What if envy had a vital message?
What if all of the darker emotions like rage, shame, anger even hatred had vital messages for us?
What if being true to yourself means honouring all of the emotions?
Emotions are metaphorically the element of water within us. The idea of the 4 Elements appears in many traditions and cultures around the world. The Kabbalah, Astrology, The Tarot, Native American wisdom – all of these use the idea that we’re made up of the 4 basic elements of earth, water, air and fire. These 4 elements correspond to different part of our earthly human selves:
Earth – the physical body
Water – the emotions
Air – thoughts and beliefs, the intellect
Fire – our creativity, imagination, intuition and psychic ability
Having total wellbeing means that all 4 elements are working in harmony with each other and are balanced. The problem we have in western societies is that the air element tends to overpower all the others. In many education systems, intellectual achievement is valued over everything else. But wiser schools and colleges know that creativity (fire), movement in the physical body (earth) and emotional intelligence (water) are just as vital to our overall intelligence as pure academic work is.
And the problem in a lot of spiritual circles is that there’s a jump from air to fire without the grounding and wisdom of water and earth. It’s what leads to spiritual by-passing and stopping legitimate expression of emotion that leads to being wholly human and to fully healing deep wounds.
The Deeper Wisdom Of Darker Emotion
The darker emotions (water) like envy, anger, fear and shame are only darker because we rarely bring them into the light of awareness. But when we take the time to listen to their messages, they can give us invaluable insights to navigate whatever we’re facing and find the truth of it. The deeper truth is always healing.
Whenever I feel one of the darker emotions come up, my first place to look it up is Karla McLaren’s excellent book “The Language of Emotions”. And her incredible research and experience will always guide me home.
Emotions are responses to our environment – both the external environment (around our physical bodies) and in response to our internal beliefs and thoughts. When we get the thinking parts of our minds to connect up with and work with the emotional parts of our minds, we get more control over our state and can move through problems and issues with more ease. Life is richer and fuller. The elements of air and water work together in harmony.
But when the thinking part of the mind is cut off from the emotions, we can buy into collective thinking and ideas that stunt our own development and keep us small or even deluded about the effects of what we’re doing.
For example, the collective idea that emotions are primitive and dumb and should never be on show became a collective belief about emotions. Living from this intellect-centred view shuts off a vital part of ourselves that brings integrity to our whole systems. We have the evidence of what a lack of emotion does to us – humans can commit unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty when there is no regulation from emotions, such as in the case of some psychopaths, sociopaths and extreme narcissists.
On a smaller level, in dealing with our own unconscious racism and prejudices, feeling shame is a gateway to having the kind of empathy that lets us really hear the stories of people experiencing our unconscious racism. Then we can really make the kinds of changes that usher in a fairer world.
An Example of Going Deeper into Envy
When I’ve noticed my own envy coming up about other people’s business successes, following the feelings of envy lead to far greater insight and far deeper healing. Karla (the author of The Language of Emotions) differentiates between jealousy and envy. She says that jealousy is about unfaithfulness or deceit in close relationships whereas envy is about “unfair distribution of resources or recognition”. In my struggling days in my business, boy, oh boy did that resonate for me! “Why do all these other business owners get to have thriving businesses (i.e. good income) and recognition when I’m struggling?” The clue to answering this question my mind invented is in Karla’s empathic practice for dealing with envy:
Discern whether you’re responding to disloyalty and unfairness in others or to your own lack of self-regard and worthiness. In either case, restore your boundaries first; then listen to your intuition and honor the anger and fear inside…envy.
The Language of Emotions, p.263
What an insight! My envy was really about my own lack of self- regard and worthiness and it’s OK to feel that and to acknowledge it. The inner work was to dive into it and see what guidance my intuition had for me. Karla has another gem of an explanation of diving into envy:
When your envy is welcomed and channelled honorably, it will help you uncover unhealed issues and traumas that continue to haunt your present-day behavior. p.276
When I did deep dive into it, sure enough, there was an unhealed trauma and belief about being abandoned. Eventually when I dug even deeper after experiencing lots of the “darker” emotions like rage, shame, envy and even terror, I uncovered my deepest wound that was holding everything back so it could finally be returned to love. The darker emotions were allies to help me safely go into the depths of the wound AND to be careful about who I kept close during that vulnerable healing journey.
Don’t Pathologise Emotion – Instead Trust The Deeper Message
By taking the time to stop, listen in and honour the insights that come from the water and earth elements (the emotions and the body), it brings us into the present moment, it brings deep acceptance of life and it helps to honour all the variety and diversity of life experiences that we all have. It helps create good boundaries between us so we can fully honour each others’ uniqueness.
And honouring that uniqueness brings richness and depth to life’s experiences.
So next time you feel one of those darker emotions, don’t pathologise it or think there’s something wrong with you. Trust that the healthy water element in you has something important for you to notice. Don’t rush it, give the water element space to flow and bring through it deep messages.
If you need help, it’s wise to choose a practitioner that you feel safe with and that can demonstrate that they’ve done this deeper work themselves. Trust that your subconscious mind will keep you safe and your intuition will help guide you to the right person for you. And definitely get your hands on Karla’s incredible book or her insight-packed free articles on her blog.