Owning our emotions

Most people are in the mental habit of considering that emotions come from outside. For example, we say things like “she makes me angry,” “he makes me happy”, “it scares me.”  

However, even a very superficial examination is enough to understand that she, he, or it cannot generate emotions in us. In the first place, our emotions are internal mental states, and therefore not accessible to others. More importantly, emotions are our reactions.  

Let’s look at an example: an individual walks into a room where there are ten other people. Of these ten people, six know this individual previously, and four do not. Of the six that know this individual, four like her, and two dislike her.  

Let’s see now what emotions can arise in this scenario. The four people that did not know this individual previously will probably have a neutral emotional response; they will remain indifferent to this individual’s coming into the room. 

The four persons who like this individual probably do not like her with equal intensity. Some, let’s say three, like this individual well enough, but not as much as the remaining one. This last person will be very happy to see this individual, while the other three may be moderately pleased. 

The two persons who dislike this individual may also have different intensities of emotion. One may be slightly upset by this individual’s arrival, while the other one may be angered. 

Now, here we have one individual whose arrival apparently is causing various emotional responses. Is this logical? Of course not! If this arriving individual were responsible for the emotions of the original ten persons —if this individual were really capable of causing a particular emotional reaction— all would have the same response. 

The arriving individual cannot possibly simultaneously produce indifference, pleasure, happiness, upset, and anger. The fact is that each one of the ten persons already in the room is generating his or her own emotions.  

The same holds true for objects and experiences. A particular song can apparently elicit indifference in one person, slight pleasure in another, great happiness or sadness in others, and intense dislike in still another group. Is it the song that causes all these different reactions? No, it is the previous experiences, dispositions, and tendencies of those who hear the song that are responsible for their reaction. 

Little by little we begin to understand that we are responsible for our emotions, since we are the ones generating them. No one, no thing, no situation can make us angry, or happy, or afraid. No external person, object, or situation has that power.  

Our emotions are our own. We make them, we experience them, and we own them. Therefore, we can also let them go.

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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3 Responses to Owning our emotions

  1. Pingback: Emotions « Work the Dream

  2. Margret says:

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    I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t
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