Ah, those pesky emotions! Doesn’t it feel like that sometimes? We all enjoy the positive emotions like love, happiness, pleasure, delight, and confidence. But then their counterparts show up, like anger, sadness, disgust, and fear — and suddenly, emotions are no longer so welcome.
But emotions – all of them – have a purpose and a wisdom. And studies have shown that tamping emotions down or shutting them away can create all kinds of problems, not the least of which are physical health problems. But the Hawaiians knew this centuries ago.
When the first Westerners came to Hawai‘i in the 19th century, they found a group of people who were almost completely devoid of mental and physiological disease. Why? Because the Hawaiians knew how to work with their unihipili to release stress and their “stuff,” all the repressed emotions and memories.
Unihipili is the name the Hawaiians gave the unconscious mind, and its literal translation is “little creature” or “little one.” If you saw something scurrying across the floor you might say, “Oh, look! An unihipili!” The Hawaiians believed that the unconscious mind was a little self that lived inside you.
This little self had several important jobs, one of which was to help you deal with your emotions. If you experienced something traumatic or something you didn’t have the tools to understand or process, yourunihipili would take the experience and throw it into a metaphorical black bag. Your unihipili then zipped that bag up and stashed it somewhere in your body – but it was never intended to stay hidden away forever.
As my teachers of Huna explained it, later you might consciously recognize that you have a black bag. You might opt to find the black bag and process the emotions within, then let them all go. But at other times, they believed that your unihipili, your unconscious, might decide that you’re ready to let go of the emotions or experiences before you consciously recognized them. So the unihipili would open up the black bag, causing all the emotions to flood into you so you could release them.
Have you ever had that experience? You’re having a good day when – Bam! – sadness, anger, or fear bubbles up. This is a signal from unihipilithat “You’re ready to let it go.”
As Westerners, we find that experience pretty disconcerting. We do everything we can think of to “calm down” or “think about something else.” We don’t see the upheaval as a positive signal from the unconscious that we’re ready to resolve the issue, but rather a signal that something is wrong with us. We medicate, we deny, and we avoid. We push those feelings back down below the surface.
But the ancient Hawaiians appreciated the flood of emotion and knew it was healthy and natural. If they felt sad, they would weep; if they felt anger bubble up, they would express it somehow and allow it to dissipate. They had faith that unihipili knew when the time was right, and trusted that they had the tools and techniques to handle it. They didn’t make a big deal out of it. They simply released the black bag and moved forward.
To the Huna way of thinking, the unihipili is working hard to preserve the body, to release anything that could upset the mind-body balance. The unconscious mind knows that you need to remove the black bags of unreleased negative thoughts and feelings from your neurology before it makes you sick. From the Huna perspective, this is the basis of all physiological disease, not germs or viruses or aging. Disease cannot be explained or fixed on the physical level alone without dealing with the emotional component.
The next time you feel a negative emotion well up inside, try something a little different. Rather than “coping” or ignoring it, take a moment to ask: “What is this trying to show me?” You may or may not get a clear answer. But still give yourself some time to really experience the emotion itself. Find a safe place to give the emotion expression. Then thank your unconscious for helping you to release it.