Emotion and identity


In recent weeks it becomes clearer and clearer how strong emotion and identity link together to form a sense of the separate self.

Let’s say a wave of annoyance or anger arises against Trump, immigrants, your spouse, your own actions.

That emotion somehow seems to cement identity.  You seem to know who you are.  You are the one, you think, riding that white-hot feeling of rage.  Or that mild buzz of disagreement.

This link seems to convince us who we are.  We are the one who wants to right wrongs.  We are independent beings deserving a say, a voice, an opinion.  The emotion bubbling alongside the thought somehow convinces us that it’s true.

I recently experienced a disagreement with my husband.  He thought one thing; I thought another.  A wave of annoyance arose.  Thoughts clamored to the surface:  he’s wrong, I’m right, the answer is of course my answer.  Simultaneously a logical part arose attempting to find a solution to our dilemma.

What was interesting is that the wave of annoyance and sense of “I” arose simultaneously attempting to convince the separate self of its existence and truth.

If you’ve done inquiry for a while, it’s sometimes possible to surf that wave of emotion and simply be with it.  To see very clearly that the emotion does NOT mean it’s coming from a separate self.  In fact, surprise!, it’s possible for the view to shift to a perspective which sees that the emotion is simply a reactive arising–and definitively not who one ultimately is.

It’s possible to look around the living room and see–once again–that what one truly is is aware, free, all-encompassing.

Identification shifts from the focused to the expansive.  It shifts to reveal the emotion as not-self.  Simply another arising in an infinite field.

The argument with the husband or Trump or your own actions?  With the shift comes an opening for something else to appear.  A space for unknown possibilities now arising out of peace.


6 thoughts on “Emotion and identity

  1. Sorry, you’re wrong.

    Just had to say that. And yes yes yes. I get on that emotion train all the time. Repeat after me: I am not this thought. I am not this emotion. I am not this thought. I am not this emotion. I am this awareness watching the thought. I am this awareness watching the emotion. At my ripe old age just a few years beyond half a century, I am beginning getting to grasp this idea that if I just wait a minute (or two or three or ten), this thought, this emotion will run its course and lucidity will once again reassert itself. The trick for me that taught me the lesson was to try and remember what the heck I was thinking or feeling an hour ago. Can’t do it so it must not have been that important! How transient and nimble these feelings and ideas are that run through us! But look where they take us: to war, to divorce, to regrets. Impulsive little liars. Ride that wave and look at the ocean. The ocean tells the truth.

  2. As I read through this post it occurred to me that the ‘separate self’ is our ego dominating, when we feel the need to be ‘right’. The wisdom of years has taught me that there is no wrong or right in the world, just opinions, and every opinion is either right – or wrong, for each individual. Even if we can’t agree with the opinion of another, at least we can try to see their point of view, and ultimately we can choose to agree to disagree, or alternately those unknown possibilities you speak of could actually broaden our horizons to a change of opinion! Either way, it’s a learning experience.

    Lately, my emotions get in a twist when I hear people insisting they are ‘right’ and everyone else is ‘wrong’! Does that identify me as a peace-keeper, I wonder? *…sigh…*

  3. It is what I return to – time and again – “what one truly is is aware, free, all-encompassing”.

    There is much that feels heavy and sick in my gut since the election and then some compassion arises and I find it surprising. I have gone into a Missouri Show-Me Skeptical Witnessing mode for the duration.

    And I deeply do know that that isn’t who I am either but somehow Presence is using the me that has been created because it already knows me so well that it knows even before I do how I will react and what I will do. I trust then that it doesn’t matter. I can’t get it wrong in reality. I can be me because that is what I was created to be all along.

    There is great comfort in that understanding. I wish you much pleasure and comfort in your awareness and freedom and connection to all that is.

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