Last week we covered how “pain is not an emotion.”
Ok, great. But what do you do about an emotion that feels painful?
In today’s episode, you’ll discover exactly how to deal with painful emotions (even if you’ve been to an IFS therapist before and it didn’t work.) You’ll also discover three emotions that immature people consider to be painful.
Show highlights include:
- How to murder the feelings of anger, fear, shame, inferiority, and anxiety by mastering these 4 emotional skills (our society and schools actively avoid teaching 95% of men these critical skills) (3:10)
- Why standard therapy is a great way to flush $5,000 of your precious cold, hard cash down the toilet if you can’t be “present with your emotions” (5:28)
- The most common pitfall affecting most intellectuals when going through the therapeutic process that sabotages their progress (6:57)
- Sick of feeling paralyzed with fear? Check out this free, gentle meditation that instantly soothes stress, anxiety, and calms your nerves (works even if you’ve tried other “traditional” meditation exercises) (11:42)
- The “float-back” secret that eliminates your fears (19:08)
- Why listening to this piece of advice from Jordan Peterson could make your son feel isolated, excluded, and left out of society (28:32)
- How “guru-worshiping” stunts your intellectual capability (and in a sneaky way, turns you into a snowflake who can’t disagree with other people’s opinions) (29:55)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
In the last episode, I went into the one simple shift that can completely transform your experience of life. This one simple shift is a necessary component. It’s required for emotional mastery, mastering your emotions, which, of course, includes being able to improve your emotional endurance and your emotional control.
And what is this one simple shift? It’s that pain is not an emotion. Pain is not an emotion itself. Instead, what you’re picking up and calling pain is an emotion. The emotion that you’re feeling is painful, but pain itself is not an emotion. [01:03.8]
This is super important, as I described in detail in the last episode, because so many people get stuck at the level of analysis of just pain. “It’s my pain, it’s my pain. You must understand my pain.” But when they get stuck at that level of understanding, where it just stops at pain, they don’t get any further to understand the emotion that that part of them is interpreting or judging as painful. What needs understanding is the emotional experience, not just that it’s painful.
Many emotions can be painful, for example, fear or anger or sadness, and, of course, regrets or longing, or depression. All of those could be painful. Just calling them painful isn’t actually going to help and it’s not going to allow that part of you that’s feeling that pain to feel understood, so you’ve got to go deeper in your analysis, in your understanding. What is it that that part is feeling as painful? What’s the emotion? [02:03.7]
In the last episode, we looked at the example of inner conflict as a common achiever pain as something they considered painful, and the more we looked at it, the more, hopefully, you followed along and realized that inner conflict or inner disagreement is not intrinsically painful. Inner conflict or inner disagreement doesn’t have to feel painful. In fact, it can feel really great as feeling a variety of viewpoints and experiences and emotions within. It, in fact, can feel like a resource and inner strength.
Okay, so in this episode, I want to look at three emotions that immature people consider to be painful. But before I get into the details of that, I want to answer the more general question of what do you do about painful emotions? In the last episode, I ended with pointing out that there are emotional skills that, as you get better at them, you’ll be able to handle emotions that you currently consider painful. You’ll be able to handle them better. [03:08.2]
In particular, there are at least four emotional skills that I think everyone should master, and the first is presence. The second is emotional endurance, to be able to endure emotions longer, to increase your endurance of them. Then the third is emotional titration, being able to decrease and increase the intensity of your emotions, like on a tap where you’re titrating the flow of water, for instance. Then the fourth is being able to influence others with your emotions, and that requires that you have those other three emotional skills down.
I just mentioned the word “presence” as the first emotional skill and that’s being able to be with whatever comes up with that, whatever emotions are there. The first emotional skill is presence. Most dudes suck at these emotional skills. They’re not encouraged to learn them by their society or schools, are not taught them, obviously, by society or schools, and very few men have ever had these emotional skills modeled for them by their father or their male figures, or anyone, really, in their lives. [04:12.7]
But one fallout of the toxic masculinity that has been common around the world for so long is a kind of retardation towards emotional understanding or understanding of your own emotions. The default approach to emotions for dudes, as a result of toxic masculinity, is to ignore or suppress your emotions. The inability to even be with whatever emotion you are feeling.
That’s why the first emotional skill that I teach is presence, being able to stay present with your emotional experience no matter how painful. I cover all four of those emotional mastery skills and a lot more in my program “Emotional Mastery.” Those are skills that you can build over the course of weeks, months, and, really, realistically, years, and they will lay the foundation for you to do the therapeutic process. [05:04.8]
One good analogy for this is strength and conditioning, it’s like these emotional mastery skills, and then the actual martial arts skills or the actual game skills, the skills that are specific to your sport, are on top of that, on top of the basic strength and conditioning.
These emotional mastery skills, in terms of therapy, are like the strength and conditioning, because if you can’t be present with your emotions, if you can’t endure them long enough to work with them or even to identify them, and if you can’t regulate them—that is, if you’re unable to steer it back or bring it back from overwhelm and you’re just, I don’t know, hallucinating, and you lose your breath and faint—then therapy won’t help you, because you’ll be unconscious. All right, those are basic strength and conditioning for doing the therapeutic process and I highly recommend it to everyone, like I would, basic strength and conditioning for any athletes or any people playing physical games. [06:06.2]
Moving on from the emotional-mastery skills is the actual therapeutic process. What’s that about? I will show you a little bit of it, because, of course, if I’m speaking to other therapists or other practitioners, it’s going to have a lot more steps to it, but, overall, as someone who would be the recipient of being led through the therapeutic process, you don’t have to know all of the details. But especially for those clients or those students who are highly intellectual or have dominant cognitive parts, they would like to know. They would like to know, period, and they’d like to know a lot of things, including what’s coming up, what they’re doing, and that’ll help their intellectual parts of them relax enough to go through the process. The process itself is not intellectual. [06:56.6]
That’s, as an aside, one of the most common pitfalls for intellectual type people. It’s that they are stuck on the analysis level, when what the therapeutic process is actually about is, it’s an entirely emotion-driven exercise. It’s about growing, using emotions, so intellectually, it’s quite simple because all of the work, the effort, will be through the emotions.
Okay, so what do you do about a painful emotion? Let’s say you’ve got this painful emotion, and let’s say that you have enough presence to notice it and enough endurance to be able to stay with it for, let’s say, 10, 20 minutes, and that should be enough to get you started on the therapeutic process. Let’s say that you have that as the foundation, and then what do you do?
The first step is acceptance, accepting that this emotion is there, so you’re not pretending like it’s not there. You’re not trying to wish it away. You’re not trying to suppress it. That emotion, whether it’s sadness, anger, despair, whatever it is, fear, is there and it’s okay for the moment that it’s there. You’re able to stay with it and accept its presence. [08:12.4]
Then that allows you to move into the next phase, which is to start to understand why you are feeling or why that part of you is feeling that particular emotion, and why that particular emotion feels painful to that part.
Okay, so the first two steps are acceptance and understanding. Right there is where most people already get stuck. They’re already checked out. They can’t see why or how they could accept this painful emotion. They just want it to go away. “Tell me how to do it, to make it go away. Give me the steps to make it go away.” They’re not even able to get past Step 1.Step 1 is to accept that it is there and that it’s okay. Part of what’s implied by acceptance, rather than just noticing it, acceptance implies that you accept that it’s there. In other words, it’s okay for you that you or this part of you is feeling this fear or sadness, or anger or despair, or depression or anxiety, or whatever. [09:10.8]
Once you reach that emotional state of acceptance, then you can be with the part long enough that it can relax, as a result of the acceptance, and begin to show you how it got this way, why this emotion is so overwhelmingly painful for it.
Now, if you’re a longtime listener of this podcast, you would be following along and nodding, like, Yes, I got it, okay. But if you’re not, you might be thinking, What? Isn’t it obvious that fear is painful and yucky, or sadness is a horrible emotion, a negative emotion that no one would ever want to feel, or anger is a negative emotion and I would never want to feel it? Isn’t that obvious, David? How could I ever arrive at a place of accepting it as okay? I could do it momentarily to make it go away, but, ultimately, I could not ever accept that it’s okay that a part of me is feeling that way or that I’m feeling that way. No, David. [10:08.5]
Okay, so now we move into, and looking at these examples, I’ve chosen three of the most common examples that people interpret as painful, and those are fear, anger, and sadness. Let’s look a little bit more deeply at them and help you to move from Step 1 to Step 2. I’m going to assume that you’re at least able to enter into a state of acceptance for the length of this podcast, or, at least, maybe five to 10 minutes, as I look into each of these emotions one at a time. Let’s look at fear first and try to then understand it moving in, therefore, into Step 2.
With each of these three emotions, I’m going to recommend a resource in the form of a book, because there’s no way I could actually do justice to the profundity and the depth of each of these three basic emotions in this half-hour podcast. I want to encourage you to read and dig deeper, and understand just how deep you can go with all of psychology. [11:09.8]
Here, looking first at fear, the book I recommend is Thich Nhat Hanh’s book called Fear. Thich Nhat Hanh, a great teacher of Buddhism, but also of psychology and has a lot of resonance with what is covered in psychotherapy, passed away earlier this year, and he wrote a book called Fear. Now, let’s see, the subtitle is Essential Wisdom for Getting Through This Storm. It was published, it looks like, in 2014. It’s a really small book, you can get through it pretty quick, and I highly recommend it.
There’s also a fantastic meditation on transforming fear by Sarah Blondin. You can find it for free on her SoundCloud. It’s in the Insight Timer app. I’m sure, if you guys just go to her website, Sarah Blondin, you’ll be able to find it somewhere. I think it’s called “Transforming Fear”, and it’s great. I made a version of it with my own voice with our own background music, because I thought it was just so awesome and I wanted to provide it with a different timing and rhythm that seemed to work better with my clients and students. [12:14.8]
I discovered that many of my old clientele that was more focused on getting dating success didn’t do so well with female voices in meditation, so that was one of the issues. If that’s you, I’ve got a transforming-fear meditation based on Sarah Blondin’s and it’s accessible through my Platinum Partnership.
I say all this because I want to show you just how well-known it is that fear can be a positive emotion, that it can lead you to things that you are running away from and not facing, and these parts are calling your attention to these things that you’ve been in denial of, and that’s why there’s fear there. [12:55.4]
If you go through the therapeutic process, you will eventually be able to access what IFS therapy calls your “true self”, which is full of courage, and when you take that higher perspective of the true self, you’ll naturally experience that courage that allows you, enables you to face the fear that part of you is experiencing.
One of those tricky things about understanding is plenty of people will say, as they go through the therapeutic process when they’re early on in it, they’ll say, “Oh, I totally understand this part’s pain,” or fear or whatever, because they are experiencing the pain just as the part is, because they’re blended, identified with that part and they are no longer in their true self, and as a result, it actually doesn’t go anywhere because you’ve basically just re-traumatized this part, because you’ve dredged up these old memories or whatever and you’re just experiencing them again. [13:52.8]
In the therapeutic process, it’s important as you are bringing up the sources or the origin of the fear that you’re feeling right now, and you’re able to stay with that part long enough that it can show you what it’s rooted in, usually, almost always, some kind of childhood experience, that you’re able to also have enough self-energy, so to speak, enough of the higher perspective, that you can help that part of you that’s feeling that pain, that’s feeling that fear, and not get lost in that part’s emotions.
This is an important distinction to keep in mind, empathy versus compassion. Empathy is good to show other people. It makes them feel understood. But if what you’re feeling is empathy, that is, you are able to experience, you are experiencing what the other person or, in the case of the therapeutic process, what this other part of you is experiencing, then you actually can’t help that part because you would also be lost in the pain, immersed in it, just like the part that you’re trying to help is. This happens so commonly when the therapeutic process is rushed in the early phases, because there’s not enough, what therapists call, self-energy or not enough of the higher perspective. [15:06.2]
What we’re instead looking for is compassion and compassion is where you feel compassion for the part that is suffering, but you, yourself, are not embroiled in or not sucked into feeling the exact same suffering and lost in it. So, you have compassion, that which does not require empathy.
If you have enough of that self-energy or if you have a pretty solid grounding or footing in the higher perspective, you can come in and out of it, and this is a more advanced skill in the therapeutic process, where you are able to enter into the perspective of the part that is in pain or suffering and really feel it, really get it, and then come out of that.
Only when you come out of it, while still, of course, having compassion for that part, that suffering, only when you come out of it so you are not overwhelmed by that part’s pain or suffering, only then can you actually help that part. [16:02.9]
Okay, so I said I was going to look at specific examples, so let’s do that. With fear, here’s a common example. Let’s say a guy who was bullied in school when he was very young, let’s say, eight years old or so. As a result, anytime another man or life conditions resemble the time when he was bullied, he begins to feel fear and anxiety and nervousness, and he starts to feel paralyzed.
Now, for most people, they don’t even know what the root or sources of it are. They just feel the fear and then they think it has to do with what’s happening right here and now, when, in fact, it’s often out of proportion to what’s happening here and now. For instance, their boss at work uses a more boss-like tone of voice and maybe disappointed in his performance that day, so the boss kind of just tells him, “Get to work,” or whatever it is, right? [17:02.7]
Or something I’ve experienced quite a lot is, as a philosopher and someone who loves to debate ideas, and being on the school debating team all the way through university, I enjoy the back-and-forth debate. I mean, I was a philosophy professor. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of guys who have trouble with women, who get triggered when I debate with them or just question their viewpoints or their ideas, or the thing that they say.
This is especially common in Asia where they were punished, in a way, bullied by their teachers, and they had a kind of authoritarian education style, which was all about get memorization and rote learning, and get the answer and that’s all that matters, not the thinking itself and so forth, and they were never encouraged to ask the teacher questions and all of that or to debate with the teacher. They weren’t encouraged to think for themselves. They were just taught for the exam and to regurgitate answers for an exam. [17:59.5]
In situations like that, where now, as an adult in his thirties, this guy is now frozen and paralyzed, just because my tone of voice and my mannerisms, the way in which I am questioning him, is close enough to remind him of that time back then. But he’s not even aware of it because he hasn’t done the therapeutic process, so he just experiences it as triggering.
If he was a coddled American or a coddled Westerner in the current university system, in many cases, not every university system, but in many cases, he will then blame the interlocutor, he’ll blame the questioner, he’ll blame the teacher, right? Then you want to create a safe space where there never are questions, they don’t feel triggered or whatever, and you never actually go through the therapeutic process of discovering the source and origin of it. That’s why it’s so important to notice your fear. [18:50.0]
If you can notice your fear, accept that it’s there, stay with it long enough without wishing it to go away, but instead becoming curious about it, coming to this emotion with interested curiosity to see what it has to show you, then if you can stay with the fear long enough, you can float back—this is called the float-back technique. I learned this in my schema therapy training—floating back to an earlier time in your memory, ideally, the first time you can recall, and every time or the more you go with it, you’ll recall earlier and earlier times. But going back to an earlier time that you can recall feeling this way, and there you’ll discover those inner-child parts of you that are holding the pain of this fear most intensely, most acutely, and that’s what you’ve got to discover through the therapeutic process. You can do that and that happens in Step 2.
First you accept that this emotion is there. You assume that there’s a part of you that’s feeling this emotion and you want to learn more about it, so you get closer and closer to it. Of course, in order to get closer to it, you’ve got to be able to hold it there and not wish it to change or scare it away. In this example, it’s fear, fear of bullies, and it could be schoolyard bullies. [20:00.5]
I mean, I gave the example of teacher-type bullies, but it could easily be a fear of physical confrontation. It’s also quite common for guys who struggle with women. They’re afraid of alpha, quote-unquote, “dominant” dudes, right, who easily intimidate them.
In these situations, if you can maintain the adult perspective and that’s bare minimum for higher perspective, so you have the adult perspective, you realize if you just wake them up to it—like, What are you afraid of now? You are a 35-year-old adult in public and it’s broad daylight, or whatever, so there’s no real physical danger—and then you can also get them to do martial arts training or self-defense training, or whatever it is.
Almost always, if you get them into their logical frame of mind, they’ll realize, yeah, they’ll admit that there isn’t any real physical danger, but that their fear is out of proportion to the actual circumstances in the present. The same obviously goes with me questioning them in a classroom or a seminar setting. In fact, I’m just using a Socratic dialogue style to help them learn better. [21:07.2]
Do you struggle in your interactions with women or in your intimate relationship? Are fear, shame, or neediness sabotaging your relationships or attractiveness? In my Platinum Partnership Program, you’ll discover how to transform your psychological issues, improve your success with women, and uncover your true self.
Get access to all my current and future online courses by applying for the Platinum Partnership today at DavidTianPhD.com/Platinum.
In both of those cases, there is an obvious disproportionate fear reaction, and that would alert you then to it having to do with something much earlier in your formative years, and you’ll never get to that crucial material unless you can stay with it. Those are the first two steps of acceptance, which will then set you up to understand how it got to be this way in your mind. [22:12.5]
Now, with fear, in some cases, there are some real danger to be aware of and it makes sense that you’d be afraid of it. For instance, if someone was holding a gun to your head and you were afraid of dying, that makes sense, right? In that case, you don’t need to do any psychotherapeutic help around that, right? But there are also those, because it’s just obvious why and it’s also obvious how to remove the thing that’s triggering the fear. This guy is pointing the gun at your head or whatever it is, right? You’ve got to remove the immediate danger.
But in some cases, people are just afraid of future projections such as the fear that everyone they love could die, and that could happen. There’s a possibility of that, no matter how minuscule. There’s also the possibility and the very real hundred-percent probability that they will die at some point, and so will you, and if that causes a lot of fear in you—it should also cause a lot of other emotions, hopefully, because I set it up as you love them, but you might start with fear—it’s important that you confront that fear and hold it in place, and not just go, “Oh, yeah, no duh,” but just hold it there, because it’s a future projection and there’s a lot there for you to learn from. [23:18.8]
Death anxiety and the fear of death is one of the most therapeutically-productive subjects or topics or material that you can stay with, because staying with death and your fear of it will open up all, everything else, because it’s actually about life and it’s about what you’re missing out on in life, and these parts that are alerting you to the things that you will regret when you die if you haven’t experienced these and so on. There’s so much to it.
In fact, there’s so much to it that I did a four-hour YouTube video series on it and you can find that on my YouTube channel, and if you want a great book, like the landmark book on this topic, it’s The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. I think it was a Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Awesome book. I think everyone should study the heck out of that. [24:05.7]
Whatever it is that you’re afraid of, you ask how much is it rooted in reality? Assess the actual probability of dangers? If it’s that you’re afraid of someone shooting you and they actually have a gun to your head, okay, that’s probably not a therapeutic issue. But if it’s a future projection or if it’s not a really present danger, but you’re experiencing the fear, stay with it long enough that you can learn the roots of it, because then it will open up everything else, and eventually, if you follow the therapeutic process, you’ll be able to unburden this part of the burden of its fear.
But for that to happen, and that’s a real therapeutic breakthrough, right, letting go of the fear? But for that to happen, you’ve got to go through the earlier steps of, first, acceptance, and I guess, even before acceptance, there’s just noticing. Noticing, then acceptance, then coming to an understanding of it, then checking that you’re entering this higher or you’re in the higher perspective or the state of your true self, which will naturally lead to courage and confidence, which will then give you this, the state of emotionally, mentally to help this part let go of its burden. And then the whole unburdening process is a bunch of steps. [25:15.0]
If you’re interested in what the therapists are learning for the unburdening process, you can read about it in Richard Schwartz’s textbook on Internal Family Systems therapy, the second edition. You can also read about it in the book No Bad Parts, which I highly recommend and I did book analysis on in a previous episode.
So, that’s fear, and you can assume that there were clear and present circumstances of real danger back then that led to this fear response, but that now, in the present, it’s not the same. You are now an adult. You are now prepared. You have a lot more resources to deal with it and the circumstances are not as dangerous as it was when you were seven, eight, or nine. But unless you pay attention to the fear, you’ll never discover the parts of you that are still stuck back then and are getting re-triggered over and over. If you just try to suppress it or ignore it, it’ll just come to bite you in the ass later, as is true for all of these emotions. [26:08.7]
Okay, so the next one I wanted to look at is anger. There are fewer good books on anger, but I can recommend Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Anger. It was written for a women audience, so keep that in mind, but it’s, from what I’ve seen so far, the best book on anger, so if you want to go deeper into that, The Dance of Anger.
Anger is a lot more straightforward for you to learn from, because what anger is, it’s like an alert system. It’s a warning signal. It’s a red flag. You can assume that there’s a reason for the anger, and when you can stay with the anger long enough, then you can discover what is warning you about.
I chose to address these in that order of fear, anger, then sadness, because they often are experienced in that order. When you’re afraid of something, one common response is to get angry, because anger mobilizes your adrenaline. It gets you ready to fight back and so on, so when your boundaries are violated, you might experience anger and anger gives you the energy physically to say no. Obviously, right there, it’s pretty obvious that anger can be useful, especially in self-defense. [27:14.1]
There are a lot of guys for whom anger is a taboo emotion, because when they were growing up, either they’re dad who was abusive was displaying lots of anger and, as a result, they’re afraid of the anger so the part that’s afraid of the anger is more dominant and is afraid of the anger that they’ve been repressing, because we all have parts of us that are angry before we do the therapeutic process and many dudes just repress that stuff and think that it’s not acceptable, so they don’t let it out until they become incels or something, or they drink enough that it just comes out uncontrolled like some Hulk response.
So, anger can be a response to having your boundaries violated, and it’s important to then stop and notice, and get clear on whether, in fact, your boundaries were violated and to discover how they’re being violated, who’s violating them and all that, and make decisions about that relationship or those interactions or whatever. [28:06.8]
Plenty of guys are also afraid of anger, not just because they saw it modeled in an extreme way with negative consequences to them, but also because maybe they were punished when they were kids when they were angry, and this is pretty common, especially in Asia, where in order to control, especially boys when they get angry, they’re just punished physically, corporally, or they’re shamed, and as a result, they’re never taught how to deal with their anger.
Gabor Maté makes a great point about Jordan Peterson’s commonly-shared dating advice about having the son who is having his temper tantrum. Just wait on the stairs until he can compose himself and then he’s let back into the tribe, so to speak, the dinner table or whatever, and how that is just basically teaching the boy. It is teaching, giving him the room to self-regulate, but it’s also teaching him that anger is not an acceptable emotion in society, and if he feels it, he’ll be excluded. He’ll be isolated and cut out. [29:05.8]
That’s a great illustration of an old or more traditional style of parenting, and to be frank, people just didn’t understand these emotions very deeply back then and that was a behavioral conditioning type of parenting response versus now. Nowadays, we understand a lot more about how trauma works, about developmental psychology and how the child’s brain works, and so forth, and we can see the detrimental effects of that type of parenting style 20, 30 years down the road.
I do want to point out that I’m a fan of Jordan Peterson. I’ve talked to him personally one-on-one, and this is just an area where we disagree, but there are areas where I pretty much disagree with everyone and that’s just a mark of intellectual discussion. As a professor, we were paid to disagree with our colleagues and then go out for beer afterwards, so this is just normal.
I’m modeling this for a lot of the guys who are guru-worshiping and passive in their own learning. They don’t take responsibility for their own learning. They’re looking for someone who has a hundred percent of the truth so they can just brainwash themselves into believing it. I want you to see that you can disagree with people and still admire them or respect them. [30:13.7]
Okay, so the same thing that happened with fear, noticing the disproportionate reactions to the present circumstances alerts you to the need for therapeutic work, because that triggering of a disproportionate emotional response of fear, in this case now, anger, alerts you to the fact that this is rooted in something much deeper longer ago.
If you notice that you’re getting this out-of-control anger reaction too frequently or if you’re just worried at any point when you went into a rage and you’re wondering what that was about—and, of course, there are circumstances where it makes sense that you go into a rage, like you’re being raped or someone’s trying to rob you or something like that. It makes sense because it’s a self-defense response. But if in response to some words that someone says, instead of thinking to yourself sticks and stones and get real. Right? Instead of that, you burst into a rage and maybe you even black out as you’re punching the guy, that is a disproportionate anger response—that definitely has something to do with earlier formative experiences. [31:15.5]
If you can stay with the anger and make it okay for that to have been there, but you can tell that this part is in distress because it probably doesn’t feel that good, especially if it comes up frequently, then if you can stay with it long enough—that’s the acceptance space, the acceptance step—then you’ll be able to move into the understanding step, and then you start to get into the therapeutic process.
Often, anger that’s disproportionate is a result of repressed anger from long ago when you were told that or taught or modeled, or communicated to, that anger in you is not acceptable to your loved ones or your caregivers, or a parent figure was enraged or had extreme anger in front of you and you, as a result, repressed own parts of you that were also angry. So, you’d have these repressed-anger parts or repressed parts that are angry, as a result of not allowing them to express their anger back then. [32:13.2]
Okay, now, finally, sadness. Sadness is the biggest, most important emotion therapeutically out of that triumvirate of fear, anger, and sadness. In fact, it might even be the most important therapeutic emotion. It is sort of the final stage before the breakthrough happens, because what will happen is, and what I’ve set up here is fear. You first feel the fear.
In a lot of toxic masculinity or tough guys, they pretend like they don’t have the fear, but they actually do have the fear, so they don’t get anywhere with the therapeutic process and they just pay for it later on in their lives. But often they get over the fear by galvanizing an anger response, so they feel anger in response to first feeling fear, because then they can take action and get out of that paralysis response of fear.
But now they’re disproportionately angry, and so they fly into a rage, and then, eventually, the energy leaves them because it’s quite taxing to be in that Hulk mode and now they’re tired and maybe they left some destruction, as a result, and now they’re able to experience the emotion that’s underneath all of that fear and anger, which is the sadness. [33:17.4]
There’s a pretty good book on sadness and I recommend this one with a caveat, because in one of the earlier chapters, she misconstrues what psychotherapy is, but her stories and the approach overall towards sadness is wonderful and she writes beautifully, and this is a book called Bittersweet by Susan Cain. It came out relatively recently and it was a New York Times bestseller. You might have seen it in the bookstores. It’s a great book. I highly recommend it and it’s a great start to understanding sadness.
If you want something deeper or psychotherapy, psychology, I highly recommend the books on my reading list, which I hope to update soon, and you can find that from my website with the dropdown menu and there you’ll discover the books by John Bradshaw, for instance, Healing the Shame That Binds You, The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. [34:11.4]
When it comes to sadness, there’s a lot more resources, a lot more books that cover it and the positive aspects to it, and so forth. I’ve covered it as well in other episodes, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much here. I just want to point out that sadness is so important that, if you can’t get to the sadness, then you’re not done yet in helping that part of you that’s holding the pain.
If you haven’t been able to experience sadness itself as a positive emotion, that’s because you haven’t entered the higher perspective, and that’s what I will cover in the next episode. The higher perspective is required to be with all of these emotions, but especially for sadness, because there isn’t an obvious use for it as there is for fear or anger as a way of survival. Sadness, how does that help us survive? [35:01.8]
Sadness is actually intrinsically valuable, and if you can read Bittersweet by Susan Cain, that’ll give you a taste of it. But come back to the next episode where I’m going to be using sadness as the launch pad for getting into describing the higher perspective of how something that is that sad could be beautiful and how sadness is the flip side of love.
Whenever you enter into, whenever you experience love, you will, alongside of it, experience sadness and it is a beautiful feeling. And for all of those men, all those people who are fleeing from sadness, you’re also blocking yourself from experiencing unconditional love. The same could be said of fear. If you haven’t been able to access that courage to confront the fear that the love might not come back to you, then you’re never actually going to be able to experience unconditional love either. [35:57.0]
To recap, in this episode, I dug deep into fear as an example of how to do it, how to be with and accept and understand an emotion that you think is painful. I also addressed anger and I recommended three books, and the third had to do with sadness and that’s such an important emotion that I’m going to use. I’m going to start with that in the next episode and use that to illustrate and to expand on the higher perspective.
Just before I go, I want to share a quick story about a client named Reggie. Reggie, when he was growing up, had an abusive father and the father was abusing his mother, beating her in front of him for many years growing up, and he had to live through a lot of uncertainty. He defended his mother against his father, and as a result, he would often get these panic reactions when life was going too well, because, often, these fights were precipitated or what came just before these fights were some promise of going to Disneyland or having a fun day at the park, or something he was looking forward to of fun. Then the parents would fight and then it would get really brutal, and so he would be on guard, and then, often, they would just cancel the fun thing that they had promised. [37:09.1]
Eventually, he learned to just not get his hopes up, but even worse than that, not getting his hopes up, he would start to feel anxiety and panic because he was anticipating some traumatic event happening, even though now he’s dealing with it, 25 years later. He’s still having these disproportionate panic attacks and even having them without anything happening in the external environment. He’s just thinking about them and something that he saw or looked at reminded him of maybe it was Disneyland or whatever and he would just be back in it.
But he wasn’t noticing what the memory was until we went through the therapeutic process together, and allowed him to give him the enough strength to stay with what he was experiencing and be able to control his body and his bodily reaction to it, to continue to breathe through it and so on, so that he could live through, breathe through, and stay with the panic reaction without getting overwhelmed physically by it. [38:06.9]
As a result, and this was early on in his therapeutic process, he was able to get that higher perspective and be with that part, and reminded the little boy within who was panicking and re-experiencing this traumas and that was happening at many points in his life, being able to stay with that, be, and remind the boy that that’s not what’s happening in his life right now, and then, over time, to actually unburden to help those inner-child boy parts to let go of those burdens of the fear and anxiety, and so forth. As a result, the panic attacks went away and he was able to access that playfulness of spontaneity and excitement, without getting triggered into anxiety and panic.
That’s the story of Reggie. If that interests you, then you definitely have to come back to the next episode where I’ll be getting into how to access the higher perspective, what the higher perspective is all about. [38:58.6]
If you like this episode, please let me know. If you have any feedback on this episode whatsoever, let me know, and if this helped you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it.
Thank you so much for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out.
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