We are taught from a young age to use our emotions to define who we are: One friend is often happy and is labeled upbeat; another may be angry and embittered and labeled difficult.
We also use emotions to define our understanding of what is happening to us, but from a surface perspective. If someone cuts us off in traffic, for example, we’re frustrated because of that event. Yet it rarely occurs to us to delve beneath the surface to figure out why a minor traffic violation has us so disgruntled.
These ways of thinking cause a victim mentality towards our feelings because they indicate we are somehow controlled by them. We’re left stressed and complaining the rest of the day about crazy inconsiderate drivers, or stuck in a pigeonhole of our own making about the essence of who we are.
EMOTIONS AS TOOLS
“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” –Eckhart Tolle
It wasn’t until I began “observing” my emotions – that is, taking a step back from them at the moment they occur, and taking that moment to think about that emotion – that I realized the purpose they serve in my life. I can treat any feelings which comes up in me as a tool, much like our thoughts are a tool of our brains to assist us with daily tasks. Emotions are tools of our Souls, used to speak to us and guide us to more peace, joy, and love in life.
By being in the observer role, we can start to use our emotional toolkit to unlock the hidden meaning behind a feeling, such as why someone cutting us off in traffic has us so frustrated.
In this example, maybe it was the selfishness of the driver that got under our skin. If this rings true, it is an indication that we’re sick and tired of the pettiness of people. We need to surround ourselves with people who are doing good things for others pronto so we can renew our faith in humanity. We may also need to set some serious boundaries with the people in our life who we feel are using us for selfish reasons.
On the other hand, the selfishness of the other driver might not hit our radar as much as the fact that their action was going to make us late for work. In this scenario, feeling overwhelmed by work tasks is the real culprit of our frustration. This could indicate a lot of things: a conversation with the boss is needed, some delegating could be useful, or maybe we simply need to start setting our alarm fifteen minutes earlier. Whatever the solution, the point is that the real problem wasn’t that driver but our need to handle a lot of work tasks in a short amount of time.
Choosing not to BE the emotion but instead to LEARN FROM IT empowers us to fix the issue in whatever way is most appropriate, rather than leaving us its victim.
MAKING THE SWITCH
“People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.” – Charles F. Kettering
Of course, making the switch to a new way of perceiving emotions is no easy task. It can be ridiculously difficult to break an ingrained habit. Next Monday we’ll explore some practical tactics for transitioning from believing intrinsically that we are an emotion to believing that emotions are actually like our employees – here to help us manage our relationships and guide us toward our Soul’s goals.
In next week’s article, The Top Actions to Emotional Enlightenment, we’ll discuss these strategies and their value in assisting with the tough journey of stepping out of being controlled my our emotions and into the natural flow of life.
Discussion Question: What are some practical actions that you use to help you better understand your emotions?