This deadly sin might just save your soul.

Ever heard of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Over the past few months I’ve noticed one of the these deadly sins showing up in my client calls, with some regularity. And you know what happens when you think of yourself as a sinner? Shame comes rushing in.

Shame likes everything to look neat and tidy. It hates the messiness of being human. So it brushes the debris of sin under the carpet where it can be forgotten. But dang, that just make things worse.

You end up tripping over it again and again.

What works a whole lot better is taking the rug out into the daylight and giving it a good shake.

“OOOH”, you think. “I don’t want everyone seeing my dirt”. I hear ya. That’s why you do it in private. Or with a trusted partner, who’ll hold the other end of the carpet, and cheer as the sin debris flies free.

The sin that’s been creating lumps under the carpet for my clients lately is Envy. You may know her by her pet name, Jealousy.

Whatever you call it, we’ve all experienced it. I certainly have! And it feels like crap. But sweeping it under the rug doesn’t make it go away. And pretending it isn’t there only trips you up.

A client, let’s call her Evelyn, was envious of her friend Jenny’s success. Jenny’d just been picked to be a back up singer for a hugely successful band. She was about to embark on a world tour that could be life-changing.

Evelyn was thrilled. She was inspired by how hard Jenny had worked to make her dream come true. She also felt relieved. The life of an artist can be a struggle. Lots of times Evelyn worried about how Jenny was going to pay her rent. This gig was going to make things easier for Jenny, and that made Evelyn so happy.

She was feeling all sorts of positive emotions about her friends success. She loved her like a sister. She was excited, but she was also jealous. 

Jealousy kept killing her joy. And long with the jealousy came shame.

“How could I be jealous of my best friend?” Evelyn questioned. “I feel awful. Even though I’m excited and I know she’s earned it, I’m so embarrassed to admit it but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want her to have it” Evelyn was ashamed of how she felt. She thought it made her a bad person. It was challenging for her to even tell me about it, afraid that I would judge her.

I asked if we could look a little more closely at the jealousy, rather than sweep it away. She was tentative, but willing.

She was most upset that she could be thrilled for her friend and also not want her to have this success. We teased apart these seemingly opposing feelings by first exploring the beliefs she had about Jenny’s opportunity to go on tour.

What might it mean to Evelyn? With a bit of time to sink into her own body’s sensations, she could feel her fear. While on tour Jenny wouldn’t have as much time to connect. Evelyn might feel lonely. Jenny might change and not be the sweet understanding friend that she is now. She might meet all kinds of new people she liked better. Evelyn might be abandoned. Evelyn was just afraid of losing Jenny’s love. I helped her see this was perfectly natural. We all have a need to be loved.

Then we looked at the envy head on. I encouraged her not to be all polite and sophisticated about her feelings but to be as honest and straightforward as a kid might be. Just say what came up without filtering. She said things like, “I want that.” “It’s not fair” “Me Too”.

With a little investigation, it soon became clear that Evelyn didn’t really want to join a band. She had no desire to be trapped in a bus with a bunch of other people, eating road food and sleeping in hotels. She didn’t even want to be onstage in front of thousands of screaming fans.

What she did want was a chance to be heard, to make an impact, to be acknowledged.

Turned out Evelyn wanted to write a book, but she’d never had the courage to do it. She knew she had something worth sharing but was afraid she might not be a good enough writer. With some support in facing her fears she decided to take a writing class to start building her confidence and her craft.

That would move her in the direction of writing her book, but it didn’t guarantee she’d be heard, make an impact, or be acknowledged.

I had Evelyn imagine her book was published. It was making a huge impact. She was getting all sorts of acknowledgement for it. As she imagined this, I asked her to describe how she was feeling. She said, “Generous. Kind. Patient. Accepting. Beautiful. Smart. Open. Strong.”

I asked her how she’d treat herself if she was all of those things. 

Ah, there’s the rub.

Turns out she’d treat herself quite differently. She’d dedicate more time to doing the things she wants to do.  She’d sleep more. She’d be on social media less and in nature more. She’d let go of some old relationships. She’d even shop at different stores and wear different clothes.

There were many things she’d change, but I had her pick the one change, that if she did only that, it would make all other changes easier. She chose it. She committed to it. I supported the change. It’s transforming her life.

You see the deadly sin of envy could very well be your soul speaking to you. It might be your highest calling showing you a glimpse of what you haven’t been willing to face head on.

Next time you feel envious (or jealous) you can use it as a way to hear your soul calling you.

Don’t judge yourself. Get curious.

  1. If someone achieves, or has, something you want, ask yourself what part of that you want for yourself?
  2. Give yourself time to imagine that you have it; whether it’s a passionate lover, a brilliant mind, beautiful body, wonderful career, or whatever it is you want?
  3. How would having what that person has, make you feel? Notice the sensations in your body.
  4. Then ask, how would you treat yourself differently if you felt that way?
  5. If there are many things you’d change, just choose ONE. Make sure it’s The One. You’ll know it.
  6. That’s the one your soul wants for you!

If you don’t want someone else to have something, be curious again. What do you believe will happen to you if they have it?

By staying curious you’ll get to the core of your fear, and on the other side of that fear there is love. There is always love.

So let yourself be totally jealous, green with envy. And then listen to what your soul wants you to know.

 

iPad-Retina-Display-Mockup

Learning how to deal with “unpleasant” emotions is one of the benefits you’ll get from reading my upcoming book, The Power of Pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign up for my newsletter below and I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available this fall. I’ll also send you a free taste of what the book has in store for you.

The Joy of Anger. Or why I disagree with the Dalai Lama.

Actually I’ve never met the Dalai Lama. I’m basing this only on what I’ve read. And perhaps I’m misinterpreting his words. Maybe if we sat down over a cup of tea or shots of tequila I’d discover that we’re saying the same thing about anger: That it’s just energy, and moving it and expressing it are a wholesome part of a healthy life.

I grew up with a dysfunctional relationship to anger. I feared it. And disowned it. You see my dad was explosive. We’d be having a lovely time and something would set him off – BOOM – He would rage! He didn’t hit us, but his screaming tirades had me fearing for our safety. In my very young world his rants were life-threatening. He didn’t stay with us for long, but my fear of anger lasted for decades.

In my thirties, my acupuncturist kept explaining that my liver was “pushy”.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver represents anger. I could admit I was angry about environmental destruction, cruelty to people and animals, and the many injustices in the world, but he was trying to nudge me towards something less rational, more primal. Try as I did I just couldn’t access it.

It wasn’t until some years later that I felt an explosive energy rise up in me. I was in a therapist’s office and he skillfully made space for me to express it. My immediate urge was to punch and slap and roar like a wild beast. His place was well equipped to allow all of it. All of me. If you’d seen me you’d say was I enraged, and rage it was, but what I noticed more than anything was that I was enlivened. Allowing this energy to be released the moment it was noticed was incredibly freeing.

Though roaring and punching with fist clenched tight I wasn’t aware of any thing in particular I was angry about. It was just pure energy flowing through me. No doubt it was decades of anger I’d pushed down into my body that were erupting like a volcano. It was that primal energy my acupuncturist had been pointing to so many years ago. When thoroughly exhausted I lay in a heap on the floor I began to laugh… and laugh… and laugh. There was unbridled joy trapped behind that geyser of energy, and though I’d never been aware of holding it in, releasing it was the portal to the joy that was trapped underneath.

There was no story that accompanied this outburst. No face I was seeing as I punched and screamed. No bitterness or resentment when I was done. I wasn’t holding anything in. Like an animal I had let it out and let it go. I had shaken it off and it was over. It wasn’t the end of anger. It was the beginning of freedom from holding it in.

Since I don’t live in the soundproof safety of a therapist’s office I don’t let that energy flow anytime it bubbles up.I don’t go around striking out and screaming at people just because I feel it, and I recommend you don’t do that either. It’s never a good idea to aim all that energy at another person. It can easily be overwhelming, even traumatizing.

But I let that explosive energy out as soon as I can, in a safe place, rather than suppress it. Sometimes what starts out like rage, morphs into tears of sadness, followed by joy or relief. It always makes me feel more free and energized.

In the real world it looks something like this:

One morning I woke to my husband complaining about the protein powder I’d bought. It irked me. I felt annoyed before my feet touched the floor. It was the slightest tightening of irritation in my throat. I jumped to my old pattern which was to rationalize my way out of honouring my body’s sensations, saying to myself: “This is so unlike him.” He usually comes and sits on my side of the bed and greets me sweetly, brings me a cup of hot water and lemon, says ‘good morning sleeping beauty’. “You have no right to feel this way.” I told myself. “Get over it.”

So I pushed it down, as I’d done my whole life. It was just a little irritation. I’d get over it. But I noticed right away that I wasn’t feeling close to him. By stuffing down my feelings I had created a wall between us. He wasn’t even aware of it, and it wasn’t his fault. It was because I had just denied myself. I figured I had a choice: 1) I could keep my feelings stuffed down and work all day to recreate the connection I usually feel with my husband, or 2) take the time to honour the sensations of my body, the constriction in my throat, the tightening of my jaw, and see if it shifted things for me.

I warned Mark I was going to freak out for a little while and shut the door. I started smashing the bed, breathing heavily, grunting out my anger, even yelling a bit. He came in and asked. “Is this about me?”  “Well, Yes, and no.” I replied. Your complaints about the protein powder were the catalyst for this explosion, but clearly all of this rage is not about that.” I continued to freak out while he watched. I quickly reached the point where roaring turned into laughing. He laughed along with me. And that closeness I love so much returned.

By paying close attention to my body I notice subtle signals that energy wants release, whether it’s anger or joy or grief, (by the way, you don’t suppress one without suppressing the others)  and I am enlivened by allowing the energies to move.

For more on releasing emotions check out this post.