Freeing Ourselves From Emotional Cycles

by Zhi Pai, James Grant - 18th November 2012

Repeating Situations or emotions can be traced back to a source. This source is the seed for a repeating cycle of events. We try to do things differently, but we keep finding ourselves back on the same old low, facing the same old challenges. Why? Why are we drawn back to these moments?


Why does this always happen to me? Why is this happening again? Why am I doomed to repeat the same loop? We all face these questions at some time or another. We become frustrated that we cannot break out of emotional and situational patterns. Our responses seem distorted, often overreacting, and we do not know why. However, there is good news - these cycles of repeated experience follow a pattern, and there is a way to be free from them.

Our mind can distort our memory of reality

Firstly, we must recognise that our minds are very clever. Reflecting on memories, our minds can make a summer seem endless, glorious; a golden age. They can bestow sainthood on a normal person, or condemn them for imagined sins. They can polish and shape what we remember until our memories are a fiction, a fantasy. Selective memories can distort what we know of our past out of all recognition.

Our mind hides thoughts from us

Our minds are so clever that they hide our most painful memories from us. We cannot even remember that we have forgotten them, the protection is so complete. Unfortunately, the effects of these painful memories still remain. These forgotten, hidden memories draw us into their orbit, like the huge mass of a planet traps a comet. We are seemingly fated to be drawn back to the same situations, experiencing the same pain and frustrations over and over again; every time a little worse.

Reclaiming these memories is possible

However, we are not doomed to forever repeat history. By drawing back the curtain and revealing the memories that remain hidden, we can release the emotions and be free from living in their shadow, their gravity and their orbit. We can reclaim the parts of our being that are hidden away from us, moving slowly towards completeness and liberation.

We will face fear in this process

When we undertake such a process, it is understandable that we will afraid. We will face questions like: "What if we remember the pain and it overwhelms us?" "What if this destroys us?" "What if it causes us to lose our mind?" These questions are natural, normal and understandable. They are our minds being domineering, well meaning, but over protective. These memories will not destroy us if we remember them. In fact, they damage us more when they are hidden.

We should not force ourselves

The process should not be forced. We should undertake this quest of self discovery in our own time and at our own pace. When we start to understand the principles behind the cycles of emotion, it is natural to become overzealous, to try and share the discovery of this new method with others. However, it is a very deep personal quest - anyone undertaking it needs to come across it at the right time.

We should not force others

Do not try and force other people to start this process. If commenced for the wrong reasons, or if someone is not ready within themselves, as this can be damaging and cause instability. We should focus on our own healing and growth, and in time, we will be able to help others through our example.

We will experience strong emotion in this process

By its very nature, the process of uncovering our past, and releasing hidden emotion will face us with many strong emotions. We must be prepared to observe these emotions. Through being aware that these strong emotions will occur, we can prepare ourselves. We can be ready to allow them to pass through us and out of us. There is a piece of writing in Frank Herberts book 'Dune' which can be both a rock and inspiration in this process. It is called 'The Litany Against Fear'.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Methods for maintaining balance

When feelings overwhelm us, there are many ways to rebalance. Long walks and creative pursuits like art, as well as methods such as esoteric meditation not only give us a means to deal with these emotions, but they help us process the emotions more quickly.

The answer will come from within, and our own quest.

The resolution to our repeating cycles, our discomfort and our search for our lost memories can only come from within us. We have to be prepared to face painful, hard truths about our past. No one who is able to simply give us the answer will be willing to do so, though they may guide us. Shortcutting the process will mean that the journey to the answer itself is lost. The journey prepares us for the answers that we are seeking, and teaches us many valuable things about ourselves.

How we can undertake this quest - writing.

There is a powerful tool that we can use to assist this process: writing. We can keep a journal, a notebook or a diary near us when we are investigating our memories, or when we are in bed. By writing down a stream of our thoughts and realisations, we release them, quantify them and can observe them.

The process of writing allows us to untie the complex knot of memory. It makes things that seem too large and complex much smaller and simpler to understand. When we are writing, related ideas and forgotten memories will naturally emerge. However, to get to this point, it can take a while, we must not rush. We must be patient and record what our mind is ready to reveal to us at the time.

The nature of the pattern - like a tree

Emotional cycles in our lives grow much like a tree. They have a seed, the first time we experienced the emotion. This first situation we found ourselves in often occurs when we are children. When we are children, we are too young to understand the context of the situation, and too immature to be able to come to terms with the pain that overwhelms us. It is then that our minds block the painful memory, and the cycle begins.

Like a tree, this cycle grows through our lives. The next time we experience a similar situation, we carry the intensity of the pain from the seed into it. We react more strongly than we should to the situation, and we experience an emotion with a similar feel, a similar signature. Over our lives, this cycle repeatedly occurs. Each time it occurs, the draw to the situation becomes stronger, the emotional signature becomes more complex and the pain becomes more acute. We try and avoid the emotions in many ways, but they keep coming back, until we are so tired of this situation, we finally stop running from the demons, and face them.

In the same way that we cannot easily see the exact spot where a tree was seeded, we cannot simply see the exact spot where the cycle began. We have to follow a process, tracing the pattern back, until we find the situation.

Finding the leaves, the symptoms and the emotional signature

We must start at the leaves, the most recent manifestations of the emotion. We observe how we feel, the nature of the emotions we are feeling. This is very important. To find the seed of the cycle, we must intimately know the nature of symptoms of the cycle. We must introspect and analyse the situations we find ourselves in. We must take stock of our emotions, especially where we are emotionally overreacting to the situation at hand.

Misdirection: Forgetting the emotional signature.

Our mind will try and conceal the source of the cycle from us. One trick our minds use is to a different, painful situation that we do remember as the cause of the cycle. However, if we analyse both the emotional signature and the painful situation carefully, we will often discover that they do not share the same emotional signature. It is important to note that the root nature of the cycle does not change from its inception to its current state. We may have more than one cycle occurring within us, but each situation that generates an emotional response should be dealt with separately.

Tracing the cycle to its source.

Once we have understood the most recent situation, we reflect on the previous time that we felt a similar signature. Over and over again, we progress backwards into our past. We are tracing from the leaves, to the branches, to the trunk of the cycle. We must keep searching, until we find the first situation that we can remember.

Misdirection: False beginnings

At this point, there is another misdirection performed by our mind. The first situation we remember is not the seed. This situation we can remember is the sapling, the new growth of the cycle. From this point, it becomes a little harder to remember the previous situation, but the obstacle is not insurmountable.

The false beginning and what hides behind it.

The first situation we can easily remember is often very dramatic, and easy to discern. We will be stuck at this point. However, the seed experience is easy to discern. The seed experience is often not as dramatic. It can be a seemingly trivial event. However, to our past child self, who knows no context, the anguish, pain and frustration can be very intense.

Finding the hidden situation.

When we are searching for the seed situation at this point, we need to look for small, seemingly insignificant events. The first situation can be subtle, small. If we become unfocussed, or unable to find anything, we must return to our previous analysis of the emotional signature.

How to know when the seed is discovered

When we discover the seed situation, there is often a deep release of emotion. Common manifestations of the emotional release seem to be crying, or laughing. However, sometimes physical pain, coughing and other manifestations of the release can occur. The feeling that the seed has been discovered is unmistakable, and there is no ambiguity or uncertainty. If we feel uncertain about the situation we remember, it is likely that we have not found the seed yet.

Techniques for reconnecting: comfort or displacement

There are a number of methods that can be used to help release the blocked emotion when we discover it. Visualising our adult self being physically in the situation with our child self can be very profound. We can hold the hand of the child in pain, hug them, or simply tell them that everything will turn out alright. Another powerful method is to visualise our adult self, powerful, experienced and knowledgeable, standing in the place of the child. We can bear the pain, the emotion, and spare the child of its suffering.

The conclusion of the process

When we find the seed, it is an unmistakable experience. The emotional release is tangible. There is often a certain degree of exhaustion or burst of energy. After writing our experience with this release, we will feel a degree of closure, resolving. We will find that we are also tired, and will easily fall into a very restful sleep.

After the conclusion of the process

Once we have released this seed situation, we will no longer find ourselves in the same situations again. We become free from their orbit. If a similar situation does occur, we will observe that our reactions are different. We will no longer find ourselves overreacting. We will be more connected and able to deal with the situations as they present themselves to us.

Multiple cycles

There will undoubtedly be more than one cycle in our experiences. When we seem to be trapped by another, different cycle, we can use the same process to find its root. There are many layers of pattern, many cycles overlaying each other. Over time, we gradually polish them away, becoming more and more free each time we find a new seed and reconnect with the hidden parts of our past that are locked away.

Other methods

There are other methods that can assist us to uproot these cycles of experience. This method is the simplest to communicate in written form. The author recommends undertaking esoteric meditation practice under the guide of an attained master. Though there are innumerable methods, the author recommends the esoteric meditations and dharma rite services of the Chinese Esoteric School of Buddhism. These methods can be learned and applied, irrespective of personal religious beliefs. They have been instrumental in the author's personal journey, leading to the publication of this document.

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