The Divine Paradoxes
There are common themes that almost always show up in my work with people. One of these common themes is what I call the Divine Paradoxes. There are two. Let me explain.
The ways we learn to be effective in our outer lives often do not work well when addressing our inner lives. I will go even further and say that the ways we go about our outer lives have the opposite results with our inner selves. They backfire. For example, we are very effective at work or sports by identifying “problems,” and fixing them. We see something that is “wrong,” and we make it right. When we apply this formula to something inside of us, not only is it ineffective, it makes things worse.
To illustrate, let’s say that someone criticizes me for being too angry. My anger is a problem for them because I have taken it out on them one too many times. They are judging my anger as bad and wrong. So, I decide to resolve this. I say, “You’re right, my anger is bad. I want to get rid of it. I will not allow myself to be angry.”
The problem with this is that I still have inside of me angry energy. We all have the full menu of emotions inside of us, waiting to be triggered. My decision to get rid of my “bad” anger pushes that angry energy down into the basement of my psyche, where it lurks in the shadows and grows stronger. My judgment and resistance of my anger actually magnify the angry energy within. The result is that the energy grows to the point that it spurts out at the most inopportune time, out-of-proportion to the even that triggers it, and ends up harming someone.
This brings us to the first Divine Paradox. If you want to be free of something, you are first required to embrace it. Or at least accept it. I can bring compassion and acceptance to my anger while at the same time intending it to change. If I really look at my anger, I can tell a story that makes perfect sense as to how my angry energy has become what it is. The seeds of my anger are somewhere in the past. Believing that I am angry because of the current event that triggered it is a mistake…usually. There is a saying in the Christian mystic teaching A Course in Miracles that states, “You are never angry for the reason you think.”
If I can shine the light of mindfulness on my angry energy, it begins to lose its power. In this case, mindfulness means awareness plus equanimity…awareness plus an “allowingness,” a compassionate acceptance. This then points us toward the second Divine Paradox. If you really want to move, you have to be able to hold still. Mindfulness is about just holding still with one’s experience in the present moment. It is about allowing oneself to fully contact what is happening inside, right now. And allowing it to be just as it is. When we do this with emotional energy, the energy almost always moves through us as a wave. Or it simply dissipates.
Someone may have been carrying around unexpressed emotional energy for decades. It was unexpressed because it was judged as wrong or bad. The most common such judgments are men’s sadness (it’s weak to cry), and women’s anger (don’t be a bitch). But once we allow ourselves to really, fully contact that energy inside, with equanimity, it begins to move. A teacher, friend, and colleague of mine, Gay Hendricks, once wrote a book, “The Ten Second Miracle,” that refers to this phenomenon.
So, there you have it. The Divine Paradoxes. If you want to be free of something, embrace it. If you want to move, hold still.