Recently I was turned on to some great resources in the form of two books, Emotional Freedom and Positive Energy by Judith Orloff – her web site also has some excellent videos.
What I really like about Dr. Orloff’s work is its warmth along with its practicality.
While both books have the usual set of self assessment tests, and are filled with anecdotes and case studies from Dr. Orloff’s practice, they both also provide pragmatic and positive steps to achieve growth and a more fulfilling life, difficult and worthy goals in our current cultural climate.
In Emotional Freedom Dr. Orloff uses the concept of “transformation” of negative emotions as a basis for being happier and more fulfilled. This is a much better foundation in my opinion that beginning with the idea that something is fundamentally “wrong” with you; for example, you’re diagnosed or feel like you’re depressed.
The fact is that life is challenging and filled with emotional issues ; alternatively avoiding these issues leads to a disconnected existence of isolation which is equally challenging.
The impressive structure of the book addresses four dimensions of emotions that Dr. Orloff suggests must each be in balance for a harmonious existence: the physical biology, a spiritual meaning of one’s state of being, the energetic power that can deplete or revive you, and finally the psychology or sources of the various feelings that can overwhelm us at various times.
She deals with each of these aspects as she identifies seven main emotions, describes their effect on us, and provides concrete recommendations for transforming the negative states into their positive counterparts.
She refers to this as “alchemy” and for those who face challenging feelings in their daily lives, learning techniques to transform emotions is worth its weight in gold.
Particularly for men, who sometimes are not as adept at articulating or identifying what they are feeling, specifically naming both the negative and positive states is particularly helpful. Here are the seven transformations Dr. Orloff cover:
In each case, the negative conditions are thoroughly described and identified along with practical steps to transform them into their positive counterparts.
What I found particularly useful was merely the ability to pinpoint common causes or triggers for the negative states and then the payoffs that ensue when one successfully transforms them through positive steps.
In Positive Energy, and earlier book, Dr. Orloff covers similar ground but from the perspective of a series of therapeutic “prescriptions” which are actually best practices for daily life. This book also features interviews with famous people who have put these practices into action in their own careers or personal lives.
Another aspect of both books that I appreciated was the identification of how our energy or emotions can become sapped. Frequently I have thought “what’s wrong with me – why can’t I cope with what others seem to handle effortlessly?”
Dr. Orloff describes toxic people and relationships as “energy vampires” and provides suggestions for how to combat their negative effects.
She also identifies societal drains – such as “techno-despair” – which can overcome us as we feel overwhelmed by the complexities and demands of the many media with which we’re constantly assaulted. (My previous blog on the stresses of working with Microsoft software are a good example of techno-despair).
Part of the benefit of her descriptions is the “aha” moment when one realizes that one is not alone in feeling challenged by these kinds of experiences, and that there are solutions.
Though she is a medical doctor and a psychiatrist, Dr. Orloff also describes herself as an “intuitive” healer and strongly suggests that as we work with our emotions, we pay particular attention to what dreams may be telling us about our waking lives.
The way that I have used Emotional Freedom is to quiet myself when I feel agitated or overwhelmed and to notice the negative emotion that seems to have me in its grip; for example, as Dr. Orloff describes, the grocery store and a checkout line might frustrate me if I feel rushed. Taking a greater perspective, however, and focusing on being patient (and creating some space for myself internally) can allow me to not only negotiate the current circumstances, but feel better about my own capability to handle other issues going forward.
Either of these books provides a helpful set of practical suggestions for getting through challenging times and situations. Taken together, they are a resource a heartily recommend.