We are emotional beings – with a wealth of emotional experience but we tend to be overwhelmed, lost, confused and don’t quite know how to deal with it because we are in it and become one with it.
The word ‘e-motion’ suggests some form of movement. The letter ‘e’ in Latin means out of or from. We can possibly assume that emotion refers to a sensation that arises out of movement. This is not a movement of an object but of something delicate, subtle and a lot more complex because it is deep within and invisible to the naked eyes. When the mind is moved from its stilled and balanced state into rippling, erupting, elating or swinging motion, emotion arises.
Dealing with emotion is not difficult but it takes practice and perseverance. Here are a few suggestions.
- Accept and acknowledge your emotion – good, bad, desirable or undesirable. You may feel the need to reject an inappropriate emotion or the ones that are at odd with your personality. Accept and acknowledge them anyway without doing anything to them or trying to trace back to why or how or who to blame.
- Get to know your emotion: watch it! Painful emotion seems more difficult to watch and we’d prefer do away with it instead. Do so and you will miss a good opportunity to understand your own emotion. Past emotion may return when triggered. We need to watch it diligently, allowing the mind to see the whole process of emotion – that it has a beginning, the middle and the end. That’s the way it is.
- The mind can only focus on one thing at a time. When something else catches its attention, the emotion that occupies your mind will instantly disappear. This shows that emotion is not forever, it comes and goes.
- Know that emotion will soon pass – including the one that is tormenting you. Its nature is in transient. It only remains troublesome if you indulge in it, add thoughts to it, focus on it and hold on to the idea that it’s not going to change. In general, when happiness wanes, unhappiness is felt. And vice versa.
- Thoughts, feelings and emotions work together as a team. Thought gives rise to feeling of liking, disliking or neither of the two. Feeling contributes to more thought forming – leading to the arising of emotion. More thoughts follow to justify the emotion we are experiencing. Thoughts also strengthen the existing emotions. Fear of pain, for example, can intensify because of our thought. We need to be mindful of our thoughts and feelings. As soon as we are mindful of them, they will disappear before giving rise to emotion.
- Watch your mind. Train the mind to know what it is doing. Know whether the mind is within your body? Or, is it following other people out there, or travelling into the past or the future? You need to bring it back to the present, to the body or to the breath. If you are sitting, walking, talking, the mind fully knows that you are doing those things, not leaving you unaware or absent minded. Watching your mind is like watching a TV programme. See how the drama unfolds, you don’t need to get involved or play the character’s part.
- You may wonder how you can watch your emotion when you can only feel it. Ask yourself what emotion is drifting through your mind at the moment. Is it positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant? Acknowledge it without trying to change it.
- See how long each emotion lasts till you experience the next emotion.
- Make a habit of watching your emotion. The more you keep watch, the more able you can see through its changeable nature. The changes can be as fast as every footstep or as every breath you take or faster. This will bring a big smile to your face because the mind now fully understands the true nature of emotion: it arises, continues and then disappears. The mind sees no point in holding on to any emotion. You can even begin to have fun with emotion watching.
Suppressing your emotion doesn’t work in long term. Relying on others to help you sort out your emotion is but a missed opportunity. Take the power unto your hand: watch your emotion, understand it once and for all. What you get is a priceless peace of mind.
Kamontip Evans is a stress management consultant and author of Taming the Truant Mind. She also writes blogs on mindfulness meditation for the Huffington Post