Emotions aren’t bad.
But they’re not very helpful either, are they? Not always anyway. Like when they’re the kind of emotions that bring you down.
Or how about the ones that make you want to gorge on a load of chocolate chip cookies? Don’t you just wish you could switch those emotions off and get on with your life?
Emotions are like this little software program that hijacks your consciousness. Not to mention your mood. Sneakily, they take over control. And that’s not a happy postion to be in.
Because being in control of our lives – or at least feeling like we’re in control – creates a sense of happiness
Control isn’t a dirty word
Now before you start accusing me of telling you to suppress your emotions, let’s talk a little bit about control first.
What does it really mean to be in control?
For a lot of people it means controlling events in their life. But the truth is you have very little to absolutely no control over them.
Wanting to control external events in your life will bring you more stress and frustration than happiness.
You do however have some control over how you feel about those events.
If you shine the light of awareness on your emotions, you won’t be tossed around helplessly on the sea of life.
Your feelings won’t get the better of you. Your emotions won’t drown out the voices of your intuition and your heart.
As a result you’ll make wiser decisions – the kind you won’t regret in the longer term.
The result of better decisions will be a better life, with improved conditions and circumstances.
Ironic, isn’t it?
In a way, by giving up your desire to control things and by paying more attention to your emotions instead, you’ll improve the conditions you gave up trying to change.
How to control your emotions
Do you see how control is more of a passive thing?
Controlling your emotions doesn’t mean suppressing them. Don’t put up a fight. Because that will only make them stronger.
Foster a more Gandhi-inspired relationship with your emotions
When faced with suppression by his British colonial rulers – how about that for lack of control by the way? – Gandhi didn’t turn into some violent rebel. He chose to sit down and not play along.
Passive. Peaceful. And above all, infinitely more effective and powerful.
So whenever your emotions are trying to take over and make you feel bad, don’t fight them. Instead, take a step back and be a witness.
Witness what your emotions are trying to do to you. With any luck you might even see where they’re coming from and what’s causing them.
That’s what it really means to let your emotions flow
Letting your emotions flow isn’t the same as allowing yourself to be dragged down by them. You’re the observer standing next to the stream, looking at the flow of emotions.
Advice #1: Deal with it afterwards
Of course being the peaceful observer of your own emotions won’t always be feasible. There will be times when you won’t be able to pull it off. During an emotionally nasty moment for instance.
When that happens, don’t blame yourself for slipping up. Simply revisit the moment afterwards.
Find some time to yourself later in the day, when things have settled down. Relax, breathe. And then relive the moment that upset you before.
But this time not as one of the main characters. This time you’re in the audience, observing the scene. Watch yourself and the flow of your emotions.
Advice #2: In the heat of the moment
Breathing is an excellent remedy in the heat of any emotionally overwhelming moment.
It helps to ground and center yourself, preventing you from drifting off to wherever it is your raging emotions are trying to take you.
It’s also the perfect stepping stone to reaching the spiritual high ground from where you can more calmly observe your emotions.
Just take a couple of mindful breaths.
Pay close attention to the movements and sensations in your body as you breathe in and out.
At first you’ll probably be breathing high in your chest. That’s perfectly normal when you’re in an emotional state.
Next, try to breathe lower. Feel your belly expand as you inhale. And let it fall back gently as you exhale.
Advice #3: Practice watching your emotions
#1 showed you how you can use meditation to revisit an emotional situation afterwards. In a similar way you can meditate to practice. To learn.
Because you’ll always have thoughts and emotions. Even when you’re relaxed. But then it’ll be easier for you to deal with them.
Try this meditation exercise.
Start off with relaxing by breathing. Then picture yourself sitting by a stream. Every time an emotion or a thought pops up (and they will), visualise it as a leaf gently drifting by on the surface of the water.
Whenever you feel yourself being dragged along, simply tell yourself to stop. Breathe, and go sit down by that stream again.
No getting angry with yourself and no blaming yourself for “failing”. Simply reset and start over.
Meditate to build your spiritual muscles
Meditation is a tool. One to be used daily.
Not just for the fun of it, but in order to become a happier and more balanced person.
By learning to control your emotions for instance. Emotions aren’t evil, and you certainly shouldn’t try to suppress them. But they can throw you off balance.
Meditating is like building a skill.
When you meditate you practice to become better at separating yourself from your emotions. That way you can safely experience emotions without being overwhelmed by them.
So why not start right now?
Stop reading and close your eyes. Smile. Take a couple of breaths and then picture yourself sitting at that peaceful spot next to the river of your emotions flowing past.
You won’t achieve spiritual bliss right away. But it’s as good a start as any.
And to actually make a start is more important than anything else.
Original image credit: El Bibliomata