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How many times have you heard yourself say: I’m upset, or I’m angry, or I’m happy? If you are typical, many times a day. But stop for a moment and consider what you are actually saying. You are saying “I am …. (some specific emotion).” Whether you mean to or not, you are defining yourself as being your emotions.
Actually, when you are in the grip of a strong emotion, it really feels all encompassing, as if there is no part of “you” that isn’t that emotion. In fact, sometimes a negative emotion so feels like who we are that we resist letting go of it even when we dislike having the feeling. In other words, often we seem to want to hold on to feelings because it seems as if giving up the feeling is like giving up part of ourselves.
Take a moment and remember a time when you felt angry at someone and you knew on some level that the person really hadn’t done anything so terrible and that you ought to let go of the anger. Take a moment and really make the incident real. … Do you remember that some part of you didn’t want to let go of the anger, as if you’d be losing some part of yourself if the emotion were to stop?
It also can be difficult to let go of an emotion when it feels as if the emotion is validating the meaning we’ve given an event. It can feel to us as if letting go of the emotion will invalidate that meaning and letting go of the meaning will invalidate the feeling (which is who we feel we are). An example of this would be someone who doesn’t do something for us that he promised to do. We might give that event the meaning that I can’t count on people and I have to do everything myself, which likely would lead us to feel angry. It feels to us as if it really is true that we can’t count on people. So the anger justifies the meaning we gave the event (which has no inherent meaning). At the same time the meaning justifies the feeling, so we might resist letting go of the meaning we made up.
But is that actually true? Are we our emotions?
If we really are our emotions, then when an emotion disappeared, we should disappear … but we don’t. Let me explain this outrageous statement: If we say we are anything specific, and that thing disappears, then logically we would have to disappear. But we don’t disappear when our emotions disappear.
Not only do emotions fade away automatically after a period of time, it also is possible to stop emotions on the spot by getting rid of the two things that cause them: stimuli that have been conditioned and our occurrings, in other words, the meaning we give events moment-to-moment.
As I’ve explained in several posts, we unconsciously and automatically give meaning to meaningless events all day long. Because events that have no inherent meaning can’t cause us to have feelings, the feelings we have must come from the meaning we give the events. And by dissolving the meaning—in other words, how events occur for us—we can dissolve all the negative feelings that arise from the meaning.
So if the emotions we have usually dissipate on their own after a while and if our emotions are primarily the result of meaning we give events and we can dissolve most emotions merely by dissolving the meaning that gave rise to them, can you get that it is more accurate to say we “have” emotions, but are not our emotions?
The two best ways to get rid of negative emotions are to dissolve the conditionings and the occurrings that cause the feelings. But if you don’t know how to do that, however, it still is possible to lessen the impact emotions have on you. How? By noticing when you feel swept up by a strong negative emotion that “you” are observing your feeling. And the “you” that is doing the observing is not the same “you” that is having the emotion. That realization will enable you to make a clear distinction between “being” your emotion and “having” an emotion. And that will enable you to get some perspective on the emotion and extricate yourself from it to a large extent.
Try my suggestion and let me know what happens in a comment.
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