Presence • Awakening • Consciousness • Self-knowledge • Evolution Vol 1, No 3 AUGUST 2004
Being Present
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A publication of the Fellowship of Friends

Negative Emotions

"The machine receives an illusory identity from expressing negative emotions, and thereby one loses one’s conscious identity. Virtually everything that one gains is at the expense of negative emotions." Robert Burton

According to the Fourth Way, one of the major barriers to divided attention and self-remembering is the outward expression of negative emotions. The spectrum of negative emotions includes all forms of irritation, frustration, impatience, boredom, judgment, anxiety, worry, suspicion, jealousy, self-pity, anger, indignation, hatred, resentment, and fear. These and other negative emotions may feel legitimate and seem worthwhile, but in actuality they are based on imagination. Simply put, we imagine that other people and circumstances conspire to make us negative; that they are the cause of our negativity and suffering. As Mr. Ouspensky said, “Almost all our personal negative emotions are based on accusation: somebody else is guilty.” Psychologically, we justify this notion and feel the urge to vent a reaction of irritation, opposition, anger, and so on.

The outward expression of negative emotions is usually considered harmless, a necessary release of energy, or an inevitable show of character. After all, it seems valid that someone or something has made us negative and that we have reason to blame them, as well as the right to register our complaint. The Fourth Way, however, reverses this rationale by explaining that negative emotions are merely a byproduct of the wrong view we have of ourselves and other people, of the world in general, and of the suffering in our life. As Mr. Ouspensky said, “We think that negative emotions are produced by circumstances, whereas all negative emotions are in us, inside us.”

From the point of view of the Fourth Way, expressing negative emotions is never useful, never necessary, never a measure of strength. On the contrary, it is a sign of mechanical weakness, it is pointless in itself, and it is due merely to immaturity and shortsighted thinking. Most importantly, expressing negative emotions is detrimental to consciousness. This is because the psychological manufacture and release of negative emotions corrupts awareness. Said another way, negative emotions resist and reject—they negate—our perception of reality. They distort the truth and prevent us from seeing and accepting each moment as it is. This may sound absurd simply because we are so accustomed to negative emotions and unaware of the consequences of expressing them. Yet, as Robert Burton has said, “One pays for this unconscious manifestation with one’s conscious life.”

In a Fourth Way school, special attention is devoted to controlling the expression of negative emotions. The purpose is to transcend the feeling of ‘me’ in negative emotions and harness the unexpressed energy into the conscious presence of self-remembering. This includes trying to kindle, not only a point of view, but a state of presence that sees oneself, other people, events, and suffering as they are, not as we imagine them or would prefer them to be. In this process, the effort of not expressing negative emotions serves as a stepping stone to divided attention; as a catalyst for conscious presence. Needless to say, it requires great mastery over oneself.

Work on negative emotions

Mr. Ouspensky said about negative emotions: “You cannot struggle with negative emotions without remembering yourself more, and you cannot remember yourself more without struggling with negative emotions.” He also said, “It is not enough to observe them, it is necessary to resist them, because without resisting them one cannot observe them. They happen so quickly, so habitually and so imperceptibly, that one cannot notice them if one does not make sufficient efforts to create obstacles for them.” This explanation forms the basis of work on negative emotions, yet there are two more points worth mentioning. One is that non-expression does not mean inward suppression. It means disallowing outward expression. The other point is that non-expression is but a first step. In right order it is coupled with an awareness of why you are doing it: namely, to rise above the insistent feeling of ‘I’ and promote the presence of self-remembering. This is really the focus. Negative emotions themselves, whatever form they take, simply fuel this added effort toward a higher state of consciousness.

Topic for next issue: the many ‘I’s
Every thought, movement, sensation, and emotion produces a feeling of I in us which, moment after moment, we mistake for consciousness. In the next issue we will examine how this happens and how to distinguish consciousness from the mechanical sense of ‘I’.
Links of interest on our web site
• See video clips of Robert Burton teaching
• Read Foundations of Real Work by Girard Haven
• Review suggested reading about the Fourth Way
• See the web site in your language (home page menu)

Introductory lectures — monthly
We offer a series of free introductory lectures on a regular basis in cities around the world. To register for the series, call our USA information line (1-800-642-0212) or find a center nearest you.

1—The Foundation of the Fourth Way
• Self-knowledge · Levels of consciousness
• Man as a machine · Consciousness, will, and unity
• Obstacles to awakening · Three lines of work

2—The Theory of Centers (requires lecture 1)
• The 4 lower centers
• The sex center
• Higher centers
• The soul, the spirit

3—Practical Ways to Seize and Prolong Presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• How to introduce and sustain self-remembering

Membership information
The Fellowship of Friends is a Fourth Way school with centers worldwide. Membership is on a monthly basis. For details:
Find a center nearest you.
• Email

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

Fellowship of Friends · a religious non-profit organization
P.O. Box 100 · Oregon House, CA 95962
copyright © 2004 · all rights reserved

No part of this newsletter may be copied, reprinted, or reproduced in any form without written permission from the Fellowship of Friends.

Statue of Hercules from the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina; c. 500-480 BC, Munich, Glyptothek.

Thoughts on negative emotions

Man cannot help expressing his unpleasant emotions simply because he is weak. Self-observation and and self-study must, from the first, be accompanied by the struggle against the expression of unpleasant emotions. George Gurdjieff 
All possibilities of development are contained in conquering negative emotions and transforming them.
Expression of negative emotions is always mechanical, so it can never be useful, but resistance to it is conscious.
We have much more power over expression of negative emotions than we think, and we can learn not to express them. When you realize that nobody else is responsible for your irritation, little by little you will begin to feel differently. Peter Ouspensky 
It is very important to stay above all annoyances. Condemnation and negative criticism are always and everywhere wrong. They lead nowhere and can only spoil everything. Rodney Collin
Relinquishing one’s negative emotions is voluntary suffering because the machine does not want to give them up. The expression of negative emotions is a sign that something is consuming the present. Negative emotions and all the unhappiness associated with them are the result of sleep. 
Robert Burton

Do not abandon yourself. 
Elizabeth I
Learn to respond, not to react. Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded, but once mastered none can help you as much. Buddha
I can achieve nothing by resentment. Homer
Hell is energy acting of its own impulse. Heaven is energy obeying something higher. William Blake
Anger is a brief madness. Unchecked it becomes extended madness which brings shame and finally death. Petrarch
He that yearns the truth to know, still further inwardly must go. Lewis Carroll
The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with me. The former I graft unto myself. The latter I translate into a new tongue. Walt Whitman

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