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These are things we all say without thinking twice about it.
But maybe we should stop and think about the impact of these words. What is the impact of saying that we are an emotion? Instead of saying, “I am Brittany, and I am experiencing the emotion of sadness” I’m saying “I am sad”. I’m claiming sadness as myself. Brittany is equivalent to sadness. Brittany is synonymous with anger. This can’t be a healthy way of thinking.
I know, it’s just words and maybe it’s silly to get caught up in the minutiae… but I’ve always believed that words hold a lot more power than we give them credit for.
“The power of life and death lie in the tongue.” -Proverbs 18:21
With your words you have the power to build yourself up or to break yourself down. And not just the words you speak out loud. This applies especially to your thoughts. I love this quote from Lao Tzu:
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
It all starts with the thoughts you let yourself think. You start out by thinking to yourself “I am depressed”. You have now claimed to yourself that depression is you. You are sadness itself. Then after this thinking has had time to soak into your consciousness, you’ll say to your friend, “I’m depressed.” Now you’ve claimed out loud to the world that you and depression are one and the same. Once it’s been said out loud, it becomes normalized to you. You are depression. Existing as depression becomes a habit, which becomes your character. You are now the person who is depressed.
I’m not saying that we should deny our negative emotions or pretend that they aren’t there. That would be a horrible idea. Pushing them away will only make them stronger. (I talk about that a lot in my article on why I see depression as an ally, and also in my article about Carl Jung and Shadow Psychology)
What I’m suggesting is that we begin to think of them in a new way.
I’m suggesting that maybe instead of thinking of our negative emotions as a state of being that we become, we could think of them as a visitor who is simply passing through. Depression is coming to visit you. Anger is coming to visit you. Happiness even, is coming to visit you. We are not our emotions. Our emotions are visitors that come through to tell us something we need to know.
When depression knocks at your door, it isn’t trying to take over the house and claim it as it’s own. It’s only there to share something with you that you need to hear. It’s just visiting. So don’t sign the deed over. That wouldn’t make any sense.
Maybe you’ve been working too hard lately and depression is here to let you know that you need to take some time for yourself.
Or maybe anger is knocking at your door to point out to you that your boss is taking advantage of your willingness to work overtime.
Emotions always visit for a reason. Sometimes that reason is difficult to figure out. It can seem like the emotion just popped up out of nowhere. Maybe the emotion is visiting to point out to you that you have an imbalance in your brain that needs addressing. There is always a reason. Instead of letting the emotion take over the house, take a step back and look for the reason that it’s there. Listen to what this visitor is trying to tell you.
There’s something very helpful about separating ourself from our emotions. It sort of gives us this feeling that we are outside the emotion and are simply observing it. We are the observer. We exist in some peaceful place outside the chaotic world of emotional turmoil. We don’t need to become the emotion. We only need to observe it.
If it helps, you can even name your emotions and make up little back stories for them. Think of them as literal visitors knocking at the door of your mind. And you don’t even have to let them in either. If it’s not a good time for one of them to visit, you can ask them to just tell you quickly what it is they think you need to know about and then ask them to leave. I guess that would be the equivalent of letting them in for tea real quick instead of letting them stay for dinner? Let yourself get creative with it. Bring some imagination and light heartedness to it.
Always remember: you are YOU. You exist in a nice quiet space inside your mind where nothing can come in unless you say it can. You are the one in control of who enters your safe space. In that place, you are always okay.
I hope this way of thinking can help you navigate your emotions a bit easier. I know it’s helped me a lot.
If this way of thinking appeals to you, you might want to check out The Mindful Way Workbook and, depending on what you’re struggling with: The Mindful Way through Depression or The Mindful Way through Anxiety would be good in combination with that workbook. I own all three books and they have helped me immensely. I bought them after my dad died when my therapist suggested them to me, and I’m not sure I could have gotten through the grieving process as well as I did without them.
Until Next Time,
Keep Calm and Grow On