Engulfed by a difficult emotion, we can lose sight of the bigger picture or the value of the emotion as a messenger. How can we create something constructive out of these emotions? In this post I consider the art of emotional alchemy.
Why is Emotional Alchemy Useful?
We can experience a range of emotions as broad as the spectrum of colours on an artist’s palette. Some glorious and vibrant, others mellow, and some that are definitely more of a challenge. For the emotions that we struggle with in particular, wouldn’t it be useful to have a way to view them that allows you to honour them, use them and move through to a more comfortable place? This is emotional alchemy.
What is Emotional Alchemy?
Alchemy is the process of changing the nature of something, such as a base matter like lead, into gold. The transmuting (changing) of metals is an alchemic process that operates on physical levels in the outer world. Clearly there are also parallels in our inner emotional world.
Emotional alchemy is a process whereby we can convert an emotion into something of greater value for us.
The Emotion is the Messenger
The first step is to see our emotions as messengers. They are of immense value and provide us with valuable information. Anger may mean that our standards have been violated. Guilt may indicate that we have been in breach of our own standards. Anxiety is a way of alerting us to danger. These emotions are part of our survival kit. They are there to help us shape and experience our lives.
Sometimes the messenger can be over zealous or off kilter, and we find ourselves responding very intensely or inappropriately to situations. There is value in assessing how you are responding to things. Noticing how reliable, biased or true your messengers seem to be.
We can also get very caught up in the form the messenger takes. Seeing the emotion as the end point rather than as a signpost along our way.
Not Shooting the Messenger
We live in a culture that seems determined to carry on regardless. Avoiding or drugging our messengers to the point where even if they could speak we could not hear them. Imagine if our inner world was stage in a Shakespeare play, and every messenger that entered stage left or stage right was shot. The stage would be littered with corpses. No-one would hear the good news let alone the warnings. Anaesthetising ourselves with drugs, alcohol, etc., deprives us of our inner feedback system.
Keeping an eye and an ear open for the messengers allows us to benefit from this stream of information. We can then make use of it.
Emotional Alchemy – Converting Emotional Lead into Gold
Understanding that emotions are messages allows you to value them differently. To see them as informational, important and worth listening to. Just as we would ideally with physically symptoms guiding towards our self-care. Intense and challenging emotions can obscure the message. We need to pause, listen and allow ourselves to look a little deeper.
This is not necessarily a navel-gazers charter. The intention is to be able to consider the message in the emotion so as to be able to move through and beyond it constructively. Actively using it to enjoy and move forwards in our lives.
- Notice your emotions and the patterns around the emotions you find difficult.
- When you experience that emotion press the pause button if you possibly can. Focusing on your breath can be a good way to bring yourself into the moment so you can observe what is happening for you. That moment in which we pause is powerful – it expands our range of choices of how we think, feel and behave.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom – Viktor E. Frankl
- View the emotion as a message – explore what the information might be.
- Use the energy of the emotion to fuel positive action – exercise, making a change, etc.
- See the emotion and its message(s) as the beginning of a pathway that can allow you to experience life and grow constructively.
The Meaning of the Message
All of our emotions have value and meaning. Just as the range of colours, and their shades and tones available to the artist can create works of great depth. When incredibly powerful and difficult we can, I believe, be justified in striving for a kinder balance that allows us to live happily, harmoniously and to explore our potential.
Being able to hear, value and work with these messages allow that inner emotional alchemy to take place. Sometimes the meaning of the message can be hard to divine, and there are many avenues of help to explore. I often recommend Leslie Cameron-Bandler’s excellent book “The Emotional Hostage: Rescuing Your Emotional Life” as a great way to explore and expand upon these ideas.
Using our emotions resourcefully is one of many ways in which we can enjoy positive inner transformation, a powerful personal alchemy.
I hope you have found this blog on Emotional Alchemy and its resources to have been of interest. If you feel you would like help in supporting this process I see patients at both clinics, and also work via Skype. You can book an initial free 15 minute mini-consultation to see if my approach might suit you, please do contact me.