The quality of our lives is determined by the state of our mind. And emotions play an exceedingly important role in regulating the mind. Most of us struggle with our emotions. We are sapped when negative things happen and we float in the sky when good things come to pass. Life becomes akin to a piece of flotsam – tossed and turned around on cruel breakers. This is clearly not a wise way to live. How can we better manage our emotional state of being and begin to ‘live’ free? Free from worrying.
We can begin by understanding the separate energy centers created by the emotions and by the thoughts. Emotions (or feelings) are physical sensations in the body. It is the crushing feeling in the chest or in the stomach or sometimes experienced in the throat. Thoughts on the other hand are generated in the brain. We therefore experience a slight heaviness in the head when we overthink or we worry. Having understood these two different centers, we can begin to understand the cause-effect relationship between the two. Usually, a thought triggers a strong emotion. The thought can be generated by an external person or an event or even a memory. This thought creates an emotion in the body. For instance, “What will happen to me if I lose my job in this situation?”. This thought, creates uncomfortable waves of emotions. The mind attributes these strong emotions to that specific thought. Next, the mind keeps ruminating on that thought, which in turn creates stronger emotions. The stronger the emotion, the greater the reinforcement of the thought. And the cycle goes on and on.
How do we break this cycle? We have two broad options as I see it. The first is something practical people can do. They have the ability to put aside the emotion and thoughts and go on with their lives, busying themselves with what has to be done – events, people, things to do and so on. The other set of people (the emotionally sensitive) – these people struggle to put things away. Such people experience emotions very strongly. They need to solve this problem right now. The ‘practical’ people need to be careful that they aren’t pushing the emotions into a corner. As long as they are facing them and resolving them head on, it’s alright. The best way to know this is to observe if one’s reactions keeps getting triggered in stressful situations. Do we maintain poise? Or do we shout out and react? If we shout and react, then our emotions are repressed – waiting to be released.
But what can the others do? I believe there is a simple, yet powerful three stage process.
- Recognize the Emotion : Observe the sensations in the body and say , “Oh here it comes”. No judgement. No labels. It is there. Period.
- Accept the Emotion : Allow it to exist within you. Know that it is completely okay. We are human and we rightfully experience all sorts of emotions. Accept that we aren’t perfect. If you can, mollycoddle the emotion. Treat it like a petulant child. Give it a loving kiss and a hug. When we do this, we are healing ourselves. We all remember our need to run to mother when we had a bad dream. We should mother ourselves. Tell yourself it’s completely okay.
- Offer the Emotions : Once we have accepted and perhaps cuddled the emotion – like our mothers would have cuddled us – we know that that feeling is safe with her. We entrusted the emotion to her and healed in the process. Similarly, offer it to the divine, to God, to the Universe, to your higher self, to the Guru, to nature, to something that is larger than life. Something that you regard as sacred and venerable. Offering the emotions is a powerful way of saying, “This is beyond me, you manage it”. This is surrender. Surrender has a very negative connotation in today’s world. It is seen as being weak. On the contrary surrender is strength – because we face what is weak within us and proclaim, “Yes I cannot manage this”. This requires enormous courage to admit it to oneself. Surrender is therefore the highest courage.
Like any other practice, this requires deliberate effort and the earnest application of oneself. You need months to build physical fitness. Something as subtle as the mind is more challenging to handle – but not impossible.
Remember practice this for both negative and positive emotions. You feel elated because something unexpected happened to you – recognize, welcome and offer. This is perhaps the meaning of the yin-yang symbol in Taoism – treat both the black and white equally – and adopt the middle path of “Its okay”.