31: Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 2

Rochelle Blumenfeld, Catching the Light, 2011

What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
– John 1:4-5 (The Message)

In this session’s video segment on “Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 2,” Fr. Thomas continues to explore some of the many ways our energy centers become frustrated and cause discord in our lives and relationships. We may experience emotional turmoil — what we call afflictive emotions — and the accompanying commentaries, or interior dialogue, that is largely produced by our imagination or perceptions.

In addition, we each have a pattern of reacting to the frustration of the energy centers according to our temperament by either withdrawing, capitulating, being aggressive, or depending on someone bigger or stronger, or in a position of authority. The willingness to look at our afflictive emotions, commentaries, and reactions brings a greater awareness to our unconscious motivations, or the motivations of the false-self system. When we learn to recognize these clues to the frustration of the energy centers, we have more freedom to respond or let go, rather than react. We are freeing the energy of the divine life within us, our true Self, so that divine love can be the motivation of our responses to life at each moment, rather than reacting from a storehouse of unconscious motivations of a lifetime.

When we talk about dismantling our emotional programs, we may think we have to undertake some Herculean effort. Our greatest aid in dismantling the emotional programs is our Centering Prayer practice. Returning to the sacred word over and over again, learning to let go of thoughts, strengthens our “letting go muscle,” so to speak, to let go in daily life.

“If you learn to let go of all thoughts in contemplative [Centering] prayer, returning to the sacred word when you notice you’re thinking some particular thought or have some particular impression or feeling, then in daily life it is going to become easier when you have some particular distressing or afflictive thought or feeling that is emerging from frustration of one of the energy centers, to let it go.”

– Thomas Keating, Session 31 video


“The Holy Spirit … is our guide in the practice of Centering Prayer … to bring its effects into daily life. The presence of the Holy Spirit within us is always inviting us to listen to the delicate inspirations that gradually take over more and more aspects of our lives, and to transform them from expressions of our false self into manifestations of our true Self and the infinite goodness and tenderness of the Father.”

-Thomas Keating, Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit

A Meditation

“Meister Eckhart, the German Dominican mystic (c. 1260-c.1328), said that spirituality has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. Yet our culture, both secular and Christian, seems obsessed with addition: getting rich, becoming famous, earning more brownie points with God or our boss, attaining enlightenment, achieving moral behavior. Jesus and the mystics of other traditions tell us that the spiritual path is not about getting more or getting ahead, which only panders to the ego. Authentic spirituality is much more about letting go — letting go of what we don’t need, although we don’t know that at first.

“Life and God ask us to let go of our false self — the passing, egoic identity we’ve manufactured in order to cope and survive. To be freed from self-preoccupation, we must be centered in the Real, our inherent and unbreakable identity as God’s beloved. Once we’re connected to our Source, we know that our isolated, seemingly inferior or superior individual self is not that big a deal. The more we cling to self-importance and ego, the more we are undoubtedly living outside of union.”

– Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, December 12, 2017

To Practice
  • View the video excerpt “Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 2.” It is about 28 minutes in length.
  • Reflect: As Fr. Thomas describes each of us may be temperamentally inclined to react to frustration of the energy centers differently; we may withdraw, capitulate, act out aggressively or become overly dependent on someone perceived to be stronger or in a position of authority. Meister Eckhart suggests that spirituality has much more to do with subtraction that it does with addition. How are you being called to exercise your “letting go muscle” in your journey now?


“Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 2,” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 28 mins.
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Audio for this Narrative

"Dismantling the Emotional Programs, Part 2," excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 28 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.

Additional Resources