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Emotional Freedom by Dr. Judith Orloff

August 28, 2009

Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff
published by Harmony March 3, 2009

As a former counselor and psychology aficionado, I rarely read psychology or self-help books, unless they relate directly to parenting and education. Already been there, done that. 🙂 However, I was excited to receive a copy of Emotional Freedom by Dr. Judith Orloff. Having previewed some excerpts and testimonials, I knew I’d gotten something unique.

Dr Orloff is a practicing psychiatrist and author who combines energy psychiatry and eclectic spirituality with psychological and medical approaches to therapy.

I have a family history of depression and anxiety disorders, so I am thoroughly familiar with the need for medications to treat chronic chemical imbalances. For many people, it is not unlike taking insulin to treat diabetes. However, I have always been concerned about the tendency of psychiatrists to ladle out their services in 15-minute medication management sessions without exploring the cognitive, emotional and spiritual dimensions of depression and anxiety. In the counseling and recovery field, everyone paid lip service to a holistic approach to helping — inspiring each person to recognize and nurture her physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. But in our overtaxed mental health and substance abuse system, clients are often viewed only in fragments.

Dr. Orloff explores all these dimensions in depth.

Now that you’ve been initiated into the four secrets to emotional freedom, you’ve sampled the collective wisdom of your biology, spirituality, energetic power, and psychology. The more you know about these ingredients of emotions, the more they’ll increase consciousness and a connection to your heart. Self-knowledge is an impressive oracle, crystallizing who you are and can be. (p. 59)

I was already familiar with medical and psychological approaches to treatment. I knew nothing about energy psychiatry, though I have heard enough anecdotal reports about the effectiveness of Reiki to know that it can be a powerful source of healing. Spirituality is vitally important, and usually neglected in our health care system, and I enjoyed Dr. Orloff’s thoughtful, eclectic approach, which seems broad enough to nourish people of any faith — or no faith.

My spiritual teacher has helped give me an appreciation of the big picture reasons for why we’re here, a reference point sorely lacking in our spiritually phobic medical system … It’s beyond me to make complete sense of your purpose without it. Understanding the big picture gives you a shot at freedom because it defines the role emotions play in your awakening. (p. 44)

Dr. Orloff explores several approaches to gaining this awareness, including mediation and exploring your dreams. She helps you identify your own emotional type, which determines how you respond to the world.

She also offers guidance on surviving relationships with difficult people, “emotional vampires” who sap your energy. I admire the way she balances clear, concrete suggestions for coping with a broader emotional and spiritual view of the role these struggles play in our lives.

Getting along is a great accomplishment, but I also want you to see such people as vehicles for your awakening, not just an annoyance to be overcome. From the standpoint of freedom, vampires are bodhisattvas in disguise, teachers who pester you to develop confidence, emotional resilience, and an integrity of self-care that rarely matures without such an impetus. (p. 141)

Dr. Orloff then goes to explore seven transformations. At each step, she explores the biological, psychological, energetic, spiritual aspects, blending thought-provoking ideas with clear, detailed, practical suggestions. Her ideas are enriched by a wealth of specific examples, from her own life and from others’ experiences. And at each step, she nurtures the reader’s compassion for herself.

1. Overcoming fear with courage

Some fears slowly feast on you like blood-sucking mosquitoes. Others swallow you whole. Both reduce freedom. I suggest focusing on one fear at a time, starting with the lesser ones, viewing each through merciful eyes and a spiritual lens. We grow into a love of ourselves and the world gradually. (p. 159)

In addition to helping readers understand and overcome fear, Dr. Orloff describes how to distinguish between irrational fear and bona fide intuition.

2. Coping with frustration and disappointment by building patience

Despite the digital age’s marvels, it has propagated an emotional zeitgeist with a low tolerance for frustration — not just when you accidentally delete a computer file, but also in terms of approach relationships and yourself … patience gives you the liberating breath you’ve always longed to take. (p. 174)

3. Overcoming loneliness through nurturing connections

When I intuitively read patients, their loneliness is obvious even if they try to camouflage it. This emotion smacks of an “adrift at sea but don’t want to be” feeling, an unrequited yearning for something sympatico…It feels achingly fragile. (p. 220)

4. Coping with anxiety and worry by fostering inner calm

Inner calm is a grounding intuitive center within each of us. No matter how far away it feels or what’s emotionally coming down, you can learn to find it. (p. 237)

This includes tips for overcoming perfectionism.

5. Facing depression through building hope

Depression’s lesson is always hope, the belief in your capacity to rise above darkness, inner and outer, even when it pervades — to not give up. (p. 270)

6. Overcoming jealousy and envy by nurturing self esteem

To endure, self-esteem can’t be solely predicated on anything external — that’s a house of cards that too easily collapses. Though it naturally reflects pride in, say, your career or your children, it’s not dependent on these. Self-esteem based only on externals is illusory. As a psychoanalyst friend says, “You’re just renting it.” (p. 308)

Her discussion of self esteem also explores humility.

7. Facing anger with compassion

You can begin by honestly evaluating this emotions current role in your life — an important step because you can’t stuff anger without consequences. It’s a shape-shifter. If internalized, anger can turn into depression and other painful emotions as well as gross stress-related outbreaks and purgations ranging from acid regurgitation to rashes to diarrhea. (p. 338)

I would have liked to have seen guilt explored more deeply here.

This book is thoughtful, articulate, beautifully written, and compassionate — it is one of those books I look forward to sharing with people who are important to me. I recommend it to all readers interested in how the human mind works or in personal growth, and to anyone who enjoys beautifully written, engaging non-fiction.

I received this book as part of a virtual blog tour with Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours.

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