Men and Emotional Health

The recent videos by Rosemary and our commentaries have been about health and balance. Balance is achieved by bringing all four of our bodies, Spiritual, Mental, Emotional and Physical into both a healthy state and into balance across them.

Examining Emotional Health and Balance I have presented how Taoist Chinese sages work with emotions by transforming them into virtues. I have previously addressed Anger and its counterpart virtue, Creativity (Resourcefulness). And I have looked at Anxiety and how it might be transformed into Connection and Joy. Today I address two additional emotions: Fear and Worry.

Working with Fear is to transform it to Wisdom. Fear is probably the most primitive, instinctual emotion, therefore most deeply seated. It is an emotion of the ego and the ego’s job is survival. Fear triggers the fight or flight response, the reptilian brain component designed to keep us alive. Through inner work it is important to transform Fear into Wisdom and Empowerment. We move from the primitive, instinctual response to an Enlightened response. Frank Herbert, author of the Dune science fiction series, wrote that “fear is the mind-killer.” Exactly! When faced with survival it is easy for the mind to shut down and move into automatic response mode.

The trick here is to catch our reaction to an event or an object which triggers fear, to pause and  breathe into the fear, and then to examine if this thing or occurrence is truly something to fear. These days we rarely encounter saber-toothed tigers to which the flight/fear response is appropriate!

There is a Korean Koan practice that helps me in these potentially fearsome situations. The practice is very simple: pause and ask “What is this?” Go inside to find an answer. And then ask the question again, this time of the first answer that comes to mind. Continue the practice until the questioning comes to a satisfying conclusion. This is a way to transform Fear to Wisdom.

Worry is often a wasted expenditure of emotional energy. I prefer to transform it to Centeredness. Next to Anger, Worry may be the next biggest emotion Western Men have to deal with. While Anxiety is about our place in society, Worry is more about our place in the Cosmos. Who are we; why are we here; what is life all about anyway; and is there any purpose to any of this, to my life? And these questions extend to health, security, and general lack of well-being. To counter Worry it is good to go into our stories for insight into this emotion. How has Worry affected us, influenced our decisions, guided our choices? How does Worry feel on the inside? What color does it have?

Worry transforms to Centeredness and Ecology. When we sink into our own Inner Space, our Wisdom, we become grounded and wholly present. We connect here with the All, the Universe. And from this deep place of wisdom we begin to understand our connectedness to everything and everyone; this is different from the transformation of Anxiety to Connection which is more about our human connections. This is broader and deeper. And the result is a deep appreciation of everything, all of creation, including ourselves! Within this context there is no room for Worry. We are part of something so much bigger. And we begin to see where we fit in the overall Ecology of the Cosmos. We see ourselves at the microcosmic level fitting neatly into the overall picture of the Macrocosm. There is great peace here and the beginning of balance.

Wisdom and Centeredness. These seem so much more appropriate responses than Fear and Worry! Try them on. Pause and ask: “What is this?” Breathe and move inside; find your Center. Everything in the Universe radiates outward from that Center. You are a key piece in that Universe!




PS: for my next post I will examine one more emotion that men need to pay particular attention to: Grief. Stay tuned!

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