I've read a lot of self-improvement and spiritual books that talk about how bad it is to be angry or upset. Every day at work I find multiple situations that make me sad, mad or scared. How can you get to a higher place where you can rise above these petty reactions?

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Q: I’ve read a lot of self-improvement and spiritual books that talk about how bad it is to be angry or upset. Every day at work I find multiple situations that make me sad, mad or scared. How can you get to a higher place where you can rise above these petty reactions?

A: Getting to a “higher” place isn’t about avoiding feelings. The only way you can achieve consciousness, freedom or serenity is by experiencing everything that is true for you, moment by moment.

I’m perplexed by how feelings got to have such a bad rap in Western civilization. Feelings in themselves are simply internal weather patterns. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s sunny, and sometimes there’s a windstorm. It’s what we say or do next that determines how our lives turn out.

Feeling occasionally homicidal, vengeful or devastated is simply a byproduct of being human. Acting on these feelings, that is a choice. We have more freedom to make better decisions if we get to know the gamut of light and dark emotions that lurk inside each of us.

I also am perplexed at how pretending to have no emotions came to represent a “higher” state of consciousness. Think about it: Who avoids emotions, fragile people or strong people?

There’s been a lot written about the power of being in the present moment, so why don’t more people do it? The truth is that there’s a lot in any present moment that sucks! The things that suck about our present moment make us mad, sad or scared, and we don’t like that. Thus, we eternally search for the magic formula to exorcise these feelings.

Unfortunately, as long as you have a human brain, you are stuck with emotions. The good news is that the way to a higher state of consciousness is right through the mud of all those messy emotions. If you will simply tolerate the experience of them, you’ll drop through a trap door where it just can’t get worse and find a calm eye in the middle of your hurricane.

The question I’m most often asked by clients is: Tell me what to say or do to make my painful feelings go away? My answer is: If you actually want freedom and power in your work and life, you have got to get in to get out.

Once you find the courage to experience whatever discomfort you have about your present moment, you’ll be astonished that these “petty” reactions are actually the royal road to your creativity, resiliency and wisdom. Use them!

The last word(s)

Q: Is having good “political” skills always a good thing?

A: Nope, bad people can do bad things with interpersonal savvy. A tool is only as good as the person using it.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net

; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube