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The Emotional Poles


There are four main emotional positions or poles, within the emotional body that shamans seem to have settled on a long time ago. Shamans have long recognized that all the emotions play a central role in our worldviews.  However, often they are destructive influences in attempting to gain insight into other ways of perceiving, since by their very nature, they demand a particular position.

A rigid energetic position works against fluidity of perception, which is key to movement and change in the world of shamans.

Exploring the interaction between the emotional and physical bodies, they narrowed the emotional body down to these four archetypal emotional responses from which they viewed all other emotions springing and connecting.  These archetypal responses they recognized as the true stumbling blocks to not only fluidity of perception and movement of their energy, but also in healing other people and working out in the world.  They broke them down this way: anger, fear, grief-sadness and love.  They learned that detachment from these archetypal emotional responses was the only way in which their seeing, movement and work could be judged accurately and so constructed it into a system that worked.  They also found that each of these four emotional positions, because that is in fact what they were, could be cancelled out temporarily by the contrary emotional response, or some combination of them depending on the person's own nature.  They assigned each a position on the compass and began creating structures to both explain the essential natures of people and to help them in teaching and guiding people through the shamanic.

Today, when we look at their original classification we find that they were extremely accurate in their seeing.  All the emotional responses emanate from one or the other of the four classical positions.  Although they can become quite complex in the way they are combined, shaded and expressed, the root of the emotional response remains the same archetypically.

What significance does the direction have?

Well, if you look at people, you can place them according to the points on the compass, or combinations of points.  For instance, people in a southern position tend to be irrational, prone to quick tempers and passionate about whatever is in front of them at the moment.  People in the northern position tend to be aloof, stealthy, silent, some might say even cold in their evaluations of other people.  The southern position is the most prone to quick anger, although the northern position also presents anger in a very cold but intense way.  The eastern position is dominated emotionally more by depression and grief - rather terminally sad people, pessimistic, but at the same time, they are the ones looking for new possibilities, perhaps to escape their emotional makeup.  The west tends to be dominated by fear, usually fear of the unknown, but also these people tend to be suspicious, cautious about other people, prefer to be alone a lot.  Those are the negative aspects; each also has positive aspects, of course.

Very rarely are people perfectly lined up on one of the points.  They tend to be northwest, or southeast, etc.  Perhaps it is a false paradigm only in that it assigns a point on the compass.  Simply put, they needed a structure; this served as well as any other, yet other traditions adopted different metaphors in order to explain the emotional paradigm.

Are the directions just for reference, then?

Yes, it gave them a reference guide to the emotional bodies of the people on which they worked.  But, like any system, it's still just a system.  They are metaphorical positions.  We can look at someone, see their energy and emotional predilections, and be able to assign them on that compass, but it's only a way of structuring our seeing.  Think of it as an earth-compass - North Pole, South Pole, etc.

Only relative to this planet?

Well, this is the only one I've found human beings on, but I'm sure any of the other creatures that share the universe with us fall along lines that, if not similar, at least make up a structure we could understand through this.  Don't get too bound up in the compass idea - just assign the values according to what you see in people.  You might say, "She's a woman of the south," or, "He's a man of the north."  And there are as many gradations as points on the compass, of course.  It's an old, old system, and not the one I use.

You say you don't use the compass system. What system do you use?

I did use it once upon a time.  I think I abandoned it about twenty-five years or so ago.  Now, I just look into people and read them directly.  But, I still use it in explaining to people starting out how they can come to grips intellectually with what they're seeing.

We have created our metaphor of existing within the bubble of our emotional bodies, the body most human beings use to connect with the world as much as the physical body.  The four directions, the poles within our own personal compasses, allow us to express ourselves into the world and connect with other human beings.  It may seem as though on first glance, the universe is a chaotic place, but it is not.  It is built on the fabric of connections, life reaching out to life in a maze of existence, time and space.  Our emotional bodies are huge components of that act of reaching, which we seldom understand beyond a reactive level.  The human ability to feel, to emote, and to connect with other life existing both as human and otherwise is an enormous part of our personal power.  Yet, on basic levels, we seldom, if ever, question the energy inherent in emotional connections.

Are we born with predilections to certain directions?

Yes, for example, calm babies, colicky babies, etc.

So, by knowing where we are we can un-stick ourselves and move?

Yes, it helps, but that's also a part of dealing with all the emotions.  We have to be brutally honest with ourselves and that isn't always easy, it requires detachment in looking at our own emotional positions and we don't usually like to do that. So you start out balanced for the most part, but it doesn't take long to get unbalanced.


Fear is the mind killer.  It is particularly important in terms of shamanic practice, stopping many people dead in their tracks for decades.  The subtle influences of fear and the many different masks it can wear are things that take time to unravel in our energy and in our experience.  Fear, just like the other poles in our emotional energy, was originally a vital component of survival for us as a species.  Now, it has evolved along with our cultures and societies into new shapes and forms, which still serve that purpose, but often on a larger scale.  Culturally, fear of many things helps us as a species to survive an increasingly complicated world we have created, often without regard to the consequences.

Natively, fear functions largely as a protection mechanism - but we often find it out of whack in ourselves and in others when it serves no vital purpose, or actually becomes an obstacle to learning or movement.  We have all learned fear, what to fear, how to fear it and to what degree we should evoke a fear response.  Fear, not love, is what binds our culture together.  From the shaman's point of view, fear is the thing that our reason uses as its primary weapon against movement away from the rational expectations we have been given and told to live.  Your reason, using fear, will kill you rather than allow that movement.  In that sense, it serves a larger purpose of keeping you rooted to a perspective and way of perceiving which serves the biological imperative of species survival.

Anger can cancel out fear and fear can cancel out anger.

Can fear serve as a weapon in a useful way?

Yes, fear can be divided into two essential parts as a response.  One is the fear we learn, and the other is body fear, which is purely fear created as a fight or flight response.  You can learn to use your fear as a method of movement as well; you can, in fact, use any of the pure poles of emotion in that way, but fear is often the most difficult to wade through in terms of what is actually being expressed.  To answer your question, fear can be created and controlled and fed to beasties to control some types, it can be created and projected, it can be raised in others as a means of protecting yourself - it has many uses outside the normal idea of just being afraid.

How do I turn my fear onto fear?

You can become afraid of the fear itself, turning it back on itself.  Be afraid of being afraid until that becomes the big fear for you.  In other words, by transplanting the energy of the fear you normally have, to a larger fear of the fear itself, it can be overcome - it cancels itself out.  It really does work; try it on something small first - some small fear.

How specifically would one use fear to move energetically?

You create a fear so great, that if you don't move, you will die.  Think of it as a hobby kit for anxiety attacks on a biblical scale.  Fear is subtle as well.  It can be created and misinterpreted by us as other combinations of emotions, but of course, that would apply to all the emotional points.  The difference with a well-practiced shaman is the shaman recognizes those points and uses their emotional energy in very intentional ways.  This can make him or her very dangerous.  The ability to control and manipulate the emotions of others by the presentation of certain complex emotional facades can create the hooks people respond to naturally.

On the other side of the coin, they can also hold up a mirror to people that allows for growth, expansion and understanding for them by looking into it, without them realizing what it is they are reacting to.  Understanding where the balance lies is the trick and the experience.  Fear controls people - understanding where their fear exactly comes from in their energy allows the shaman to heal, or to manipulate.  Most with any sense at all will choose to heal; manipulation is costly in the end and ties the shaman to the outcomes of others.

I think it's a good way to learn basic movement if you already have the predilection, and the way you do that is by setting up conflicting fears, both equally difficult for you to face, with no way out except through them.  In that way, you gain the ability both to conquer fear and learn movement of your awareness at the same time.  Or you die; I guess that's always a distinct possibility.

Let's use a simple example: you are afraid of the dark, and you are afraid of, oh, say dogs.  You force yourself to use a dog to get out of the dark.  That is about as simple as I can make it.  People's fears are complex, usually coming from a variety of connections in their energy, and usually aren't related all that strongly to what they actually think they are afraid of.  Much of the shamanic is about testing yourself against yourself, but it isn't about thinking about testing yourself - it's about action.  If you have problems even imagining confronting a fear, then try to break the fear down into components, facing each one in turn.

Why would you want to evoke fear in someone?

If I look into someone and see that they deny themselves the ability to move to other awareness because of fear, for example, I look to see where it comes from, what the root problem is, and then I create a mirror set of emotions and actions within which they can act their fear out through me and find healing.  If I find someone who can't see because their reason refuses to allow them to move at all, I can create fear of not moving and seeing as a life and death matter, reason loses that battle.  Fear isn't the best tool, or I should say, it isn't my tool of preference, but each set of circumstances is different.  You have to remain fluid enough to meet them quickly.

Could you please elaborate on the mirror concept?

You present an opposite mirror of their emotional situation - opposites attract - so in the process movement occurs and the shaman acts within that movement to heal.  The other person won't 'see' anything in it, they will only feel.

The opposite of fear would be anger?

It is the opposite, but not necessarily the only way to approach it.  Anger is best used against fear internally, not from the outside.  I can't get angry at your fear and do any good.

It would be courage?

Yes, courage in the face of fear comes as an aspect of anger.  Remember, we're inside the ball, and where you move and how you touch on things creates an incredibly complex mirror of responses.  It's like playing a harp really fast in what may seem like a very discordant way, but at the end it creates the memory of a beautiful melody.

So you might be using emotion to create a desire for change by the attraction?

Yes, or in some cases, repulsion.

How does this work if someone is reacting with anger that is masking a fear?

Cut their heart out. I used to take great delight 25 or thirty years ago at being able to take a totally pissed-off person and reduce them to tears with one sentence.  I don't do that anymore; it's counterproductive.  What you have to do is look at the root of the fear in whatever way you are seeing, and then go straight for it.  Don't be afraid yourself to ask in a very compassionate way about whatever it is you see that is creating the fear.  Don't push, or pull, walk beside them.

What about the reverse - someone angry masking it with another emotion?

Be compassionate - it helps keep your blood pressure down.  Anger is easier to get at than fear because we usually feel more justified being angry than afraid.  We're taught that, but it's still the same principle.  As a shaman, you want to deal with what's really there, not the smokescreens.  If you're a good stalker, you will use their smokescreen emotion to actually open the underlying emotion for healing.  In our world today, you will do an awful lot of emotional healing.  There is a lot of damage out there and very few options that really work for people.

How do you look for the root of the fear in yourself?

Interesting question - look for your death.  The fear you have of it causes all the other fears to fall into simple alignments.  You can see where a big fear comes from when it is confronted with the biggest fear of all.

What if you don't really fear death?

Well, you do, though, perhaps not emotionally anymore, but bodily you do.  Use that fear of death at an animalistic level to root out the others.

I don't really fear death itself, more the pain of dying an uncomfortable death.

Look for anger in your energy.  When you look through the roots of your anger, you will find the places where the threads of fear are tied - then, you can follow those.  The idea is not to be fearless; fearless people are dumb.  The idea is to know your fear, control it, use it only to your advantage.

So, the self-pity and self-importance of those emotions hide one another?

Yes, they can, very easily. Human beings without fear are missing a part of their personalities.  Without that, how can you be a whole person?  Like we call a person who has no sense of guilt a sociopath, we just don't have a name for the other because we don't think it ever happens.

What is the energetic relationship between Fear and Guilt?

Guilt usually runs on the opposite corner with grief/sadness, but that raises an interesting point about all these archetypal emotional energies.  All of these are represented, both in polar opposites and in the attraction they create with each other.  In other words, the usual course is to experience a combination of them in shaded degrees that creates the full range of emotional energy and the emotional body.  We tend to think of them as polar, but they are better thought of as points within a sphere.  Imagine a color chart of gradations spread around the inside of a sphere, and each point in that chart represents combinations and degrees of intensity as it lays closer to the core energy of the individual.  So, depending on the point within that sphere and its proximity to the core, fear and guilt can easily be associated and expressed together as emotions, as well as other complicated emotional responses.  This is what makes the recap difficult to navigate in the beginning, because internally, as you look at patterns, you begin to realize the enormous complexity of the history of your emotional responses and all the different points through which they have passed during your life.  Fear can create guilt, and vice versa, they can even be created as touch-points of response from entirely different places within the emotional body.

Can guilt mask fear?

Yes, it can be a definite part of it, although somewhat obliquely - just as powerful, though.  It's one of those odd mixes where guilt springs from the fear of something; usually that 'something' is highly personal and emotional, the fear of being alone, not liked, debilitated, etc.

Is there a relationship between shame and fear?

Shame is usually a subset of grief, fear and anger, all at once.  These combinations of emotional energy are sometimes hard to break down, but unless shame is directly derived from fear, it usually comes as an adjunct to grief.  You have to put them order of their appearance.  If you feel shame, what is the next emotional energy that comes up after it?  That will be the overriding direction it's coming from.  Shamanically, it is intensely important to be aware of where each emotional energy is coming from.  The recap helps with the clarity, but in the end, it's a matter of fluidity so you can handle whatever gets thrown at you.

Is fear at the bottom of addictions?

Addictions are a little more complicated than just fear, but fear is one of the essential elements; although, I doubt psychologists would see it that way.  When I have talked about addictions, I've talked about the fear of facing the real person behind the drug, substance, etc., that comes with it, but there are other complicated reasons for addiction too, as well as the allies which seem to govern each.

Fear of past or future?

Usually, it involves fear of the future, but that is based on fear of the past, so it becomes a vicious cycle that can be almost impossible for some people to break.

Where are some places that fear hides for those who don't think they are afraid of much?

When things come up in life that you avoid, think about why, usually at the root of it you will find fear.  These can be very subtle things.  Fear plays under the surface of many of our choices in life.

Avoidance issues?

Yes.  Not the ones that deal with physical pain so much as the ones that are just simply social or relational - your own.

What fear would be behind say, not wanting to hurt someone's feelings?

Fear of rejection.  Looking good and being accepted, going along, being the good guy - even though you know there is something there that needs to be said.  Having said that, it is also a good idea to develop a good sense of diplomacy.  Say what you need to say, but say it with compassion.

Is there a fear of people or being around people in general that poses as independence - or would that be rejection too?

Rejection - you have to understand that as human beings, we have been trained to get along with people, trained in such a way that agreeing with people is more important sometimes than following our own vision of the truth.

Where do we draw the line between diplomacy and avoiding rejection?

You draw the line by saying what you needed to say, or felt you should say, as diplomatically as possible.  There is also the issue of true detachment.  If it isn't important to you, then it isn't something that needs to be said, hence no fear because there can be no real rejection.

We like our pain, it's familiar, we know it, and we'll hold on to it if we don't force ourselves to let go.

Is there a particular place in the body we store fear?

The digestive tract is the traditional place you look first - that's where it usually falls, then it hits your head and, oddly, throat as well.  The throat one is interesting.  I've met more and more people over the years that seem to exhibit it there.  Diseases of the throat, all the way up to cancer and, yes, sore throats, laryngitis.

How about the solar plexus?

Not so much there, but it would tie strongly with grief.  It depends somewhat on what triggers the fear - is it an original, or new fear, or is it the result of an old pattern of fears?  Of course, we're talking stomach and digestive tract; when you get to the bowel, it has translated into fear-induced anxiety.


Let's take a look at anger and how it relates through our energy and connects us with the world.

Each emotion is unique in how it affects us.  Anger as an energy is important in the right context; it can support our will to survive, it can allow us to combat an aggressor in any situation.  The army doesn't teach you to yell, "Oh, excuse me," when you bayonet an enemy.  The problem that exists now for most people, however, is that in the modern Western world, we are left with few places or contexts within which real anger is appropriate, or even useful.  People are left with anger, feeling anger, expressing anger through other emotions, and being angry in ways that are self-defeating.

We have to look at anger in each situation and ask some very important questions, starting with: what are we really angry with, is it appropriate, or is it a response to self pity and applied in ways which don't benefit us?  If you go back to the archetypical use for anger, you will find that not much in the modern world justifies the degree of anger most people deal with in their daily lives.  When it comes to self-anger, what are we really saying, that we deserved better treatment?  Self-pity, that we are justifiably angry because of loss, grief response, etc.?  That isn't to say that people don't become angry and that anger itself is something we should ignore, but from a shamanic point of view every emotion is used in some way to create more movement, to open our nature to larger worldviews, and if your anger doesn't serve that purpose, then it is misplaced.

Originally, anger was associated with survival, almost purely, but as humans became social animals, it started being used in social structures as well.  Anger has actual uses, but only archetypal anger, not personal anger in the sense of being angry with a person or set of circumstances.  Shamans seek to connect with these emotions on very pure levels where they connect to the larger intent of all human emotion.  Anger creates an adrenaline rush, it helps you leap out of the wild boar's way, or kill a wooly mammoth with more than your usual strength.  As humans became more socially aggressive animals and organized into groups, it also became a way to deal with other people invading your space.

Anger and fear are the opposites of each other, although they both have much the same effect on the body.  Anger can cancel out fear, and fear can cancel out anger.  I think it's always important to understand intrinsically how we are creating our anger and where it comes from.  Using anger in an outward motion, unconnected from personal issues, is the purview of the dark shaman, but that can remain a topic for later.

Emotion can be turned in on itself, and since we're talking about anger, we can use that as an example.  Anger usually manifests from a position of self-pity.  Not always, but very often that is the case when speaking of reflective anger.  Anger can be turned on itself to cancel out anger: two like emotions applied in more or less equal amounts can reach a neutral position of detachment.  In other words, get angry at the anger itself.  If you use anger aimed at the emotion of anger, you will often find that an epiphany of sorts results.  You are taking specific anger and smashing it into nonspecific anger, but still using the energy of anger.  This will, in effect, create a void emotionally, and through that void, you can see more clearly and with detachment.  The point at which they cancel each other out leaves an emotional void, an empty place devoid of emotional energy.  It may not last long, but it will usually exist long enough to allow you to move through it to see more clearly the real source of the original anger.  This can be done with virtually all the emotional energies, but is especially effective with anger and it's emotional opposite, fear.

How do you 'use' anger - specific anger, as a tool?

Anger is a good one to use specifically for building, although that seems antithetical to the way we normally associate anger.  Anger can be used as a protection mechanism, it can be used to avoid confrontation, and it can be used in the face of other people's anger to deflect it away from yourself as an energy.  When someone becomes angry with you, for example, you can use anger - not a personalized anger, but the BIG anger - to deflect their anger, as well as your own.  You can be angry simply at their anger, totally disassociating it from any specific thing.  The opening that creates between two people is the same sort of void that you create in dealing with your own anger, and in that void, you can act with detachment in a way that allows you to move them away from the anger.  Or, if you're a butthead, you can use that opening to slice them open emotionally like a ripe melon meeting a machete.  The thing is, that opening not only creates a void, it creates a void which shows you where their anger connects in their energy to their patterns, just as it shows you how it connects in your own.  In that moment, you can use that knowledge destructively or constructively.  This is also a part of how shamans use stalking.  My favorite, back when I was known by different adjectives, was to use a short, simple declarative sentence to reduce the other person to tears and emotional rubble.  In other words, I could use the technique to find the spot where they became little children again, and then stick a hot jagged knife into it.  Aren't you glad I changed my ways?

Power is the most seductive force on the planet - but you see my point.

How do you USE anger?  I think of it as a gun.  It's dangerous and I'm afraid of it.

That's because you always personalize it - don't do that.  Disconnect from your personal anger and just use the raw energy of anger as an archetypal emotional energy.  Then you have that weapon - but use it wisely.

What are the dangers to watch for?

The danger is in ego.  The danger is in coming to enjoy a sense of power that you think you own, but which you do not.  If you feel that, if you recognize it in the way people react to you, stop and take a very, very hard look at yourself and the way you are using any of the techniques I've given out over the last ten years or so.  Any technique can backfire on you shamanically.  That's what I like about it, it's always a dance, it always keeps you looking at yourself and what you are doing.

Would people know what you're doing and react to it?

Depends on how practiced you are.  If you are very fluid and very detached, the normal average person will never have a clue.

Can you use the anger in healing?

Yes, I use anger very often with diseases.  But remember, not your personal anger, the big anger.  You don't want to get tied to it through your personal energy.  You can use anger against pain; in a way, pain is a form of anger coming from the physical body.  I know this is complicated because until you 'feel' it, it's very hard to connect with emotionally.  But as with all the practices, it's best to start small.


Everyone wants to be happy as we define it as human animals - well fed, sheltered and sexually satisfied - but there is an element of grief and sadness within each emotion we express apart from that basic sense of reality.  Sadness is a part of the river that runs through us as emotional energy, and one that shamans must understand intensely if they are to be of help in healing or in helping those they serve.

Within sadness, the sense of loss, the sense of grief, there is a larger context served up to the sensitive eye.  It is one of scale and balance which we as human beings rarely stop to take in because the grandeur of it is too much for our understanding.  Grief represents pain, trauma, hurt on basic levels that normal human beings will do almost anything to avoid, but shamans court it at its core in order to understand a much larger construct.  Shamans understand loss on a scale much the same as they understand love; they move within the heart of tears in order to know the joy on the other side.  As human beings, it is our unfortunate lot to walk in the deepest valleys if we are ever to understand the magnificence of the view from the mountaintop.  Shamans go into that valley, reach the valley floor and start digging.  Pain can heal.

Looking at how we handle issues surrounding grief and sadness brings us a better understanding of what motivates us; what touches our energy in ways that free us from the boundaries of normal understanding, to plumb even greater depths beyond this worldview we have created.  The issue arises then, how can you use the normal feelings of sadness, grief and depression to actually move yourself to a larger understanding in shamanic terms?

There is a roll call of emotion in all this; shamans first seeks to understand what they actually own and what they do not.  They accomplish this by stalking themselves with a brutal ruthlessness.  The recap is part of that stalking process, but it is only one small part.  It brings clarity and breaks ties.  The actual movement to a place where we exist apart from the old selves (which we come to understand were not our own creation,) is the next step, and for that, you must move through the perceptual barriers of awareness.  Understanding the normal processes of grief and depression is the first step; learning what is and what is not yours is the second.  Altering that internal landscape at will is the third.  There's a fourth, but we won't go there yet.  Grief leavens our lives in one form or another, and with work can help us maintain balance between the extremes we must face in the process of becoming something other than what we were.  The object is not to do away with grief; the object is to balance it within ourselves in ways that serve us and allow us to continue growing.

By 'altering the internal landscape at will,' do you mean turning the little sadness into the big sadness?

Yes.  Handling your emotional body with skill and purpose, instead of being handled by it.

What do you mean by small sadness/big sadness?

The small sadness comes at the start of human grief, the normal grief processes we are party to living as human beings; the large sadness is a sadness that is overwhelming in it's power, and is deeply personal.  And yet, it is totally impersonal at the same time.

How would I know if I were feeling a big or small sadness?

If you can still stand on your feet, still see the world as it exists for you now, then you haven't seen it.  The power of the experience is unmistakable.  You come to understand the true nature of your insignificance and the greatness of your own power.

Can you help someone move from a small sadness to the big sadness in order to help them heal?  And if so, how would you do that?

You have to be careful with that one.  They can consume themselves, but at the same time, it is possible, yes.  I would simply start them on a process of dealing with every moment of grief and sadness in their energy, break open the connections and allow them to move through them at their own pace.

That sounds like recapping?

No, it's direct into their energy.  It's active, as opposed to passive on your part.  This is reaching in with the power of the shaman and changing things in ways that promote their own healing.

How do you help someone heal who is trapped in grief or depression?

First, you need to help them identify what it is they are really in grief or depression about.  Is it an issue of self-pity, is it the sense of loss, is it something which can be remedied physically?  Or is it something through which they have to move in order to come out on the other side?

What if they don't want to see it, but they want to heal?

They can still heal, but at some point, they will be forced to see it.  The process is such they can't avoid that if they have a true desire to heal.  You can help them by getting them to start the process, work the edges, etc., until finally they have enough energy to tackle the real issues.

If someone is in a crisis, there might not be time to 'work the edges'.

Then you have to be blunt, but in a compassionate way.  Make sure you are in your own detached space.  Use your talent, move the situation to where they can work with the real issues.  The shaman sacrifices himself or herself for that.  And keep in mind, some people don't want to heal from these things, and that is their choice as well.  Ask them how it serves them - what are they getting out of it?  They might surprise themselves if they will really stop and think about it.

Would detachment help?

Regular detachment really helps, yes.  Shamanic detachment would be better, but I don't expect people to come to that easily.

Could you explain what you mean by 'regular detachment' and 'shamanic detachment'? 

Regular detachment is the place all human beings can reach with a little effort.  It allows them to let go long enough to gain a new perspective.  It is not, however, the same as shamanic detachment; it can help them heal, though.  Shamanic detachment moves from a place of polar opposites.  It takes the heart of each emotional pole of existence, feels them all equally at the same time, and creates a detached space which is devoid of personal perspective or emotion - true detachment.  You start that process by learning your own death through, hopefully, le petit mort.

How does one achieve 'le petit mort', and what does it teach you about your death?

The little death can be had in a number of ways, the best way is to physically die and make it back before they shovel dirt on you.

Like near death experiences?

Yes, those will do.  Beyond that, there are many other methods, some which use drugs in other traditions; in mine, I prefer the 'talking parrot'.  Go through each minute of every day with a parrot on your left shoulder that talks in your ear.  That parrot is your death, and it will comment on everything you see and experience.  Soon, you will begin to understand where your death lies and what it means in terms of the way you connect with the world.  Then, search out your death.  Look forward to where on this winding path of life it is waiting for you, because it is waiting, and it won't go away. You'll find it, but be prepared for a shock when you do; few people really reach that point without changing in incredible ways.

Do you mean literally?  You will come to know and see the moment of your demise?

Yes.  Think about it - how would you choose to live your life in the face of that certain knowledge?  Not an intellectual understanding, but an understanding that seeps into your bones and makes a bitter taste in your mouth.

In dealing with my own grief, where is the best place for me to start?

In dealing with your own grief issues, find what is really yours; you will be surprised at the amount of grief you are carrying for other people.

How do I do that - recap?

Yes, and then, come to understand your own mortality.  Learn your death on very personal levels, know it, taste it, feel it stalking you every moment of your life.  You are dying right now.   Imagine what you might see through that process.  There are marvelous wonders to see, dreadful things to ponder, and distances to go before you rest that final rest.

Remember, "when you stare into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you"  - like floating eyes in the dark.

In a healing, when you release grief so that the person can process it, what can that person do to then deal appropriately with the grief?  Is there a danger that the person will go back to the way they were, if they don't find a way to process these emotions?

The crying is the release.  A person's energy will respond naturally to released grief and process on through; it's a natural function of our emotional bodies, but when it becomes trapped and fed long enough, it creates major problems.  The idea is not to try and 'deal' with it, but to allow it to complete the natural process it's been denied.  You have to allow that process to complete itself - let the tears flow - they are part of the natural cleansing of grief, sadness and depression from our emotional energy.


Love as an emotional energy is very powerful, obviously, but it is also one of the most abused of the four emotional energies we operate from in life.  The problems come from our conception of love that we are taught in cultural contexts.  So let's take romantic love to start with as a topic, since I think that is the one that most interests people when we talk about it as an energy.

There is a misconception that shamans are either incapable of, or detached from, the energy of love - which is not true at all.  They simply move into and with it from a much different place as they do with all the emotional energies, preferring to deal with them on archetypal levels as opposed to the self-centered, self-pitying levels most people operate from.  This is what makes it so difficult for people who are in love relationships with those that pursue this path.  They lose the control that love means to them as their partner moves to a different way of perceiving and using that energy.  This is incredibly frightening to them.  The first things that pop up is paranoia, then anger, then the "you don't pay any attention or talk to me anymore" speech.  A love relationship with another person not shamanically inclined is difficult but not impossible.

As the shaman connects with energy on a deeper, more fluid level, their ability to 'love' actually grows tremendously, but it is also unfettered by ownership - by the issue of "what is love doing for me," and in juxtaposition, "what is my partner doing for me".  This is a terrible place for the average person to be in when they look at how their relationship is changing.  There doesn't seem to be anything to hold onto, nothing to grasp in ways that allow them to feel secure, and generally everything goes to crap.

Shamans use energy in specific ways - love is no different.  Just as they can use anger, they can use love in the same ways.  The expression of that energy can bring a person who has an illness that they are determined to keep or hide to a point where they can allow it to be healed as a response to that energy.  A shaman can wield 'love' the same way they can wield anger, or fear, or sadness - these are all energies, and basic ones to human nature.

The acid test for the shamanic, however, is that you have to be able to look at something you truly love - a person especially - and be willing to love them enough to let them go - without in the end loving them any less.  If you can't do that, you aren't using the energy in a shamanic way.

The dangers of shamanic love come from other people mostly, from their misunderstanding since they come from a place where love is a selfish thing rather than an open, fluid energy.  Handling this energy this way is going to cause you to be accused of being aloof, cold, even cruel, but you really are not - you feel the pain of that loss more than other people, but you are also willing to make that sacrifice and not look back.  Most people enter into love relationships with expectations of what that relationship is going to do for them.  They may not see that consciously, but it's there and is the basis for most relationships.  The problem with it in the shamanic is that one partner becomes more fluid and moves in their position, so suddenly the other feels as though they aren't being satisfied.  It usually isn't a conscious-level, thought-out process, but it's there and creates problems.

Could you expound more upon the 'going to crap' part?

You, as a student of the shamanic, move to a different place, and the person you're with, or trying to be with, can't move with you, so obviously there has to be something wrong with you.  Sound familiar?  Each person who is in the shamanic, or bent that way, has some aspect of that in his or her energy that will usually surface early in life.  What starts, then, is the suspicion, the accusations, the coldness, and before you know it, arguments that can't be solved, etc., until, finally, the relationship ends.  The problem is that you have to find that person with whom you can be completely honest about who and what you are and they are okay with that, and that, as they say, ain't easy.

What if the person doesn't want to let go?

When people won't let you go, they are insisting you fulfill an expectation based on their concept of love.  They can use that to create a prison from which you can find it very hard to break out.  I would suggest just being very compassionate, but direct.  If they are being abusive, then dump them, and recap the heck out of every minute you spent with them to break that bond.

I have let go and let go and let go, but its still there.

Remember when I said you let go without loving them any less?  Well, that stays.  You can lessen the pain over time with recapping and with distance, but it will, in some measure, always remain because you love larger than normal people.  You know, I kid sometimes about my ex-wife, but in reality I don't love her any less now than when I married her.  It's just that I have let go.

Actually, this issue has been crippling me for most of my life - so how do you make the most of the situation?

You have to find that right person - and they are out there, believe me, just as weird as you.  Human beings want to be loved; it's the loving back that gets to be the problem.  Most relationships are a series of compromises; shamanic ones seldom are.  I think what you're really asking is, "When will I know if I've found that person this will work with?"  It will be like two powerful magnets on a wet tabletop.

So, it seems to have a real relationship with someone not on the same path is quite difficult? Especially since they won't be able to move or grow with us on this path right? So in essence wouldn't it be better to have a so-called relationship with someone on the same path or not have one at all?

On the same path would be better, yes.  Or at least, someone who is able to allow you to be who you are without trying to either control it or deny it.  I know it's easy to look at people and say, well, if they could just do this, or adjust to that, it would work, but it won't, people don't adjust that way.  However, it's not impossible.  It would help to be open and up front about it with whomever you meet.  That's one of the problems I see in people on the shamanic - they tend to hide it from people, which is okay in a sense of self-preservation, but if it's someone that calls out to you to be loved by you, honesty will work a lot better.  It's tough to just say, "Hey, I'm crazy and I can prove it, still wanna take a chance?"

People seem to try to turn romance into something it's not - or relationships in general.

People are not separate in the world from each other.  We don't like being alone at elemental levels, and in the shamanic, we truly appreciate how alone we really are just as human beings, so love and relationships are both ways to share a vision and a way of not feeling so alone.  But in the end, the shaman knows that they will always be alone and lives with that.  A lot of people are in love with the idea of being in love, or if you've ever whistled the wedding march, but lost the sheet music, then you understand it can also be driven by the need to be physically close with another human being, as well.

If a shamanic relationship isn't a series of compromises, what is it?

Have you ever seen theatrical flash paper?  It's a relationship that makes you stronger, makes working together possible and creates even more energy for movement.  Usually, a shamanic relationship creates power by agreement and action.

This would be unspoken agreement and action?

No, usually it's spoken right out loud.  It's a working relationship, but not a controlling relationship.

I can understand that, but I don't understand how there wouldn't be any compromise.

Well, usually compromises in relationships start around expectations, so in shamanic relationships agreements are set, but not compromises, because each realizes that asking for compromise ties you to outcome for the other person for which you can't be realistically responsible.

How does the detachment you talk about compare with the detachment that a person learns when in codependency counseling?

In counseling, you still expected some outcome from the detachment, right?

The only outcome I expected was to be able to cope - to break the cycle I was in.

This detachment is different.  In front of you exist all the possible choices, options and directions for action, but you are only acting as an impassionate observer in that; making choices based on totally non-emotional criteria.  You aren't doing it purely to cope, but also not doing it not to cope.  It's just bigger.  I understand what you're saying, and it isn't a bad way to look at it, but in the same sense detachment also has to be a part of compassion, love, anger, all of these things.  It may seem emotionally controlling in some way, but in reality you are only dealing with your own energy and not throwing it up on everyone else to deal with.

For instance, when you look at an addiction that affects you, it is very easy to get personally involved emotionally in how to deal with that.  But on a shamanic level, all we care about is dealing with the addiction itself in the person who is suffering with it.

I would define total detachment as that starting point from which you must fluidly move in order to bring all your personal power to bear to affect whatever you are trying to affect.

What does detached self-love feel like?  And how can you possibly say who you are until you've recapped it all?

It's being at peace with who you are and who you may become; its understanding that even though you are a small part of a scheme you can't perceive, that it's okay - you still count as much as you are able to with what you have.  Yes, you'll have to recap it all before you really understand who you are under all those layers, but it will happen.

We talk a lot about how anger, fear, and sadness all work together where does love fit into that group?

Love is interesting in that it fits into the mix, just like the others.  We do things because we love someone and are afraid we'll lose them, or we love something and become angry if it's threatened.  Love is in there with all the rest.  You can never leave love out of the mix.

A person might have fear in her childhood, but love mixed with it as well.  It all becomes too complicated to sort out in the mind.  That's why the recap is there to help clear out the mess.  We are creatures of infinite emotional range.

So love is another healing tool, would you agree the preferable one?

Yes, it's a better energy to use I think, but it really depends on the situation, whatever mixture is going to serve your intent.

Why not just focus on developing that skill then, love as a tool?

Because love only covers a quarter of the emotional energy available to us.  And besides, if someone is in a rage, love is probably not going to be the answer, at least not at first.  Without the balance of all of them, you won't be very fluid, and that won't serve you.

Emotional Practices

Emotion can be turned in on, itself.  Two like emotions applied in more or less equal amounts can reach a neutral position of detachment.  You will often find that an epiphany, of sorts, results.  You are taking a specific emotion, for example anger, and smashing it into nonspecific anger, but using the energy of anger still.  They will, in effect, create a void emotionally, and through that void you can see more clearly and with detachment.  The point at which they cancel each other out leaves an emotional void, an empty place devoid of emotional energy.  It may not last long, but it will usually exist long enough to allow you to move through it to see more clearly the real source of the original emotion.  This can be done with virtually all the emotional energies, but is especially effective with anger and it's emotional opposite, fear.

You speak of epiphany.  What if it's grief from the pain of loss causing a vicious circle, and the hits just keep on coming - how do you break through?

Okay, that's the epiphany, being able to suddenly see that.  The key, then, is to start recapping what you saw - to break it down and remove the energy from it which is creating that vicious circle.  Sometimes, it winds down, other times, it simply snaps.

I've been on a see saw - I see, I saw, react.

It starts out that way.  Then it becomes more of a process, although, still not orderly, but more manageable.  The problem is when you have soooo much to get back through, and it's going to take a while to tame a lot of that.  This is really the hard part of the process, besides just starting it.  Try focusing on very small things - an image, a sentence someone said, a smell you noticed when it was happening, or a sound.  Those small things can be very big doorways.

Can death be used instead of the opposing emotion to cause detachment from anger or any other interfering response?

Yes, death will almost always work as a leveler of emotion, and it is one of the primary ways to defeat negative emotions, except for grief/depression - not a good idea to apply it there, unless you really don't care about living.  I can tell you, though, from experience, it does work. :)

We need to draw a distinction here, however, in terms of emotion.  None of this means you have to be tied to a whipping post.  You have a right to your emotions, and they are not logical at all.  If they were, we would call them logicals and not emotions.  On a shamanic level, though, we need to understand precisely where they come from, what has triggered them, how we can use that energy, or disavow ourselves of it in order to remain focused on our true intents.

Layering/Stacking Emotions

Love, anger, fear, depression.  I have observed that often the one that you see or feel sits on top of another feeling that you don't want to feel.  I have found anger used to mask grief, and depression used to mask anger.  Do people of different temperaments have a predisposition toward a type of layering?  Is this common?  Are there guidelines about who uses what?

We, as human beings, create layers of emotion under which to hide from the unpleasantness of life.  At times you will even find that happy emotions from the past often mask very unhappy ones under the surface.  It's very important to be sure of what you're dealing with, just like in dreaming, or seeing - you have to keep peeling away the layers relentlessly until you get to the raw, ugly bleeding landscape of no return where the foul root of such emotions grows.  But you're right, one emotion often will cover up another, grief can cover anger, or even fear.  They become intertwined, not in reality, but in the speed with which our natural fluidity allows us to change emotional positions.  Just like a dream you recall on waking can be painted over by the conscious mind with an entirely different dream as you try and grasp the details, emotions can do the same thing.  Detachment would be the best to see with clarity, but if you can't do that, or can't seem to find it, turning one against itself, each in turn, will help peel away the layers.  Eventually you end up at the root emotion and usually find it firmly cemented in a lifelong pattern.

Is detachment the key, or an escape from the pain?

Detachment ultimately allows you to see clearly the source of your pain without falling into the emotion pit.  That way, you're able to control them, move apart from them, and deal with the problem in a way that truly benefits you rather than weakens you even more. Detachment is an odd thing, it's hard to describe, really, in words, but once you really feel it and know it, it all makes sense.

I equate emotion - to emote - with creativity, there is a fear of losing the ability to tap into that.

Oh no - actually, it should help your creativity because you can plumb the depths of that emotional energy without a lot of the side effects you used to have.  You still feel, you just feel from a different place . I wouldn't suggest anything to you that I thought might harm your creativity; in fact, the shamanic demands more creativity, not less.

Recapping Emotional Patterns

When one experiences emotions - let's say anger - while watching a movie or reading a book, is it always because we're being triggered?   And if so, is recapping it the appropriate response?

Recapping is a key response, but sometimes the emotions become so complex in the way they are intertwined with each other it's difficult to find the appropriate way of recapping them effectively.  There are other ways which give at least some temporary relief to gain a position where you can effectively recap into them.  Physically, you can deal with anger by using an anger stone, or object, or using clove baths, etc.  I've been over a lot of those over the years.  They do help, but in the end, they only help if we are continuing to pursue the basic root of the problems.  The recap is the best way - it helps sort out the connections, leads you into emotional patterns, etc.

Ok, so you said we were born with a bent to one of the archetypes.

Yes.  Creatively, we are.

Is it possible that from non-understanding you move away from that bent to the opposite?

Yes, very easily in fact.  Usually towards anger or fear.

So we're really twisted from pretty much the beginning?

Yeppers, you got to go allllll the way back, and when you get there, don't stop - recap all the threads you're made up of to explore and recap the lives of all the people who came before you who now make up each tiny little part of your energy.  Then, recap on further to find the old men, the shamans who almost made it but didn't, recap through their lives as well to understand them and their knowledge.

I'm recapping intensely in my dreams.  I'm aware that it's recapitulation while I'm dreaming.

That's very good.  Sometimes, what happens is that things we either can't recall well, or are too painful, will show up in dreaming for a pass in recapping.  I've always considered that a good thing.

For those of us who have brains wired by too much cortisol as babies (hence have a LOT of body fear), will recapping help rewire the brain?  Are there exercises for this?

Yes, there are exercises.  The particular water exercise I gave you is one.  There are others, but the recap itself, done over a long enough period of time, will eventually lead you back to a place where in fact rewiring is what happens; although, you may have to bore quite a few new holes to get the wires where they need to go.  Body fear, the natural anxiety we all experience, can usually be broken down with the recap as we move back, but it still requires that fluidity in order to get the new you moving.  You reach a place where everything is gone except you and your natural predilections, at that point, how you act, the way you become is up to you and how you deal with those things.  The other issue that bears on this is the issue of conditioning that comes with creating situations where fear can overtake you, but in which you persevere to overcome it.  If your own death is too much, you can always start with smaller fears.

Dealing with Trauma, Abuse

Relationships, parental, familial and romantic - those who are recapping in these areas, I realize, are having a very difficult time with physical issues being brought up, emotional issues, and depression.  Some cycles offer no buffer from the usual recap process of working around things to spiral in on, especially traumatic or difficult connections.  The difficulty with the recap on these levels is simply that we suffer, because in spite of our best intentions to let go, our energy and minds fight to hold onto the familiar - no matter how painful it may be.  Breaking these connections at this level predicates major changes in our worldview, our perception, and our ability to be aware of ourselves and those around us on entirely new levels.  This is not a casual recap.

The severity of problems, both physical and emotional, depends a great deal on how you choose to react to the energies attached and still active in your own energy.  Revulsion, physical pain and depression are just some of the ways in which these can affect you.  When you reach this level of the recap, there is only one thing which can get you through the process while making progress, and that is a ruthless compassion applied both to yourself and to the connections which are the root of so much continuing turmoil in your energy.  You must become ruthless - angry if necessary - but above all, ruthless with the connections and memories which flood in from the wounds of the past.  Compassion must also exist if you are to move away with detachment and dissolve those connections once and for all.  You have to think of yourself as a warrior, engaged in a battle for your own survival, because in fact, that is the case and not something that can be taken lightly.  No matter how much people have hurt you in the past, connected with you in ways that continue to drain your energy, you must engage those things with an absolutely ruthless determination.  You can't care about them, you can't care about the nature of the problem connections - you simply must succeed.

You can start becoming ruthless with these things by bringing anger to your side and applying it with as much force as possible - not to the personalities involved, but to the memories and connections.  They must be broken - take no prisoners.  The real problem is not one of connection, or the what, or the how.  The issue is one of self-perception and how your worldview has been shaped by these things.  While you may not like it, the fact is, you were - and are - formed by your interactions with other people.  That can't be allowed to exist in ways which drain you, control you, or make your world one in which you live in misery.  You can have regrets, but it doesn't mean you have to live a lifetime of regret.

What effects will it have on a current relationship if I recap events that are related to larger energetic patterns?  Assume the current relationship is desirable, and I intend to continue within it.

As long as you leave the current relationship dynamics out of it, you should be okay.  It may change somewhat, but relationships are built, so if you have built solidly it should be fine.  In other words, in that case, real love will win out.

Recapping a pattern that is manifesting in this relationship - how does that differ from relationship dynamics?

Because it wasn't created in this relationship, but was created in the past and is being carried over.  You can redefine the current one, but overall it should not affect it in a negative way.

How can we use the 'spot' of ruthlessness and detachment in recapping?  Recall it during the recap and apply it?

Anger, then ruthlessness, then detachment.  Here's how:

As you start working the recap exercise, you should draw upon anger - not personal anger as in 'so and so pissed me off,' but anger from the heart of anger, the big anger, archetypal anger.  It should not be attached to any person or thing you are recapping.  Once you bring up that anger.  Once you are literally shaking with anger, nonspecific anger, rage, aim it at the specifics of what you are recapping, still not at the person, but at the actions, the memories, the connections.  Use the anger to trigger your ruthlessness.  Go after it ruthlessly, without regard to anything but breaking down those connections and sucking the marrow out of the bone.  Then tell yourself one simple thing - you don't care.  If you have done this effectively you will find yourself in a place of detachment.  You are basically taking your emotional energy and slamming it into a brick wall, and not giving a fig about it.

You said earlier that this cycle was not a time to be casually recapping.   What would you say would happen if you have been doing some hardcore recapping?

That it was par for the course, right now, that this cycle is pounding the crap out of people - that's both a good and bad thing.  It gives you a boost to go after a lot of these things that may be very difficult, but it also tends to throw you into a cesspool of connections and emotions.  I'm trying to give you a survival kit, for the time being.  I'm sure you feel as though you have been sucked into places you really weren't prepared to go right now.

Where and how do you apply or involve compassion in the severing process?

The compassion lies in the detachment.  It is that place you come to which defends the existence of even the worst of behaviors and connections - not because they are right or wrong, but because they are simply the nature of the beast.  You can't fault people for their own weaknesses.  You can only choose not to be prey to them anymore.  Once you have detachment, you begin to see with a detached compassion the things that created them.  It doesn't mean you like them - and certainly not that you approve of them - but, it allows you to finish breaking those draining connections.

So, once again, it's the "big" compassion.  Not a personal thing, but a larger understanding of human nature.

Yes.  We are all, to one degree or another, victims of our past, but we can choose not to be victims any longer - there is a middle way.

When moving from archetypical anger into detachment, would one still feel the physical after-effects of anger for 20 minutes or so like normal, or will it vanish as we move our energy into detachment?  Physical effects like high blood pressure, racing heartbeat, shaking etc.?

It's a strange beast.  It will fade like a dying light, very quickly.  The shift in itself can be startling.

Okay, so if we are able to do these 3 steps successfully, will this lessen the physical problems some of us are having as a result of earlier attempts, or make them go away completely?  Except for healing damage done already, perhaps.

Yes, it will help lessen them and move you to a place where you can get through it without all the discomfort.  Practice with the technique some first.

What I'm unsure of is, should I go for it, or wait until I heal some first?

Work it in smaller things, other recap issues.  Then, as you feel it settling in as a tool you can use, apply it to the tough stuff.  If you are in a process of healing, now - I mean one you can really identify - wait; but if not, applying it will help lessen some of the things you are going through.

How does a person really define for themselves if they should quit. or plow onward?

Well, dry heaves are a good example.  If it's too much, if the depression is too great, the pain too much to bear physically.  Back off, allow yourself to get better, do mundane things, create with your hands, work with them in the earth at planting flowers, making mud pies - anything to reach a point of grounding and balance.  It's like a boil that's rising.  It won't drain until it's at a certain stage, and sometimes you have to wait a little.  And yes, they can be very physical.

Recapping and Self-Perception

Now we arrive at a pivotal point in our quest for awareness, and that is perception itself.  When you are born, created, forced into the world, you are equipped with tools of perception much greater than what most possess now.  The world, our culture, our 'way' of being has limited you to a hammer, so now everything you perceive is a nail.  We are not even taught that there are different types of nails - only peripherally are we aware of the differences, and certainly not other things which can be accessed with other tools that we possess but are not aware of, in general.  Tonight, I just want to talk about self-perception - how we have come to perceive ourselves and spin around in the center of our own little universes.  This is the way that we are taught, though taught may be a bad expression.  The demand that we perceive ourselves in certain ways, behave in certain ways, and even feel in certain ways, is driven into us from the moment of birth onward, until finally, we exist only as a reflection of the people around us.  We are part of one giant cluster fuck of perception.  The problem during recapping is that we are both revolting against that perceptual rule and living by it at the same time until a new balance can be struck in our energy.  This is not a fun thing.  Recapping on these levels is serious business, as anyone who has done it in depth can tell you.

How do you play with your own perception of self?  How do you move from the place of victim to one of strength and individuality?

The only way is to attach yourself to something larger than your own perceived existence for the temporary time it takes to move through the energy of recapping these fundamental events in life.  We have all experienced trauma at one point or the other in life.  There has been physical, sexual, emotiona,l and outright criminal abuse for many.  Yet, there is a choice involved in how we choose to perceive that pain.  I have been the victim of rape.  I could choose to take a position of anger and prejudice, but my choice is to move my perception to a place above that pain - to use it to understand my own nature and the ways in which I could use any experience to understand life itself in greater depth.  Perception, any place in perception is only a choice.  You live the reality you choose, and choose you should - before a reality chooses to live you.

What did you mean by attaching yourself to something larger through the duration?

There are things that exist in our universe that are much larger than us - the earth, nature in general, even visions of time.  We have to connect with those things in personal ways to allow us the perspective of our true position - otherwise, everything becomes about our pain, our suffering, and our misery.  No matter how bad we feel our 'problems' are, there is always someone out there with problems much worse.  We have to keep ourselves moving.  If we stop too long in a fixed position of our own perspective, we become rigid and become overwhelmed.

I take it you can use this applied anger and detachment technique for a number of things besides just recapping?

Yes, it has applications in a number of ways; some are brought up differently and from different aspects of our energy.  Yes, it can definitely be used in healing.