When a person or situation upsets us, we have three ways we can respond: Express, suppress or watch. Only one of these three works.

The bad news is that few of us choose the right response. The good news is that consistently choosing the right way of responding puts us on a glide path to experiencing real, sustained joy in our lives. I’ll tell you how later on, after describing the two responses that DON’T work.

What’s emotional upset?

First, let me explain what I mean by emotional upset so we’re on the same page. It’s how you feel after your boss lobs a passive aggressive comment your way about your work performance; or how you feel after seeing your girlfriend talking with her ex at a party; or how you feel when your husband calls you an idiot for missing the deadline to sign your daughter up for soccer. You get the drift.

What happens in each of these and millions of other examples is that we feel a disturbance inside. That disturbance can be characterized as a field of energy that has been aroused. It’s energy that we’ve stored, for decades in many cases, in our lower selves that wants to flow upward.

The soccer mom explodes

Let’s use the idiot/soccer mom sign up example to explain the three ways she can respond to this energy being aroused in her. The first is to express. What does that mean? It means that she blows up with all the vitriol she can muster at that SOB husband of hers. “If I wasn’t so busy working because your dumb, lazy ass can’t find a job that comes close to paying even HALF of our bills, maybe I’d do a better job of looking after our kids!” In other words, she lets him have it.

How does that work inside of her? This part is crucial so lean in here. What happens first is the husband’s words stir up the energy in mom’s lower self.

Immediately after that, a second, different energy comes into play. It’s the energy that reaches up to her consciousness/seat of self and tries to pull that consciousness down into that lower energy. Once that second energy succeeds in yanking mom’s consciousness downward and into the “fight,” it’s all over…except for the shouting, literally.

So what happens to that lower energy as World War III rages on? It goes out from down below, but not up. This is what we mean by blowing off steam. We just let it rip.

Blowing up is good, right? Wrong

And many believe that that is the best course of action. “Better to let it out than hold it in!” The problem is, expressing doesn’t do anything about fully releasing the energy that’s stuck there in the first place. It just creates a habit pattern so that that second type of energy continually wins in its quest to lure the conscious self into the battles taking place down south in the lower self. So no, just letting it rip is not the best way to respond.

The second way people respond is by suppressing. You know this one. Here’s how mom would suppress in our example: “Oh, Bob’s just tired from a tough day at work. He didn’t mean anything by it.” With this response the energy just burrows in deeper and tighter…Until the day mom explodes like Krakatoa and goes full Lorena Bobbitt on Bob or rushes upstairs, packs a few bags, storms out and is never heard from again…by Bob or the kids. This is obviously the worse of these first two responses.

A note about Michael Singer

Quick detour then I’ll head back. I know this all may sound like spiritual ‘woo-woo’ gobbledygook, using words like ‘consciousness’ and ‘lower energy,’ etc., but 1. These concepts come straight from the teachings of Michael Singer, which, far from being made up on the fly, derive from five decades of experiencing and studying concepts that have been taught for nearly 3,000 years; and 2. They make absolute sense. As I’ve suggested in many previous articles, I can’t recommend highly enough studying Singer’s teachings. Go to Soundstrue.com for his talks or Amazon for his bestselling books The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. The winning response is behind…drum roll please…door number three, watch. What does it mean to respond by watching? This gets pretty in depth but it’s worth going there. Why? Because this process of watching lies at the heart of all spiritual growth.

How our soccer mom watches

I’ll explain watching by going back to our example. Bob calls mom an idiot. Mom feels the lower energy aroused. She very shortly thereafter feels the pull of that second energy trying to suck her consciousness into the fight. The only real work involved for mom, and everybody else practicing this, occurs in that moment of pull. Instead of allowing herself to be pulled down, mom immediately places all of her focus on relaxing her entire body, especially her stomach and chest area. She simultaneously leans away from those energies.

Once she has done that, all mom has to do is watch that energy disturbance in her lower self. “Bob called me an idiot for forgetting to sign Lydia up for soccer.” She just watches the feeling that arouses. She does this without judging it. Without getting involved with it. Where is she watching from? From her seat of self/consciousness, while leaning away.

So again, the only real work involved is to relax and lean away from the tendency/energy that wants to suck you down into the vortex of whatever emotional disturbance is taking place. In our example it’s anger. But it could also be emotions/feelings of jealousy, envy, fear, worry, disappointment and many more.

Knowing there are two selves involved

It’s critical to point out what this concept presumes; namely, that there are two entities involved here. 1. The egoic/conditioned self that feeds off of the drama these energy disturbances provide. And 2. The real you. The conscious self that doesn’t want anything to do with your inner soap operas.

The problem for most people is they don’t even realize they have this real, conscious self that can do the watching. They assume they are all egoic self so their only options are getting involved with the disturbing energy or suppressing it.

Step one on the spiritual path is realizing you are comprised of these two entities. Step two, which is a lifetime of work, is letting go of that egoic self so that the conscious self is the only thing driving the car of your life.

The key is getting the energy to flow up

Back to the energy. What happens when we simply relax and watch it? The energy is loosened and flows up and out of us. And that is the true meaning of letting go of ourselves. All those hurts, jealousies, fears, sensitivities…when they arise in our lower selves and we relax, lean away and watch, rather than get involved with them…they rise up and out of us.

And what happens when we do that over and over, for months and years, and remove those blockages that prevent our energy from flowing smoothly upward? We feel great. We also feel more present because there’s less egoic self to pull our consciousness away from the moment and into the dramas that fuel it.

Why is there less egoic self? Because we’ve let go of it. The egoic self is emotional baggage we’ve thrown off the plane, allowing us to fly through the sky lighter and with more ease.

The takeaway

So what does this all add up to? First, that expressing or suppressing when faced with emotional upset does nothing to let go of the energy in your lower self that wants to come up and out of you.

Second, and most important, it should be apparent by now that emotional disturbances are actually opportunities for us to let go of our baggage. It’s hard to let go of this energy unless it is aroused. So the next time you get mad or jealous or envious, etc., try to look at it as a positive. Then relax, lean away and watch that energy as it rises up and out of you.

It’s not easy, especially in the beginning. Why? Because we’ve been either expressing or suppressing our entire lives. Like learning the violin, calculus or French, doing this successfully takes practice. And commitment.

But make no mistake: Letting go of the egoic self is the most important work any human can perform. Because the net result of clearing out all that emotional garbage we all have is to allow us to access and eventually become the brilliant, wise and, most important, compassionate being that resides in all of us.