February 5, 2010

Smitty's ESH: The three step waltz leads to prayer

I am very open to input on the draft of this piece. It is pretty heady stuff and probably violates a key program principle: Keep It Simple.

Here goes nothing! Let the alchemy of words begin to weave a new understanding of program principles.

I believe our 12 -step program helps me to transform the lead of my suffering in gold that heals my past. Miriam Greenspan helped me to see that there are three skills involved to transform suffering: attending, befriending and surrendering. She stresses this is a highly chaotic, non-linear process.

Greenspan makes me want to begin befriending my negative emotions so that I suffer less. She shares her experience that befriending can allow emotions to shift of their own accord. Befriending my emotions means first that I be willing to be present to them.

Let us apply this to the Emotions Anonymous program if we can?

1) First we admit we are stuck, that we have emotions; we resign from the deadening job of trying to control them (in fact controlling our emotions has led to our powerlessness over them, our sense of being "stuck"). By first admitting, we can realize it is worth paying attention to our emotions. Attending is NOT looking endlessly at belly buttons and second-guessing our decisions. It is being mindful of the body, learning to listen to the body and the language of our emotions without judgment or suppression.

2) The next step of befriending our emotions takes paying attention to the next level. One way of rephrasing step two is that we come to realize a higher power might help us tolerate the most distressing emotions: anger (fear), depression, and grief. With new faith and strength, we come to believe we can move towards what we are afraid of, as long as it is not life-threatening to do so. The feeling in the body that we want to run away from — that’s precisely what we need to stay with. A simple way to do this is to locate the emotion in the body and breathe through it, without trying to change or end it.

3) Surrendering is the spiritual part of this process. It is the EA program's step three, that by stopping the fight, we win sanity. Surrendering to suffering is usually the last thing we want to do, but surrender is what brings the unexpected gifts of wisdom, compassion, and courage. Surrendering is about saying yes when we want to say no — the yes of acceptance. This is where the alchemy of healing is allowed to happen.

I learned recently from a struggle with anxiety that I can't “let go” of any negative emotion, instead I let go of my ego's reaction to the emotion (it's desire to fix or control). Or put another way, I turn my will over to the care of my Higher Self. When I let go of my ego (little micromanaging self) and let God, the emotions then let go themselves. When I let my darkest emotions flow... something unexpected happens. As I learn to be gently conscious, and compassionate....the energy of these emotions flows toward healing. For example, when I sit with grief it transforms itself into heightened gratitude.

This gratitude is actually my first prayer to a Higher Power (step 11).

These words that explain it for me: "[C]onsciously experiencing fear expands our ability to feel joy. Being mindful of despair — really entering into the dark night of the soul with the light of awareness — renews and deepens our faith." Miriam Greenspan


  1. Interesting stuff. I do believe in letting the emotions flow through me. But I used to act out my emotions in an attempt to control. There has to be balance for me.

  2. Yes, most of us tend to go from feeling to acting out... or we even justify the actions that come out of our emotions.

    This action of Miriam's is instead one of being present to our emotions, being alone with them, in our Higher Power's presence, feeling them in our hearts, only, and using discernment to fathom what our emotions are telling us about our experiences.


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~