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Our driver has made a mistake. The car is now stranded on one lane trying to merge onto another. Until our destination clears, we are forced to dangerously block the approaching traffic. Cars are racing towards us. I sense a surge crawl from the base of my spine to the tip of my head in anticipation of impact. “Foolish decision,” I think to myself, yet in this life-threatening moment, finding fault seems more foolish than the driver’s folly. Does it matter who’s to blame if we’re struck dead?

“No time to judge,” says another thought; “just watch.”

The cars speeding towards us screech as they brake. I see their hinds rise and their fronts swivel. A few more screeches from the cars behind them. Further distant screeches from the many cars we’re blocking in mid-highway. Then a silence pregnant with emergency. I see the startled drivers through their windshields. It appears no collision has occurred. Their alarm transitions into rage. They honk, shout, and gesture wildly, signaling that we’re crazy.

“Don’t react, just watch,” persists the voice, contrary to instinct.

The lane before us clears and we merge forward, the traffic on both sides regaining momentum. Even this moment has passed, like water under the bridge! Still aflame with adrenaline, I ponder how imminent death has shed an altogether new light on human reaction. What is the aim of negativity? Did the drivers express it to avert collision? The crash would have obviously occurred regardless of their anger. Did they express it to establish fault? Our fault was crystal-clear independently of their cursing. No, the aim of negativity isn’t to prevent or indict, but to release; to discharge the moment of its pregnant pressure.

Throughout our lives, negativity beckons in a multitude of moments. Broad and blind is the way that overlooks through judgment. Narrow and intentional is the way that sees through observation. Avoid expressing negative emotions, not because they’re bad, or hurtful, or even useless. Avoid expressing negative emotions, because that is the narrow way to uncovering the moment’s lesson.

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Image by mrbrenner (shared under the creative commons license)



  1. John

    Negativity seems to be like river mud upon which I may be standing; as long as I am rested, it supports my weight but as fatigue sets in it is as if the mud begins to swallow me and I give in to negativity. Only after resting am I able to carry on in a positive and constructve state of mind.

    This condition has been with me for a long, long time and I don’t know if there is a way to remedy it.

    1. William Scholte

      This happens to me too, John. Getting enough rest and making proper choices regarding diet and exercise have a very noticeable impact on my ability to make efforts. It is a question of available energy and, while the aim is not to ‘make a better machine’, taking proper care of the machine definitely contributes to our store of available energy. John Walz’s exposition in the group “The Food Diagram” has some very informative and practical angles on this. One useful side of experiencing this negativity when my energy is low is that it has brought to light some ‘accounts’ that I continue to carry which, in moments of non-irritability, I imagine I no longer carry.

    2. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Pressure is unnecessary for everyday functioning. We spurt it out through negativity, the way a cook spurts out steam from his pressure-cooker. The less pressure I’m under, the more seamlessly can I go through my day. But going through my day seamlessly means going through it in sleep. Once I verify the connection between transforming pressure and higher states, the non-expression of negative emotions becomes a tool for introducing and prolonging consciousness.

      1. rahşan

        Thank you very much. So I clearly understand that if I release the pressure I loose the energy. Is there “more steps” to channel the energy to something or observing is self channeling, no needing to worry about it.

  2. Tim

    Possibly much symbolism here in this post: sticking with analogy, your driving forced the other drivers (in the other direction) to become briefly awake and negativity was their way to get back asleep the quickest way possible. Nothing like having your life flash before you to wake you up briefly.

    In order to establish one’s status in the world of Influence A one needs to determine place and force. What force are you playing in the lives of the people around you in that particular place? Active, passive, neutral? Positive, negative, neutral? The place, in this example, was among fellow drivers. The force flowing: against the grain. But because we are students of The Work there is a third consideration beyond place and force…. aim.

    It is easier for me to observe myself when I slow down but only if the slowing down is down with the aim of self observation. I can drive mechanically just as slowly as I can do it quickly. And so here I become an egoist, focusing on inner work of self for the sake of higher mind. The energies inside are slightly more definable now, something like the food diagram now makes sense, but is very far away…

  3. jack

    Thank you John. As a senior driving on major highways and at night are serious challenges for me. Trying to feel the grip of my hands on the steering wheel to self-remembers but its a work in progress

  4. Orazio Sorgonà

    Thank you so much, Asaf.
    You had given me an extra-powerful work tool and effective.
    Yes, I won’t express negative emotions /because/ that’s a majestic and daily-quite-at-hand means to reach my end: an higher state of consciousness.

    This is a fresh third force in my search of the miraculous:
    Q:”how can I get it?”
    A:”well, you do not express negative emotions and you’ll contact it!”.

    Actually, if you do not express negative emotions, yu begin also having proficient work i’s to move further.

    And how an effective tool: if a negtaive emotion, then I can remember of the miraculous and ‘forget’ the negative emotion. And this works.

    1. William Scholte

      Thanks Orazio. When we can apply scale and relativity, a passing negative emotion is quite small next to the miraculous, the presence of our own higher centers.

  5. Valéria Prado

    The negative moments tend weakness in moments to generate sad thoughts , elements that make them even more difficult times. It is up to us we go through them we become more aware of themselves to be able to observe all the time , create opportunities that let us not be identified for long in a negative situation . Awareness , understanding helps us learn the lesson, we went through the narrow door and have access to small passage that leads to life.

    1. Thomas Neuschatz

      Valeria, great observation about getting caught in a cycle of negative emotions, each feeding on the previous one in a descending octave. For me a common cycle is first observing a negative emotion then judging myself for the expression then hitting myself internally for not having made enough efforts. One way out is to set an aim to not go with the self judgement on observing a weakness. Setting this aim and connecting it to an intense dislike of the negative state even a feeling of how desperately necessary it is to escape this cycle can eventually shock into the Present. One must set the aim and reaffirm it time and again to be successful. Then one starts on the narrow path that leads to the Self.

      1. Valéria Prado

        Thank you Thomas for putting into words what I thought, I will paraphrase you: “. One must Set the aim and reaffirm it again and team to be successful. Then one starts on the narrow path que leads to the Self. “It was just that my thought that by setting a goal and reaffirm already guarantee a good step for the reminder of you and the result that consciousness creates for our lives. I appreciate the attention and help me to put into words my thoughts.

  6. Surya Pratap Singh

    Thank you Asaf.
    Driving in a countrside busy market place in India seemed to be extremely beneficial for self remembering than driving on a highway.
    Every moment i hav to make a decision, every moment i need to be in control of myself regardless of my untrained emotional faculty which tries to interfere with my intellectual faculty. Chaotic and extremely busy roads of India helped me to use my intellectual faculty in a proper manner.
    This became possible as i had a positive attitude towards them. If i had a bit of negativity towards this chaos on roads i would hav lost such a great opprtunity. ☺

    1. William Scholte

      Thanks for the reminder of how difficult situations are an opportunity to connect with something higher, Surya. We have everything to gain by not expressing negativity and everything to lose if we indulge in its expression.

  7. Alen

    Non expression of negative emotions makes a certain energy. If I do it for My merit, it passes in to another identification.This happens when an element of real sincerity in Observing is not present.Same example can be seen in Self Remembering. If I remember my clothes, name, position or race; I do not Remember Myself, but the thing I Think I am. This force can strengthen our False Self, making further required efforts of the Work even harder. More things to decrystalize in Myself. The quality of Self Remembering when experienced rightly, has a form of Silence and Nothingness.I am. When I bring attention to My body, is My attention drawn towards My new shoes or neatly tied tie? All efforts, including ones of negative emotions, must lead to Higher.I must remind Myself to ask the question “To what in Myself do I pass this force?” We can just be pouring salt in to the river of Life with a satisfying smile thinking that someone saw us do this Very Important Work.
    The Work must have a foundation, and in my experience this foundation in terms of Personality where I spend most of My life, is closer to nothing then “something”. The place of our self merit and expectation of reward must be Observed, not Remembered. From here it is not possible to Be, but it is needed to Observe “It”. In the place of silent Observing, if practiced enough, becomes more solid and wide. On this we can build a New house of Remembering and the higher.

    1. Thomas Neuschatz

      Alen, pride or vanity regarding efforts certainly leads away from the narrow way. Not expressing negative emotions, or ordering our own personal environment/appearance, can bring us into closer harmony with the highest within and higher aspects of the universe. The energy resulting from efforts is a reflection of this. As soon as I take pride in an effort, the lower in me has ascended; another reminder that the reward for making effort is the possibility of making further effort along the narrow way.

      1. Jack

        Thank you Thomas for raising the awareness in me of the pride that I had identified with in some of my non-identifying. It shows my need to be more observant and feel gratitude for being awake for a moment and not identify with my false personality which wants to take credit for everything.

  8. Sandra Sward

    Maurice Nicoll often commented “all negative emotions are scrambled, unintelligent”. They do not serve us. I am not always awake enough to catch myself drifting into the (habitual) negative cycle of thought, activity, judgment – but, when I am aware of it, I have palpable gratitude for the opportunity to switch lanes, raise myself up, give thanks and move forward with trust, silence, appreciation (that “now” of the moment when you choose and self-remembering occurs). This occurs many times when I awaken in the middle of the night with some “doom and gloom” thought…I notice there seems to be additional “help” to immediately change lanes (inwardly shift away from that pull), offer my mind to that which is positive and ever-present in me. At once, an inner vibration occurs that is strong and soothing and I can literally feel an upward momentum occur, a shift that sometimes seems seismic – again reminding me of the Work at hand.

  9. Dean Whittingham

    Just as Tim described, I saw the reactions of the other drivers as being a negative reaction to being pulled out of sleep or comfort.

    From this perspective it does change how I am now viewing my own negative emotions, not as something to criticize but as opportunity.

    I had such an experience tue night where some news I was given did cause negativity to well up but instead of reacting the usual way (which would have been to complain to those around me seeking sympathy) I simply named it and reminded myself that it does no good for others either to have them have to listen to my woes and was able to let it go. It did continue to resurface over the next 36 hours at various times and I applied the same process.

    1. William Scholte

      Thanks Dean. From one angle, the reliable persistence of negativity, like you describe, is a good thing, affording us the reminder and the opportunity to persistently reaffirm our aim and make effort. It all adds up.

  10. Gwynne Mayer

    I have noticed if I do not re-act to my emotions, I can self-observe much more easily to see the inner reaction, especially negative emotions. Sometimes I feel as if I have four unruly stallions leading my carriage and they all want to go in different directions. Quite the conundrum.

    1. William Scholte

      Yes Gwynne, when we react unconsciously, we are in the lower, mechanical parts of centers. An effort to not react in our mechanical ways ‘pushes’ us into higher parts of centers which have the ability to ‘see’ the lower parts.
      Your image of unruly stallions is quite fitting; Mr. Gurdjieff used an analogy which presented ‘man’ as driver, horse and carriage, which is the topic of Asaf’s next Online Workshop.

  11. Nancy-Rebecca McCarty

    When ‘i’ strike a match head to the roughened surface of the strike-pad, the resulting friction causes the flame to ignite. This is the power of my own experiential friction, it can ignite a flame in me. When a work- ‘i’, within, tends that flame, intentionally, it can become a moment of consciousness in me. Understanding the true-nature of ‘friction’, how it can be used to light my ‘inner-fire’, is to see how valuable ‘friction’ actually is for my ‘work’. This understanding forms the basis in me, of ‘a right work-attitude’ toward the ‘friction’ that befalls me in my life. That is: “Friction is a gift.”(~the Teacher).

    Unfortunately, there are old habitual attitudes programmed into my psychology, which are directly opposed to this ‘right attitude’. Without the presence of ‘the observer’, these attitudes, direct the igniting flair of ‘friction’, into the expression of negative emotions, burning up my psychic energy, uselessly, in terms of the work. These ‘habitual attitudes’, are ‘triggered’ instantly in the presence of ‘friction’, and function automatically, to shunt the energy, ignited by ‘friction’, outwardly, where it is wasted, or worse yet, destructive.

    Resisting the expression of negative emotions, helps bring ‘conscious attention’ to the ‘observer’, who, even if ‘i’ fail at first, or only ‘see’ by reflecting back on an episode where ‘i’ ‘lost it’, can verify how these habitual mechanical attitudes, oppose my ‘work’ toward forging a more permanent connection to ‘higher-self’.

    Making the effort to program in ‘work-i’s’ that remind me to bring conscious attention to ‘the observer’, when ever my circumstances present me with ‘friction’, is a key factor, which enables me to remember to activate the ‘work-attitude’ that values, and uses the ‘igniting-power’ of ‘friction’ to promote presence. Even though they are still ‘just ‘i’s’, without these useful reminders, my psychic energy gets wasted expressing negative emotions. To see “Friction as a gift” instead of a ‘curse’ is a powerful thing.

  12. Hugo Ferraguti

    Sometimes one’s self finds difficult not to express negativity. A group o ‘I’s think that there is some justice in reacting with negativity because of a previous negative situation created by someone else. This would be the case in the story for the drivers facing a car coming in a wrong direction on a road. When we have those reactive ‘I’s, we might find ourselves giving way to negativity. And most of the energy coming from the shock will be gone. But most is not ALL. Another smaller negativity is about to be expressed, so one is still on time to keep it unexpressed: it is generally an ‘I’ trying to make one feel guilty and not able to do any work on non-expression. Would one be able to separate on time before giving way to this complaint and self-pity to control the moment, one will be training his or her muscle for the next opportunity to face a negative situation. This might be something to remember when starting working in non-expression…

  13. Marcella Berardi

    I verified what Nancy-Rebecca wrote about friction which is the teacher. Few days ago I was with my family to have a birthday dinner at restaurant. The waiters wasn’t bringing the food demands, more than 45 minutes passed, a meandering nervousness insinated among my siblings; negative feelings araised and bad words were said, many of them were ready to jump off the tip of my tongue, reacting to the others. The poisonous wave was overwhelming all of us. I letterarly wallowed my negative emotions. I saw myself cheewing pizza and rage , but I didn’t allowed to express it. Slowly, as it came, the poisonous wave disappeared and everything regained its normal way. Avoiding to add fuel to the flame made me stronger but had also an other consequence: it avoided the party to switch into a mess. What I learnt is that the efforts to contrast the negative emotions, which is an inner work, brings benefits even to the outer world and I verified that the effort is the payment to the friction (=the teacher) for its teaching.

  14. Jason Warner

    It took me a long time to grasp this concept of negative expression having an awareness of this expression led me to be able to truly observe the negative emotion behind it, some days I do however forget myself and it can creep up. I would not go so far as to say “Seeing Red” but that is the nearest I can describe it. Rather than reacting I could sense my pulse increase, I would be aware my face may be turning a little redder; this physical sign in myself enabled me to be aware a negative expression could be imminent if I didn’t nip it in the bud. Automatically my breathing would become deeper, I would feel aware of each individual breath I took, I feel my pulse lower and calmness would ensue. Now I appreciate the physical reason is because the increase in my tidal volume and intra-thoracic pressure (deeper breaths and increase lung air pressure) has a direct impact on my vagal nerve causing my heart rate to decrease. I am still a novice at this and I appreciate I cannot be like all the time, it gives me motivation to work harder. Work harder but not be hard on oneself. At times I will sit back and think that’s 3 days where I have no being truly aware, I try not to let it frustrate me as that is also a negative emotion.
    Others negativity use to trigger my negative expression, though I now simply think to myself they maybe they are having a bad day I do not truly know that person’s driver/ motivation for their negative expression, furthermore I can even say I sympathise as I use to be that person all day, every day . I had an altercation once with a gentleman who felt I had cut him up whilst driving; he pulled alongside me and was shouting at me. The situation was diffused simply by me saying I am sorry I did not mean to alarm you, he said “OK mate thanks”. I didn’t feel I was in the wrong, however my ego is such that I do not mind rising above it for the simple sake of arguing over who is right or wrong. Unconditional positive regard to all has aided me to make calm any tense situations.
    Physically tiredness can exacerbate my situation; nonetheless a simple awareness of my physical tiredness soon enables me to be myself again.
    It really does dawn on me at times of awareness how much of a machine I am at times, the routine my life dictates. I reflect at times when I arrive home and truly I cannot remember the car journey home, the machine is at the wheel at that time. I will work harder on this, but as we all know it is a struggle…

    1. John F. Walz

      Hello Jason,
      welcome to the community and thanks for sharing these observations.
      As you said, once we acknowledge the pervasiveness of our own sleep, it becomes more and more difficult to judge other people due to theirs.
      With time, as you have done, we can even begin to feel compassion when other people say or do things that harm us or our loved ones.In doing so we activate the Directed Part of the Emotional Center(The King). We recognize that our sleep is a state of suffering so we know that this is the case with others. They no more intend to harm people any more than we do when we are asleep. This new emotional attitude enables us to rise above the Drawn Part of the Emotional Center(The Queen) which judges and criticizes others harshly based on its own subjective morality. Sometimes this judgement can be stimulated by the instinctive center(as Asaf writes about above) when it has felt threatened.
      With all this relatively complex inner Work, its important not to loose sight of the simple(yet immortal) state of wordless Be-ing that is the true Aim of our efforts.

  15. Hicham B.

    Thanks Asaf for this interesting post. It clearly shows how negative emotions are expressed even in moments of extreme danger. I experienced the same thing in a car accident few years ago: fear then blame then anger. Of course when I look back it clearly appears that I took the “broad and blind” way.

  16. Maurice Nicoll

    Through our attitude to others all kinds of frictions arise, and we do not see that we are responsible for the situation.
    But we can become aware that we criticise, and that what others said of us is true.
    This would mean that we had observed ourselves sufficiently to become more conscious of ourselves and it is this that alters a situation.