Unhealthy ways:

1. Repression: an intra-psychic process, an unconscious coping mechanism which entails not being conscious of one’s experiences of sexual feelings and not being consciously aware of being unaware.

2. Denial: refusal to admit that certain facts or actions exist; often a rejection of obvious evidence. The denial often occurs in interpersonal and social situations.

3. Rationalization: is an irrational way of using rationality. We attempt to justify the way we feel or behave, with impersonal and socially acceptable reasons.

4. Fantasy: can be a substitute for reality. A man may fantasize overpowering women thus compensating for his poor sexual identity and self-esteem.

5. Projection: is an attempt to maintain our self-esteem and adequacy by blaming others for our mistakes or by imputing to others our own unacceptable feelings and impulses.

6 Compensation: Making up in another area what is lacking in one area. Overeating and oversleeping can be a compensation for lack of sex.

7. Reaction formation: refers to replacing unacceptable sexual urges with completely opposite behavior and intolerant attitudes.

8. Acting out: engaging in genital behavior with others or with oneself that includes oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse, foreplay, and masturbation.

Healthy ways:


9. Expression: to make known or communicate one’s experience of sexual feelings. Expression includes “self –talk”, journaling, and talking to another appropriate person, for example a friend, confidant, or spiritual director.

10. Suppression: A conscious coping mechanism that entails the awareness and acceptance of sexual feelings and choosing not to promote them or act on them.

11. Sublimation: the process of awareness and acceptance of sexual feelings and channeling the sexual energy to activity judged to be “higher” culturally, socially physically, aesthetically, or spiritually.

12. Respectful integration: a direct way of integrating sexual feelings and spirituality to foster religious growth. In respectful integration a person looks in love at sexual feelings as an opportunity to see the whole person (oneself and others).

Reflective Exercise – Emotions



Negative Emotions

1. In this first reflective exercise, we ask you to revisit the past week or so of your life. In a quiet mood and place, recall the people you have been with, the work you were involved in, your predominant thoughts and moods. Then, make a list of the different feelings you experienced over the course of this period. Take your time with this listing. Now go back over your list and indicate which of these feelings you experienced as negative.

Finally, spend some time reflecting on these negative emotions: In your experience, why are these feelings negative? As you experienced these negative emotions, was there anything positive for you?

2. First, identify a feeling you have become more comfortable with recently. This may be a positive emotion such as joy or confidence or compassion, or a more problematic feeling such as jealousy or resentment or fear. Spend some time remembering what helped you befriend this emotion. Be as concrete as you can; give some examples.

Then identify a troublesome feeling that you are sometimes tempted to harbour. Use your imagination: picture this emotion swimming into your heart as if into a bay of water. How do you permit this emotion to drop anchor; what attitudes or behaviours or beliefs encourage the feeling to linger in your heart? Why do you harbour this feeling; what is its “perverse payoff” for you? Concretely, what action can you take to resist harbouring this emotion in the future?

3. Select one negative emotion that is important for you now and recall a recent experience of this emotion’s arousal.

  • What was the situation that evoked this emotion for you?
  • How did your body respond’
  • What other feelings accompanied this emotion here?

Now consider the different cultures that have helped shape your experience of this emotion.

A. How was this emotion handled in your family as you were growing up? Give an example, to help make your reflection more concrete. Is there a word, phrase, or image that best captures the way that your family dealt with this emotion?

B. How has your church and religious tradition influenced you? Can you recall a person, story, or teaching in the church that has helped you with this emotion? Can you recall a way in which your religious tradition has hindered or frustrated you in regard to this emotion?

C. How has your national culture influenced your judgments about this emotion? For example, in the society you know best, how is a “good woman” (or a “good man”) supposed to deal with this emotion? What other influences on your emotional life have you felt from your culture?


1. Recall a recent time when you were angry with someone. Spend a few moments bringing the incident to mind: what triggered your anger toward this person? Did you express your anger? If so, how? If not, why? What happened as a result?

Now consider this incident in terms of gains and losses. Were there any gains resulting from this experience—positive results, benefits received, good effects? List whatever comes to mind.          Were there any losses experienced here—negative results, harm inflicted, bad effects? Again, let your response range widely.

Next, recall a time when you were the target of someone else’s anger. Let yourself be present to the experience again: as you see it, what triggered the anger toward you? How was it expressed? How did you feel? What happened as a result of this angry exchange? Then consider this incident in terms of gains and losses, using the questions in the paragraph above as a guide.

Finally, spend a few moments comparing your assessment of these two examples of anger. What learning do you take away from this reflection, to influence your experience of anger in the future?

2. Recall a time recently when your angry feelings were troublesome for you. Spend some time with this memory, taking notes to bring the experience vividly to mind. Then List for yourself the factors that made this experience troublesome: factors in you, factors in the situation.

Then recall a recent time when expressing anger was difficult for you. Again, list for yourself the factors that made the experience difficult for you: factors in you, factors in the situation.

If possible, share this reflection with a friend or discuss your experience in a group that includes both men and women. Note the similarities and differences that emerge. Do the differences seem to be gender related? Are other factors more significant—age, education, economic status, ethnic origin? What does this discussion suggest to you about the culture’s rules for anger?

3. Consider your own experience in dealing with anger. Bring to mind a time you handled your anger well. First recall the circumstances: the setting, the persons involved, what triggered your anger, how you responded, the way things turned out.

Now spend some time with these questions: What did you like about the way you dealt with anger here? As you see things, what was most useful, productive, helpful? Then, what did you dislike about the way you dealt with anger here? Looking back now on that experience, what would you want to do differently?

Finally, what convictions do you bring from your own experience for dealing with anger?

Shame and Guilt

1. Adolescence is a season of embarrassment for most of us. Return in imagination to your own high school years. Spend some time remembering where you lived at that time and with whom, who your friends were at school and elsewhere, the activities and events that filled your days.

Now, recall a time when you felt ashamed as a teenager, an experience of being painfully embarrassed. For example, you may have felt embarrassed about your body, or ashamed of your family, or your religious or ethnic background. Once you have remembered a particular occasion, stay with that memory for a while, trying to recall the circumstances that evoked your embarrassment. Be mindful, too, of the range of other feelings that came along with shame here.

As you look back now on that experience, how did you deal with the shame or embarrassment? How successful were your efforts then? Do you sense any connections between that adolescent experience and your life these days?

2. Consider some of the ordinary expressions of adult will power: forcefulness, determination, self-control, persistence, self-confidence, stubbornness, resolve. Then recall a recent experience of your own exercise of personal will; take time to bring the memory fully to mind.

Now reflect on these questions: How did this exercise of will power enhance or strengthen you? Did this exercise of personal will challenge or distress you in any way? Did shame or embarrassment play any part in this experience—inhibiting you, threatening you, goading you to act, making you more sensitive to the context or consequences of your actions?

Finally, spend a few moments taking notes on your own sense of the connections between shame and will.

3. Consider two biblical metaphors: breaking the covenant and missing the mark. Consider ways these two images are part of your experience of guilt. To start, spend several minutes in a reflective mood, becoming aware of significant times you have felt guilty. You may wish to take some notes for yourself. Be gentle with this reflection; the goal is insight not self-punishment.

Next, consider which image—missing the mark or breaking the covenant—best captures these experiences of guilt for you. Give some examples of how this is the case. Again, taking notes may help you stay with the reflection.

Then, focus on the two metaphors themselves. As you see it, how does the image breaking the covenant heal or purify your own sense of guilt? Are there risks in this image, at least for you?

In your experience, how does the image missing the mark heal or purify guilt? For you, are there risks in understanding guilt this way?


1. Everyday depression is an ordinary experience for most of us. But still, take care with this reflection, since for some of us “feeling blue” mushrooms easily into a lingering sadness. Start by recalling a recent time when you felt caught in an everyday depression—discouraged, defeated, tired. List some of the thoughts and feelings that were part of your gloomy mood.

Now, with the advantage of some distance from the experience, consider the context of this ordinary depression. What seemed to trigger your bad mood? Can you identify threats or hurts or losses involved? How did you respond: Blaming yourself or other people? retreating from contact? reaching out for help? Give some concrete examples of your attitudes and actions while you were depressed: What helped? what made things worse?

Finally, can you identify any ways in which this everyday depression served you well? Again, offer concrete examples.

Dealing with negative emotions

1. In a final exercise, you are invited to consult your own journey. Begin by spending a few moments reflecting prayerfully on the figure The Way of the Negative Emotions. Don’t force any consideration; just hold yourself present to the chart.

Now consider an emotion that is sometimes troublesome for you. It may be one of the four we have considered here: anger, shame, guilt, or depression. Or it may be another feeling that is problematic for you these days. Once you have made your selection, trace that emotion through the disciplines of the Way.

Start with the discipline of patience. For example, have you gotten better at paying attention to the troublesome feeling when it arises? What helps you do this? How have you improved the acoustics in your heart? Don’t rush the reflection. Other questions or insights may come on your own, helping you sense what patience means to you.

Then move on in a similar fashion to the other disciplines: naming, taming, and living with passion. Spend time with each, exploring what your past experience has been, what new hope you have now. Move at your own pace; completing the chart at one sitting is less important than savouring the realizations that are significant for you.

Bring the reflection to a close with a prayer of praise or gratitude or lament. When time allows, return to this exercise later with another emotion as your focus.



Feelings by themselves are neutral. They are energies that can build or destroy. Negativity props in due to some negative happening in life. Es: a broken relationship, death or some rejection. When this happens we have or perceptions built around it.

Perception is the lens through which I see a particular reality. Our inner belief system is the one which comes in particular feelings.

Perception creates negative thoughts. Negative thoughts create the pain of negative experience of a painful reality. Fear, hurt, anxiety, sadness, anger, resentment, depression, irritation. Feelings are normal. When they rise in negativity, they affect our body. We call it body sensation. Body sensation is a process feeling. Tightness, heaviness, pain in the head, heck, loose motion, churning, burning sensation, dry mouth, choked throat, palpitation. These can produce toxins in our system and cause ill health.

Along with bodily sickness negative attitude based on negative feelings produces negative spiritual attitudes (non-gospel values), non-forgiveness, revenge, self pity, indifference, self-centeredness



  1. a)When you sit in prayer be relaxed. Es. Through awareness of sounds, touch, breathing etc.
  2. b)Ask for God’s grace, light from the spirit to enter into this awareness or consciousness
  3. c)Review of the main events. Become aware of the prominent feeling
  4. d)Relive the main event fully. See that person, behaviour.
  5. e)Let the negative feeling/energy come up; surface fully
  6. f)Become aware of the body sensations fully
  7. g)Remove the body sensations



  1. 1.Chest heaviness: take deep breath and let go. Tightness melts and lightness sets in.
  2. 2.Pure awareness. You will come to a body shift
  3. 3.Tightening and loosening body parts and come to body shift
  4. 4.Imagery such as stones, rocks, darkness, sharp weapon. Darkness. We see this in our negative experience as negative imagery or symptom imagery. Gradually it turns into healing imagery
  5. 5.Symptom colour. Different colours have different meanings. Watch the colour melting gradually. It looses its intensity and becomes lighter and lighter (body shift) to healing colour.
  6. 6.Darkness will turn to light.
  7. 7.Divine imagery. Jesus, Our Lady, St. Joseph, etc.(Body shift)
  1. h)Come to body shift. Experience the risen Lord. Full of happiness, love, forgiveness, lightness, calmness, freshness, aliveness.
  2. i)Moment of making decision. Choose the values of Jesus, Gospel. Es. Forgiveness, Willingness to carry the cross, generosity, enthusiasm, etc.
  3. j)Visualize the decision. Es. If you decide on reconciliation how will you meet the person?


  1. Deep relaxation, awareness of the vibration of various sounds
  2. Deep breathing to be totally relaxed
  3. Becoming aware of a particular event that is hurting
  4. In the imagination re-living it here and now. Look at the person
  5. As the feeling of hurt rises up allowing it to increase in intensity by just observing it. Keep your gaze on the person
  6. Body sensation – head tight feeling. Raise the shoulders breathing in. Hold the breath in that position and then breathe out lowering the shoulders.
  7. Anger in the hands. Tighten the fists and release it.
  8. Body shift. Feeling relaxed. The divine light penetrating your body and mind. Can see the symptom colour or symptom imagery also. Gradually experiencing the divine imagery within. Jesus or Mary or Joseph.
  9. Willfully being ready to forgive. Like Jesus on the cross going through the intense pain initially until he said, “Father, into your……”
  10. Look at the face of the person now. It will be changed by now to soberness.
  11. Relax gradually taking deep, slow breath and come back to your original self
Negative Emotions

Negative Emotions


“In the middle of the journey of my life I found myself inside a dark forest, for the right way I had completely lost.” (Dante)

The way of the negative emotions is a mysterious dynamic through which our life unfolds. Not everyone enters upon the mysterious way of the negative emotions; instead, we may linger in a life of quiet desperation, bound by boredom or hedged in by guilt. Conforming numbly to what is expected, we may never take leave, never launch out into the deep of our fathomless feelings.

When we do dare embark, we quickly detect the spiritual exercises required of us, especially those of presence and participation. Out of the “dark forest” we travel toward presence—becoming more attuned to the history that has moulded our emotions and more aware of aspirations abandoned along the way. We bid farewell to the myriad techniques of distraction through which we had sought to absent ourselves from feeling. We journey, too, out of passivity toward participation. From the status of victims who bemoan our bad luck and dysfunctional families, we become actors in our interior life, acknowledging our complicity in the guilt or resentment we still harbour. Along the way, we begin to perform our passions, shouldering the risks of a life both passionate and responsible.

Stage One of the Journey: Patience

To receive the surprising gifts of the negative emotions, we need much patience. We will have to suffer them actively and in full consciousness. We will have to feel as bad as we feel. Patience trains us to savour our life; tasting our painful emotions rather than simply swallowing them.

Paying Attention

The pain of a negative emotion gets our attention. Patience arrests our flight from feeling, helping us stay attentive. Paying attention is a learned discipline and a developed skill. The ability to focus our attention on painful feeling sets us on the way of the negative emotions. As attention attunes us to the turmoil in our heart, we become aware of its acoustics.

A Question of Acoustics

In the Greek language listening and obeying share the same verbal root. In its most basic sense, obedience means not meek submission but careful listening. We cannot obey unless we first pay attention to what is being said. Patience and attention are ways that we listen to our life; they are modes of our obedience.

The Greek word for listening and obedience (akouein) also gives us the word acoustics. Acoustics refer to the factors in an environment that allow us to hear what is going on. Some buildings have acoustics that distort music and muddle public announcements. Some hearts, too, have bad acoustics; crackling static and the feedback of judgmental voices make it almost impossible to attend to one’s experience. For such a life, being patient and paying attention will be difficult. To set out on the healing way of the negative emotions demands we improve the acoustics of our heart. Only by listening well can we honour the laments and invitations being sounded there.

Stage Two: Naming the Emotions

Even though words may bend “emotions like sticks in water,” the need to name our passions is urgent and universal. Our ancestors in ancient Greece and Rome used names to personify the forces of the heart. Startled by the beauty of a poem or melody, they judged a muse had assisted the artist. An exceptionally gifted person was thought to be possessed by a genie; such a person was named a genius.

But malevolent forces, too, invade the heart. When people became furious, our ancestors believed, an enraging spirit—a fury—had invaded them. The Christian Bible recounts stories of demoniacs—persons possessed by some destructive power. Negative emotions erupted in such people, turning them into savages. To control the demon, one had first to find its name. Jesus confronted a deranged person who had been chained among the tombs, demanding of the demon within him: “What Is your name?” (Mark 5:9). When the demon had given up its name—“My name is Legion for we are many”—Jesus was able to cast our the harmful spirit. Muses, genies, furies, demons: powerful forces moving within us. Anger, guilt, shame, depression: volatile inner energies waiting to be named and tamed.

The discipline of naming our emotions offers a three tiered challenge. First, what is this disruptive feeling? Second, what assumptions lie concealed in the names we assign? Does anger already imply an unacceptable feeling? Does lonely carry an evaluation of inferiority? In this second discipline, we must identify the often hidden judgments accompanying the names we assign to feelings.

A third challenge concerns the origins of our emotions. We may know that we are angry, but have no idea why. We may feel ashamed of our body, but have no clue as to the source of this shame. Full naming includes awareness of the origins of our feelings.

The way of naming our emotions is fraught with peril. We frequently fool ourselves by assigning the wrong name or naively believing that simply naming a mood brings its cure. Yet naming is the only way through the thicket of emotion. Humbly, allowing for mistakes and self-deception, we continue to name the feelings that surge through us. Naming our emotions we are less their victims, even as we surrender the fantasy of becoming their masters. Gradually bringing these feelings to light, we see what we must do.

Stage Three: Taming the Emotions

Negative emotions confuse and frighten us. If our feelings are “wrong”, then surely we must master them. If emotions simply inflict pain, we should avoid them or at least numb ourselves to their injury. But if they offer both revelation and transformation, we will look for a more friendly means to tame their energy.

The central challenge in taming is to honour the adversary. We honour negative emotions by allowing ourselves to feel them and by taking the effort to name them. We honour disruptive feelings when we use their energy to support needed change. The arousals of guilt and anger, the distress of shame and even depression help purify our lives. Taming our emotions requires learning the disciplines that release their energy creatively. The way of the negative emotions takes us on the journey from arousal to action.

Maintaining Sanctuaries

Sanctuary is a place of safety. An emotional sanctuary is, by design, a place that allows us to fully experience dangerous feelings. But just as words may distort emotions, sanctuaries can become places to hide. The rituals of a religious institution may provide us with a hiding place to avoid our painful feelings. Refusing the demanding tasks of naming and taming, we instead bask contentedly in the ready-made sentiments of empty ceremony.

To tame our negative emotions, we seek out sanctuaries where we can genuinely experience our feelings. Effective sanctuaries appear in many guises: the comforting quiet of a chapel, the privacy of a counsellor’s office, the safe shelter of a hospital room. We find haven in a support group’s acceptance or in the solitude of confiding our thoughts in a personal journal.

The Warrior’s Sword

In the protected space of a sanctuary, we undertake a second task of taming: learning to distinguish healthy from unhealthy sentiments. Is the guilt we feel authentic or the residue of a distorted idealism that we must move beyond? Is our fear a response to current danger or the scar of an unhealed wound from the past?

Swords are dangerous but useful. In the hands of the healthy warrior, a sword cuts clean, severing authentic emotion from its distortions. The sword separates healthy shame from fear of sexuality; it severs anger from resentment and the lust for revenge. The sword’s edge pares away the jealousies that clutter our heart. Only when we know the difference between healthy and unhealthy emotion, can we trust our instincts and dare to act passionately.

Stage Four: Living With Passion

If the way of the negative emotions has no finish line, it does have a goal: to live with passion. The arduous disciplines of patience, naming, and taming teach us to trust our instincts. Knowing the difference between vindication and vengeance, we can afford to feel our anger. Having faced depression and discerned our grief, we can allow ourselves to mourn. No longer poisoned by toxic shame, we can dare to trust our emotional response.

Trusting our own responsiveness enables us to “nurture tiny desires.” Early in life, much energy goes into defending ourselves or accommodating to others’ demands. In the crush of duties and distractions, we lose track of our own best desires—deep longings still too fragile to make a claim on us. Grounded in no authority other than our slender hopes and tentative dreams, these tiny desires lie buried under the busy agenda of job and family and civic life.

Decades later, a crisis or illness or loss brings us to a halt. In the pause, our gaze is altered. We recognize longings we have long ignored.

Our wants often fly in the face of a familiar, well-developed social character, the solid shape of our responsible public persona. “The uneasiness they occasion” reminds us of passions long ignored. As we tame our negative emotions, we dare to listen again to tiny desires that show the way to a passionate future.

Eating Our Shadow

Living more comfortably with passion helps us reconcile ourselves with our shadow. The metaphor of shadow refers, of course, to the underside of our personality. These are the conflicted humours and less than noble thoughts that we prefer to keep in the dark. Our shadow includes the petty jealousies, the habits of sarcasm, the taking delight in another’s failure. The shadow is also the reverse side of our strengths. Good at initiating plans, we have difficulty following projects through to completion. Or we are able to see through unjust political structures quickly, but have little tolerance for anyone questioning our opinions or our motives.

Each of us casts a long shadow. Often we push these unsavoury parts of ourselves outward, projecting the dark outline of what we dislike in ourselves onto others. If we remain unaware of these projections, they cloud our relationships and encumber our life.

The shadow in us has its own history. In the energetic idealism and enthusiasm of youth, like Icarus we fly directly toward the sun. This assertive posture safely hides our shadow behind us. It is utterly out of our view as our eyes focus on the light ahead.

As we mature, the shadow swings out from behind us. Now the sun no longer blinds us. Out of the corner of our eye we catch sight of our shadow. From the angle afforded at mid-life we spot a sombre outline that looks disconcertingly familiar.

In a season of depression the sun swings behind us, leaving us face-to-face with our shadow. Our faults and limitations loom large; we cannot lose sight of them. Our shadow stretches out in front of us, absorbing our attention and obscuring our path.

As we touch the wounds of anger or guilt or shame on the way to healing, we begin, in the imagery of Robert Bly, to “eat our shadow.” More comfortable with our weaknesses, we can now consume what we had been projecting. More familiar with our faults, we have less need of earlier defenses. A mid-life executive recognizes that he has been successful precisely because he has been so driven. Working hard, he has pushed himself toward achievement and pushed others away. Now he notices the shadow of this strength—-the compulsiveness of his Life. Gradually he lets up on himself. He begins to eat his shadow.

Gradually we let go what we no longer need. Since our shadow is part of us, we cannot completely jettison it. But gathering it back into ourselves we find that our shadow, embraced, is strangely nourishing.

Holding Our Emotions

The way of the negative emotions returns us to the metaphor of embrace. Before starting on the way, control of our emotions and our world seemed imperative. Bur crossing the bridge of sadness we learned that “to follow Jesus [is] not to change the world but to embrace it.” Gradually we let go our ambitions of mastery, learning that losing control—as the Gospel predicted—brings us surprising gains.

Pledged to a God of desire, we do well to return to Scripture to taste again Yahweh’s anger and compassion, Jesus’ disappointment and joy. Here we learn again how to hold the negative emotions, patiently in touch with the mystery that transforms our troublesome feelings into fruitful passions.


WHITEHEAD, E.A. – WHITEHEAD, J.D., Shadows of the Heart, (U.S.A. 2003), 175-187.

Handling of Emotions

constructive handling of emotions




What physical reactions do I notice in myself? – blushing, sweating, lump in the throat, tears, dry mouth, shaking?

Am I marshalling my defenses?








What am I feeling?

Why am I feeling this way?

– objective reason for my feeling

– subjective reason for my feeling

What is this feeling telling me about


          the other to whom I am relating?

          the situation?










Do I accept that I am experiencing this feeling?

Do I accept it without labeling it as good or bad?

Do I take responsibility for it now?

Do I blame myself for experiencing it?

Do I accept it without blaming others for it?












Can I calmly look at the emotion and place it next to the values which I hold important in my life?

What does rational wanting tell about this feeling?

          Is it O.K. to express it?

          What are the consequences?

          What are the alternatives?













Do I decide according to what is good-in-itself or what is good-for-me?

Has Value got primacy over Need?

How will I integrate the feeling with reason?

What is my course of action?

          how much of my feeling to be expressed?

          how much of it to be suppressed or sublimated?







Personal exercise:

  • Analyse one of your recent emotional episode to see how you lived it:
    • the name of the emotion
    • Which part of your body was affected by it?
    • What were the thoughts in your mind?
    • How did you manage the situation and how do you evaluate your way of living your emotions.
  • If the same situation arises, what difference would you like to make in the way you acted?



Examples by parts of emotion


Parts of an Emotion







Heart beat rises, body gets tense


Quick action response



Heart beat rises

Suspended thoughts

Hands raised



Heartbeat (which way?)

Lingering feeling, no time limit

Protect self, cover, no contact (with what?)

Bad things


Heart rate increase

Spntaneous time limit


Party bad/good


Heart rate slows, goes up and stays there, more hyperventalating

Think about it too much, thinking starts to build up

Eyes look blank

Something that builds up


Heart rate goes up and down quicker

Happens too quickly (what is this like?)

More of a body flinch, or gasp

Sudden happening