Emotions happen. What do you do with them?
What do you do when you are angry? Do you say something to retaliate? Do you need to make someone wrong?
Your feelings are your own.
Working with our own feelings is the key to being able to create change in ourselves, and change in the way we interact with the world. What we want to become aware of is our habitual responses.
Someone does something that “makes you angry”. Sometimes they really did. But if you are having a super fast physical response, this is often your body remembering a hurt from your past. Your body and your mind can feel as if that past hurt is happening now. Thus, you believe that the person in front of you is causing all of the discomfort you feel. Without being able to pause and hold your feelings you won’t be able to know if your feelings pertain to the present or to the past. The easiest thing to do is to make someone else responsible, but no one is responsible for your feelings except you.
The Habitual Response (Why the same thing happens over and over)
So you couldn’t pause and you automatically felt that the cause of your anger was the person in front of you and so you threw something at them. This could be an angry comment. This could be an automatic thought about this person in which you quickly say to yourself “Right, people don’t care about me”. Now you’ve made something real in the moment which will carry forward to the next time you have this same uncomfortable feeling. You can go your whole life being right, which usually feels bad, but being right is a way of confirming yourself and this is comforting. "I know who I am and I know what I feel and I know what is right." In this scenario, no emotions are being processed and healed.
How We Process and Heal
In meditation we begin to notice that our mind thinks, and our body feels, and that these things are just happening without our consent. We notice the thoughts and the feelings coming and going. It’s the noticing that is important. Now you can start to see that you are not the thought, and you are not the feeling, but that you are something much larger that is noticing. This is your awareness.
Growing in Awareness
It’s the ability to be aware that we want to call on at these times of emotional distress. This is the warrior's sword. What is this feeling I am having right now?
The uncomfortable sensation is not “out there” but actually “in here”. So that step one. You own it. You own the uncomfortable thing. Now we have to figure out what to do with it.
(The easiest thing is to expel it by saying something retaliatory, or actually throwing something. This might feel very right in the moment, but you can quickly see how this only escalates the whole situation. Now the other person has something real to contend with in them! This is the recreating and continuing of hurt.)
If you were able to pause long enough to notice that the feeling is in you, then you’ve crossed the biggest hurdle. You're standing courageously, sword at the ready.
You notice. You own it. You care for it.
Care for it? Yes. I want you to imagine that this uncomfortable feeling is a sick child. Which is really what it is because those strong feelings are so often the feelings you had at an earlier time that you could not express or process, and therefore could not heal from, so they lay dormant and ready to wake up in order to have another chance to heal. Yay! That time is now!
We are big people now. We get to do the holding. Holding this sick/angry/sad child can be very difficult. It's easier to walk away. But if you can hold this pain you are also allowing yourself to engage your warrior heart. “Ah, so this strong heart is me too.”
You paused, owned it, and cared for it. Now you drop the story.
Dropping the story means catching your mind wanting to go back to make the other person wrong. (Well, sometimes they are in the wrong and then we can say why their words or behavior didn’t really work for us, etc. As you communicate this you might imagine that they were mean because they are trying to get their own uncomfortable feeling out of them. If you get this far you get triple points for touching in to your compassion!)
The ability to work with our own feelings is healing for us, and healing for everyone around us. (Well, those are really the same thing, but that's a different subject.)
Would you rather be right or an emo warrior who is planting karmic seeds of change and love?
I thought so.