Your Emotional Hamster Wheel and How to Get Off It

Mike Reeves-McMillan

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Do you find yourself doing the same things again and again, and feel like there’s nothing you can do about it? Are you just driven to repeat patterns that don’t make any sense? It’s a common human problem, and in this ebook I want to explore one model of why it happens and what we can do to change it.

I’ve recently finished re-reading Cynthia Bourgeault’s book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. Centering Prayer is the meditative practice I follow myself. It comes out of the 1500-year-old Benedictine spiritual tradition, one of the little-known Western spiritual paths. (It’s little-known because, until recently, you had to join a monastery to even hear about it.)

Towards the end of the book, Cynthia Bourgeault has a wonderful diagram of how our misguided “emotional programs for happiness” end up making us miserable. For copyright reasons I won’t reproduce the exact same diagram here, but I’ve adapted it into this diagram I call the Hamster Wheel:

Our compulsions, or what she calls the “emotional programs for happiness”, are the start and usual end point of the process. Thomas Keating, the founder of Centering Prayer, talks about three “energy centres”: power/control, esteem/affection, and security/survival. Deep down within our minds, we are driven or drawn towards these three centres, and early in our lives we learn specific programs for trying to achieve them, which operate very powerfully at a subconscious level to pattern our behaviour. I’ll talk about the three energy centres in more depth later on. Right now, let’s go through the seven visible spokes of the emotional hamster wheel. As we go, I’ll give you small suggestions for things to write down to give you increased insight into your own emotional process. Just write them on any spare piece of paper (or in your journal, if you keep one) to start with.

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