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We have heard arguments for and against the
expression of emotion throughout history; we
have also seen evidence that we continue to
be very heavily influenced by the Stoic creed
today. In this chapter we will be looking at
some of the problems we have created--and
continue to create--by suppressing emotion.

It is useful to make a distinction at the
outset between suppression and repression of
emotion. Suppression, as I use the term, is
conscious. It involves a deliberate intent to
conceal emotion in order to misrepresent
oneself and/or avoid pain. It is temporary,
lasting only as long as the situation

Repression, on the other hand, is
unconscious; it is forgotten memories of
painful events. It is the result either of
the chronic suppression of a certain pain
over a long period of time, or of a single
act of forgetting-- simply closing the door,
so to speak, on some aspect of one's past
that is too painful to remember. For
repression to "work," i.e., for a person to
avoid pain through selective forgetting, it
is necessary not only to forget the event
that created the pain in the first place; one
must also forget that the event was
forgotten. Most of us pass through a barrier
of massive repression around the time we
start school; this is so consistent that it
is tempting to look for biological causes for
this massive repression. It may also be,
however, that we simply choose not to
remember many events about our early
childhood that are too painful.

The price for the comfort that repression
offers is, however, very high. Repression
requires a never-ending vigilance--beyond
one's conscious awareness, with a faculty of
consciousness I call meta-awareness (see page
134)--to insure that one's attention and/or
activities do not trigger the memory and the
pain of the repressed event. This chronic
self-control induces a much greater stress
into the human system than does suppression.
The intensity of the forces holding the
emotion at bay are accordingly very strong in
the case of repression; and when the
repression is "undone," the force of the
release from tension is much greater than in
the case of suppression.
Repression also involves intense fear and/or
rage in association with the emotion being
repressed. The reasons for this are complex.
The fear is a result of knowing--again,
through the faculty of meta-awareness--that
pain is there, waiting to be experienced. The
rage is a natural response to the event that
triggered the emotion that is being
repressed. It would have been expressed
spontaneously at the time of the event had
the emotion not been suppressed.

Unlike suppression, repression is
permanent--unless some subsequent event
intrudes into one's life, such as falling in
love or suffering a loss or trauma of some
sort, or entering into some form of
therapeutic relationship, that spontaneously
undoes the repression, thereby releasing the
pent-up emotion. In part 4 we will be looking
at how you can introduce such events into
your life to induce you to undo your
confining repressions and allow the emotional
energy to flow unimpeded.

Because the dynamics of suppression and
repression are at the core the same, as I
have defined them, and because all repression
involves suppression (while the reverse is
not true), my focus in this chapter will be
on suppression--specifically, on the effects
of chronic suppression of emotion upon the
human system.

We are just beginning to learn about these
effects; indeed, it is only recently that we
have even begun to show an interest. It has
been commonly assumed that emotional
suppression is inherently good and healthy
(and moral) for humans. It is only with the
evolution of psychosomatic medicine that we
have begun to question the validity of
suppressing emotion.
I see several problems inherent in this area
that make research difficult. First, because
of our lack of experience with this kind of
research, we have a dearth of research
methodologies and data. Second, the effects
of suppressing emotion are truly as
variable--and as unique--as the particular
emotional energy being suppressed. Third, the
effects of suppressing roughly the same
emotional energy in you may be quite
different than the effects in me. More
accurately, the manifestations of the effects
may be quite different. What causes me to
stuff myself with food may cause you to smoke
a cigarette or go searching desperately for a
sexual encounter or take another drink or
another Valium. And fourth, the effects of
suppression are multidimensional, reflected
in all realms of human existence. Because of
this we need to be on the lookout for
seemingly unrelated events that may be direct
responses to but one act of suppression.
There are some generalizations we can make
about the effects of suppressing emotion.
Before we look at these, however, it is
important that you have a sense of the
dynamics of the process of suppression. If
you have an idea of what you do to yourself
when you suppress emotion, and how you go
about doing it, you will have an intuitive
sense of the effects of suppression that will
go far beyond any surface explanation of

I have found only three basic methods by
which humans suppress emotion within
themselves: (1) by controlling the placement
and quality of one's attention; (2)
controlling physical movement (physically
resisting expression); and (3) by ingesting
certain substances (solids, liquids or gases)
which suppress emotion. One can engage all
three methods simultaneously.
In the first instance you avoid emotion
simply by distracting yourself, by keeping
your attention occupied with other things;
each of us has learned many ways to
accomplish this--one for nearly every
situation. George Bernard Shaw was making
reference to this phenomenon when he
suggested that the way to happiness is to
keep yourself so busy you don't have time to
ask yourself whether you're happy. We will be
looking at these methods of distraction in
more detail in part 4 when we examine the
role of attention in the process of
developing emotional intelligence.

In the second method you engage whatever
muscles required to resist spontaneous
movement or expression. This resistance
involves both voluntary and involuntary
muscular systems; it induces a state of
analgesia. As many modern therapies
demonstrate, the muscles in your face and
neck, and the muscles you use for breathing
are of particular importance in this process.
Holding your breath is one way to stop or
reduce the flow of emotional energy and
deaden your awareness of fear, pain and/or

In the third method you take substances into
your body which function either to fill your
being with pleasure (however temporary such
pleasure may be), thereby distracting you
from some distressing emotion; or to
anesthetize your being to the point where the
distressing emotion is not felt. In the first
category we have such things a sugar or
chocolate--or any other food one particularly
enjoys. In the second are, for example, the
commonly used major tranquilizers (anti-
psychotic drugs), including lithium carbonate
and the phenothiazines (Thorazine and
Mellaril, for example), the butyrophenones
(Haldol) and the thioxanthines (Navane) .
Some substances accomplish both: cigarettes,
alcohol, barbiturates, cocaine, nitrous
oxide, and the commonly used minor
tranquilizers (anti-anxiety drugs), including
Valium, Librium, bliltown and Equanil.

Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), physician,
biologist, neuropsychiatrist and
psychoanalyst, devoted the greater part of
his life to studying the effects of the
suppression of emotional and sexual
excitement. Like William James, Reich saw a
direct connection between the states of the
physical body and emotion. More specifically,
Reich focused on the relationship between the
states of the physical body and the
suppression of emotion. Reich describes the
act of suppression as the development of an
armor, which he defines as:

the total defense apparatus of the organism,
consisting of the rigidities of the character
and the chronic spasms of the musculature,
which functions essentially as a defense
against the breakthrough of the emotions --
primarily anxiety [fear], rage, and sexual
excitation. (1973, p. xix)

The Stoics were well aware of this defense
apparatus. They gave instructions in how to
develop this apparatus to its fullest
potential. Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome
from 161 to 180 AD, considered to be the last
of the Stoics, was a master at the art of
suppression. He describes this process in his
journal, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to
A scowl upon the face is a violation of
nature. Repeated often, beauty dies with it.
Keep the body as well as the face in control,
and avoid contortions, either when in motion
or at rest. Just as in the face understanding
exhibits itself by preserving intelligence
and comeliness, we must make the same demand
of the body as a whole, ...
Life is more like wrestling than dancing; it
must be ready to keep its feet against all
onsets however unexpected. (c180, pp. 93-101)
We find this advice mirrored in the words of
William James as well:
...Refuse to express a passion, and it dies.
Count ten before venting your anger, and its
occasion seems ridiculous. Whistling to keep
up courage is no mere figure of speech. On
the other hand, sit all day in a moping
posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a
dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers.
... The reward of persistency will infallibly
come, in the fading out of the sullenness of
depression, and the advent of real
cheerfulness and kindliness in their stead.
Smooth the brow, brighten the eye, contract
the dorsal rather than the ventral aspect of
the frame, and speak in a major key, pass the
genial compliment, and your heart must be
frigid indeed if it does not gradually thaw!
(1884, pp. 20-23)

James also advocates suppressing emotion by
controlling or manipulating your attention:
. . . It is better that a man of thought
should not have too strong a visualizing
power. He is less likely to have his trains
of meditation disturbed by emotional
interruptions. . . . If I may speak of
myself, I am far less able to visualize now,
at the age of 46, than in my earlier years;
and I am strongly inclined to believe that
the relative sluggishness of my emotional
life at present is quite as much connected
with this fact as it is with the invading
torpor of hoary eld, or with the omnibus-
horse routine of settled professional and
domestic life. I say this because I
occasionally have a flash of the old stronger
visual imagery, and I notice that the
emotional commentary, so to call it, is then
liable to become much more acute than is its
present wont. (1890, p. 125)
There are some obvious truths in what the
Stoics say. These methods are indeed
successful in blocking the flow of emotional
energy. We all know from experience that
sitting all day "in a moping posture" can
amplify our pain and keep us locked into
depression. We also have experience with
counting to ten before blowing up; and we
know that it does work--at least some of the
Contrary to Stoic belief, however, a passion
(intense emotion) does not die when you
refuse its expression. On the contrary, it
continues to operate in your life, behind the
scenes, beyond your awareness, motivating and
directing you in all that you do. It is
possible in this way to become a slave to
your hidden emotion, trapped by ignorance,
not knowing what the problem is. Indeed, this
is the basis for most--if not all--forms of
addiction, and most forms of social violence.
When you are fully integrated, acting as a
single entity, not fragmented and arguing
within yourself, it is natural for you to
allow full expression of emotion. Suppressing
emotion, on the other hand, through an act of
will, requires effort--force--in much the
same way that it takes effort to resist the
force of gravity in standing erect. We
generally don't think about either of these

We often speak of the "stress and strain” of
life. We use these terms together so much
that their individual meanings have been all
but lost. Dictionary definitions have become
muddled as a result, allowing them to be used
interchangeably. It seems likely that we have
blended these terms simply because they each
represent suffering and pain of sorts. It is
nonetheless important to realize that they
are dynamically and conceptually quite
different; recognizing that difference is a
first step toward understanding what's going
on inside ourselves. Very roughly speaking,
stress and strain can be compared with cause
and effect--although they do not have a
strictly cause-effect. relationship; they are
not linearly related as generally conceived
in the Western world.

It is useful here to consider what physicists
mean when they use these terms. If I may
speak for the physicists: stress refers to
the force acting on a body in a system of
balanced forces; strain refers to the
deformation-- and corresponding tension--of
the body induced by the stress.

In applying these terms and concepts from the
physical realm to the realm of humans we must
adjust our way of thinking about them a
little, First, I’m applying these concepts to
the entire human system--with all its
complexities and unknowns; the physical body
is but one aspect of that system. Second, I'm
suggesting that the human system is a fully
balanced system--dynamically, that is--when
its outward expression is a clear reflection
of inner experience and inner experience is
in harmony with the environment. And here I
have a somewhat different idea of "harmony":
depending upon the situation, "being in
harmony with the environment" may mean
feeling anger directed at the environment.

If we accept that it is natural for humans to
be expressive--emotionally, physically and
intellectually-- and that in our natural
state the human system is a balanced system
of forces, then the pressure we exert upon
ourselves to suppress expression of emotion
is a form of stress; and the effect of this
pressure upon the human system – the
deformation and corresponding tension – is a
form of strain.
The idea of deformation is easy to grasp in
the physical realm. Squeeze a rubber ball and
you deform it. Applied to the human system,
which extends far beyond the physical realm,
it becomes more difficult to know what to
look for--or even where to look. Especially
when we take into account that there is often
a large time delay between the moment of
stress and the manifestation of strain. If we
are ever to understand the nature and extent
of the deformation of strain within the human
system induced by the stress of suppressing
emotion, it is apparent that we must expand
our ideas of such deformation to include
phenomena such as fear, pain, addictions,
profound confusion, depression, illness and
violence, to name a few.
The chronic suppression of emotion affects
you not only emotionally, but physically and
intellectually; it also affects the clarity
of your vision and your ability to visualize.
It inhibits your ability to guide and take
responsibility for yourself. It strips you of
crucial information in your determination of
truth. It reduces the level of your personal,
vital, creative energy. Pursued relentlessly
it can be fatal. Indeed, based on my
observations, it is truly the number one
killer among humans.
It would not be possible to make an
exhaustive list of the potential effects of
suppressing emotion upon the individual.
Given what we have yet to learn, we know very
little; we're just beginning to ask the right
The effects described here are based
primarily on my own observations while
exploring emotion with others, as well as my
own experiences with emotion.


Persons born into families that routinely
suppress the expression of emotion tend to
grow up somewhat ignorant emotionally. That
is to say, lacking sufficient experience with
the successful resolution of emotional
conflict, they have never learned basic
emotional problem-solving skills. They have
learned only to control and suppress emotion.
Accordingly, such persons tend to grow up
with dulled emotional awareness and
underdeveloped faculties of emotional
intelligence (see pp. 165 to 170).
Chronic self-control is an unnatural state,
requiring a constant expenditure of energy to
avoid situations, experiences, desires,
people--anything that could precipitate a
loss of control. Regardless of how successful
one has been in the development of self-
control, regardless of how many years one has
practiced such control, and regardless of the
methods one uses to achieve such control, the
danger always remains of losing that control.
And therein lies the basis of much of one's
fear--although it is seldom recognized as
Blocking emotional pain over a period of time
produces a backflow of pain that "pools up,"
in much the same way that urine pools up in
your bladder when you block the flow of
urine. This results in an accumulation of
chronic pain. The more you block the flow,
the more pain you accumulate. It can be
masked for periods of time, in a number of
ways--tranquilizers, cigarettes, alcohol and
eating, to name a few. But the pain does not
go away of its own accord. Nor does it fade
in intensity with the passage of time--no
matter how many years you may have avoided
it. Indeed, it is possible to become so
accustomed to the suffering in your life that
it blends into the background and becomes
"white noise," an undifferentiated mixture of
all the pain you've ever suppressed. You not
only forget it is there, you forget how it
got put there.

Continuing to turn your attention away from
your emotional experiences over a period of
years, as many of us have done, it becomes
increasingly difficult to maintain any degree
of self-awareness; to be aware of yourself is
to be in pain. You behave according to habit
and impulse. You no longer understand your
own behavior or the motivation behind it. You
become a prisoner of your own suffering. Your
fear of losing control grows. You become
extremely defensive, guarding your secret
life of suffering. You grow suspicious of
people who appear as a threat to your self-
control. As you withdraw further into
isolation, this fear can grow into full blown
paranoia with a complex, self-contained
delusional system to justify your fear; this
helps you to avoid the realization that your
fear is really a fear of losing control.
Each of us has particular emotional states he
or she prefers not to experience or
express--for whatever reasons--whether they
be, for example, anger, jealousy, envy, or
lust toward particular individuals believed
to be "off limits." It is tempting to try to
mold yourself by means of any of the methods
of suppressing emotion described earlier,
such that you never, or seldom, experience
these unwanted emotional states.
Unfortunately, in my observations, it is not
possible to eliminate selectively your
unwanted emotional states while allowing
yourself to experience and express other,
more personally desirable states. This, of
course, opposes some of the basic tenets of
the Stoic creed, described on pp. 16-18.

Granted, it is possible, through developing
emotional intelligence, to change the way you
respond emotionally (and, consequently,
behaviorally) to the world, but this takes
time, and it requires that you open up to the
totality of your emotional experiences to
achieve these changes. Until you do achieve
these internal changes, however, you must
accept that you will react emotionally in
whatever way is appropriate for you to react
given all the forces that come to bear on
you--and this may sometimes not be to your
liking. The only alternative is to suppress
all emotion. Kahlil Gibran reflects this
natural law poetically when he writes about
relating to a personification of the
experience of love:
When love beckons to you, follow him, Though
his ways are hard and steep. And when his
wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may
wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as
the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he
crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for
your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses your tenderest branches that quiver
in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake
them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto
He threshes you to make you naked.
He shifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
that you may become sacred bread for God's
sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that
you may know the secrets of your heart, and
in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's
But if in your fear you would seek only
love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your
nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-
Into the seasonless world where you shall
laugh, but not all of your laughter, and
weep, but not all of your tears. . . . (1923,
pp. 11-12)
Addictions and Obsessions
Avoidance of your growing pool of pain
becomes the most pressing need in your life,
Your usual defenses begin to break down. You
are no longer able to suppress the discomfort
or to keep your attention away from your fear
and pain. The relentlessness of this pain
makes demands upon you that would not be made
otherwise; you are driven to find relief, and
you sometimes find relief in ways that you
know to be destructive to your being in the
long run. Sometimes it just doesn't matter
anymore. Gibran understood this very well:
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of
the evil. For what is evil but good tortured
by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even
in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks
even of dead waters. (1923, p. 64)
Driven by the urgency of the need for relief
from suffering, you become obsessed with and
addicted to anything that relieves the pain
or draws your attention away from it.

Your efforts to distract yourself or mask the
pain cost you more every day. Your world
increasingly narrows. Continued long enough,
your only pleasures in life are those that
destroy you. The more you come to see this,
the more your inner conflict grows--despite
all your efforts to kill the pain. It becomes
harder and harder to justify the path you are
We sometimes need to pursue a self-
destructive path for a time--sometimes for
years--before we, ourselves, can see the
destruction we have brought upon ourselves,
and before we can see any alternative
It takes a constant expenditure of energy--
your own vital energy--to maintain
repression. You have little awareness of
where your energy is going, of course, if you
are successful in your repression. You simply
feel drained and don' t know why.
Seeing the futility in surrendering to your
desire for relief, you begin to let go of
wanting anything. You give up caring. Caring
brings only pain. Nothing matters anymore.
You don't matter. Nobody else matters. All
feelings of compassion fade. James (1884)
reprinted a very descriptive account of such
a state of being given to one of his
colleagues by a patient. It is important to
note that, even in this state of severe
suppression, this woman continued to suffer
and to feel bitterness:

I still continue (she says) to suffer
constantly; I have not a moment of comfort,
and no human sensations. Surrounded by all
that can render life happy and agreeable,
still to me the faculty of enjoyment and of
feeling is wanting--both have become physical
impossibilities. In everything, even in the
most tender caresses of my children, I find
only bitterness. I cover them with kisses,
but there is something between their lips and
mine; and this horrid something is between me
and all the enjoyments of life. My existence
is incomplete. The functions and acts of
ordinary life, it is true, still remain to
me; but in every one of them there is
something wanting--to wit, the feeling which
is proper to them, and the pleasure which
follows them. . . . Each of my senses, each
part of my proper self, is as if it were
separated from me and can no longer afford me
any feeling; this impossibility seems to
depend upon a void which I feel in the front
of my head, and to be due to the diminution
of the sensibility over the whole surface of
my body, for it seems to me that I never
actually reach the objects which I touch. . .
. I feel well enough the changes of
temperature on my skin but I no longer
experience the internal feeling of the air
when I breathe . . . Every function, every
action of my life remains, but deprived of
the feeling that belongs to it, of the
enjoyment that should follow it. My feet are
cold, I warm them, but gain no pleasure from
the warmth. I recognize the taste of all I
eat, without getting any pleasure from it. .
. . My children are growing handsome and
healthy, everyone tells me so, I see it
myself, but the delight, the inward comfort I
ought to feel, I fail to get. Music has lost
all charm for me, I used to love it dearly.
My daughter plays very well, but for me it is
mere noise. That lively interest which a year
ago made me hear a delicious concert in the
smallest air their fingers played,--that
thrill, that general vibration which made me
shed such tender tears,--all that exists no
more. (pp. 24-25)
Hopelessness sets in. Unable to see a way out
of your inner prison, you come to believe
there is no way out. Life has no meaning for
you anymore. Now, with no hope for change, it
no longer makes any sense to go on with the
struggle. Death is imminent. If you do not
surrender to an illness of convenience,
reason dictates that you end your life by
your own hand.

What happens to one's natural biological
functions when internal stress is introduced
by way of suppressing emotion? The answer is
obviously not a simple one. As described in
chapter 10, each organ and each system
responds in its own unique way to events
which stimulate emotional responses.
Similarly, when such natural responses are
overpowered and held in restraint, each organ
and system responds to the stress of
suppression in its own way. Indeed, the
fields of psychosomatics and behavioral
medicine have evolved to address these

According to William James's (1884) theory,
emotion is nothing more than the sensations
accompanying bodily changes which follow the
perception of an "exciting fact." (This is
discussed further in chapter 10.) Prevent the
bodily changes, James argues, and there is no
emotion to suppress. Unfortunately, it
appears that it is not that simple. A
chemical-electrical-mechanical battlefield is
created within your body when you resist the
expression of emotion. There is a growing
body of evidence2 that many of the physical
ailments we have always thought of as being
simply forms of physical illness or disease
are often the result--directly or
indirectly--of the stress associated with the
chronic suppression of emotion. Among them

• a general reduction in vital energy;

• reduced lymphocyte (white blood cell)
activity with corresponding weakened immune

• generally failing health; increased
susceptibility to illness;

• certain forms of chronic pain, often
in the back, chest, neck, head, or abdomen,
although it can occur anywhere;
• certain digestive problems (which can
manifest in the forms of nausea, stomachache,
gastric and duodenal ulcers, excessive gas,
colitis, constipation and diarrhea, for

• most respiratory ailments (flu,
common cold, sinusitis, bronchitis and

• certain cardiovascular ailments (
certain types of high blood pressure, heart
attacks, arteriosclerosis);

• certain allergic reactions;

• certain migraine headaches;

• certain visual disturbances;

• certain forms of obesity;

• certain kidney ailments; and certain
forms of cancer.

The most common form of intellectual strain
associated with emotional stress, and one of
the most disturbing, is that of obsessive
thinking. Unable to solve an emotional
problem, one is thrown into endless analysis,
trying to "figure out" what the problem is,
trying to "figure out" the solution. This
leads to a general inability to concentrate
on anything but the problem of suffering. One
becomes completely engulfed in oneself.

Disturbances in thought processes generally
associated with such phenomena as
schizophrenia, multiple personality, mania,
depression, personality disturbances,
neurosis, psychosis, hallucinations--even
disturbances in which the person appears to
be out of control emotionally --are most
often simply manifestations of the strain of
suppressed emotion.
A very disturbing thing happens when you go
through extended periods--especially during
your early, formative years--of suppressing
the expression of how you feel emotionally.
After awhile, not only do you suppress the
expression of emotion, you suppress the
experience of emotion as well. It simply
becomes too painful to go on denying what you
feel. Once you successfully suppress the
experience of emotion, you no longer feel a
sense of what you want--other than to please
others and avoid situations that might
trigger emotion within you. You become, in
Virginia Satir’s terms, "other-directed."

The chronic suppression of emotion thus
inhibits you in your ability to take
responsibility for yourself-- because you
lose contact with the "inner compass" that
guides you in your everyday life. You lose
your sense of right from wrong. You are at
the mercy of the advice of others. You become
vulnerable to the offerings of religions and
gurus. In his song, "How?", John Lennon
describes this loss of direction associated
with denied feelings:
how can I go forward when I don't know
which way i'm facing?
how can I go forward when I don't know which
way to turn?
how can I go forward into something
I’m not sure of? oh, no, oh, no.
how can I have feeling when I don't know
if it's a feeling?
how can I feel something if I just don't know
how to
how can I have feelings when my
feelings have always been denied? oh, no, oh,


One of the consequences of our general level
of emotional ignorance is that our language
is ill-equipped to deal with emotionally
sophisticated concepts. The ideas and
terminology simply have not been developed.
This will be further discussed in part 2 as
we begin to build the necessary framework to
communicate about the process of developing
emotional intelligence.

There are no institutions in society that
provide opportunities to learn how to relate
to emotion. The only education we offer
children--or adults for that matter-- around
emotional issues is in the context of "moral
education," and responsibility for this falls
primarily on the family and the church. It is
considered to be nobody's business what I
teach my children regarding such issues as
how to deal with emotional stress. What
recourse does a child have who, for instance,
is consistently punished for crying? Who is
there to help this child to understand that
he or she is a victim of circumstances?

Certainly not our public schools. Supported
by the same parents who punish their children
for crying, the entire system of public
education is designed to suppress emotion. We
are taught early on that our inner
experiences --our feelings, desires and
interests--are simply not relevant. We are
forced to ask for permission even to empty a
full bladder, and it is not uncommon for such
permission to be denied. And we are told what
to study.

Beyond the family, school and church, the
only resources available to a person who is
struggling to solve an emotional problem are
in the fields of psychotherapy and medicine.
While these fields do have a number of
emotionally sophisticated individuals working
to help people to relate positively to
emotional stress, these fields tend to be
filled with people who, in the Stoic
tradition, regard emotion as an illness of
sorts. To them, emotion is something that
erupts only when we mismanage our lives
somehow and lose control over our inner
states of being. Accordingly, the goal of
many therapists and physicians becomes,
again, the suppression of emotion--often with
the aid of a chemical tranquilizer. I find
this to be generally true even among those
therapists and physicians who sincerely
profess to believe otherwise. Their beliefs
and attitudes show in subtle ways, such as
referring to a person in emotional distress
as a "patient," not recognizing the
implications in this. Even those therapies
that offer relief by way of emotional release
often see the goal of therapy to be the
return of the person to a centered, balanced,
unemotional state, as in the psychoanalytic
model. This view is, of course, a carry-over
from the Stoic creed. G. S. Brett of the
University of Toronto describes this state:

. . . Both parties [the Stoics and
Epicureans] accepted the view that . . . in
the normal state the emotion in the proper
sense was not found; all emotions were forms
of disease, or, as we should spy, abnormal
states of excitement. The normal state was a
point of equilibrium called tranquility, a
point on the scale of feeling to which the
person returns after divergence either toward
elation or toward depression. (1928, p. 391)

The moral order has forced us into mass
hypocrisy. We are punished for telling the
truth about ourselves. We are taught to
conceal and disregard emotion. As a result,
each of us grows up living two lives: an
outward expression that is acceptable to
society, and an inner experience which may or
may not have any bearing on his or her
outward expression. This enforced hypocrisy
is backfiring on us. Our democratic form of
government, although built on a beautiful
ideology falls far short of that ideal
because of political deceit. Government by
representation can work only if we can trust
our representatives to be honest with their
constituencies. Our newspapers are filled
with evidence that honesty among politicians
is becoming increasingly rare.
Homophobia--men afraid of intimacy with men,
and women afraid of intimacy with women--is
one of the most pressing issues today, and it
is a direct result of the suppression of
emotion. Humans in their natural, free state
have the potential for sexual attraction and
fulfillment with either sex. I say this based
on my experiences in helping many people
resolve their blocks to sexual fulfillment.
Both men and women, whether heterosexual or
homosexual, tend to shift toward androgyny as
they open their awareness to their inner
The prohibition of homosexual relationships
laid down by the Christians has had a
devastating effect on the world. The effect
has been more severe on men than women,
because the prohibitions have been more
severe for men. The fear of homosexuality has
become so great that most men are now afraid
to be openly gentle and loving with each
other for fear that it will be interpreted as
evidence of homosexuality. Sensitivity to
life, gentleness, grace and compassion are
believed to be traits befitting women only.
This has placed formidable barriers between
men, and between men and women, amplifying
whatever hostility might exist between them.
A concerned mother wrote the following letter
to Abigail Van Buren:
DEAR ABBY: Now that football training has
nearly begun, I would like to bring up
something that has bothered me for a long
time. The boys love the sport and they love
to win, but year after year they are told to
"hit hard." As one coach told his team of 8-
year-olds, "You'll know you've hit hard
enough when you leave the other guy
bleeding!" (This is building character?)
My son's coach tells the boys that they have
to be mean to play good football. The
"meanest" boys are praised, and the gentle
ones are subjected to verbal degradation.
Many of the boys say they don't hit hard
because they don't really want to hurt the
other boy. Now maybe I've missed something
somewhere along the line, but I think the
child who doesn't want to hurt anybody seems
to have the right idea. ONE LAD'S MOTHER3

We continue to create the ideal conditions
for war by suppressing warmth and compassion
among men. Men who have been forced to turn
away from gentleness and compassion have no
alternative but to become violent. Men are
taught to hate other men and, ostensibly, to
love only women. Unfortunately, men who are
taught to hate cannot truly love anyone.

The net result of this induced homophobia is
a competitive society, dominated by men who
have very little awareness of. themselves or
what it means to be human--and who believe
the best way to make it through the world is
to "leave the other guy bleeding."
Emotion is, among other things, the major
force behind all behavior--whether recognized
as such or not. It is a prime catalyst for
change within and without.

Chronic suppression of emotion strips us of
this energy and renders us powerless to solve
basic human problems. It solves nothing. On
the contrary, the problems created by the
suppression of emotion--individually and
socially--are far greater than the problems
emotion itself presents.

Until very recently in human history, emotion
has been a philosophical and religious
concern only, falling within the domain of
moral order. We have reached the point where
emotion is no longer a moral issue. We are
now accumulating evidence that the
suppression of emotion is by and large
destructive to humans and all that they come
in contact with.

Of all the effects of the chronic suppression
of emotion, the most serious and far-
reaching--both individually and socially--is
the widespread suppression of emotional
intelligence. I contend that emotional
ignorance, on a grand scale, throughout the
world, is at the source of the most serious
social ills facing us today-"including
bigotry, intolerance, homophobia, most forms
of illness
(both physical and "mental"), poverty,
violence in our homes, violence on the
streets, and war.

The balance of this book is devoted to an
examination of the issues surrounding the
process of developing emotional intelligence.


Before we can talk about developing emotional
intelligence, we need to develop the
necessary concepts, terms to represent the
concepts, formal definitions of terms,
models, and an overall theoretical framework
to throw light on aspects of emotion that are
important when it comes to learning how to
relate to emotion. This framework must also
serve as a basis for defining what we mean by
emotion, what we mean by intelligence, and
what we mean by emotional intelligence. Only
then can we talk about developing it.

The issues surrounding the development of
emotional intelligence are not easy to talk
about, for several reasons:

• Many of the ideas and concepts needed
to talk about it cannot be fully conveyed in
linear terms, such as words and symbols on a
• Developing emotional intelligence
also involves looking closely at the
structure of reality, particularly those
aspects of reality that are involved in the
experience of emotion--because what I'm
talking about here is learning how you
actually create your own emotional
experiences, in part, by the way in which you
interpret the reality of your present moment.
And, again, the way in which you interpret
reality is governed by the beliefs that you
hold. I mean this quite literally
• We must look together at new ideas ,
concepts and beliefs, some of which will be
quite foreign to some readers. Some concepts
cannot be grasped until the reader takes the
risk of letting go of his or her adherence to
strongly held beliefs long enough to consider
the possible validity of an alternative way
of looking at things. It is possible that you
will be confronted with the need to examine
some of your most sensitive, well-guarded
beliefs as we explore these issues together.
One way to suspend your beliefs for a time is
to imagine what your life might be like if
you were not limited by any of your beliefs
that you question.
• Some concepts are experiential in
nature and cannot be fully grasped until the
reader has experienced the concept as well as
thinking about it. Letting go of self-control
is one such concept.

In addition to throwing light on the
relationship between the states of the
physical body and the suppression of emotion,
Wilhelm Reich was also one of the first
investigators to suggest that the solutions
to emotional problems lie within the persons
experiencing the problems. He writes :
. . ; Wherever we turn, we find man running
around in circles as if trapped and searching
for the exit in vain and in desperation.
It is possible to get out of a trap. However,
in order to break out of a prison, one first
must confess to being in a prison. The trap
is man's emotional structure, his character
structure. . . .
The first thing to do is to find the exit out
of the trap.
The nature of the trap has no interest
whatsoever beyond this one crucial point:
where is the exit out of the trap? . . .
The exit is clearly visible to all who are in
the trap. Yet nobody seems to see it.
Everybody knows where the exit is. Yet nobody
seems to make a move toward it. More: whoever
moves toward the exit, or whoever points
toward it, is declared crazy or a criminal or
a sinner to burn in hell. It turns out that
the trouble is not with the trap or even with
finding the exit. The trouble is within the
trapped ones [most italics removed]. (1966,
p. 470)

I find this to be a very useful model when it
comes to understanding how each of us
actually goes about the process of creating
our own reality. I will make frequent
reference to this passage. Parts 2 and 3 thus
lay the foundation for us to look at the
process of developing emotional intelligence.
Part 2 provides the concepts, terms and
theoretical framework, while part 3 examines
the phenomenon of emotion within that
framework. Finally, part 4 offers specific
guidelines on how to go about developing your
own emotional intelligence, as well as
helping others around you to develop theirs.

Our language reflects the way we have come
collectively to see the universe. If we are
confused--collectively --about some part of
it, that confusion will be reflected in our
language. The ignorance and confusion
resulting from the chronic suppression of
emotion throughout our evolution has resulted
accordingly in a severe lack of concepts,
terms and phrases in our language to express
emotionally sophisticated ideas. The
"scientific" language that has developed in
the study of human nature is so confusing,
fragmented and contradictory that I have
found it to be, for the most part, unusable.
Standard dictionary definitions reflecting
our actual usage of words have been more
useful; observed closely, our everyday
language can reveal the nature of our

There are a number of different ways in which
our confusion becomes manifest in our
language: (1) failing to discriminate between
qualitatively different experiences; (2)
combining two or more ideas into one term and
relating to the term as if it represented one
simple idea; (3) using two or more terms to
represent one simple idea and relating to the
terms as if they represented more than one
idea (inconsistent use of terms); (4)
fragmenting one idea into two or more parts
which are inconsistent with the structure of
the idea; and (5) misunderstanding the
relationship between emotional stress and
strain. We will look at each of these in more
detail below.


We create confusion when we fail to
discriminate between two or more
qualitatively different experiences. Margaret
Mead discovered a primitive tribe in which
the same word was used to name the colors of
both yellow and green. Standard tests for
color-blindness indicated that these people
did indeed perceive a difference between the
colors. It appears that it simply never
occurred to them that it might be important
to make a distinction between them. Their
lives were, after all, very simple; they felt
no need to make such a distinction. It is
interesting to note that the word they used
to represent both yellow and green was also
used to represent "vegetation," which, in
their jungle, was made up primarily of yellow
and green leaves.

In a similar manner, it has never occurred to
many of us "civilized" people--particularly
here in the West-- that it might be important
to distinguish between thoughts (yellow
leaves) and emotional feelings (green
leaves). More often than not we refer to them
collectively as mind (vegetation). And yet,
the experiences of thinking and feeling
emotion are as different from each other as
those of seeing and hearing. Our failure to
distinguish between these phenomena in our
speech has had a devastating effect on our


When we fail to discriminate between
different experiences, we tend to combine
ideas related to those experiences into one
term--and relate to that term as if it
represented one simple, monolithic idea.
Every time this term is used it reinforces
the illusion that only one idea is involved.
This keeps us locked into ignorance.

Using the term mind to represent both
thoughts and feelings, as mentioned above, is
an excellent example. This blurring of
experience, somehow failing to discriminate
between thoughts and feelings, has stood in
the way of our understanding the nature of
emotion and how to relate to it for hundreds
of years. Karl Pribram, brain scientist,
talks about the need for us to "unpack" the
concept of "mind" :
. . . Overgeneralization (or lack of
differentiation) is a well known attribute of
thought processes, and much of scientific and
philosophic inquiry is devoted to "unpacking"
sets of concepts which, though related,
differ from each other in some non-trivial
fashion. I believe that in the present
instance there is evidence that "unpacking"
of the concept "mind" is warranted. (1978, p.

Any dictionary will confirm this. Random
House gives 15 basic definitions, plus 10
definitions of specific usages, of "mind".
The first and the third definitions are in
direct contradiction: "1. (in a human or
other conscious being) the element, part,
substance, or process that reasons, thinks,
feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc."; . . .
and "3. intellect or understanding, as
distinguished from [italics mine] the
faculties of feeling and willing;
intelligence." For specific usages, we have:
"bear in mind; have a good mind to; presence
of mind; half a mind to; know one's own mind;
make up one's mind; meeting of minds; and on
one’s mind." So we are not the least bit
consistent in our use of this term. Sometimes
it combines the intellect and emotion;
sometimes--most often--it is intended to
represent the intellect as opposed to
emotion. This is true of its adjectival form,
"mental.," as well.

It has also been my observation that the
adjective "psychological" is used, in most
instances, interchangeably with "mental";
most often it means either "intellectual" or
"emotional," or both. Consider, for example,
statements such as, "He did it for
psychological reasons."


Failure to discriminate between different
experiences confuses us in yet another way.
We tend to be inconsistent in our use of
terms to represent but one idea or
experience; for example, using "I believe . .
. , ''I think . . .” and "I feel . . . ,"
interchangeably to express any one of these
ideas, failing to recognize their

Consider the idea of the "inner human being."
Freud and Jung, as well as their followers,
have developed conceptualizations of human
nature--namely, the ego, super- ego, id and
psyche--that, in my opinion, fragment the
inner human into imaginary parts
(hypothetical constructs) that are
nonexistent in actual human manifestations.
By that I mean that these hypothetical
constructs are indeed hypothetical and do not
exist beyond the imagination of those who
adhere to the Freudian-Jungian paradigm. I do
not, incidentally, expect many readers to
agree with this at the outset; we are so
caught up in the Freudian-Jungian paradigm
that it is difficult for many of us to
conceive of any other way to look at the
inner structure of humans.

I maintain that using the terms ego,
superego, id and psyche causes us to relate
to ourselves and each other as if we actually
had things inside us called egos, superegos,
ids and psyches, in the metaphysical world,
as real to us as our hearts and intestines
are in the physical world. Again, in my
opinion, this is illusion. In my observations
of myself and others, no such fragmentation
exists. Where fragmentation does occur, such
as in persons suffering with multiple
personalities, schizophrenia, or manic-
depressive psychosis, the breakage occurs
along different lines than those suggested by
the Freudian-Jungian models. Most often they
occur between thoughts, emotion and/or bodily

Much confusion is generated by our lack of
understanding of common manifestations of
emotional stress and strain. (See pages 40-
41.) Not understanding what is happening, we
mislabel the event. The language that has
built up around this kind of confusion keeps
us locked into ignorance. To say, for
example, that you suffer from "nerves," or
"nervous tension," or "a nervous condition,"
or "an attack of the nerves" is to fail to
recognize the presence of repressed fear.
Indeed, these terms and phrases tend to be
used by western physicians and their patients
who see such a "nervous attack" as being a
"nerve problem," literally, for which nerve
medication is the all-too-ready "solution."
.This confusion is at the root of much drug
abuse and addiction.

Blaming your suffering on your "nerves” can
be a way of trying to avoid responsibility
for your condition. That is, to attribute
your suffering to a "nerve problem" is to
assume or imply that it is your physical body
that is responsible for your emotional
suffering, not you. Your "vehicle" has
malfunctioned; nothing to do with you, the
operator. Certainly nothing the operator
created. But to say, "I'm afraid," has a
different meaning. It is a different
experience altogether. Most important, it
precipitates movement.

This is not to deny, of course, that
emotional suffering can have primarily
organic causes, such as chemical imbalances
within the endocrine and/or neurochemical
systems, allergic reactions, or nutritional
deficiencies. For example, one can suffer
emotional problems which are the direct
result of actual nervous system disorders
associated with vitamin and mineral
deficiencies, especially vitamins B, C, E and
F, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc,
all of which are necessary for nerve cells to
metabolize and function efficiently.4 These,
however, are not what people mean generally
when they speak of nervous disorders or
nervous breakdowns.

Our language is poorly equipped to talk about
emotional phenomena--particularly when one
chooses to look beyond the Freudian-Jungian
paradigm, as I have done.

Not only does our language lack terms for
significant aspects of emotion, many of the
terms we do use appear to be based on a
distorted idea of human nature. I thus
suggest, to avoid adding to the already-
existing confusion, that we eliminate a few
crucial words from our vocabulary--in our
writing and in our everyday communication.
Among the greatest offenders are: mind, ego,
id, superego, psyche, and psychological.
These words have kept us locked into
ignorance and confusion for hundreds of
years. They are, in my opinion, based on an
interpretation of humans that is blurred and
fragmented; they were conceived by
individuals who, for the most part, had
little firsthand experience with emotion or
understanding of the natural laws that govern
its behavior; they are intellectual
speculations made "from the outside" by
individuals of an extremely stoical nature.
Moreover, the substance of these terms has
been analyzed and debated--not only by the
Freudians and the Jungians and their
followers, but by the Buddhists--to the point
where everybody now has a different concept
of what they mean. Consider, for example,
that the Freudians talk in terns of
"strengthening the ego" while eastern
philosophers talk in terms of "dissolving the
ego." Continuing to use these terms can only
confuse us further. Furthermore, it is
refreshing to discover that we actually
become more articulate and communicate much
more clearly when we avoid using them.

The balance of parts 2 and 3 is devoted to
developing concepts, terms, models and a
theoretical framework to throw light on the
nature of emotion and how to relate to it.
This is not easy material to read. Some of
the ideas presented here are difficult to
grasp; some of them may require years of
contemplation before some readers can say for
sure whether or not they even agree with
them. This necessarily makes for slow
reading. Also, some readers may have to let
go of some dearly held beliefs before they
can consider the validity of what I'm
suggesting here.

One of the most fundamental sources of
emotional suffering is an adherence to
inappropriate beliefs; that is, adherence to
beliefs that are based on erroneous
interpretations of human nature and the
structure of reality. I say this on the basis
of my own experiences with, and observations
of, the emotional problem-solving process
over the past 18 years.
While this is not an easy idea to grasp, it
is a very important one. Let me expand on it
a little. We are all aware of the wide
variation in beliefs held among individuals.
One has only to compare the systems of
beliefs (paradigms) inherent in the various
major religions to be reminded of this.
Indeed, no two humans hold exactly the same
set of beliefs. However, few of us recognize
the full extent to which the particular
beliefs that we hold affect the substance and
quality of the lives we live.

The beliefs that affect us most profoundly
are those beliefs we hold about the nature of
emotion and how to relate to it, as well as
beliefs about the structure of reality and
how it is created. Of particular importance
are beliefs about the roles of fear, pain and
desire, and, accordingly, how to relate to
them. More about this later.

The process of opening to the realm of
emotion and developing emotional intelligence
brings with it dramatic, profound changes in
your personality--changes in the way you feel
about yourself, the way you care for
yourself, the way you feel about others, and
in the way you see the world--quite
literally. You become, if you weren't before,
acutely aware of the existence of multiple
realities. Increasingly, you become aware of
the ways in which you have participated in
creating the life you have lived and continue
to live.
Most of us aren't used to the experience of a
changing personality; we have the idea that
we change very little once we reach physical
maturity. So when your world begins to
tremble and move under your feet, it can be
helpful to have a frame of reference within
which to understand and evaluate this
movement and accept it as a natural
phenomenon. The idea of "paradigm" can be
useful in this respect.

Most dictionary definitions of paradigm make
reference to the terms "pattern" or
"example," which have little direct bearing
on the way it’s being used in the literature
today. The idea is not an easy one to grasp.
Not only is it complex; it is still unfolding
to most of us. We haven't yet realized the
full impact of this idea we have stumbled
upon. The more it unfolds to us, the more we
understand about the structure of reality.

The current usage of paradigm has grown out
of the work of Thomas Kuhn. In his book, The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962),
Kuhn writes about the impact of scientific
discoveries that change our conceptualization
of reality and nature. Ruben F. W. Nelson
offers a definitive statement that not only
defines paradigm in its current usage but
shows its underlying relationship with the
structure of reality:
As "paradigm" is now most commonly used, it
refers in a somewhat fuzzy way to the taken-
for-granted patterns of social, intellectual,
emotional and physical organization by means
of which the people of a culture or major
subculture are formed and defined. . . .
A paradigm . . . is the general conceptual
orientation of a people, and a conceptual
orientation results in, and is the result of,
our noticing and paying attention to some
aspects of reality and not to others. The
realities we notice, and in the presence of
which we live, are, then, a function of the
elements of our conceptual orientation--the
dominant concepts, metaphors, images, logic
and decision rules by means of which we
experience and handle reality.

Concepts, metaphors and logic are not tools
which the mind can choose to use or lay
aside. They are not merely aids to thinking.
They are, rather, the very means by which we
perceive and experience. Different conceptual
orientations do not produce different
consciousness of the same experience; rather,
different conceptual orientations produce
different experiences of which different
[people] become conscious. We therefore
literally live "in terms of" the concepts,
metaphors and images which dominate our
conceptual orientation. (1975)

Nelson thus defines a paradigm as "the
general conceptual orientation of a people."
I have modified and amplified Nelson's
conceptualization slightly for our purposes
here. I apply Nelson's ideas not only at the
level of society; I apply them also at the
level of the individual: each of us carries
within us our own unique paradigm. Granted,
much of that paradigm is shared with others--
some with our families, some with our
neighbors, some with our entire species.
Nonetheless, each of us lives in association
with a unique paradigm.

Nelson includes in "conceptual orientation"
the elements of "dominant concepts,
metaphors, images, logic and decision rules
by means of which we experience and handle
reality." I am proposing that, at the very
bottom of the foundation, supporting this
entire conceptual orientation, we find a
system of beliefs that generates the entire
paradigm. It could even be said that a
paradigm is, ultimately, nothing more than a
system of beliefs.

Not only is your paradigm unique, it is
constantly changing--throughout your life. It
can be much more fluid than most people allow
theirs to be. Whenever you learn something
new, for example, no matter how
insignificant, your paradigm undergoes a
change. Anytime a single belief changes, the
entire system is influenced--however slightly
--like one bubble popping in an enormous
matrix of bubbles; the event is registered
throughout the system.

Any paradigm must have a closed, internally
consistent system of logic that holds the
system of beliefs together. This is the job
of the rational intellect, patching the holes
when it bumps into aspects of reality which
are inconsistent with the system of beliefs.
There are, of course, gateways out of any
paradigm (exits out of the trap, in Reich's
terms--see page 64) into a larger
understanding, an expanded paradigm; these
exits, however, are heavily guarded by all
who adhere to the paradigm in question. The
more vulnerable a particular gateway, the
more heavily it is guarded. And the
gatekeepers are moral values, more often than
We hear talk about "paradigm shifts” these
days. Given that your paradigm is fluid at
all times, if allowed, what do we mean by
paradigm shifts?

Occasionally we experience dramatic shifts in
paradigms: a belief is altered or transcended
that is of a lower order in the hierarchy of
beliefs, closer to the foundation of the
system. When such a belief is altered, there
is an internal disorientation for a time
while the system realigns. All the higher
order beliefs generated by or dependent
solely upon the altered belief will be
destroyed. Such dramatic shifts alter
significantly how you perceive, interpret and
experience reality; they alter your
"conceptual orientation," in Nelson's terms.
And' they can be frightening to experience.

A paradigm shift is thus profound change, not
only within your belief system, but in your
perception, interpretation and experience of
reality. It is brought about, according to
David Bohm, by insight. Bohm, a theoretical
physicist, has been closely associated with
Krishnamurti, Indian philosopher, for a
number of years; together they have explored
questions of physics and consciousness. Bohm
describes the dynamics of gaining insight:

. . . When you watch the pressures that make
[you] quarrel you're already required then to
look inwardly at what's driving you into this
irrational and destructive behavior. And you
can see the pressures that are driving you.
Then, you go on from there . . . to an
insight into not only merely this pressure or
that pressure or the other pressure but into
the whole of pressure, its root. We say
pressure probably originates--if I use my
language--I would say pressure probably
originates in this nonmanifest consciousness
and then it manifests. And as it manifests it
comes back in to pollute this nonmanifest
consciousness further, and then it piles up.
So we could say all pressure has basically
one germ, all the confusion. And the insight
into that germ will remove that germ and
allow the whole thing to clear up. Now, when
that clears up, you know, even as you start
to clear it up, energy starts to rise and
builds up, you see. Energy has also been
called passion. In other words, clarity and
passion together are needed, . , . It used to
be called the mind and the heart.
Intelligence and passion. Clarity and
passion. , . . (1978)

Along with insight, continues Bohm, there is
a corresponding change in the structural
matter of your brain:
. . ; It's the insight that does it [changes
you so that you perceive different
realities], you see, the insight is not you,
right? The insight being supreme intelligence
is able to rearrange the very structural
matter of the brain which underlies thought
so as to remove that message which is causing
the confusion, leaving the necessary
information and leaving the brain open to
perceive reality in a different way. But at
present it's blocked, the conditioning blocks
us, because it creates a pressure to maintain
what is familiar and old, and makes people
frightened to consider anything new. So,
reality is limited by the message which has
already been deeply impressed on the brain
cells from early childhood. Now the insight
actually removes that message, that part of
the message which is causing the block. . . .
It opens thought up to be fresh and new again
so that it can operate rationally. One could
say that to remain within this block is
completely irrational. It's the result of
pressure. You adopt the idea that this block
is truth because it relieves the pressure of
. . . Thus the brain matter itself can change
and be made orderly through insight. And
thought itself changes in that case, not by
thinking, not by reasoning, but rather a
direct change takes place in thought. (1978)
Our ancestors have lived through a number of
major paradigm shifts. In the 15th century we
discovered the world to be round. In this
shift we came a step closer to ultimate
reality. In changing our idea of the world
from flat to round, however, we also placed
it erroneously at the center of the universe.
We had to wait another hundred years for
Galileo to convince us that the sun, not the
earth, was at the center of our solar system,
thus plunging us into another major shift.
Pope John Paul II is now, 400 years later,
considering forgiving him for this sin. There
have been many since. Einstein threw us into
a multitude of paradigm shifts. He revealed
profound relationships between energy, space,
physical matter, gravity and time; he showed
us that time is variable and relative, not
absolute. Ye are still in the process of
absorbing these shifts.
The next major paradigm shift may well be the
discovery of emotion being at the center of
the universe within--individually and
collectively. Increasingly, over the past
two-to-three years, it has become acceptable
to talk more openly about emotion without it
being in pejorative terms. Newspaper and
television journalists are now beginning to
report on the emotional aspects of newsworthy
events--in terms that are much more accepting
of the reality of emotion in our lives.
Many people suffer undue emotional pain
because they have a misconception of human
nature--as well as the nature of pain itself.
What is required to resolve their pain is not
chemicals, but a paradigm shift; education,
not medicine. Exposure to different ideas and
experiences --ideas and experiences with the
power to heal.

Developing emotional intelligence involves a
profound paradigm shift for most of us. Given
that this is a necessarily painful,
frightening experience at times, what can we
do to help the process along with the least
possible distress? It is important to know
all we can about the process of shifting
At the foundation of each paradigm is a
system of beliefs. A paradigm shift involves
letting go of some of those beliefs. To
understand paradigm shifts, then, means to
understand the nature of beliefs, how they
are formed and how they are released. So,
what is a belief? In my work with others in
helping them to release limiting beliefs, as
well as in my own experience with releasing
my beliefs, I have observed the following

A belief is, first and foremost, an idea (see
discussion of "idea" below). Every belief is
an idea. Not every idea is a belief. Some
ideas are simply not believable: "my body
does not exist" is an idea that few would
believe. So we invest some ideas with the
authority of "rightness" and they become

A belief is an idea of what seems to be, or
ought to be, as opposed to a perfect
awareness of "what is," i.e., as opposed to
direct contact with ultimate reality (see the
discussion of ultimate reality in chapter 5).
A belief is thus confining; it stands between
you and ultimate reality, blocking your view
of what is really there. I'm not saying
anything about the accuracy of the belief; it
may be a perfect reflection of ultimate
reality. To invest in any belief, however, is
to keep your way of knowing one step removed
from ultimate reality. Investing in a belief
can be compared to looking at a pictorial
representation sketched on a window shade
intended to depict what would be seen
directly should the shade be raised. Some
beliefs are more or less intellectual, ideas
about the nature of things, for example.
Other beliefs, called morals, carry with them
injunctions about how you must behave--
inwardly as well as outwardly. Each of us
carries a unique moral code--even those of us
who bring violence to others and appear to
have "no morals." We invest much more in
moral beliefs than in the more intellectual
beliefs that leave us latitude in behavior.
Indeed, it is the moral beliefs upon which
religions are built--and it is these beliefs
which generate our most violent wars. The
most insidious morals are those that dictate
where you shall look for solutions to
emotional stress and strain. It is these
beliefs that operate out of awareness while
they control--literally--the placement of
your attention. They stand as guard dogs at
the gates to alternative paradigms, expanded
paradigms; they guard the exits from the
trap. Every belief is a memory, based on a
past perception and interpretation of the
universe. In this sense it is a prejudice
that stands between you and the present.
Beliefs present two dangers as a result of
this characteristic: (1) your interpretation
may have been based on incomplete, and
therefore distorted, awareness at the time;
and (2) the past may be irrelevant to the
present; the universe may have changed in
ways you have failed to observe.

What you believe has a profound effect on
what you allow yourself to perceive and
experience emotionally. For example, it is
not possible to force yourself to try to do
anything that you are convinced is an
impossible feat. In this way, a belief that
is not a true reflection of ultimate reality
is a limiting idea that precludes the
realization of your potential.
John C. Lilly (1972) spent a number of years
exploring his own inner nature by means of
isolation tanks, LSD, meditation, hypnosis
and Gestalt therapy. His major finding:
In the province of the mind, what is believed
to be true is true or becomes true, within
limits to be found experientially and
experimentally. ,These limits are further
beliefs to be transcended. In the province of
the mind, there are no limits. (p. xvi)
In other words, whatever you believe is a
limitation; and any limitation is a belief.
Both beliefs and limitations can be
transcended. Finding how to do this is a
challenge facing each of us.
Your vital energy filtered through your
belief system generates your attitude and
emotional mood in very much the same way that
a laser beam passing through a holographic
film generates a three-dimensional image.
(See discussion
on holography, pages 93-95.)
It is possible, through a process of
exploring your beliefs and awareness with
another person, to alter your paradigm in
such a way that you transcend chronic
emotional distress and live naturally, in
harmony with the universe.

The profound personality changes that come
with paradigm shifts are the result of a re-
interpretation of the nature of reality; a
reformation of the ideas we form about the
nature of things.

Recognizing beliefs as a special class of
ideas, we can learn much about the nature of
beliefs by examining the nature of ideas;
given their relationship, whatever holds for
ideas must hold for beliefs as well.

How you relate to an experience is influenced
by your own unique interpretation of it. We
all know of people who seem to have an easy
time of it, able to face all challenges with
a smile and win easily. And we know of
others, like most of us, who have a more
difficult time of life. We usually attribute
such differences to inherent characteristics,
such as level of energy, sensitivity, etc.
Such differences are often the result of
differing interpretations of reality--and
nothing more!

Ideas exist, floating in space, as it were,
waiting to enter your awareness. They exist
whether or not you have ever conceived them
yourself. You have conceived of ideas that
have never occurred to me; and I have
conceived of ideas that have never occurred
to you. We both expand awareness when we
share such ideas.

Ideas are multidimensional in nature. Some
have physical dimensions, like the idea of
"table”--others do not, such as
"metaphysics." In the same way, some ideas
have primarily intellectual dimensions, some
have primarily emotional dimensions. This can
be most easily understood in terms of the
physical world. If I conceive of an idea for
a machined part that I want a machinist to
make, there is a minimal amount of
information I must provide in order for him
or her to be able to create the physical
manifestation of my idea. To define the shape
of any three-dimensional object, we need a
minimum of three views of that object--
usually a top view, front view and side view,
using dashed lines to represent hidden lines
in each view. It is interesting to note that
any three views, theoretically, will uniquely
define any three-dimensional object as long
as no two lines of vision are parallel. We
could say that my idea for the machined part
was a three-dimensional idea, on the basis
that it requires three views to be fully

Some ideas have more than three dimensions.
Indeed, some ideas are of infinite dimension
and will never be fully grasped by any human.
Communicating about ideas of dimension larger
than three becomes difficult at times. The
process is much the same as constructing a
ship in a bottle: the pieces must be
inserted, a "dimension" at a time, so to
speak, then put together in their proper
order once inside. With multidimensional
ideas, the various dimensions must be
absorbed (understood) separately, then
connected inside (insight). In terms of the
example above, of the information needed to
make a machined part, the draftsperson and
the machinist must look at each view
separately, then put them together into one
holographic image of the part before they can
really know what the part would look like.

It could be said that an idea is not truly
"understood" or "grasped" until one has made
the transition from seeing some of the
scattered facets (pieces or dimensions)
separately, from the outside, to seeing the
idea from its center--from which the idea is
seen in all its dimensions simultaneously and
experienced as one gestalt.
Some ideas have an experiential dimension to
them that gives them a special quality among
ideas: the idea must be experienced to be
fully comprehended. Orgasm is one such idea.
until a child has experienced an orgasm, he
or she is limited in his or her comprehension
of the idea. We could call such ideas
experiential. Experiential ideas, in addition
to having an intellectual dimension, almost
always have emotional and physical
dimensions-- because these are the realms
within which experience is realized.

There are, then, for each of us, ideas in the
universe we have yet to experience - ideas
that we cannot fully grasp until we have been
initiated by direct contact with some aspect
or dimension of reality never-before
experienced. This initiation can be harsh,
frightening to the point of sheer terror, and
sometimes out-and-out dangerous.

As mentioned before, when you form an
attachment to the "rightness" of an idea it
becomes a belief. From that point on you feel
resistance to considering alternative ideas,
i.e., ideas that contradict the given belief.
Because of this you must often let go of a
belief first before you can let in a new idea
for examination. This can leave you floating
in a void of sorts until you become
reoriented--either to the new idea or back to
the old belief. This is a skill that can be
David Bohm talks about the resistance among
physicists to new ideas, particularly their
belief that we shall acknowledge only what is
measurable by our instruments. He stresses
the need for us to relate to ideas in much
the same way we would relate to any
observable fact:

. . . Theoretical science is not primarily
concerned with observing things but with
observing ideas. People think that by saying
ideas are a mere concomitant of the things
they observe, that they are avoiding giving
excessive importance to ideas, and so on,
that they are avoiding idealism. But in fact,
they are making ideas all-important by doing
that, because they are saying that the ideas
with which they examine things are either
true or just figments. And if they are true
then that's it. Therefore the idea with which
you finally examine this material reality is
never questionable. If you do question it you
then just do it with another idea, right? . .
. So the attempt to say that you're dealing
only with material reality forces you to put
ideas in the realm beyond material reality
and therefore of the value of truth. And
that's self-deception. So I'm saying that the
pragmatist is not really pragmatic because he
does not look at his ideas pragmatically. He
accepts his ideas non-pragmatically, with no
pragmatic basis whatsoever, as truth. Or else
he completely rejects them--again with no
pragmatic basis. . . .
. . . We could say ideas are material
processes which grow from a seed. See, the
word "idea" is based on a Greek word which
means "to see” basically, but it also
includes the idea of "image”--the notion of
"image" which is not to see, right? The image
is an imitation
of seeing. . . .
. . . The image of perception is not
perception. . . . But it may be confused with
perception, it may be treated as perception.
Now, if we take an idea, the perception grows
from a seed in the nonmanifest order and
unfolds as the seed grows in the manifest
order. When we apply the idea, the idea is
being realized. It is unfolding, growing,
dying, and so on. What sort of result or
plant does this idea produce? Does it produce
one which is harmonious and orderly or
roughly speaking, is it a useful plant or is
it a weed? Our brain may be said to be now
mostly a field of weeds. But we don't look at
this at all. We don't say that this is
material. We say whatever that is--that's our
equipment, that's what we work with, that's
where we start. And we put various
injunctions in--we should think this way or
that way. But we don't question that those
injunctions are also ideas. And now, what I'm
saying is look at ideas--every idea just has
to be looked at for what it is: what is it
and what does it do? So let us look at our
ideas pragmatically. There-fore, the
principal function of the theorist is to work
with ideas pragmatically. . . . I'm saying
that an idea is a pragmatic instrument.
. . . The idea is a functioning instrument
which brings in a certain part of reality in
some way or even helps to determine reality.
And man's reality is shaped entirely by
ideas. Natural reality goes beyond any human
idea but the extent to which we can bring it
in to our world depends on our ideas. We may
completely miss natural reality because our
ideas don't bring it in. So that is the
point: that ideas have to be looked at
pragmatically. Now, there's a limit to what
any idea can scoop up, if you want to put it
that way. And an attempt to say that we can
form an idea that handles everything is just
going to lead to chaos.
. . . Now we are looking at the nature of
ideas, looking at them both pragmatically and
theoretically, in the same way we would look
at anything else. We are saying: ideas are
not to be exempted from the whole scientific
approach. Ideas are not sacred things which
are either true or else they are just nothing
at all. All ideas are limited and we must
look at them all. Some ideas have this
advantage, some have that one, some have very
little value, and so on, and there's no
ultimate idea. But we can look at all these
ideas, the way in which they are related and
not related, and so on. We are just looking
at ideas, you see, just as we look at the
world as a whole. Our mind contains a
collection or an aggregate of ideas which is
always changing.
Some ideas have power--power to create, power
to nurture and heal, and power to destroy.
Some have the ability to fill our beings with
fear, shock us into awareness, break through
our barriers to alternative realities --
sometimes opening "eyes" which have never
been used before.
Some ideas are the building blocks out of
which the trap is build. Others form the
exists out of the trap. Still others stand'
guard at the exits, forbidding their use.

Chapters 5-7