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During several decades as a psychotherapist and an instructor of A Course in Miracles I’ve watched spiritual concepts get twisted into absurdity. Phrases such as “I’m not responsible for your feelings,” “Peace comes from not taking anything personally,” “Rise Above,” and the like are not the healthiest approaches to coping and spiritual maturity.

Using spiritual platitudes is often a re-enactment of the dysfunctional family rules: “Don’t think, don’t trust, don’t feel, and don’t talk about it.” Think about it. A child is sad because her best friend slaps her, and she is told not to take it personally. A parent abuses a child, and when the child gets angry, they are told the abuser is not responsible for the child’s feelings. A child is falsely accused of stealing, and rather than fighting for justice, the child is told to take the high road. This is insane.

Disassociating from feelings does not make them go away. They merely get shoved into a secret compartment in the unconscious, left to haunt us when we least expect. Or they burrow into the internal void that demands an addictive response to cope with the discomfort.

We are human beings, not robots. The greatest masters on the planet had intense emotions that they learned to channel into compassion and love. This does not happen as the result of replacing emotions with platitudes. It is the result of hard work and growth.

Those of us on the spiritual path will not fare well by using spiritual anecdotes to stuff our feelings — it’s the cowardly way out.

Often, our current reactions are anchored in the past. A Course in Miracles teaches, “I see only the past.” How am I going to realize that my current reaction is because of an old wound if I don’t allow myself to feel the pain?

If I don’t take anything personally, then there are no conflicts? This, too, is absurd. We all know that genuine intimacy is the result of resolving differences. Differences cannot be settled if they are spiritually sanitized and ignored.

The key to spiritual evolution is experiencing our feelings and using them as steppingstones to growth. If I refuse to feel, I miss the opportunity to learn and grow. If someone has hurt me, I can embrace that emotion, release the sorrow, and pain, and then, will I experience the peace that lies underneath the turbulence.

It takes courage to feel, and then when centered and calm, to communicate those feelings. It is an act of preserving a relationship and showing that you care. When we don’t show our human vulnerability to another, that person never knows us. Feeling misunderstood, we often abandon the relationship with unfinished business. We have missed the golden opportunity to create a new reality of resolution and mutual trust.

Feelings (pleasant and unpleasant) are the rungs on the ladder to emotional and spiritual growth. When we learn to examine them with the intention of healing our past and learning about ourselves, we transcend the emotions that keep us blocked and stuck.

I remember, as a young child, a fight with my best friend. After having almost daily contact, we didn’t speak for weeks. Finally, one of us broke the ice, and we talked about what happened. I distinctly remember that once I got out my words, something inside of me instantly clicked. I knew she hadn’t intentionally done anything to me, no apologies were necessary, and forgiveness was instant. But that awareness would have been buried deep within, and a friendship lost, had we not chosen to be vulnerable to each other.

When we replace fear with love, we are choosing to feel the fear underneath all negative emotions and find love. Whether we resolve our pain alone or share it with someone else, it is an act of self-love to acknowledge our authentic selves. It is through acknowledging our human emotions that we cross the bridge from pain to healing and forgiveness.

Working through emotions is the pathway to spiritual growth. When they are embraced with self-love and expressed with love to another, then true peace is the natural and lasting result.

Are you willing to accept all of you?

If you want to connect with Dr. Donna Marks, and find out about her tools and programs on how to Reclaim Your Power Over Addiction, visit her website

About the Author — Dr. Donna Marks believes that the current models for diagnosis, treatment, and addiction have failed. Her mission is to help save at least 10 million lives by 2030, through education and prevention. She has been an author, consultant, educator, public speaker, licensed psychotherapist, instructor of A Course in Miracles, and addictions counselor in private practice in Palm Beach, Florida, for more than thirty years.

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