Emotional Awareness 4: Blinded By Feeling

Once we recognize the presence of strong emotion  and have named it, the next step on the path of emotional awareness is to recognize that this feeling, this joy or sorrow or anger that can seem all consuming, may or may not be a reliable guide to reality.

In the grip of emotion, this fact can be hard to reach.  If we feel this strongly, surely there must be a real, objective, verifiable reason.  And often there is.  Those footsteps behind us on the street may signal real and imminent danger.  But equally, the sound of footfalls might just mean someone is walking behind us.  In that kind of situation, it’s probably best to heed our emotion of fear and take some sort of evasive action.  But when it comes to less dangerous situations, the rule of thumb for interpreting body language can be useful:  look for at least two indicators before drawing a conclusion.

When someone we’re talking to folds their arms in front of their body, it’s common to jump to the conclusion that they are either resistant to what we’re saying or not interested.  But how many times do we fold our arms to keep warm?  Or in my case, folding my arms can be a signal that my back is starting to ache.  So we need to look for more indicators—looking away, moving back, sighing, facial expressions.  If there’s more than one indicator, the conclusion of disinterest or hostility may be worth exploring but the arm folding by itself is not reliable.

And so it is with emotions.  Feelings are not Facts :

  • Feeling dejected, does not necessarily mean we have been rejected or undervalued or that a situation is hopeless.
  • Feeling angry does not necessarily mean someone has done us wrong.
  • Feeling elated does not necessarily mean our life will be smooth sailing from here on.
  • And that awful fizzing tension of anxiety, does not necessarily tell us that something is about to go wrong.

Search for other indicators.  Our mind can be our greatest friend in this search, but it can also be our greatest enemy.  So before using our mind to achieve perspective, we must first sooth it into calmness.

Breathing Exercise to Calm the Mind:  Get comfortable, sitting upright, spine supported, in a place where you won’t be interrupted.  Put one hand gently on your belly and inhale slowly through your nose.  Draw your breath deep into your body until your belly moves outwards.  Then just as slowly, exhale.  Focus your attention on the journey your breath takes through your nostrils, your throat and into your lungs.  Then follow its course back out again.  Feel every sensation of breathing.  Keep doing this until your emotion and your mind have calmed.  It takes as long as it takes.  But when mind and emotions are calm, you are ready to look for the other indicators (see next week’s post for more information).