In the Biblical text referred to as Numbers, in the portion called Chukat, after the Jews were rescued from their Egyptian enslavement and were wandering in the desert, they were recorded complaining against God and Moses, saying,
“Why did you make us leave Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread and no water, and we have come to loathe this miserable food.”
As punishment for their lack of faith in their Higher Power, The Torah verse continues by saying,
“God sent poisonous snakes to the people. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died.”
The remedy? God said to Moses,
“Make a seraph figure and mount it on a standard. And anyone who was bitten who then looks at it shall recover.”
So Moses fashioned a copper snake wrapped around a pole and every person that stared at the copper snake became healed.
What is this odd story?
The medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher known as Maimonides explains that this event demonstrated our pathway to healing- which is to use the disease as the cure. In fact many vaccines work by taking a droplet of the disease which is inoculated as the remedy. By allowing the body to handle the bacteria in small doses it learns how to affectively cure itself by understanding the chemical makeup of the disease, which builds an immunity to combat the illness. In this case, the remedy to the snake bite was to stare at the snake. Inoculating the disease with the disease became the antidote.
It had me thinking- if the body can heal itself with diseases- aren’t we capable of healing our emotional trauma using the same uncomfortable emotions as the remedy as well?
According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg author of “90 Seconds to a life you Love,” and an emotional resiliency expert, there are 8 uncomfortable feelings we humans experience. They include, sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, and vulnerability. You might even noticing yourself experiencing these 8 emotions on a regular basis.
According to Dr. Joan, these emotions are not bad- they are just uncomfortable and when we avoid these emotions, we create more discomfort. Her remedy to dealing with these emotions? Just like God told Moses to stare at the snake, Dr. Joan encourages us to lean in to the discomfort and stare at the emotion. When we allow our bodies to experience the uncomfortable emotion versus ignoring the feeling, we become more resilient. We rectify our perceptions, reactions and impulses and restore ourselves to a place of healing. In other words, by inoculating ourselves with giving ourselves permission to feel the emotion- we counteract the punishment of becoming crippled by the emotion. Instead, we heal the emotion by feeling it.
According to Dr. Joan’s data an emotion only lasts 90 seconds. It literally takes 90 seconds for an emotion to move through the body. But if we ignore or suppress the emotion, than not only does it not leave the body- it actually takes up room and creates illness, congestion, pain and or inflammation. The body’s pain is the physical siren letting you know the emotional storage has begun to take root. It is your smoke detector which tells you there are feelings aflame. And if we ignore that signal, the pain becomes unbearable. Eventually we move from unease to dis-ease.
In my masterclass known as “The Expanse Effect,” where I teach emotional resiliency using meditation I’ve taken Dr. Joan Rosenberg’s approach in allowing the body to reset itself through moving through the discomfort using transcendental inhalation and exhalation as a modality to regenerate the mind. Here is how the meditation works. Find a place and make yourself comfortable away from any distractions. Next, take a deep breathe, maybe a few more until you feel your body going into a super relaxed state. Then, ask yourself which of the 8 emotions you might be feeling. BREATHE. Look at the discomfort directly in the face. Allow your body to feel the emotion and notice where it is taking up space in the body. Do you have pain? Notice where it is residing. Then allow yourself to breathe through that uncomfortable experience for at least 90 seconds. By naming it, feeling it and breathing through it, you can finally allow the emotion to stop taking up space.
Like the snake bite, which only healed after staring at the copper snake, be courageous and breathe in the poison- eventually it will become your remedy to healing your trauma, making you emotionally healthy and incredibly resilient.