We often view our emotions as something to endure or avoid if they are negative, or something to enjoy if they are positive. We think that our emotions are created by events or circumstances in our external world. This leaves us often feeling powerless because we cannot effectively control the world and the people around us. This is a very stressful form of existence. However, our belief that our emotions are created by our surrounding circumstances is untrue. It is an illusion. All of our emotions are created internally by our thoughts. It is not our circumstances that create our emotional state from moment to moment; it is our perception and judgement about our circumstances that cause us either pain or pleasure. Let me give you an example. Imagine a dog sitting in the middle of the road. One person walks past the dog and thinks ‘awwww how cute!’. This person feels good because their thought about the dog is one of love and appreciation. Someone else may walk past the same dog and think ‘Oh crikey, that dog isn’t on a lead. I hope it doesn’t come anywhere near me’. Now this person has had a fearful thought so their experience of looking at the same dog has created the negative emotion of fear. The dog is exactly the same, but the experiences of the two people in this example are polar opposites. This is because it is not the dog (external circumstances) causing the emotions in question, it is the perception and judgement of the individual that is causing the emotional reaction.
This is good news because this means we are actually in full control of our emotional state at any given moment. I know you will probably find this confusing because we have all been led to believe that we are annoyed because our partner doesn’t give us enough attention. Or we feel guilty because we ate that big cream cake earlier. These events in themselves do not create emotions within us. Our perception of these events causes the emotions. This is important because when we are in a negative emotional state, we are more likely to react in a negative way, thereby causing further stress. Take the example of thinking your partner is not giving you enough attention. This could lead you to think that your partner does not care for you as much as they used to. This could then lead you to feel fear (what will I do if they leave me?). It could lead you to feel isolated (I feel all alone because they are not paying attention to me). These negative feelings (caused by negative thoughts) then lead you to take negative action. You may snap at your partner and accuse them of neglecting you. You may decide to try and get attention from someone else outside of the relationship. Any number of negative reactions is possible. Now look at another way of dealing with the same situation. You observe that your partner has not been very attentive to you recently. You accept what is without judgement. You observe your own negative thoughts, learn from them and then, let them go. You observe the negative energy running through your body and you let go again. You smile because this event has taught you a bit more about yourself and your insecurities. Once you can observe your own ego at work, and observe your own emotional response, you tend not to take things so personally. You can then think about how best to deal with your partners’ inattentiveness. From this standpoint, you will feel much more empowered and are much more likely to take authentic action rather than melting down into an emotional puddle. From this position of strength you may decide to approach your partner and ask them if everything is ok. You may say that you have noticed they are a bit unavailable at the moment and you were wondering if there was anything you could do to help. Was there anything bothering them? Your partner may then explain that they have been very busy at work recently and apologise to you. The worst case scenario may happen where your partner tells you that they are no longer happy in the relationship. You may then go on to discuss why your partner is not happy and you may be able to resolve the issue or you may not. All I am trying to demonstrate here is that when you act from emotional clarity you are far more likely to resolve any situation you face without causing further negative ripples.
According to Gary Zukav in his book The Heart of the Soul, negative emotions are experienced when energy is leaving the body in fear and doubt and positive emotions are experienced when energy is leaving the body in love and trust. So we could view our emotions as signposts. We could view our emotions as important information telling us about the quality of our thoughts at any given moment. When we can observe ourselves in this way, it really does take the edge off the pain of our negative emotions and it empowers us to at least reach for a more positive emotional state.