We hear a lot about the importance of mastering our emotions.
In order to be happy, you need emotional intelligence!
If you want to succeed, you must master your emotions!
Emotional mastery is king!
We hear all that, and to be honest, it's pretty damn true. I certainly don't disagree.
However, I think there's one key distinction that a lot of emotional mastery preachers fail to make, and it's something that I believe would benefit many people. It has certainly benefited me.
I make that distinction below, but first, it's important to state how I've always understood emotional mastery, and what popular psychology says it means.
If you've ever heard Tony Robbins speak, you've probably heard him say that the quality of your life is the quality of your emotions. I think this is definitely true to a large extent. In other words, no matter what you have, where you live, how many people you love, if your main emotions are pissed off and frustrated, it doesn't matter if you have a billion dollars... you're gonna be pissed off and frustrated! This rings very true to my ears and I think most people would agree with this.
(Please, spare me the bullshit of "I'd rather be pissed off with a billion dollars than pissed off and poor." Making that analogy is like saying "I'd rather have pizza and wings than drive a BMW." The two have absolutely nothing to do with one another, so please stop using money and fulfillment in the same sentence.)
When I first heard this, I fully agreed, and logically asked, well how do I master my emotions? A common approach often found in personal development teachings is to learn to use them as signals. If you're feeling anger, it's a sign of X. If you're sad, it means Y. If you're bored, do this. While I think it is important to look at your emotions as signals, I think what nearly all personal development materials fail to call out is, who is doing the looking?
The one distinction that most psychology materials fail to make
You are not your emotions. If we talk all about how we need to master our emotions, then who are we? Who are we inside, experiencing those emotions?
You really ought to pause right now and ask yourself:
If it's my emotion, then who am I?
This is where spirituality comes in, and from my standpoint, where the real inner magic is found.
I've come to understand that beyond just learning to use your emotions as signals, mastering your emotions is really about creating distance between you and the emotions. Recognizing that you are not them, and that you are the consciousness inside, experiencing your emotions just like you experience your thoughts, just like you experience your body, and just like you experience the outside world coming through your senses.
We are not those things. We are the thing inside who is aware of those things.
If you're still with me, you might be confused, or asking yourself Why does that matter? What difference does that make?
It makes a difference because it's liberating. It takes a weight off your shoulders when your realize that your identity doesn't need to be constructed on the back of your thoughts, emotions, and background. All of your thoughts and emotions are not who you are, but just things you experience.
With this perspective, you're able to look at your emotions more objectively. You still learn to use them as signals, but you're not attached to them. You're not defined by them. You simply notice them, and use them as a guidepost. Either way, you never judge them. You just notice, appreciate, and act accordingly.
The moment we resist what we're feeling, we've now lowered ourselves into the mind, into our emotions, and we can no longer experience that distinction. You then become your emotions (or so you think), leaving you powerless in the face of a force that you simply cannot fight.
In conclusion, the only real way to "master" your emotions is to first observe them without judgement as a witness, and see them as an entity separate from our true selves.
Ever since I've bought into the spiritual perspective of I am the consciousness inside witnessing all there is - including my thoughts and emotions - I've felt a slight, but increasing sense of liberation and inner peace.
I offer you to try the same. You might be surprised where it takes you.
Live with substance!