According to the HeartMath Institute, “from our current understanding of the elaborate feedback networks between the brain, heart and mental and emotional systems, it becomes clear that the age-old struggle between intellect and emotion will not be resolved by the mind gaining dominance over the emotions, but rather by increasing the harmonious balance between the mental and emotional systems – a synthesis that provides greater access to our full range of intelligence.”
The HeartMath Institute’s mission is to help people bring their physical, mental and emotional systems into balanced alignment with their heart’s intuitive guidance. They were established in 1991, and they research and develop reliable, scientifically based tools that bridge the connection between heart and mind and deepen people’s connection with the hearts of others.
With this applied understanding it is easy to begin to grasp why forced positive thinking has the potential to do more harm than good.
Forced positivity, is nothing more than the mind refusing to accept the heart’s emotions. As a sideswipe here I am not going to get into the semantics of emotions vs. feelings. I am going to use them interchangeably (although they are different) but mainly use feelings within this post because of how they feel in our bodies. And when I say the heart’s feelings I mean all of them even the ones we deem as “uncomfortable;” the energetic feeling of anger, sadness, insecurity, disappointment, etc. When we exert the power of will to restrict, reject and repress those heartfelt expressions where do we think they go? Those feelings are nothing more than energy. When we experience them, they cause all sorts of disruption in our overall well-being, but those feelings are energy in motion. The Latin derivative for emotion, ‘emotere,’ literally means energy in motion.
I have watched how my mind gets involved, and although the mind gets a bad rap these days, it really is such a beautiful and amazing thing. Have you ever paid attention to your reactions when an uncomfortable feeling comes up? That feeling could be boredom, anger, sadness – you name it, but at its energetic core level we feel it as negative. Well, I have, and it is genius how all of my systems interact, and I am willing to wager most people are not that different than me. It’s a Saturday evening and all of the sudden I feel a sense of boredom, and it instinctively arises from within my heart. In about a nanosecond my personal mind starts talking. It begins lashing out and flailing about to find the cause, the root, and the solution. It starts by saying “you’re so lazy, is sitting around staring at the trees a good use of your time? You know that activity is never going to pay you money. You know you won’t be anybody without money. Hey, isn’t it the end of the month you should go pay the bills.” Before long my mind is yanking me around to where I find myself sitting in front of my computer paying bills. When I am finished paying the bills guess what? It’s not long (as in minutes) before I get that restless feeling again and good old prattling mind is right there beside me. “You should have a hobby. Before long you will be dead, and you aren’t seizing the day. What is wrong with you? Why don’t you have a hobby? Normal people have lots of hobbies. People would kill to have this downtime and partake in their hobby but no not you; you don’t have a hobby. Oh, wait you like to organize. You should go and organize your underwear drawer.” Guess what? I have one of the most organized underwear drawers you will find.
Here’s the genius of it all. During those early years in life, I believe we did not have the capacity to metabolize the intensity we felt flowing through our bodies and minds. It was a brilliant moment when we constructed ways to escape and devise strategies to avoid, runaway or repress. You can see this translated into some very oft-used categorization of the freeze, flee or fight syndrome. Somewhere along the line in my early years I didn’t have the capacity to deal with the energetic sensations of those “uncomfortable feelings, ” and without hesitation, all these years later, my mind jumps in to distract me from actually feeling those feelings. I’m telling you it’s a genius system, but from my experience, it doesn’t work long-term if you want life to touch you. It is completely illogical to think you can repress the “bad” expressions of your heart without repressing your heart altogether.
The heart is about 100,000 times stronger electrically and up to 5,000 times stronger magnetically than the brain. Yet, we utilize the power of the mind to push down the feelings of the heart through positive thinking. When you repress the energy of feelings, in a general energetic sense, you cause compression. And when energy gets compressed it expands in volume. That energy of boredom I was having? Well, it does not go away by pushing it down, but instead, it expands. If your heart entrains all other systems within your body, because it is the strongest energetic system, the possibility of your whole system going cattywampus is pretty likely.
Now, don’t get me wrong I utilize affirmations, and I am not anti-positive/affirmation whatsoever, but I have experienced the effects of positive thinking when I have used it to suppress the “unacceptable” expression of my heart.
When I refer to expressing your heart, I do not mean projecting it verbally or projecting it onto things. I mean, feeling the uncomfortable feelings and begin to watch what you do with a curious mind. Do you turn on the TV, start to swing your leg back and forth, clean the house, call a friend, smoke a cigarette, disappear into a book, eat food, have a drink, go for a run, or disengage into your imagination? What do you reach for to avoid what you think you can’t handle? With a mind of curiosity means without judgment, without having to scold yourself or determine you are flawed. You are human and have this fantastic range of feelings. You are human and have built supremely awe-inspiring mental systems and tactics to survive. You are human and wired to avoid the negative and reach for the positive. You are human, and you have the gift of free-will to allow yourself to see what serves your expansion and what choices you’re making to solidify your contraction. If you long to speak from the heart, follow the heart or listen to your heart, you have to be willing to listen and embrace with kindness what it has to say – to everything it says not just the things that you like. It is true; there is no happiness without sadness, no health without sickness and no “good” feeling without a “bad” feeling. For without one you would not know the other. The Dalai Lama said it best, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is a kindness.”
May you begin to know kindness towards your own heart.
(photo © by Institute of HeartMath Research Center)