You Are Not Your Emotions
By Sonya Whaley, Feb 7 2016 08:00AM
It’s easy to confuse our emotions with our identity. About fifteen years ago, my friend and I took a weekend trip to Berlin. It was an early flight and we were desperate to bed down for a nap as soon as the hotel would let us check in. We were so tired that we resolved to have a nap before doing anything else. As we lay in our twin beds, my friend turned to me. “I’m homesick,” she said. I could hardly believe my ears. We were a mere two hour flight from home and had the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie Museum, a whole city of history and culture, waiting for us to explore. “I guess I’m just a homesick kind of person.”
It is easy to confuse our emotions with our identity and people do it all the time.
Language perpetuates this. In English, we say (unfortunately!), “I am angry.” We could almost capitalise the ‘A’ and suddenly we have ourselves a second name. French and German speakers are more illuminating and phrase it a little better by saying the equivalent of “I have anger”.
Yes! Emotions are something we have and, what’s more, they are in a permanent state of flux. Like the radio’s constant flow of songs, they are a mixed bag and move on their timeline from euphoria to reflective to downright sad and everything in between.
This is obvious in my three year old daughter, whose moods change as quickly as flicking on a light switch. Even with my knowledge of NLP state-changing techniques, I cannot switch in and out of emotions as easily as she does. To forget about her anger and glide effortlessy into mirth in the next moment, what a lesson she teaches!
A shy person?
For years I thought I was a shy person because I felt shy in large groups or when meeting people for the first time.
Since I had been like this for as long as I remembered, it felt true. There is an Instamatic-shaped photo of a fancy dress party in 70s hues, where I took my place in the periphery. A blond curly-haired kid in angel wings and a white fairy costume, head hung low, hiding her face from the camera.
I see that shyness now sometimes in my daughter, refusing to join in the carol singing at her Nativity play and eyes averted from the gaze of sentimental parents. I also see her bounding around the park, showing off and shouting with glee, “Look at me, look at me.”
It is easier to see the well-rounded picture as a fly on the wall, much harder when you are in your head and looking out of your own eyes.
To know that we are not our emotions gives us enormous freedom to be however we want to be in the moment. Remember that when you feel a negative emotion, you don’t have to keep it.
Just like my favourite lines in the movie Boogie Nights, the story of a young man who finally finds the essence of himself after years of being manipulated by the profit-seeking Californian pornography industry of the late 70s:
“You’re not the boss of me, I’m the king of me.
I’m the boss of me.”
Whenever you feel exasperated, envious, despondent or enraged, remember that it’s just your emotional reaction to something, an electrical storm that will pass.
You are more than that. You’re a composite being, comprising presence, thoughts, physicality, sensations – lots of things. And yes, you are sitting at the controls.
I thought this article was really interesting with one central message that we choose whether or not to allow an emotion to define us when we experience it or when the memory of it has us enraptured. Thanks Sonya x
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