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Since we’re talking about emotions this month, I think we start at the core—from the inside out. It’s where we all try to get back to in our clearest moments and, in my humble opinion, a sacred, good place that I think everyone has. For the sake of our discussions, let’s call this “the soul.” Consider this: when our vulnerable souls feel seen, that is what the perfection of the universe looks like. So many of us, however, have made decisions or endured experiences that have created significant armor, barriers, and defenses around that soul, often in an understandable effort to protect it from being hurt. 

Emotions like shame, abandonment, and jealousy are particularly tough ones that firmly implant themselves and seem impossible to break through. One of the purposes we all have is to help each other unlock the armor we all carry. Sitting with patients in detention centers and on locked psychiatric inpatient units, listening as they explained atrocities they either experienced or committed against another, I’ve contemplated often that no doubt the soul had to be locked up tight, particularly for those who experienced marginalization and trauma. For so many, because of the inheritance of our ancestors’ stories, our own trauma, experiences, and unprocessed feelings, the world isn’t a safe place and the people in it can’t be trusted—so the soul has never seen the light of day. And, you’ve likely guessed by now, the keys to letting walls down often come in finding the safe harbor of a relationship, where you can acknowledge and name those emotions so the soul might be convinced it’s safe enough to show itself. 

So much of the debate has been whether, at the core, we as humans are good or evil. And I think the answer is both, depending on your history and the situation in which you find yourself. Inherently, however, the good happened first. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Good can exist without evil, whereas evil cannot exist without good.” 

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