Your emotions don’t have to control you.
Even when they are intense, you are still an autonomous being capable of choosing behaviors independent of them. When feelings stop being something you experience and start becoming something that controls your experience, you lose control of your life.
Fortunately, there is a way out.
Realize you are not the feeling, you are observing the feeling.
The very first step in an awakening is gradual awareness that you’re even having a feeling, and that the sensation might actually be separate from you.
This is the first point at which people begin to slow their reactivity process.
Typically, someone has a feeling, think they are the feeling or that the feeling is absolute fact and truth, and begin responding accordingly. You get anxious and then you think: “I am an anxious person.” You are sad and you think: “I am sad.” The better way to respond is: “I am experiencing anxiety right now,” or “I am experiencing sadness.” This differentiates what you’re feeling from who you are.
When you are able to see yourself as the person who is simply seeing, feeling and witnessing the emotion, it is much easier to manage it. This doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable, it means that you’re just taking a healthier perspective of the discomfort.
Realize the feeling is a wave, and that’s all it is. It will pass, and then another will come.
Once you realize that you are what is observing the feeling, you can then start paying attention to the feelings themselves.
You’ll notice that many of them are simply different tightening and releasing sensations in your body. In fact, it’s your mental narrative about what these sensations mean that are causing you more suffering than anything else.
Once you begin to realize that feelings are like waves, you understand that each must crest, and then it will dissipate. Then another wave will form. Another analogy that people like to use for this is the creation, movement and dissolution of clouds. Either will work.
What you understand is that the cloud is real, but it is temporary, it doesn’t last, and another one will form soon afterwards. You are not the cloud, you are the sun behind it.
Realize that the feeling is actually the wave of your breath, and that by regulating it, you regulate your emotions.
Finally, when you spend enough time observing and witnessing the formation and passing of different feelings, you begin to understand your participation in creating and sustaining them.
There are many different ways in which this might happen.
You may realize that by not getting a full night of sleep, you are more anxious and tense the next day. You may realize that engaging in certain thought patterns almost always drums up a specific emotional response and it would better serve you to evaluate those critically and change them.
However, no matter what the stimuli, the pulse that’s actually controlling the wave of your feelings is your breath.
When you are anxious and stressed, your breath becomes shallow. When you are exhilarated and laughing, your breath is deep and drawn out. Everything physical that makes you feel better—exercise, sex—also creates deep and full breaths. This isn’t a coincidence.
When you understand that your breath is creating, sustaining or helping to release the wave, you then begin to ascend into real self-mastery, which is when you know that no matter what your circumstances are, you are always capable of using your breath to regulate and release your emotions.
Ultimately, we tend to run our lives through our feelings, allowing them to guide us to a degree that’s not only unhealthy, but also dysfunctional.
Our emotions are an important earpiece into what’s really going on within us, but they aren’t always reflective of reality. They are valid, even when they aren’t true. Unfortunately, when we get into a cycle of allowing them to command our actions, we actually make true what we often fear most.
We do not have to be controlled by our feelings.
But first, we must realize that they are a wave that must crest, crescendo, and rescind. Like clouds passing through the day, emotions of varying sizes and intensities will accompany our life experience no matter what. The more adept we become at riding them, the easier it will be.