The Emotions behind the Emotions, the Feelings Behind the Feelings

Dear Integral Meditators,

I gave a talk last night on stress transformation, one of the observations from the participants was that, when we meditated on transforming their stress, the emotion that they thought was their issue faded away, and they were presented with another emotion that they were not aware was there. The article below explores this theme.

Yours in the spirit of feeling deeply,


The Emotions behind the Emotions, the Feelings Behind the Feelings

Human beings are complex, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional beings. It may not come as a surprise to learn (thought it does for many of us) that each of the emotions and feelings we have often has a hidden emotion or feeling behind it that is the real motivator.
You might say that we have a presenting or frontal emotion or feeling that we can see directly, and a hidden emotion or feeling that lies behind it. Let me give you a few examples.

I might feel angry and irritable, but behind that emotion is simply a feeling of physical fatigue. The simplest way to deal with this is therefore to get better rested. If I try and practice anger management techniques without dealing with the fundamental cause of fatigue, then I can waste a lot of time and be discouraged by the results!
Conversely I may suddenly feel tired when an opportunity arises for me to talk openly with my partner about how I am feeling about our relationship. The presenting feeling is one of fatigue, but underneath that is a fear of confrontation with my partner and the possibility of his/her disapproval. In this case no amount of sleeping will solve the root emotional issue of fear of confrontation and disapproval! What needs to be faced is our fear of confrontation.

I feel depressed about my life, but behind that I discover that behind this depression is a secret desire that someone should take the burden of self-responsibility from me, so that I don’t have to ‘worry about it all’. Here I can try and ‘think positive’ all I like, but if I never discover and accept the reality that I have a hidden wish to be taken care of or saved by another, then my efforts are not likely to be successful.

I feel a strong desire for sexual contact and feelings, but behind it was the event that happened during the day that prompted my fear of ageing or death. Again no amount of trying to engage the surface feeling (the wish to have sex) will address the root of the issue which is our emotions of insecurity and vulnerability around ageing and death.

So the basic principle here is that we learn to mindfully connect to the emotions that we experience, and then look a little bit deeper to see if there is a hidden feeling or emotion behind it that is the primary motivator. The value of this is that if we are able to see and connect to the hidden emotion or feeling, then we will have a much clearer idea of what we need to do in order to resolve our challenges.

A three stage mindfulness process for discovering the feelings behind the feelings

1) Select the area of your life that you wish to investigate. Ask yourself what am I feeling in this situation? Connect and breathe with the presenting emotions and/or feelings that arise from this question.
2) Breathe with the presenting emotions for a while, allowing yourself to experience them. Then ask yourself “What are the feelings that lie behind this emotion?” Look a little deeper to see if you can sense or detect the hidden emotion or feeling that lies a little deeper.
3) If it emerges, breathe with this deeper feeling or emotion for a while. Then ask yourself the question “What is it that I need to do (or accept) in order to truly deal with how I feel here?” Pay attention to this answer.
© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website 


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