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  • Jason McCarty

You Are Not Your Emotions

One thing the Eastern religions have given us in the West is a perspective that we are not our emotions, that we are the part that can observe our emotions and thoughts. The West has been so consumed with Self Psychology that one can get lost in the internal, psychological world of one’s self if they are not careful. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much that is good about our Western view of the Self and how we look to explore it, understand it and accept it. But, there needs to be a balance – the blending of both Eastern and Western psychology is really quite wonderful and profound.How we interpret the world is always changing. Yes there are sometimes consistencies but how you feel today about your job might be very different tomorrow and nothing has changed other than your feelings and thoughts. If you take a step back and look at your life, you will realize that your emotions are a large part of who you are and how you make decisions. You will also realize that they change drastically like a roller coaster ride.

Being grounded psychologically and spiritually is, in part, about not getting on the roller coaster all the time but watching it from the sidelines. When we experience powerful emotions, we can often be overtaken, enveloped, swept away by the undertow. There is a point in our conscious awareness where we can actually put some space between us and our thoughts and feelings. We can take what is “going on” inside of us and step back to observe the process. Imagine some space between you and your emotion. Externalize it to something sitting next to you on the couch and don’t go into it. You can touch it, look at it, and get a sense of what it might be about. I’m not saying to ignore it, or push it away. I’m not even saying don’t feel it. What I am saying is allow there to be a certain amount of space between you and the emotion. The emotion is not you and emotions are not always trust worthy. There is always something to be taken from our emotions and always something to be left behind.

Most of the time we just go right into our emotions or get on the roller coaster and get taken for a ride. When this happens we become our emotions, they become our reality, and often times the roller coaster ride gets more and more crazy. This can be when people really get stuck. This is when people say, “I just can’t” or “you don’t understand, I can’t seem to do anything about this.” That is because they are in it, waiting for it to just go away or for the ride to stop to experience what it is like to be back on steady ground. What we all don’t realize sometimes is that we have a choice to actually get off the roller coaster in order to stand on steady ground. We have a choice to put a certain amount of space between us and the strong reaction going on inside.

See, what we usually think when we have emotions that become overwhelming is that we wish we weren’t feeling this again – we feel powerless, not over the emotion itself, but over having it in the first place! Well, this just isn’t going to happen ALL the time. We also think that because we are feeling something, it must correlate with reality. If I don’t FEEL like I love my partner today, then I must not. This just isn’t true. When we talk about this intellectually it sounds silly right? But it is how many people interpret their emotions. Your emotions do not have to mean something. They might have something to say to you and you might obtain some meaning from them, but what happens is that the meaning that many people attribute to their emotions gets too over generalized. That is what happens when we get lost in it and cannot see the forest for the trees.

This process of getting some distance in order to observe can be very freeing once one realizes how to do this. It is something one must do internally. You have to try it when you are having a strong reaction or at least a noticeable emotion. Your inclination will be to go into it as a way to control it but I encourage you to feel it, get a sense of it, and then put it next to you wherever you are sitting. Just get a sense of what it feels like for it to not BE you, but to just be a part of your current experiencing in this moment. This will give you more freedom in your life, as you will not be dictated by what you are feeling or thinking.

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