I have been learning a lot about emotions in the last few months, and beginning to appreciate them on a whole new level. The first secret of magic, as channeled by William Whitecloud is “Your Thoughts and Feelings Aren’t Real”. For a very long time, I have been unconsciously misinterpreting this principle, and I thought I would share my insights and realizations about it with you, so that you can perhaps use them to fast track your own understanding of this principle, and avoid the same silly mistakes I have made.
I dedicate this blog to my ex-fiancé Rusty Lynch – thank you for being such a kind, compassionate and patient teacher to such a recalcitrant, truculent and arrogant student. I love you, now and always. Whatever that means.
The thing I notice about all truly wise principles is that you can never just take them at face value – there is a lot more to them than what is immediately obvious. The alchemical premises were passed down for thousands of years in code, because wise men knew that fools would not take the time to fully appreciate what each principle actually meant, in all its paradox and complex simplicity, and would misinterpret the wisdom, to the detriment of themselves and others.
I have been one of these fools. I’m realizing now, after 16 years of study, that I am only beginning to reach an appreciation for what the alchemical principles actually mean, and how they are truly applied. And I’m seeing that, as with all great wisdoms, I could easily, and joyfully, spend a lifetime integrating them into my body, mind and soul. I invite you to do the same, if it calls you – it is a truly pleasurable and rewarding pursuit.
Anyway, so William teaches that your thoughts and feelings aren’t real. And one gets, very quickly, that what this really means is not that your thoughts and feelings don’t exist, but that they are not an expression of reality. In other words, you may feel angry now, but that does not actually relate to what you are experiencing; rather, it would be more accurate to say that it relates to your belief system; is in fact more of a memory of the past, rather than a true expression of what is happening here and now.
Simple example: A female child experiences violation during her formative years. In response to this she shuts down her innocence, for fear of being violated again. In adulthood, because she is now on the lookout for violation, she experiences it even where it is not. A person expresses an opinion, a friend communicates a difficult truth, someone raises their voice, and this person experiences all the emotions and thoughts that relate to that original violatory experience. To her, the “violation” now is as real as it was when she was a child. In reaction this sense of violation, she may leave situation after situation, hurt, wondering why this always happens to her, and why nobody ever understands her. To others, she just seems defensive, overly sensitive and difficult to work with.
This is what is meant by your thoughts and feelings aren’t real. Whatever else they are, they are NOT an accurate reflection of reality. They are more of a learned response, a pathological repetition of the past. This is why we experience the same kind of reactions, over and over again, though the circumstances of our lives may change. The point is, don’t use your thoughts and feelings to inform your actions in life – if you do, you will only recreate your childhood pain. Being lead by how you think and feel is akin to being a madman who insists that their delusion is reality.
So then, we can appreciate that our thoughts and feelings are not an expression of truth – but what I want to flag here is the half-wisdom that knowing this can lead to, one that I have been guilty of for years. You see, when you know your thoughts and feelings aren’t real, the tendency can be to give them no importance, little expression, and certainly no respect. The tendency can be to think, well, they’re not real, so I shouldn’t be feeling them, thinking them – I should banish them. And then the wounded child gets locked screaming in the basement and business goes on as usual upstairs, or seems to.
You see, in my half-wisdom, I didn’t think I was denying my emotions. I thought I was just being adult about them. I was calmly appreciating that they weren’t real and giving them no right of expression in my life or my consciousness. Now, this may have seemed like sanity to me, but really it is a rather psychotic form of self-control.
Because another principle of alchemy is that you can only create from true wholeness: a complete, honest full and magnificent appreciation of all aspects of yourself. This is what gives you mastery over your consciousness, and therefore life. When you resist parts of yourself, you diminish your sovereignty, because in shutting things out, you give them all the power, and they become the monster under the stairs, whose lurking darkness permeates the house, even though it is never mentioned.
The truth is always illusive. In appreciating one facet of her brilliance, we must always remember to remain blinded by the fullness of her magnificence. Like the Greek nymphs, we must chase her into the forest of our ignorance, and let her lead us onwards into the light of realization. We must be idiots of god. We must leave our cup empty enough to be continually refilled. Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, sprang spontaneously from her father’s mind, and remained virgin her whole life – never fully captured by man, never tied down by the ordinariness of mere understanding. Like water, the truth cannot be captured, for it is always true for it to keep on flowing. To appreciate her, we must cup her in the open hand of metaphor.
You could think of your thoughts and feelings, or the egoic side of your nature, or your humanness, as like children. Children can be infuriating, delightful, insightful and senseless. They unquestionably enrich a life. But would you let them run the household? Certainly not. Because it is the adults who have a bigger picture of what is going on – who can make decisions with a far greater good in mind than just the immediate desires of the kids.
So then the children should not be running the household, yes, we get that. But does that mean, once we find out that they have in fact been running the show, that we should lock them away, in the dark basement, as punishment for taking over? Of course not. There is no problem with kids being kids. The problem is not with them. It is with us. We just put them in the wrong role in our lives. We put them in charge of our strategic direction in life, and then, of course, they lead us astray. But it is not their fault that we put them in the position to lead us off course – it is ours.
The problem is simply positioning, not that there is anything wrong with any aspect of our consciousness. Whether you are someone who lets the kids run the household, and then wonders why there are no eggs for breakfast, and your life is a mess; or someone who banishes the unruly children to the basement, who shames them, who tries to deny their existence – either way you are simply mispositioning them. Your thoughts and feelings are not meant to run the show, most certainly, but neither should they be denied.
The whole time I was in relationship with Rusty, he kept telling me that I wasn’t in touch with myself. I did not understand this at the time. In fact, it frustrated me massively, because I didn’t get it. I didn’t know what it meant to be connected to myself, or what it would take to create the connection. Now, I think I begin to see a glimmer. I’ll have to tell you a story to explain:
A lot of my childhood was beautiful, fantastic and incredibly culturally varied. But I was also, on occasion, subject to various forms of violation. So when I developed my belief system in my formative years, I decided that life and people were inherently violating. Now, in my adult life, being with people can really freak me out. Especially in groups. When I’m with people I often feel scared, sad, in pain, or angry. Are these feelings an expression of reality? No. Are people inherently violating of me? No. But the feelings remain.
Now in the past, I would simply tell myself that my thoughts and feelings weren’t real and try to repress them; because of course they made no sense. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this didn’t work out. In fact, what it caused in my case was an unconscious projection of those thoughts and feelings onto others, who would then feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or even attacked in my presence. I, in turn, would then feel bad for making people feel bad, and then I would have another emotion to repress, which would then get projected onto others, who would feel more uncomfortable, and so the cycle would continue.
This dynamic was pointed out to me a few months ago, and it was very painful for me to see it in myself, because I felt powerless to stop it. Even though I knew when I was projecting my pain onto others I did not think I could do anything about it. Because I thought I had to heal myself, or at least cauterize the pain, before I would relate well with others, and I knew that this was an impossible task.
But I did not have to make the pain go away – I simply needed to feel it for myself. When I just started letting myself hurt, I found a double effect: not only was I no longer making others around me unhappy, but I was also in less pain. All my pain actually wanted from me was to be felt. Over time, the more I allowed myself to feel the richer my life became. My anger, my sorrow, my confusion, my doubt, my fear, when I let them free to run ragged through my consciousness, suddenly life was deeper, fuller, and more meaningful. My joy was more joyful. My pain was a deeply intimate connection with myself, for which I was grateful. When I let my “kids” out of the basement, they did indeed drive me crazy at times, but they also brought the light with them; an appreciation of life, and the slow glorious burn of falling in love with myself.
So then, I do invite you to take your thoughts and feelings out of the driver’s seat of your life, because they were never meant to give you direction, never meant to lead you. And, as a simultaneous gesture, I also encourage you to feel, think and experience what is going on for you. I invite you to give voice to your childishness, in all its senseless murmurings, and to allow it to deepen your appreciation of yourself, others and life. In compassion, the ability to truly be with suffering, yours and mine, lies great wisdom.
I leave you with this, a key insight for any true student of anything:
We use models to increase our understanding of ourselves, each other and the world around us. But we must never forget that the model that we use to increase our wisdom is only a model. In the 10th grade, I learned about atoms, with nuclei, and electrons and charges, and using this model, I was able to get a feel for the way things interact at a molecular level: It helped me to appreciate basic chemistry. But then, soon after, I learned that this whole model of what an atom looks like, and its component parts, was only a story told me so that I could relate to chemical reactions. It in no way represented the truth of what an atom really is or looks like, or even the way it behaves.
So is also true of the structures in our consciousness. We may define aspects of ourselves as ego, soul, inner child, Id, subconscious, super-conscious, etc. But we must never forget that the separation implied when we create these models for greater understanding is completely arbitrary. There is no true delineation in your consciousness between your ego and your soul. You are all one. All of it is you: good and bad, ugly and magnificent, wise and foolish. When you deny one aspect of yourself you are murdering all of yourself. You are not compartments. You are everything.
When we can embrace this, we move closer to what some people call self-love, but is actually just wholeness. And from this wholeness, true power unfolds.