others.
4.) Hatred: Hatred is another great emotion that most of us toss into the shadow. Because it is ‘wrong’ in our culture to be a hateful person, we deny the fact that sometimes we feel hatred. Hatred is an awesome sign that we need to do some immediate shadow work! The good news is that when we do shadow work, we are completely liberated from said hatred, and we are empowered to bring what was unconscious into the light. When you are feeling hatred toward someone or something ask yourself ‘what in my shadow is this triggering?’’& ‘what part of myself have I disowned that needs to be reintegrated?’. Say hello to your lost self & make friends with your demons when hatred comes up in you.
5.) Fear: We’ve all heard the saying ‘there are only two real emotions, love and & fear’, and if you are a Donnie Darko fan like me, you’ve thrashed against this gross reductionist statement. Fear is not the absence of love, its a powerful emotion that connects you directly to your intuition and can bring clarity, focus, attentiveness, readiness, and vigor to the situation at hand.
The best thing to do when fear comes is to listen. Ask yourself, ‘what action needs to be taken?’.
6.) Jealousy, Envy & Greed: For me, these are the hardest feelings to admit to myself that I have. Jealousy arises in response to unfaithfulness or deceit in an intimate relationship while envy & greed arise in response to the unfair distribution of resources or recognition. All these feelings tend to be mixed with anger & fear. When jealousy and envy arise in you, it time to start thinking about fairness, commitment, security, connection, and loyalty. When these feelings arise in you, ask yourself ‘What has been betrayed?’ & ‘What must be healed and restored?’. Make sure you know if your feelings are associated with another’s actions or if it has to do with your own lack of self-regard and worthiness. These feelings are hard to hold, so make sure you create a safe space with boundaries for you to be able to fully feel, then listen to your intuition and honor the anger and fear inside you.
7.) Sadness: The gifts of sadness are aplenty; release, fluidity, grounding, relaxation, and revitalization. Sadness often comes when we need to let something or someone go. When you feel sadness ask yourself ‘What must be released?’ & ‘What must be rejuvenated?’. When sadness arises in you, release that which no longer serves you and let the healing waters of your tears restore your flow. Once you let that river run, rejuvenation and relaxation are well on their way to you.
8.) Happiness: Finally we are at a ‘positive’ emotion! Happiness gives us gifts of merriment, delight, wonder, playfulness & invigoration. When you feel happy it is time to celebrate it at the moment. If you are feeling happiness, it is likely a result of allowing yourself to feel all other emotions. So feel the happiness and let it flow, it will come around again soon.
I hope this has been helpful to you, and if you would like to discuss things further, please follow me on Instagram @dayle.mcleod
To purchase a copy of my book, ‘The Big Dream; My Terrifyingly Beautiful Shamanic Initiation into the Arts’ visit www.TheBigDreamBook.com