The “Non-Expression of Negative Emotions”

As a “school student” I often heard “teachers” bandy about the phrase “the non-expression of negative emotions” as a behavior to work toward.  What are negative emotions?  The list is familiar to anyone with breathing lungs and a beating heart:  guilt, resentment, anger, impatience, jealousy, hatred, self-pity, etc.  You get the gist.  We identify these feelings and work to “not express” them lest we send out coarse vibrations to the world and hamper the soul-making machinery going on inside us.

Taking this idea a step further, “school” also preaches that “negative emotions are not real.”  I struggled with that, too, for I can waste a great deal of time stewing in the “not real.”  Somehow the idea of the “non-expression” of “not real” emotions only made them more visceral, prominent and consuming.  Taking it up another notch, we were also to work on “not expressing” both internally and externally, i.e., not through thought, posture, facial expression or conversation.  Well, in practice, rather than a doorway to freedom, it became a recipe for insanity.

“Non-expression” coupled with “self-observations” started imprisoning me behind the navel-gazing bars of neurosis, anxiety and self-judgment.  So my burning question to teachers was, “What does it mean to ‘non-express’ and how does an aspiring soul do it without becoming consumed by the presiding emotion?” Many “students” broached this question. “Teachers” responded that “non-expression” is NOT suppression; yet they never could define what it is and/or how to do it.  So what did many of us “students” do?  Suppress!  It doesn’t take a trained professional to know what that does to a psyche.

Before my “school” days, I had stumbled into therapy. Through that I began to see “emotions” as different energies — some light and nourishing, some heavy and consuming. I’d learned that these energies could be transformed when not desperately shoved into some psychic dark corner.  I’d discovered that the heavier and more consuming feelings (i.e. the ones we want to deny) were usually vying for attention because they had messages.  I learned to listen; I learned that my need for expression was healthy, and ultimately expression is what transforms  “negative emotions”; expression, I learned, quiets the inner cacophony that blocks you from hearing the message beneath the feeling. When you can hear them, the messengers often inspire action. (Little wonder “school” wouldn’t want its minions to be inspired into action.)

While in my school stupor, despite this powerful prior knowledge, I fell into judging myself for needing to express “negative emotions”.  I stopped recognizing my crucial messengers and started feeling crazy and stuck. The crazier I felt, the less I trusted myself, the more I steeped in self-judgment (i.e. a “negative emotion”) and the more I turned to “teachers” for guidance. I desperately wanted to understand this idea of “non-expression”, and yet I never fell completely asleep to one messenger. This voice consistently asked, “At what point can I trust myself again? ‘Teachers’ can’t follow me around all day making every little decision.” And the “negative emotion” of resentment towards “school” for this teaching started permeating those dark corners and shedding light on a justified anger.  Anger announced, “This institution is hijacking your life, and you are letting it happen.”

Now that I’ve been out of the cult, I see that this “non-expression of negative emotions” idea, however real in its true form, is used by this cult as a powerful tool of manipulation. You begin to doubt your perceptions, therefore yourself. You fear that your “negative emotions” are sending “coarse vibrations” out into the world and attracting unwanted events and misfortune. This fear feeds on itself and induces an emotional paralysis and does indeed attract unwanted events into your life — events that are a result of your growing insecurity.  Your perceived need for school grows.  A perfect circular prison.

“Teachers” also warned us to look out for  “suspicious I’s” under the guise of helping us see that suspicion is not helpful to us – it keeps us from opening our hearts and lives to new experiences.  But perhaps these messengers, Suspicion and Anger, are rising up because there is something to be suspicious of and angry about.

If you realize all this, you can see how “school” needs to paint the given “negative emotion” as shameful.  If we honored Anger and Suspicion, no one would stay in school, pay the tuition, put on parties, prepare refreshments, repair and upgrade teacher-owned houses in New Hampshire, spend precious free time recruiting new students, etc.  It would all cease to exist, as would the lifestyles of those at the top.

Anger and Suspicion can be loyal guardians that say “no” to vultures and parasites, when embraced and channeled rightly. They can protect your energy and sanity and life. Ironically, my “suspicious I’s” often began rattling around loudly when hearing the term “the non-expression of negative emotions.” All I can say is that when I finally listened to these messengers, they saved my sorry ass.

11 thoughts on “The “Non-Expression of Negative Emotions”

  1. Cara says:

    What a clear insight you have into this!
    I found that after I left, there were things implanted in my psyche that I had the wrong names for and the wrong responses to.

    Since I left, I also have done a lot of work around the issue of shame so it is interesting to me that you bring it up. Shame can be defined as feeling unloved and unworthy. I just looked at the dictionary (school was always so big on dictionary definitions) and I found:
    a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.

    In working with my daughter, who has reactive attachment disorder, we have been trying to deal with her anger and have discovered that underneath the anger is either shame, sadness or fear or all three.

    This is an excellent article on shame:

    Certainly, shame was used in school to keep us small, fearful and helpless. The more I think about it, the more I realize exactly how much our emotions were manipulated. It still makes me furious!

  2. Bullfrog says:

    Cara brings up the words unloved and unworthy. I’ll add to that list the word “inadequate.” It was frequently drilled into me that I was inadequate, insufficiently evolved, not up to the standard of school, indeed that I owed “school.” You know, there was a point near the end of my stay in “school” that I said in class that I wanted a convertible, and Robert said that I may not get a convertible until I had sufficiently understood and repaid my debt to “school.” In my last year of “school” I went and got a convertible without Robert’s permission. I should have got license plates that said: “PS FU BOB”

    The use of manipulation was huge. Sharon is one of the all-time greats at manipulating people. Robert is no piker in that department, either. We were all manipulated, and healing for that may take the rest of our lives. Indeed, shortly after I left school I started to see a therapist. We talked about “school”, and the various ways we were manipulated. Sleep deprivation being a common tactic in cults, and one that was used in great extent here. Also, the use of potential relationships within the cult to keep people bound to the leaders. After a few sessions along this line she said flatly: “You have PTSD.” She wanted to put me on medication, but I didn’t want to do that.

    I think that PTSD is probably over-diagnosed, but the point is this: the effect of the various lines of work that engrossed our lives was not unlike living through a war. And here I don’t mean the war between our various I’s. I mean the war between our (at the time) young and healthy and vigorous lives, and Sharon’s wants. The maddening stress that this produced, and the sacrifice of our relationships with jobs, family, girlfriends, our deepest wishes, and even the basic human need for privacy. For me, the lack of privacy in CR is an issue that I still have nightmares about.

    I’ve been emailing one of my fellow classmates, and the idea came up about having a graduation ceremony for all of the people that have “left school.” She said that we should all wear Groucho glasses which isn’t a bad idea. I can’t help but think about that scene at the end of Wizard of Oz (the movie) when the debunked wizard gives the Strawman a diploma, the Cowardly Lion a medal, and the Tin Man a watch in the shape of a heart. We finally all get what it was we came to school for in the first place. That would be a bit of closure.

  3. Robert..... :) says:

    The non-expression of Negative Emotions….
    where have I heard this before, hmmm, let me think….
    Ahhh Yes, my father! And many other quote AUTHORITIVE figures, that, are supposedly suppose to have wisdom from the ages.

    Messengers of Pain! Is what i would title them.
    Basically asking, requiring, suggesting, DEMANDING… that you STUFF whatever confusion, questioning, conflict inside and be silent…stuff it deep… into your muscles… in the far regions of your brain.. Sweep it under the eternal, universal rug, like all good, rational, respectful CHILDREN do. And recognize that you simply haven”t had enough LIFE experience…. to KNOW, as they do.
    TO OBEY! To be just a cow in the herd and follow the leader off the edge of his or her egoic mountain.

    To be a victim…..
    for is it not obvious enough, that silence is also suffering. is this not what this statement is asking. Suffer it for the greater good of mankind. Be a maryter!
    The creator of all things…. only speaks to those who understand sacrafice.
    It is to say , that the universal soul is selective.

    it basically is dehumanizing.
    Don”t even get me started! The battered wife should suffer, the beaten child, the one who suffers from domestic violence, segragation, racism!
    Our entire culture would be no where, and for a long time was no where…
    for many of the above mentioned had no law to protect them. So i suppose… the term up in arms, the riots…. all of our nasty history….
    ………… would have just changed…..
    if we had just applied, ” the non-expression of Negative emotion ”
    enough with the DENIAL of human emotion…. VIA… what I call SPIRITUAL By PASSING!
    ( Oh Honey, I know its hard when you get your ass kicked daily in high school. But if you just recognize that bully probably has a mean father and he suffers too, well maybe you could have compassion. Your black eye will heal. And don’t forget GODS WATCHING, and he loves you and he wants you to FORGIVE. )

    The I know better than You…. because of… blah blah blah blah.
    and you should just forgive and think on a higher level.

    So … with all that. Hear are some facts folks.
    Anger… turned inwward causes Depression.
    Anger itself… is a proven natural defense mechanism.. ( to protect )
    As is FEAR…. a natural… to protect.
    These are in us on a viseral level… since the beginning of time.

    Some other facts… shame, blame, regret are basically useless emotions.
    Shame for example…. what is shame? why do we feel it?

    We feel shamed when we do not fit into the societal norm. It is programed in us, based on all the beleifs we have based on everything that was said to be acceptable… to the masses.
    Many people confuse shame and being remorseful. The difference is we feel remorse when we hurt. we feel shame when we dont fit into what is expected from the quote… tribe. Because we have been programmmed to want to fit in.

    The non expression of emotion… is just ( todays ) spiritual myth… told to control ( you ) or the masses… into doing what your told you should be doing… according to what someone else beleives. Hmmm… F. That

    Heres my take on…. soul, intuition, the knowing, the know, the guru… the way.
    Face and embrace your feelings… its what makes you… human, be human. One of the most important aspects of being human… that pulls us, leads us, and even saves us…. is our curiosity.
    Our curiosity, leads us to question, create change, muster the courage to find out what is on the other side of whatever,,, reality we r processing.
    Our curiosity led us across a flat ocean and we did not … fall off… as
    MOST beleived we would.
    Our curiosity of what happiness feels like… leads us out of our saddness. And what REAL love feels like…gives us the will to heal a broken heart and love again. Or leave a relationship that is harmful. Or STAND… when someone tells us to sit and just accept.

    So… Dont Listen To The Receptionist.
    No one here…. has SPEED DIAL…. to the almighty universal consciousness. However… each of us, do have direct lines.
    HELLO… HELLO…. are you listening? ONLY…. SShhhhhhhhhhh! When u urself want to hear and discipher what quote… SOUL…message is coming in or through.

    Hello… hello…
    whats the difference between… the universe talking to you…, or you… talking to yourself.
    The universe…. doesnt SPEAK… MEAN!

  4. Hello Out There!

    Thanks for all of your comments today.

    Cara, due to some technical snaffoo, I haven’t been able to read the article, but thanks for attaching. I hope to access it when I figure out what’s happening.

    As for shame, I remember specifically Robert making some reference to something called “essence shame”, as though it was something to strive for. I never did find out exactly what “essence shame” is, but one night we were discussing Martin Luther King and how much he accomplished within less than 40 years — I think he was 39 when assassinated, or 38. Anyway, we were marveling at his young age coupled with wisdom and leadership, when suddenly Robert said, “Aren’t you ashamed?” It was one of those moments when I woke up — albeit briefly. “Ashamed,” I remember thinking, “Why? Because I’m not Martin Luther King?” So maybe that was his example of “essence shame”, i.e. another tool of emotional manipulation.

    Bullfrog, I LOVE the idea of a graduation. What a great way to wrap up this crazed chapter!

    And, of course, inadequacy was a big one. Who among us didn’t feel increasingly less adequate as our school tenures wore on — no graduation in sight … ever. Indentured servitude to Sharon til death do we part.

    F that! Let’s graduate! Who will hand out the diplomas?

    Robert, Thanks, I knew you’d have a lot to say about the “Non Expression of Negative Emotions.” Don’t listen to the receptionist …. 😉 I can’t tell you how funny it is to see our illustrious leader Robert (the other Robert) as a receptionist, rather than the receptor. Tee hee.

    Keep the comments coming, folks!

  5. river of joy says:

    When we have our graduation ceremony, will we send out invitations to our friends who are still in the group? Surely they wonder sometimes if they will ever graduate……

  6. I like the way you think … we should take pictures of each graduate receiving his/her “diploma” and send those out, too. Smile and wave!

  7. Abe says:

    I totally agree with you, Gentle Soul, the extent of the psychological and emotional manipulation is truly mind boggling. You can’t see it when you’re in the group, but once you’re out for awhile, you can look back with more objective vision and start to see what was really going on. Then you say, “Oh my God, my God, what really happened to me?”

    You bring up some excellent insights about the true value of our so called “negative” emotions and the detrimental effect of non-expressing them. I thought your insights into the messenger nature of emotions like suspicion and anger are spot on. There were so, so many times when I was suspicious or angry about some help that was given me or something that happened in class. Because of the teachings, I would chalk it up to denying force in myself, which, of course, was something we needed to struggle with in order to evolve. As you so rightly stated, you start mistrusting yourself, and then your ability to think and feel for yourself is impaired and you turn to them for “help” with every aspect of your life. Boom, they have you just where they want you – a good student, malleable and easy to manipulate. A good student who will serve the higher aims of “school”. (And we all know that the higher aims of “school” always translates into more students and more money for Sharon, with an occasional theater project thrown in to feed Sharon’s vanity).

    So you start to feel depressed as a result of all this repression of “negative” emotions….. Boom, they have you, because of course you’ll ask them for help with this. They will tell you to non-identify with your emotions, separate, and increase your efforts at self observation. They will tell you that you have a negative attitude towards struggle. They will tell you that your work on yourself is insufficient. They may even say you have a being defect or a flaw in your essence that must be worked on to be transformed. What the teachers tell you will cause you to distrust your True Self even more. A perfect circular prison, Gentle Soul said – again, what a spot on insight! I thank God everyday that I escaped, and I’m so glad all of you have, too.

    To add to what you say, I want to bring in two other “ideas” that were taught that feed into this discrediting of the one’s Self: There is no such thing as self esteem and no such thing as stress.

    We were told that these were modern inventions of 20th century psychologists. Robert said they were totally false and unreal concepts created by therapists to help perpetuate their practices. He said the emphasis on these two concepts, stress and self esteem, has contributed the malaise of modern society. The emphasis on self esteem for public school students, for instance, has undermined the whole educational process. Teachers don’t want to give bad grades because a “D” might have a detrimental effect on the child’s self esteem. And in sports, all the kids now get plaques for participating, whether they did well on not. All these sorts of politically correct activities are contributing to the decline of American society as a direct result of this “false” notion of self esteem.

    As for stress, again, this is a totally made up concept from the 20th century. It’s unreal, he said, it’s come about because we are a lazy society who does not want to work or struggle. At this point, he would talk about some sort of bed where you just lie there and you don’t have to do anything, – food, the bathroom, everything you might need is right there for you. No effort required. I don’t recall this story exactly, I believe it was from Gurdgieff’s writings. This no effort required existence is what most people want, Robert would say. No Stress. No Effort. But it’s a false notion he would say, in order to evolve we must struggle, and that involves real effort and real work.

    There we are again, back to struggle, we merry few who are interested in real ideas and are struggling to evolve. We are salmon swimming upstream! We are brave and heroic souls going against the tides of modern society! We are points of light in a sea of increasing darkness! We are like Noah and the Ark, preserving real ideas amidst the declining world around us! Yes, aren’t we great! Aren’t we special! Aren’t we fabuous!

    OMG. I still find all the rhetoric disturbing. Notice how on one hand, our confidence in our ability to think and reason was brought down; and then on the other hand, our vanity was feed a quite tasty meal.

    Going back to the concepts of stress and self esteem: In reality, “school’ was discredits two significant concepts, which effectively blind us to the overt psychological manipulation of “teachers”.

    First, through the systemic interference of our own confidence to think and reason for ourselves, which I think is a key component of healthy self esteem. Think about all the ideas or distortions of the ideas that ate away at our confidence and self esteem: A higher level is not able to understand a lower level; we’re effectively one brained beings until we reach level 4 and become a conscious man, the analogy of Man as a slug in Beelzebub, etc . And don’t forget the public humiliations in class, certainly a blow to one’s self esteem. “School” erodes our self esteem and thereby makes us dependent on them for help with every aspect of our life.

    And second, through the creation of inordinate amounts of artificial stress: financial pressures, time pressures, lack of sleep, life aims, work aims, doing what “it” doesn’t want to do, etc. I certainly was tired all the time and had so many “aims” and exercises to do daily: I never had time for deeper reflection. I couldn’t think straight, it was an endless litany of “just get me through today, just get me through today” during my entire time in “school”. I’m sure we could all write paragraphs and paragraphs about the stresses of being in the cult.
    If we as students were still in our right minds, we would question why we felt so “stressed” all the time, or why our self esteem seemed lower since we first came to school. But these lines of examination and self reflection were effectively closed off for us, in part because the concepts of stress and self esteem had been discredited.

    My wish is more sincere and gentle souls will see the light and escape from this circular prison. May God bless all of us in our Journey to our true Home.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Regarding my earlier comments on the circular prison, negative emotions and psychological manipulation by our alleged “teachers”:

    We learned many ideas in “school”; it was truly a 2nd education. We learned some profound truths, had many fine experiences, and got to know some really bright and interesting people during our time there. And then are so many things that are so clearly and blatantly wrong, off base, and antithetical to any kind of growth of consciousness.

    Now that we have left the fold and graduated, we need to look back and digest our experiences, to extract the fullest possible profit from our “educational experience”. We must ask ourselves what rings true from the ideas, what’s distorted, what’s truly off base. I think many ideas put forth by Gurdgieff were partial truths and distorted, for instance. At the end of his life, Ouspensky said we must recreate the system for ourselves. And that is in a sense what we need to do – ask ourselves what was really going on there, what was true about what we were taught and what was clearly not, and all the shades of gray inbetween.

    As I write this, Aretha is singing “Chain of Fools” in the background. How Ironic. It brings back a memory of the Boston band playing at a Christmas party in NY. This is a fond memory for me, I thought the band was really fine and I liked dancing to them. I was so happy and relieved that all the preparations were over and I could finally dance. “Chain, chain, chain of Fools” she sings. How true it is of my experience of “school”. I not sure which word rings truer, “CHAIN” or “FOOLS” I feel both sad and happy at once. Sad because I am so deeply disappointed by “school”, I feel so betrayed. Sad because there are so many people still caught up in it. Happy, very happy to be out, to be writing this, to know others will read this and relate to what I’m saying.

  9. Warren Peace says:

    I hate to be the broken record, but . . . . There are no “real ideas” in school. The ideas of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky themselves invalidate so-called “school,”reveal it to be a sham and a fake. There is no connection to a real lineage of teachers. There is no connection to an “esoteric circle.” Whatever good we got out of school was accidental. None of us was ever exposed to any of the actual ideas.

    If there are any actual ideas. Was Gurdjieff connected to a lineage of real teachers? He claimed he was. Is there any evidence that he was? Is there any evidence that anything he did ever led to an increase of consciousness in anyone? Is there any evidence that the world is a better place because of his “influence”? Making unprovable claims — the world would have ended already if it weren’t for these ideas, the esoteric circle is holding everything together only you’re at too low a level to see it — merely puts G and everything he ever said in the same category as any other religion or cult. Either you have faith, or you’re an infidel and will die like a dog in the street. How has that particular attitude played out throughout history? It’s not a pleasant story. And no, there’s not a shred of evidence that Gurdjieff or Ouspensky knew anything. And if they did, they certainly didn’t pass it along to Sharon Gans or Robert Klein.

    Klein doesn’t know anything that you couldn’t learn at a corporate empowerment “boot camp” or motivational weekend. None of his knowledge, such as it is, is esoteric knowledge. He knows a little how to manipulate people, and he’s pretty good at breaking down the most surface sort of inhibitions that people have about asserting themselves. There’s nothing “special” about it. And his knowledge — and interest — begin and end with recruiting and indocrination of new recruits. He has no idea how to deal with people’s real difficulties, and he has no real insight. Which is part of the reason why the “older classes” were so deadly after a while. He had nothing to offer, and he taught his “younger teachers” nothing much beyond the techniques of surveillance and manipulation required to keep students’ asses in their seats. What happens to them when their asses are in those seats, well . . . not his problem. Now that I think of it, Robert could probably make millions as a legitimate motivational speaker. He could run management bootcamps for major corporations and charge an arm and a leg. Hey Robert, how about it? Do something above board for a change, and stop sucking the blood of innocent and unwilling victims.

  10. Hey Everyone – I’m thrilled with the amount of response I’m getting to this post.

    You’ve made so many important points, that I can’t address them all, but I think when you talk about needing to balance our lives between digesting our “school” experience and reclaiming our lives. This blog is allowing me to do both and the process has handed me the freedom I sought while in the cult.

    BTW, I never heard Robert blatantly say that stress and self esteem were invented concepts. He did hint at it — I guess we weren’t sufficiently indoctrinated yet. How convenient for school that stress, self esteem, anger, suspicion, etc. doesn’t exist.

    Warren Peace – I’m so glad you question whether Gurdjieff was –himself– a real teacher. Of course, I’d never heard of Gurdjieff until I left “school” but I do recall reading a story in the Black Book about the “Stop Game”. Does anyone remember the “Stop Game”. In this story, the group’s leader (I believe G), is directing the “Stop Game” and three of his students (including Ouspensky, I believe) are standing in a rising river – one over his head. The leader waits for a long time before releasing his minions from the stop game and they all comply – even the one who is basically drowning. I was horrified by it and remember saying how fucked up that was in class. I don’t recall exactly what Robert said, something to the effect of me not really understanding — not evolved enough, I guess. Does anyone else out there recall this story.

    For me, this entire experience has been a lesson in learning how to find my own connection to God.

    Ok, gotta scoot. Keep ’em coming!!!

  11. Bullfrog says:

    Regarding stress: I recall during the famous Bill S incident, Greg, who was leading the class, and was at a loss to explain what had just happened said: “I think he was stressed out.” It was clear in the moment that the work language fell short. There are situations which are better described by the language of this time, and stress is a pretty good way of talking about our common experience.

    Later, when he had a class with Robert on what happened that night, language was found that fit more with the mold of what we typically used in class. Robert said something like: “As it turns out that evening we [teachers, Sharon] were having a discussion about whether Bill’s wiring was right for school.”

    I don’t think there was any work language that could explain what happened that evening. While I think it would be useful at some point to discuss what happened, it would distract too much from this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *