Judith Orloff: How to Identify Your Emotional Type & Transform Negative Emotions

If you could transform negative emotions into positive ones, wouldn't your life change for the better? UCLA psychiatrist and best-selling author Judith Orloff, M.D., offers advice to help you in her new DVD Emotional Freedom Now! by Gaiam, as seen on PBS.

To help you get started shifting your emotions from destructive to constructive, we asked Orloff about how her ideas work and how you can use them. Plus, learn how to identify and deal with your own emotional type from the Emotional Freedom Now! video clips below.

Q. What is an emotional type, and why do we need to know our type?

A. The four emotional types I describe are:

  • The Intellectual
  • The Empath
  • The Gusher
  • The Rock

These are the filters through which you see the world — the default setting of your personality to which you revert, especially under stress. Each type is determined by inborn temperament, upbringing, and perhaps karma.

Since emotional freedom means being able to remain sensitive but centered in an overwhelming world, it’s vital to know your emotional type. Without this knowledge, many people dysfunctionally hunker down in their type for decades without examining which aspects do and don’t serve them.

Find out what your emotional type is now in these video clips from the Emotional Freedom Now! DVD:

What do you want people to learn from Emotional Freedom?

I’m passionate about teaching people to transform negative emotions into positive ones. If you get mired in the muck of negativity, you can’t lead a happy life or feel liberated. As a physician, I see that most people don’t have the everyday tools to transform frustration, depression, anxiety, worry and fear into positive emotions. This book is a how-to guide that offers you these tools.

I work in a mainstream medical system that doesn’t generally deal with emotions in an expanded way. As a UCLA psychiatric resident, I learned to prescribe medications and use traditional psychotherapy. In this book, I also bring spirituality, subtle energy and intuition into this equation and offer strategies that go beyond mainstream medicine.

Another powerful reason I wrote this book is that I watched my mother, a physician, literally lose her life to stress and fear. I loved her more than anything, but I didn’t want to do the same thing to myself, as I have similar tendencies.

What is emotional freedom and why is it important to strive for?

Emotional freedom is your ability to love by cultivating positive emotions and being able to compassionately witness and transform negative ones, whether they’re yours or another’s. This skill liberates you from fear and lets you navigate adversity without attacking someone, losing your cool, or being derailed by negativity. With emotional freedom you can choose to react constructively rather than relinquishing command of the situation when your buttons get pushed (This book is unrelated to the tapping technique of the same name).

Traditional medicine often deals with emotions from a biochemical point of view. Medications are prescribed to correct a biochemical imbalance for, say, depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder — psychotherapy can be used too.

The emotional freedom I’m talking about means using all those tools if necessary and helpful, but going beyond them to bring a spiritual, energetic and intuitive viewpoint to all emotions. This creates meaning for every experience you’ll ever go through in your life, rather than seeing an emotion as something to get rid of or to just simply treat and relieve.

What can we learn from your insight on the four crucial components of emotions?

To experience emotional freedom, it’s necessary to understand these four basic components of emotion: their biology, spirituality, energy and psychology. With fear, frustration, loneliness, worry and more, the book teaches you to proactively shift your biochemistry as well as your energy, and to see the spiritual and psychological meanings of what you’re going through. This will give you all the tools you need to change.

What can negative emotions teach us?

One of the basic tenets of Emotional Freedom is not to be sabotaged by negativity. I view negative emotions in a very radical, nontraditional way that allows us to see them as a kind of “climbing the mountain” experience — not letting these forms of darkness bring us down. To me, the idea of moving toward the Light and being devoted to that is uncompromisingly beautiful. Letting darkness win is intolerable to me. I’m just wired that way. It’s important that we take a stand against the dark within us. This book allows people to do that.

How can emotional freedom help us stop absorbing negative emotions from others?

Many sensitive people come to me, as patients and in workshops, who’ve been labeled “overly sensitive.” These people, including me, are what I call “emotional empaths.” Because we are so sensitive, we absorb the energy of others. We sense their fear, anxiety and stress and take them into our bodies. Then we get exhausted or feel ill ourselves. As a child, I couldn’t go into shopping malls or crowded places because I’d walk in fine and then walk out exhausted or with some ache or pain I didn’t have before. I didn’t realize what was happening. I went to my mother, a physician, who said, “Oh, no, dear, you just don’t have a thick enough skin.” Not a good thing to tell an intuitive child! But as I’ve matured intuitively and as a physician, I’ve realized that people on a spiritual path tend to gain more sensitivity as they develop. Thus, they need to learn how not to absorb outside energy so they can feel joyous and free. This book discusses how to be compassionate but stay centered without becoming a sponge.

How can Emotional Freedom teach us to calmly cope with difficult people?

There’s a chapter on emotional vampires, which is my term for many difficult people — for instance, a criticizer, a victim, a narcissist or a controller. I say, let them be our teachers, rather than tormentors. We must ask ourselves: How do they teach us to communicate with more heart and better boundaries? How can we deal differently with feeling irritated, controlled or insulted? The old way is to get nasty or withdraw. The new way is to not simply react when your buttons get pushed — a behavior that perpetuates war. Practice what I call “the namaste effect,” which is, ”I respect the spirit within you even if I don’t like what you’re doing.” Realize that your victories over emotional vampires are not small — they’re huge. With every success, you are creating more hope for the world. From an intuitive standpoint, we are all interconnected: my emotional freedom affects your emotional freedom affects everyone in the world.

Why do you say compassion is key to achieving emotional freedom?

Compassion is key because unless you have self-compassion, it’s hard to heal difficult emotional states. And also when a loved one is going through a trying time, being compassionate without judging them is essential. My spiritual teacher says we make progress on the spiritual path by beating ourselves up a little bit less each day. I believe that. It’s about baby steps.

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Why do you believe that emotions are a path to spiritual awakening?

I see difficult emotions as a laboratory for spiritual growth, whereas traditional psychiatry often views them more as tormentors, something to get rid of. I believe that emotions come to us — even wrenching ones like depression — to spiritually awaken us. Each emotion is a prompt for us to get more in touch with our hearts and expand our light. This perspective really changes how we deal with emotional challenges.

Emotional freedom allows us to view disappointments and rejections as an opportunity to grow stronger and brighter, rather than letting them bring us down and beating ourselves up over them. It helps us accept disappointment as an opportunity to treat ourselves with compassion, to keep our hearts open, and establish self-love. That’s so important. If you don’t, you can feel squashed, get cynical or closed off, or develop emotional and physical symptoms. This is not what emotional freedom is about. It’s about looking at the disappointment and seeing how to grow from it, then keep going.

Your section of the book about sleep and dreams is fascinating. What can they teach us about emotional freedom?

Sleep and dreams are a conduit for emotional freedom. Sleep is a great awakener because your linear mind quiets down, and you enter a purely intuitive state where you can better understand your emotions and other realms. Dreams are revolutionary states of consciousness that impart intuitive wisdom about being free.

Here’s a personal example. Once, I went through a period of complaining a lot when nothing was working. Projects were falling through, patients were canceling appointments, I couldn’t even get the plumber to come and fix the toilet. I was in victim mode. Then I had a dream in which my deceased father came to me, and he was moving from one location to another. I asked, “Daddy, is there anything I can get you?” Smiling, he said, “No, darling, I don’t need anything except a pen and a piece of paper in case I want to write a thank-you note.” For me, this was a wake-up call that highlighted the importance of gratefulness here and in the Hereafter. It was all I needed to adjust my attitude to being more grateful for my life.

How can your book help us overcome fear during times of turmoil?

To be free, we must view fear as something to overcome, not something to be brought down by. When you see a world with so much to be afraid of — skyrocketing gas prices, the failing economy and terrorism — you must chose not to come from a fearful place. Part of emotional freedom is making a vow not to lead a fear-driven life. That must be a deep desire in your heart. Then do everything possible to overcome fear and worry with faith in goodness and the ability to stay in the moment rather than catastrophizing the future. I’ll show you how to develop the courage to become centered, to love yourself, to be able to find non-fear based solutions to anything! Courage or fear is a choice. It’s not something that just happens to you.

You say that emotional freedom offers us opportunities to be heroes in our own lives. Would you elaborate?

Absolutely. If you suffer loss, if you’re having an anxiety attack or feeling depressed or lonely — these are all very spiritual experiences to me. You become a hero in your own life as you learn to use emotions as a chance to become stronger and brighter. This is critical on a personal level because it frees you from suffering. But it’s just as important on a collective level because if we don’t face the fear and anger in ourselves, then we risk projecting it onto a global sphere. This creates war and massive suffering to our human family. We must find inner peace before we can have outer peace. That’s why I consider emotional freedom an inner peace movement.


Interview conducted by Barbara Stahura, a freelance writer in Tucson, Ariz. Stahura has interviewed many of the major transformative individuals of our time including Louise Hay, Caroline Myss  and Wayne Dyer.

About Dr. Judith Orloff:

Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist and intuition expert who synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting-edge knowledge of intuition, energy and spirituality to create a new blend of healing wisdom. She passionately believes that the future of medicine depends upon integrating all these elements to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness.

She has written several best-sellers, including Emotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Intuitive Healing and Second Sight. As a teacher and author, she combines her personal story as someone who comes from a long line of intuitive healers, including her grandmother, mother and aunts, with professional knowledge gleaned from her medical practice and popular workshops.

Dr. Orloff is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and has been featured on The Today Show and CNN, and in O, The Oprah Magazine and USA Today. For more inspiration and information about her workshops and books, visit www.drjudithorloff.com

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