Walking into the fire

On the co-counselling course that I was running last week, the group asked me a question that really captured my imagination. We'd been doing some 'emotional training', accessing and exploring some core human emotions (fear, anger, sadness, joy...) and, to get a handle on these emotions and the subtleties that lay between them, we'd been using an 'emotional map' which I'd discovered a few days earlier in Gretchen Pyves' Co-Counselling Manual: 2nd Edition (1994) (which I've reproduced below).We discovered that a number of people on the course spent a lot of time in 'unpleasant' or 'negative' emotions on the right hand side of the graph - and much of the time in the 'low arousal, negative' emotions at the bottom right. And many said they didn't have easy routes out of the latter place.One of the aims of co-counselling is to train people so that they can access and express emotions in all four sectors of the map, which gives them more choices and enables more 'flow' in their lives and their 'energy fields' (from my point of view as an energy medicine practitioner at least).Anyway, in the moment, I felt to express a realisation I'd had as we were discussing it. I realised that whereas in my teens and early twenties, say, I had lived my life from a space of chronic, mild anxiety (somewhere in the bottom left sector of the map) - and often felt fear, some terror and sometimes strong anger, I now spent 80 per cent or so of the time in a space of 'simple joy to exhilaration' (which would for me be plotted on the middle to the extreme left corner of the top left sector) and the rest of the time in the 'peace and calm' space at the bottom left.The group asked my 'secret'. Caught off guard, I gave a brief reference to having been through a lot of trauma, but then asked them for some time to think about it and I suggested that I get back to them about it at a later date (we have one more day together - our qualifying day - in late June).Over night I pondered on this a bit more. There was something in the fact that I'd experienced a lot of trauma - and I've blogged several times before about its transformative effects for me, most recently here. But I think for me it was more about that, when experiencing any 'unpleasant' emotion, the invitation is, rather than resist it (a 'normal' human response - after all, it is unpleasant!), instead to 'walk to the centre of the fire' - and to allow the flames to transform you. This means no resistance - and total surrender. And somehow in that process, all that you don't need can be burnt away. I feel like I have been to the centre of the fire many times - whether via relationship, trauma, dramatic change or whatever - and that much of the 'dross' has been burnt away as a result.And a related something that I found myself mentioning over and again on this particular co-counselling course was what I see as the benefits of 'trusting our own process' - ie, trusting that what your inner world 'brings up for healing' is the right thing for you to explore right now. And if you're prepared to go there, your own consciousness will show you the way. You may think you might lose yourself: but in my experience you'll find yourself instead.It's really in that moment of 'surrender'. For me, it's not enough to simply discharge the emotion. It's more about, when a so-called 'unpleasant' emotion surfaces, being open to going to the very heart of that emotion and letting go into it. That's where the alchemy takes place. That's where, if you let it, the transforming fire can burn all the dross away - changing the very state of your consciousness, transforming you from base metal to gold. And of course, that transformation takes place in the heart.For, happiness is the result of an uncovering, not an 'adding on'. And you only get the 'view' if you're prepared to climb the mountain first!So that, my co-counselling friends, is the long answer. I think perhaps I'd better find a way of condensing that, before next time, or I'll need to build another day onto our five-day course!Any trained co-counsellors are invited to meet and practise with our newly trained co-counsellors (who will have qualified that morning) on the afternoon of June 24th (2-5 pm) in Guildford. Bookings are also now being taken for our next co-counselling training, which begins October 6th. See Events page