29: Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 1

Art by Julie Lonneman

We have been focusing on the formation and frustration of the energy centers. Now, we start to look at the role we can play in dismantling the emotional programs. When we are triggered by something going on in our unconscious, it often feels as if we have no control.

“These energy centers were developed by repeated acts. They can be taken down by repeated acts. There’s nothing absolute or mysterious about them. They’re just a habit. Since they have deep emotional overtones, it takes a little repetition, determination, and patience to keep letting go of the value system by a deliberate act every time it presents itself.”

– Thomas Keating, excerpt from this session’s video


A regular practice of Centering Prayer starts the process of surfacing some of these troubling emotions and commentaries. Fr. Thomas continue, “… the distancing that our silence in prayer gives us from the interior dialogue, enables us to re-evaluate our programs, and with greater ease to resist them, deny them, reject them. But we don’t repress the emotions. We simply release the energy that is involved in the value system that the emotions are faithfully registering.”

Fr. Thomas suggests identifying and naming the afflictive or troubling emotion, pinpointing the event that triggered it, which often leads to identifying the energy center affected. This is followed by asking ourselves if we are willing to let go of our desire for control, approval, esteem or affection, and making the choice to let go of that desire. If you are familiar with the Welcoming Prayer, you will recognize this practice as its precursor. For those who are not familiar with the Welcoming Prayer, you can read a summary of this practice here. The Welcoming Prayer is an embodied consent to the presence and action of the Spirit in the healing of these emotional programs.

A Meditation

“God is not a Being who loves; God is love, and absolute love is utterly faithful. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3).

“There is no doubt that suffering and violence abound in the crevices of life … God does not abandon us; we abandon God by abandoning ourselves from ourselves, running after little gods. God lives deep within us, as the center of love, but we are often blind to this inner center and drawn by the little gods of power, success, status, and wealth, everything we create for ourselves. Thus, we abandon God within for the fleeting gods without. When things go wrong, we run from our little gods and invoke the God of revelation, but we have a difficult time finding this God. The … question is … why we abandon God in the face of suffering? If God is love, then our only real hope is in God because hope is the openness of love to infinite possibilities and new life.”

– Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, God, Evolution, and The Power of Love

To Practice
  • View the video excerpt “Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 1.” It is about 23 minutes in length.
  • Reflect: Because the human condition teaching focuses on our psychological experience, it can sometimes feel dark and discouraging. The Ilia Delio quote reminds us not only that God is love, but that God lives deep within us, never abandons us, and is our hope into infinite possibilities and new life, the life that is our divine-human destiny. Are you finding that your Centering Prayer practice is sustaining and informing you through this adventure in self-knowledge we call the human condition teaching?


“Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 1,” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 23.1 mins.
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Audio for this Narrative

"Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 1," excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 23.1 mins.
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 Resources for Further Study:

You may wish to read Chapter 24 "Spirituality in Everyday Life" from Invitation to Love (20th anniversary edition), Chapter 22 in older editions.

You also may wish to read the book by Gerald May that Fr. Thomas refers to in this video, Addiction & Grace.

You also may wish to read chapters five and six of the Gospel of Matthew which Fr. Thomas refers to, reading with the ear of the heart.

Additional Resources