Emotional Consciousness Isn’t Armor
The practices we use for emotional awareness are meant for connection, not for protection.
I’m just gonna say it: your emotions are the single most important thing in your life.
Our feelings are how we interface with the world around us. They are what ultimately determine our experience on this planet, the core of how we take in what happens to us, and determine what it is we do in response, the link between the internal and the collective. As our society slowly emerges from what Teal Swan dubbed “The Emotional Dark Ages,” we find ourselves reckoning with emotional awareness in confusing and conflicting ways.
When it comes to our emotions, we’re like an entire society of teenagers right now. We’re going through massive changes and a deep collective self-discovery, testing these new methods of being in the world. It’s a process. We’re apt to have hiccups along the way.
The subject of today’s article is a hiccup I’ve made myself so many times, with such ardent fervor, that I didn’t notice it as a hiccup until today: using emotional consciousness as armor. Deepening our emotional self-awareness and engaging in conscious emotional communication are tools for connecting with others, not for protecting ourselves from them.
Here’s what I mean: Have you ever told anyone to “take more responsibility for their own emotions” when they blamed you for causing them pain? Have you ever explained to someone all of your triggers and traumas as an attempt to keep them from reopening those wounds? Have you ever demanded that someone use non-violent communication, or scolded someone for not being emotionally self-aware? Chances are, you’ve made this same mistake: you’ve used emotional consciousness as a means of protection.
A practice like non-violent communication exists to transform your own communication patterns, so that you can have more constructive and productive discussions when your emotions are running high. It is a tool for you to center yourself, and approach a conversation with calm, compassion and clarity so that you can be heard, and you can listen. Taking responsibility for your own emotions is a tool to increase your power and agency with regards to your own feelings. By understanding that you have power to transform what you feel in a situation, you can move towards your own healing. Consciousness of your triggers and traumas is important for you to understand how you might react to certain situations, and communicating them can be a means of asking for help in healing.
That is what these practices are for. They are not standards to which you hold others whom you shame for not meeting them. They are not laws to be forced onto others whom you punish for not following them. They are not tools to avoid conflict, within yourself and with others. They are not protection from pain. Rather, they are invitations to greater connection with yourself and with others.
Emotional consciousness is for you. It is for you to practice on yourself, and invite (not force) others to join you in, if they want to. It’s a means to draw ourselves into the light of consciousness, so that we can share ourselves openly and connect more fully. It can also help create a space of emotional safety for others, so that they can share themselves, and then we can connect even more fully. When we use emotional consciousness to protect ourselves, we attempt to control others, rather than to relate to them and build real, empathetic intimacy with them.
If, like me, you’ve found yourself using emotional consciousness to blame others, judge others, control others, or push others away, then you are misusing it.
When you break everything down to its deepest dimensions, the only energies any action has are these: pulling closer to something to join with it, or pushing away from something to separate from it. Like positive and negative electric charges, all actions are “charged” with joining and/or with separating. Most of our actions are charged with both, none of our actions can be charged only with separating,* and acts of unconditional love are charged only with joining.
The mistake in using emotional consciousness practices as a means of self-protection is the same mistake as the fallacy of perceiving independence as safe. The belief in independence is a fundamental category mistake; we are wholly and utterly dependent on everything around us for survival, and always will be. It is impossible to be independent. It is only possible to mistakenly feel independent. It is completely understandable that we mistakenly believe independence will make us safe. We can save ourselves a lot of time and pain, however, by understanding that this belief is wholly inaccurate.
When we experience not being able to depend on others fully to have our needs met, we believe that others will not meet our needs, and so we seek a pseudo-liberation from dependence on others through moving towards “independence.” In actuality, we cannot move away from dependence. We can move away from attachment to depending only on certain strategies, people, situations or actions in order to have our needs met.
Safety comes not from independence, but from total dependence on a world that meets our needs. All of our actions ultimately attempt, sometimes quite blunderingly, to move us towards this state. This is what I mean when I say that it’s impossible for an action to be “charged” only with separating. Every act of separating is an attempt to join with something else. Only unconditional love is properly “charged” entirely with joining.
Joining with an entire world that meets your needs is true safety. Separating from that world and “becoming independent” is a false mirage of safety, and ultimately its antithesis.
What we call the Ego is a belief in ourselves as independent and separate from everything else (e.g. Hi, I’m Anna, and whoever you are, you are Not Me). Because independence is the antithesis of real safety, the Ego lives in fear, and never feels truly safe. Beneath the Ego, we know that we are inseparable from everything.
Separating creates vulnerability. Only in a state of feeling vulnerable could we seek to control the world around us. Trying to control the world around us gives us a false sense of security, but true security cannot come in feeling separate.
The only antidote to separating, and therefore to fear, is joining. Joining means energetically moving towards something and embracing it. You cannot join when you are in an energy of self-protection or self-defense, because in order to protect or defend from something, you must view yourself as separate. In protecting yourself, you are perpetuating your own separation, and therefore, your own vulnerability. This is why, for instance, A Course in Miracles teaches, “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.”
Paradoxical, I know, that the safest you can possibly be is utterly emotionally naked, weaponless, with an open throat and nothing to hide. It seems frightening, I know. Terrifying, even. And I do not expect you to fully embrace it yet. I haven’t yet. We’re walking this path, together, step by step.
But it might help ease the fear to take a lesson from the Tao: absolute harmlessness, and complete helpfulness, comes from being in right relationship to everything. Right relationship creates flow.
Right relationship is complete embrace, and in completely embracing something, it becomes utterly harmless and entirely helpful. A knife to the throat is only a weapon when the throat and knife push against one another.
*If you’re curious about why an action cannot be wholly “charged” with separating, I’ll write another article on that soon.