By Brianna Wiest
Imagine the last time you had a strong emotional response to something. Was it the product of having sat with the experience for a moment, processing and internalizing it, and then scanning your body to determine how you felt? Probably not. When we ask one another: “How do you feel about that?” it’s essentially interchangeable with “What do you think about that?”
Emotions are simple, and subtle. When we scan our bodies, we find that they are sensations, and they ultimately they boil down to one of two things: tightness or openness. It’s how we interpret that tension or ease that we create thoughts that then exacerbate intense, joyous, debilitating – any extreme – emotions.
This is to say: we create the way we think we feel simply by assigning meaning to sensations. There is a difference between how we feel and how we think we should feel. This is the reason for everything from mob mentality to social conditioning. It’s also largely why people feel “stuck” in inescapable, emotional turmoil. No emotion lasts for any significant period of time – that’s not how they’re designed. It’s only the cognitive patterning that keeps us re-inciting a feeling over and over again, or that keeps us from choosing the course of action that the emotion is guiding us toward.
We are taught how we should feel about roughly everything in life. Our cultural, religious, familial upbringing dictate a set of things that are “good” and “bad.” Our egos, our desires for survival, superiority, love, acceptance, etc. fill in the rest. We end up with a mental ecosystem of actions and reactions.
These “mental emotions,” as I call them, are by and large the reason we suffer, despite being more evolved than ever before. It is no longer our fleeting sense of hunger, or desire to mate, that controls us: it’s our thoughts about what it means when someone doesn’t love us, and how our subconscious minds seek confirmation that this is true, and how this repetitiveness creates a belief, and how that belief creates our lives.
We’re taught that either which way you go, a life worth living is one that is highly emotional. It’s full of love, or full of passion, or one in which you persevered through incredible suffering. We believe we should have an opinion on things to know who we are, and worse, we believe we should have an emotional response to feel as though our voices are counted. This is what makes us feel worthwhile – this is what makes life feel worthwhile.
The next time you feel like you’re in an inescapable circumstance, honestly scan your body and see what’s present. Even a tightness or uneasy feeling in your gut is just that – a little bit of stress. That’s it. That is all. That is all that feeling can do to you. Check back in after an hour, after a day… it will probably be gone.
What you’ll realize is that even your “gut feelings,” your instincts, are not overpowering, huge emotional waves. That’s why it’s called the “little voice within.”
Sometimes we aren’t comfortable with the inherent quietness within us and so we create layers of chaos to distract ourselves from it. But once that chaos becomes exhausting, all you have to do is sit back with yourself and just let yourself feel what you feel, not what you think you feel.
What you’ll realize is that even when your emotions are telling you the worst: “this is not right,” “you need to change,” the manner in which you inherently communicate with yourself is always soft, it’s always gentle, it’s always loving, and it’s always trying to help you.
What you’ll also realize is that you don’t have a natural aversion to your emotions. They aren’t “bad.” They don’t feel “bad,” even though your brain wasn’t taught to label them as “good.” We enjoy sadness, and pain, and everything else, at the appropriate time, to the appropriate extent. We enjoy it because it is an aspect of simply allowing our emotions to be.
It’s not our thoughts that create our lives, it’s how we use our thoughts to dissect the meaning of our emotions, and how based on our assertions, we decide what’s “good,” “bad,” “right” and “wrong.” None of these things inherently exist. The symphony that results from our orchestration of them is what creates our perception of whether or not we’re living a good life.