Emotions Are Real; Knowledge Is Not Real

Emotions Are Real; Knowledge Is Not Real

by don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills

Before you learn to speak, your brain is like a perfect computer, but without a program. Once you learn a language, the program is introduced to you, mainly through your parents, as well as other people around you. They hook your attention, teach you what they know, and the program goes inside you little by little, by agreement. You agree, and now you have the program.

Everything you know, all of the knowledge in your head, was already in the program before you were born. Every letter, every word, every concept in your belief system is part of the program. If you are the computer, then knowledge is the program, and that program is contaminated with a virus called lies.

There’s no need to judge the program as good or bad or right or wrong. Even if you don’t like the program, nobody is guilty for sharing it with you. It’s just the way it is, and it’s wonderful because you use the program to create your stories.

But who is running your life? The program.

The program has a voice that you call thinking. I call it the voice of knowledge because it’s telling you everything you know. It’s telling you your point of view in a conversation that never ends. For many people it’s even worse because the voice is not just talking nonsense; the voice is judging and criticizing. It’s constantly gossiping about you and the people around you, and it’s lying to you all the time.

That voice is usually lying because it’s the voice of what you have learned, and you have learned so many lies, mainly about yourself. The first lie you learn to believe is you are not the way you should be, you are not good enough, you are not perfect. So you start to search for an image of perfection that you can never become because that image is false. It’s a lie, but you invest your faith in that lie, and then you build a whole structure of lies to support it.

Another example: you believe that you know what you are. When you get angry you say, “Oh, that’s the way I am.” When you get jealous: “Oh, that’s the way I am.” But is this true? I used to make the assumption that I was the one who said all of those things that I didn’t want to say. It was a big surprise when I discovered that it was not me; it was the way I learned to be. And I practiced and practiced until I mastered that performance.

The voice that says, “That’s the way I am,” is the voice of knowledge. It’s the voice of the liar living in your head. The Toltec consider it a mental disease that is highly contagious because it’s transmitted from human to human through knowledge. The symptoms of the disease are fear, anger, hatred, sadness, jealousy, conflict, and separation between humans. The lies in our knowledge are controlling the dream of our life. I think this is obvious.

Every time you judge yourself, find yourself guilty and punish yourself, it’s because the voice in your head is telling you lies.

Every time you have a conflict with your father, your mother, your children, or your beloved, it’s because you believe in these lies, and they believe in them, too. But it’s not just that. When we humans believe in lies, we cannot see the truth, so we make thousands of assumptions. And what is the biggest assumption we make? That the lies we believe are the truth! Humans are storytellers and stories are not the truth. We create an entire culture, a whole philosophy of humanity. We create history, science, art, Olympic games, Miss Universe, you name it. The stories are our creation, and they’re beautiful and wonderful, but they’re just stories!

How can we know the truth when almost everything we have learned is a lie? How can we recognize what is real in us? Well, it took some time for me to find out, but I found out. I discovered that our emotions are real. Every emotion that we feel is real, it is truth because it comes directly from our spirit, from our integrity.

You cannot fake what you feel. You can try to repress your emotions, you can try to justify what you feel or lie about what you feel, but what you feel is completely authentic. There is nothing wrong with whatever you feel; there is nothing wrong with anger or jealousy or envy. Even if you are feeling hate, it comes from your integrity. Even if it’s sadness or depression that you are suffering, if you feel it, there is always a reason for feeling it.

The universe is simple: it’s about cause and effect, action and reaction. If you don’t like your life, if you don’t like what you are feeling, this is a reaction to the program that is ruling your life.

The program is not the real you, but at the same time, it is part of you because it’s the way you identify yourself. The program creates the story, then it tries to make sense of the story by explaining and justifying everything to the main character of the story.

I discovered something very interesting about the human mind. Everything you perceive causes an emotional reaction. When you perceive beauty, your emotional reaction is wonderful; you feel great. When you perceive what you believe is not beauty, your emotional reaction is not so great. But you perceive not just the outside world; you perceive the virtual world you create in your head. You perceive not only your feelings, but your knowledge — your own thoughts, judgments, and beliefs. You perceive the voice in your head, and you have an emotional reaction to that voice.

Now the question is this: What is the voice in your head telling you? How many times has it told you, “God, I’m so stupid, how could I do that? I will never learn!” The voice of knowledge judges you, you perceive the judgment, and you have an emotional reaction. You feel the shame; you feel the guilt. The emotion is true, but what causes the emotion, which is the judgment that you are stupid, is not true; it’s a story. This is just action-reaction. What is the action? The action is to believe a lie. The action is the perception of your point of view, the perception of your own judgment. What is the reaction? Your feelings are the reaction, and your reaction is to feel emotional pain.

Let’s see if we can understand this a little better. Imagine that you have a dog. The dog is just a dog, and it’s a perfect dog, isn’t it? But what happens if you abuse the dog? What if every time you see the dog, you kick the dog? Very soon the dog will be afraid. The dog may get angry; it might try to bite you or run away. Is there something wrong with the dog’s emotions? Does the dog’s anger make the dog evil? No, the dog’s reaction is just the result of being abused. The emotion is helping the dog to defend itself. It comes from the dog’s integrity.

Now imagine a dog living with people who love and respect the dog. That dog is the sweetest animal in the world because that dog is not abused. He follows his nature; he loves everybody who loves him. Well, your physical body is just like that dog. It reacts emotionally in the same way. Why do you react with anger? Because somebody kicked you. But who kicked you? The voice in your head, the main character of your story — what you believe you are.

You also perceive your image of perfection, what you believe you are not, and this also creates an emotional reaction. How do you feel when you cannot live up to that image? The emotion is not pleasant, but your emotional reaction is real; it’s what you feel. Is it true that you need to fit that image? No, it’s a lie that you agreed to believe in. You agreed, and that lie has become a part of your story.

Why do we hate? Because something is abusing us. Why do we suffer? Because something is hurting us. But what is hurting us? Well, now the answer is easy. If we feel hate, the voice in our heads is causing us to hate. It’s just a reaction to what we believe. If we change the belief, then the hate will transform into love. All of our emotions change when we no longer believe the voice because the emotions are the effect, not the cause.

Emotional pain is a symptom of being abused. The pain is letting us know that we have to do something to stop the abuse.

We can blame other people who hurt us and say, “I grew up being abused,” and we can make many excuses. But in the present moment, who is abusing you? If you are truthful, you find that mostly it’s your own voice of knowledge. Other people may abuse us because we allow them to abuse us, because in our judgment we believe we deserve to be abused. But if we go a little deeper, we see that we abuse ourselves far more than anybody else abuses us.

Every time we lie to ourselves, we abuse ourselves. Every time we curse ourselves, we abuse ourselves. Every time we judge ourselves, every time we reject ourselves, we have an emotional reaction, and it isn’t pleasant. Again, if we’re not enjoying the emotional reaction, it’s not about repressing what we feel; it’s about cleaning up the lies that cause the emotional reaction.

Whatever the feeling — from joy to anger, from love to hate — it is just a reaction to what we perceive. Our emotions are telling us how we are doing in our life, and by following our emotions, we can change our circumstances. If we’re feeling unhappy, it’s because something in our story is suppressing our happiness. If we take a step back, we can see what is causing it without making a story about it. If we have that awareness, we can face the problem, resolve the problem, and be happy again.


Adapted from The Voice of Knowledge: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace. Copyright © 2004 by Miguel Angel Ruiz and Janet Mills. Reprinted by Permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, California.

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