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Emotional Rescue

Before we reach real understanding and wisdom about our emotions, we first need a clear idea of what they are and how they work. Emotions get their power from a simple but deep-seated source: our lack of self-knowledge. For this reason, when we bring awareness to our experience of emotions, something truly amazing happens. They lose their power to make us miserable. So it’s vital to see how emotions operate in our lives and how devastating their influence can be when they are in command. With this knowledge we begin to regain our independence. We begin to see how to free ourselves from those old patterns of fear, doubt, anger, pride, passion, and jealousy that have robbed us of so much happiness. We regain the power to navigate the direction of our lives.

Yet our emotions have been around so long, they’re like old friends. We’d miss those familiar faces if they didn’t show up one day. But we also know how they can deceive us—how they can trip us up, over and over, with their promises: “Listen to me, this time it will be different! This time, blowing up in anger is clearly within your rights! You’ll feel so much better.  This time, it will fill that empty place inside.”  


The Three-Step Emotional Rescue Plan

When you’re feeling tormented by your emotions, what do you do?  You probably look for an escape route. But you can’t see your emotions the way you can see smoke or fire, so which way do you turn? You can’t exactly say, “My anger is hammering at the front door, so I’ll go out the back.”  If you react out of panic, without thinking it through, you might end up jumping from the frying pan into the fire. You never know what might be waiting for you in your back yard. Instead of leaving your wellbeing to chance, it’s a good idea to have a rescue plan for those times when you find yourself on shaky emotional ground, looking for a lifeline.

The Three-Step Emotional Rescue Plan introduced in this book can help you learn the skills you need so that you can leave behind painful old habits in favor of new and more joyful ways of expressing yourself. The Three Steps are Mindful Gap, Clear Seeing, and Letting Go. They are progressive methods, each one building on the one before it, which gradually empower you to work with and transform even your most difficult emotions.

Briefly, Mindful Gap is the practice of creating a safe distance between you and your emotions, which then gives you the psychological space to work with their energy. Clear Seeing is the practice of looking at both the emotions and their surrounding landscape. You’re trying to see a bigger picture, one that includes identifying patterns in your behavior. Letting go is the practice of releasing stressful physical and emotional energy through physical exercise, relaxation, and, primarily, through awareness.

With each step you learn, you become increasingly familiar with the inner workings of your emotions. You begin to see through the dense outer layers that mask their true nature. Eventually, you see straight to the heart of your anger, passion, jealousy, and pride. Even ignorance and fear become transparent.  

Taken together, mastering these three steps can bring about profound emotional healing. Each step can become a turning point, a place where your relationship with your emotions can change and evolve. Instead of simply struggling with your emotions, it’s possible to develop a creative partnership with them.  With time and practice, anxiety and doubt give way to trust and confidence. Gradually, you discover that your emotions themselves are the doorway to the freedom you’re looking for—they open the way for you instead of holding you back. 

In a way, this book isn’t going to teach you anything totally foreign to your experience. You already have within you much of the knowledge you need to free yourself from habitual ways of reacting to your emotions. These habits are yours, after all. Who could be more familiar with them than you? It helps, however, to learn new ways of using that knowledge—your own common sense as well as insight—to see what’s holding you back and what can move you forward into freedom. 

Excerpted from EMOTIONAL RESCUE: How to Work with Your Emotions to Transform Hurt and Confusion into Energy That Empowers You by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, available April 19, 2016. Printed with the permission of TarcherPerigee/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche ©2016.

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