Have you ever stopped to think about the way that we talk about emotions?
It’s very interesting.
As if we have some kind of ownership over them. As if these emotions belong specifically to us – part of a kit that the universe packed up for us in a suitcase and sent us into the world with when we were born.
I AM angry.
You ARE sad.
As if these emotions make up some fundamental piece of our being.
Make no mistake – just because something FEELS intense, doesn’t mean it’s a part of who you are.
Emotions are fleeting
I might FEEL extreme pain when I have a toothache, and yet tooth pain is not a constituent part of my being. So why should anger be? Or sadness? Or listlessness? Or, for that matter, elation?
Human beings are feeling machines. Have you ever noticed that you need only become aware of a given feeling and then it quickly changes into something else?
Have you ever had a situation where you were experiencing happiness or contentedness, and then suddenly received news which caused your mood to change dramatically?
Or how about a time where you felt upset, perhaps you were crying, and something out of the blue made you laugh? (If you have kids, you know this can absolutely happen, and perhaps you actively work to MAKE it happen when they are upset about something. My husband is a master at this.)
The point is that feelings are always changing. And because we FEEL them, we tend to assume that they are a part of us. And often our society tells us that they are part of us – we are told to own our feelings, acknowledge our feelings, really FEEL our feelings.
And that’s all fine, yet I would add that we must also RELEASE those feelings – allow them to exit our being. There is no law that says we must give unlimited hospitality to every (or any) feeling which happens to show up.
Allow the feelings to come and go
I’ve read the following concept in several books, and I’m not going to bother with attempting to discern the source of the original thought. My best guess is that it comes from Buddhism:
Allow feelings to come and go, autonomously.
When we say “I am angry” we are making a statement about who and what we are. Is that really the statement you choose to make?
How will it help or hinder you to bind anger to your very being?
What if you were to say “anger is around” instead?
Sure, it sounds hokey if you’ve not heard or used it before. New practices often feel awkward. And yet what impact would it have if you were to implement this?
Have you ever felt a feeling about a feeling?
For example: Have you experienced anger and then felt upset toward yourself for that anger?
Or perhaps you experienced depression, and then thinking about that depression took your emotional state even lower. Perhaps you beat yourself up for it.
One of the biggest issues with so-called “negative emotions” is how we judge ourselves (and others) for them.
If we were to say “anger is around” or “sadness is there” we may be able to acknowledge it while at the same time maintaining our wholeness. We are refraining from categorizing ourselves in a way that we may have decided was flawed.
This doesn’t just go for so-called “negative” emotions, either. Happiness, contentedness, excitement, elation, passion, gratitude, they all ebb and flow just like other feelings.
Emotions are signals, and they can also be tools
We have the power to choose what we identify with.
We may choose to say “I am grateful” because we desire to affirm that as part of who we are. But make no mistake: no matter what words you use, you will have moments of NOT feeling gratitude. Perhaps those will be the best moments to articulate to yourself that you “are” grateful.
It’s up to you.
Another interesting feeling is passion. Many of us feel passion in the early stages of a romantic relationship. And then what happens? One day we wake up and realize the feeling isn’t around today. For some of us, we may fear that something happened to the relationship, and that perhaps it isn’t the “right” relationship after all.
That’s unlikely to be the case, though.
It’s simply that feelings come and go. Emotions, like everything else, are always changing.
In the end, no matter what kind of feelings we are talking about, the choice is ours as to whether we will internalize them, make them part of who we are, and let them rule us.
Until or unless you achieve total enlightenment, you will most likely continue to experience the presence of feelings.
Whether and how you choose to address, acknowledge, identify and move with them is completely up to you.