Shamanic Healing

Explore Maker Methods for Self-Healing

The Emotional Poles


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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.