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Emotional Freedom: An Interview with Judith Orloff, M.D.

by Edie Weinstein

These days, Dr. Judith Orloff seems to be everywhere. Her smiling face and practical wisdom have graced the Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America and CBS News. She has her own PBS Special, entitled "Emotional Freedom Now!" and she was recently quoted in an article in O Magazine. She also has blogs on The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Judith is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of two powerfully effective books called Second Sight and Emotional Freedom. The road to her current lofty position was winding and daunting at times, but filled with joyous moments. She has taken mainstream psychiatry and widened the scope of what it is capable of achieving by holding space for intuition as a valid component of treatment. The paperback version of Emotional Freedom is now available. Her laughter tinged the interview as we explored a multitude of subjects from intuition to emotional sponges.

Wisdom: How would you describe the concept of Emotional Freedom? What does it mean to you?

Judith: Emotional Freedom is so important to me as a psychiatrist and an intuitive because it teaches people skills to be able to overcome negative emotions and have more room for positive ones. It allows you to come from a non-reactive place so that you can own the moment with any situation.

Wisdom: In your perception, are there any ‘bad’ emotions or ‘good’ emotions or are they feelings, just as they are?

Judith: In the book Emotional Freedom, I present emotions as energy, where each energy is a different emotion, for example, fear has a different frequency and energy and anger has another, joy has another, compassion has another. I see all emotions as a path to awakening, I don’t see any as good or bad necessarily. Some are more difficult than others. They only become ‘bad’ if they implode and you don’t work with them and they cause damage to the mind, body or spirit.

Wisdom: Do you find that people hold certain feelings in their bodies that can be debilitating?

Judith: One of the concepts I talk about in Emotional Freedom, is the energy of emotions, What can happen in the subtle energy body is that emotions can become trapped and frozen there until you begin to free them. When you get body work, you can suddenly feel anger or you can weep or have an emotional release, because the emotions have been frozen in the actual muscles or the subtle energetics of the body.

Wisdom: When people move their bodies, do they move the energy as well?

Judith: Oh yes. Movement is a wonder-ful way to move energy. With most of my patients who I work with, I recommend body work as an adjunct. Dance, massage, yoga, tai chi; something.

Wisdom: I know that there have been a lot of studies done about yoga for treating depression and the use of movement therapies in general, and body psycho-therapy in particular, that assists people in getting beyond the ‘head stuff’ into the ways that emotions lodge in our bodies.

Judith: There is a section in the book, in the Anxiety chapter about how anxiety lodges in the body and how to release it. That’s very important, because you don’t want any emotion to lodge in your body. The beautiful thing about when you practice Emotional Freedom, is that you age differently. You don’t carry around all of the darker emotions. You are left freer and there is more spaciousness within, so that you age with more lightness of spirit instead of getting all bogged down, like people do.

Wisdom: So has it been your experience that when people are able to lighten up emotionally, they are able to lighten up physically? As a metaphor, we talk about ‘carrying the weight of the world’. A lot of times, it means carrying a lot of physical weight. Do you find that in your work as well?

Judith: Oh, absolutely. When people don’t work with Emotional Freedom and over the years they have anger and resentment all built up in their bodies, it effects their posture, their faces, furrows in their brows. I present patience as a beauty secret, as opposed to pushing and forcing. Patient people have beautiful faces.They don’t have the furrowed brows.They have an openness of posture and a radiance. My point is that Emotional Freedom gives you a choice about how you want to age and how you want to live. Aging gracefully comes from working with the emotions at any point in your life and lightens your load.

Wisdom: Does it make a difference with trauma survivors as well, that the belief that they don’t have to carry the shame, fear and woundedness, when they are able to move through it, using the processes that you suggest?

Judith: Yes, definitely.

Wisdom: Have you found that there are some people who are so resistant to change, that it hasn’t worked?

Judith: A lot of people; those who are in their heads and extremely intellectual. I know that a lot of my physician colleagues have a particular resistance to the spirituality of emotions that I talk about in the book. Anticipating that there is an unknown or a mysterious element, apart from linear thinking is very threatening to them. It rocks their world. It makes them extremely anxious to deal with something they consider intangible or unknown. They don’t believe there is a spirituality to emotions. I believe that our souls are here to develop themselves on Earth and the emotions are one way to do that. In that aspect, I am diametrically opposed to traditional psychiatry. The whole point, I believe, is to develop our souls and that everything we go through, including panic attacks, depression and frustrations, little and big, are all in service to developing our souls.

Wisdom: How about the concept of spiritual emergence vs. psychosis? I imagine you look at the symptoms differently than a traditional psychiatrist would.

Judith: That’s a tricky subject and a large subject and I don’t dwell on it in the book, but psychosis can be a path to spiritual emergence if it is dealt with in the proper way. Sometimes it is a chemical imbalance that needs to be treated. It depends. It’s a whole discussion.

Wisdom: What is it that keeps people imprisoned in old, worn out patterns, rather than going for that freedom of which you speak?

Judith: I think people are afraid to break through. Power can be both a terrifying and exhilarating thing. People play small and they like to stay in their own routines and it’s hard for them to break through. The key to Emotional Freedom and how I differ from traditional psychiatry is that I incorporate intuition. When you tune in to an event, whatever it is, whether it is depression or a death, you tune into the intuitive meaning of it and it’s very different than the meaning that the linear mind would ascribe to it. All the linear mind will say is "Oh, you’re in so much pain and you want to get out of it", while the intuitive mind will say "Oh, you’re in so much pain and this is what you can learn from it and free yourself". It’s a very different perspective.

Wisdom: So, instead of avoiding pain, we can immerse ourselves in the experience, knowing that there is something on the other side of it and that we are not going to be in pain forever.

Judith: I wouldn’t say ‘immerse’. I would work with the pain and learn from it and allow yourself to be transformed by it as quickly as possible.

Wisdom: How can we set ourselves free, rather than expecting someone else to fix us?

Judith: I would suggest that people go through the four emotional types I describe in the book, find their type and learn to balance it. It is a proactive way of learning to work with emotions. For example: the Intellectual is somebody who comes from their head. A great thing for them to do is balance with bodywork or expressing emotions, whereas the Empath, or emotional sponge, to tends to absorb emotions and be very intuitive and absorb the energy and angst of the world and can get exhausted or depressed, must learn to decipher whose emotions are whose and how to protect their own energy so they don’t get demolished by the world. There is the Gusher who expresses their emotions freely and is very intense with it but tends to give too much information and has to learn to go inward more and trust themselves before they pick up the phone. The Rock, who is the strong, steady, reliable one needs to develop more passion. I would start with that. What is your emotional type? What are the positives? What are the aspects that are not working? Make the most of all the types and balance yourself.

Wisdom: In the process of doing that, do people feel it is possible to re-create themselves, that they don’t have to be the way they have always been? It changes the belief of what is possible. One of the challenges I face in my work in a psychiatric hospital, is that when I ask patients these questions: "Do you think that the way you are in your life is the way you always need to be? Do you have to have the same experiences and feelings that you have always had?", at least 70% of the time, people say yes. It sounds like what you describe can help people to move through that resistance to change.

Judith: Yes, exactly. I give them all a mantra that I have in the book, Emotional Freedom. "I will keep moving toward the Light with compassion." You want to keep them moving toward the light and away from darkness.

Wisdom: I saw that you were quoted in an article in O Magazine about The Power of Eureka! Can you explain what that means to you?

Judith: It means tuning into intuition to get the aha’s about your emotional circumstance. It is about learning to get quiet, tuning into your gut or your body or any kind of knowings or flashes that will give you insights about your emotional predicament.

Wisdom: How do people come upon that? Are there additional tools to experience the aha moment? Some people have a hard time with turning inward.

Judith: They can go on contemplative walks in nature, because nature really enhances intuition. Being around water or the beauty of the stars at night. Listening to your dreams; there is a whole chapter on dreams in the book which teaches you how to ask questions before you go to sleep at night. You could ask, for example: "How can I get along with my mother who is draining me?" and then go to sleep and write the answer in a dream journal in the morning. See how the answer relates to the question. Dreaming is a potent form of intuition that is near and dear to me. I record my dreams in the morning and work with them.

Wisdom: What do you think prevents us from trusting our intuition?

Judith: Our world is so over-intellectualized that we worship the intellect over our intuition. Part of my mission as a healer and educator is to help people balance their intellect with their intuition and to realize that we can be both and using both helps us gain tremendous insight and compassion into our emotions. It is about remembering who we are in terms of the intuition. The ancients knew about intuition. They lived by intuition.

Wisdom: How did we get away from that? By buying into the belief that there is something lesser about our gut feelings?

Judith: I just think that in our technological, over-intellectualized, statistically based society, it is taking up too much room in our culture. We have just forgotten and swung over too far into the linear.

Wisdom: Please talk about the importance of self-compassion.

Judith: Give yourself a break and be kind to yourself as you are going through whatever it is that you are going through. People can use the book however they want. They can open to any chapter and don’t have to read it in order. If you want to learn how to be with emotional vampires, you can just go to that chapter or if you are dealing with anger, you can just go to the anger chapter. If you don’t know what you’re dealing with, you can just flip to a page and go with that. I like that use of the book a lot.

Wisdom: That taps into intuition as well, because you’re guided to whatever page you most need to see. That self compassion piece is so hard for so many people, myself included. I have a very active inner critic that squawks at me. How do you deal with your inner critic?

Judith: I practice everything in this book. It’s my bible. It’s why I wrote it. When I hear the inner critic, I learn to catch it quicker. I have an ongoing inner dialog. If I start criticizing myself, I stop and say "Alright, take a breath." I talk to myself very sweetly and say "Honey, it will be o,k. You can call your friend and talk to her and she’ll help you." I talk to her like a nurturing mother. I have learned to be sweet to myself and I enjoy sweetness. I love it when people are sweet to me. I don’t hesitate to reach out to loving people to realign me when I get off. I don’t like suffering very much. I have learned to nip it in the bud. With Emotional Freedom and a little awareness, people can do it faster and faster. You can stop the cycle from going on and on, because that darn tape can take over and you don’t want that.There are a lot of ‘how to’ tools and quizzes in the book, for example "Am I in a relationship with a Criticizer or a Controller?"

Wisdom: You went from being a relatively mainstream psychiatrist …

Judith: Relatively? Totally!

Wisdom: You knew you had psychic ability...

Judith: I gave it up. When I was going through my training, I totally forgot about it and didn’t think it was appropriate to incorporate into my medical practice. When I was working at UCLA as a psychiatric Resident, I didn’t incorporate it.

Wisdom: Now that you are embracing it, are there any surprises at how well it is being accepted by the general public?

Judith: Oh yes. In the last number of years, I have been traveling and speaking to every kind of group, which I love. In professional circles; nurses, psychologists, healers, physical therapists, I find that they want more, not only for their practices, but for themselves. I have seen changes, even at UCLA where I am a member of the psychiatric staff, where we have a Mindfulness Research Center. That makes me really happy.

Wisdom: And look at the ripple effect. All the people that you are teaching who are teaching others.

Judith: It’s true. I get so many emails from people who have read my books and say "I’m using this in study groups and I’m giving this to my patients." I really believe in the ripple effect. You never know. I hear about things all the time. I never thought the work could have gone to those places. Someone I didn’t even know took it there. It’s awe inspiring. It’s out of my hands. I am in the luckiest person in the world. I open cards my readers send and little shiny stars fall out and they send me flowers and little happy things and heart felt, home-made gifts. It’s spontaneously offered from their hearts.

Wisdom: So the feedback tells you that you aren’t working in a vacuum, that you are really impacting people positively. You get to be part of people’s lives without even meeting them.

You can learn more about Judith’s work via her website www.judithorloff.com

Edie Weinstein (a.k.a. Bliss Mistress) is a colorfully creative journalist and sought after speaker and author. You can read her daily Beliefnet Bliss Blog at www. blog.beliefnet.com/blissblog

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