Feelings are much like waves; we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which ones to surf. –Jonatan Mårtensson
Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary. ~Mark Twain
Some people seem to think that emotions can be controlled to the point where the so-called negative ones (sadness, anger, fear) can be kept at bay more or less permanently. Like Mårtensson and Twain, I tend to think that feelings are involuntary. My spiritual path teaches that the emotional body is a non-physical “body” that Soul dons when It comes into the physical world. The emotional body exists to serve as a communication device between the Soul, the mental body, and the physical body. My own interpretation of this teaching is that our emotions are a way of processing our physical experience. We can’t just drop the emotional body while we are here in the physical plane, for the same reason that we can’t stop thinking. Our physical bodies, emotional bodies and mental bodies are all necessary in order for Soul to be able to experience physical life and to process our experiences with other Souls while here.
Even if it’s true that you can’t get rid of the emotions altogether, you do have some control, as Mårtensson points out. You can decide which wave to surf. How does this work?
Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, says that the original, involuntary emotional circuitry as processed electrochemically in the brain, takes only about 90 seconds. If we are feeling any emotion longer than that, we are actually choosing to re-run that circuitry indefinitely. Sometimes I think we do this unconsciously because we need to keep the feeling going until we can stop and process it. Processing our feelings doesn’t have to take all day, especially if we process our feelings right away. It’s when we refuse to acknowledge our emotions that they begin to clog our emotional body, as it were, like a drain that backs up because it has too much water to handle.
All you really have to do to process our feelings is to acknowledge them. You don’t necessarily have to act on them; just acknowledge them. Acknowledge that you are sad because a loved one died. Admit that you are angry with yourself because you failed an important job interview. Admit that you are frightened about your surgical procedure scheduled for next week. It’s OK to have those feelings. Just feel them, then let them go. If you need to, keep a “feelings journal” and log your feelings each day. Then do a spiritual exercise before bedtime where you let the emotions go. You can ask for help with this from your spiritual guide.
It’s especially important to acknowledge and release those negative feelings. As Sharon Creech wrote in her novel, Walk Two Moons, ““You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” You don’t have to surf the negative feelings, in Mårtensson’s terminology. Just know that they’re there and move on. 🙂