Tonight I went to watch the last film of Disney: Inside Out. The film, being too much sugar for my taste, is a master piece of scripting, because it clearly describes how emotions are controlling our life.
Emotions have a big power over us. They are responsible of many of our automatic behaviors, most of them, behaviors that we do not like.
Have you ever become aware of you being mad at someone and screaming at him? Or what about when you feel scared about doing something and refuse to do it? Did it happen to you that you felt so happy that you could not stop doing and saying stupid things? In most of those cases, when the feeling is gone, you feel guilty and promess not to do it next time, but you know what? You repeat the same pattern again and again.
It is not your fault. Some people will advice you to control your emotions, but the thing is that you cannot control them. It is not possible. Trying to control emotions by repressing them only makes them stronger.
However, we don’t have to be slaves of our emotions. We can free ourselves from our emotions and reach a mental point where we use them for our purposes, instead of being used by them.
The trick is that instead of trying to repress your emotions, you should become aware of them. This means that you must reach a conscious state where you consciously detect when the emotion starts and when the emotion is deployed and finished. With the proper training, you can achieve that goal and then, at that point, decide by your self if the emotion is useful for the current situation or not.
If you keep your training, you will find that thoughts are the generators of the emotions. First, there is the thought and then there is the emotion that the thought generates. With enough training, you will be able to observe even the though before the emotion is generated, and decide whether that thought should or not generate the emotion. When you reach that state, emotions will be at your service and you will be able to use them for your goals.
The training consists in two types: the formal one, and the informal one. The formal one is about a specific meditation exercise devoted to make you aware of your emotions. The informal one, is about making you aware of your emotions on the spot, when you are experiencing them in real life.
The formal workout
Do the following meditation once a day, everyday of the week, for 20 minutes, at least along 3 months
- Start with a basic meditation for 10 minutes, as described in our previous post.
- Now bring to your mind a difficult problem that you are experiencing at present in your life. It doesn’t have to be a big problem.
- Watch it vividly in your mind for several seconds. Then turn again your focus to your breath.
- Observe your emotional state, created by the situation. Are you angry? Are you scared? Just observe how you feel.
- Do not judge your feelings. Just observe them with curiosity while trying to breath normally
- Keep observing until the feeling is gone. You will experience that this happens very quickly.
- When the feeling is gone, then breath a couple of times and repeat again the process. Turn again your mind to the problem for several seconds and then observe the feelings.
- Repeat until the time is finished.
- When the time ends, take a deep breath and finish the workout.
The informal workout
Do the following workout each week along 3 months.
- Each week, select and activity that you do most of the days. Good activities are the ones that are not neutral to you, but activities that make you have feelings, like for example, being in the rush hour, being with your friends, working with your boss…
- Take the resolution that you are going to monitor your feelings when in that situation along the whole week.
- Monitor means that, while being at that situation, you are going to be aware of the feelings that are having.
- When the week ends, select a different activity to monitor for the next week and repeat.
Emotions are a tool that allowed us to survive in the wild. In present times, it looks like they are creating us more problems than solutions. But we can train ourselves to master them, and use them to our benefit and for that of the people that surrounds us.
Never, ever, ever try to control your emotions. This will only make them stronger. If you have to let your emotions go because of the situation and you cannot avoid it, then use that situation to observe yourself being possessed by the emotion. This will improve your awareness of your emotions.