Achieve Emotional Freedom
February 2011
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Dr. Judith Orloff Shows You How in Her New Book

emotional_freedomWhat if we all had the power to change our world, both now and in the future, simply by understanding and embracing our emotions? According to Dr. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of the new Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, we do.

“Emotional freedom is being able to increase your ability to love, both yourself and others, by cultivating positive emotions and by compassionately witnessing and transforming negative ones,” says Orloff.

It’s about learning how to approach life from a heart-centered place, instead of simply reacting when our buttons are pushed. This loving disposition includes all situations in life, the challenging ones as well as the good ones.

“I believe that the point of being alive is to develop our souls,” Orloff says. “I want to blend all aspects—the spiritual, psychological and biological.”

Her holistic approach helps us to use everything that happens to us as material for personal growth. It helps us learn how to work with what she terms, “the energies of emotions”—to master them, instead of allowing them to master us.

The first step toward achieving Orloff’s vision of individual emotional freedom is understanding that each person has a natural emotional type to which we retreat under duress. In her book, she counts four basic types, each with its own specific strengths and weaknesses:

The Intellectual, who can think his or her way through life, but would benefit from feeling and playing more.

The Empath, who is sensitive and compassionate, but can be overwhelmed by others and must set protective boundaries.

The Gusher, whose emotions are “out there,” and tends to share everything, but must learn restraint to keep from exhausting others.

The Rock, who is always there for others, but may appear detached, due to disconnection from his or her own inner feelings.

Orloff observes that modern life has created an epidemic of what she calls, “emotional vampires,” consumed with their own psychological needs; it’s essential to be able to identify them and respond in healthy ways. She explains that when we’re with someone and our energy level plummets or we feel put down or even ill, these are strong clues that we’re in the presence of an emotional vampire. Here are six main types she discusses in Emotional Freedom:

  • The Victim has a “poor me” attitude and thinks solutions don’t exist.
  • The Criticizer puts others down with cutting comments.
  • The Narcissist needs lots of attention, but has no empathy for others.
  • The Drama Queen or King loves to create big scenes.
  • The Controller always tells others what to do.
  • The Splitter sees everyone as angels or devils, and destroys relationships by turning people against each other.

Her advice? “Emotional vampires get their energy from upsetting you. So, if you’re calm and nonreactive, they’re not going to be interested in you.”

Orloff firmly believes that inner peace is the foundation of emotional freedom, and comes from connecting with the spiritual. Once established, an awareness of our innate worth, our own divinity, becomes a lifelong source of refuge and regeneration. That connection constantly reminds us that we are loved.

Wherever we are in our journey to emotional freedom, Orloff concludes, one lesson is essential: “Trust that emotions are teachers for your own awakening.”


Judith Orloff, M.D., is the author of Emotional Freedom and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. For details on her national book tour, visit DrJudithOrloff.com.


Karen Adams is a Natural Awakenings editor and freelance writer.