You are not your thoughts or emotions!
Are you beaten up by your thoughts? Are you preoccupied with your feelings? Are your thoughts circular? Have you had the same thoughts and emotions for years? Do your feelings control you? Do you have a problem putting them behind you? Just because you think or feel something does not mean that they are true. In fact, repetitive thoughts are old voices of your parents, siblings, or other adults including your teachers that you have assimilated over the years, particularly in your childhood. Repetitive feelings are a little different, they are the result of unresolved emotions from a time in the past.
Lets look at thoughts first. If you pay attention to them, you will find that they are repetitive, negative and circular. They criticize you, stop you from trying something new, confuse you, and prevent you from leaving behind the past and moving in a new direction. If you pay attention to them and believe them, you become incapable of changing anything in your life. How can you move beyond these thoughts? Could they go somewhere else and hopefully bother someone else?
I don’t believe that they will leave you permanently, although that would be ideal, but you can disconnect from the power that they hold over you. It is as if you unplug the electric cord from the source of the electricity. It takes a while but gradually they control you less and less. How is this achieved? First you must learn how to listen to them without being bothered by them. Sit quietly, as if on the bank of a river and watch how “the thoughts” pass by you as the river flows by you. With practice of this technique you become proficient at listening to the thoughts without getting upset by them. You recognize the critical nature of them and get to know the sources of the thoughts: fears, angers, etc. As time passes and you practice this technique more, you begin to welcome them when they appear, you recognize them as old companions that have been with you for years. As you pay less attention to them, you begin to hear other voices inside of yourself: more positive and encouraging voices that have been there all along, but were drowned out by the repetitive thinking. Then you can change your life.
Secondly, neither are you your feelings. The emotions pull you back and hold you in the past. Often it is the little child that calls you through the emotions. In childhood you learn a response to life according to the kinds of pain or lack you have suffered in the past. Your response could be withdrawal, aggression, drama about everything, the bad child, the perfect child, the sick child, overeating, etc.—there are many ways of getting the attention of our parents, reacting to the circumstances of our childhood or of punishing the adults who cared for us. The problem is that the child brings this reaction into his adulthood and continues it until he can heal the sufferings of his childhood.
In contrast to the repetitive thoughts that, for the most part, came from other people, the emotions and your pattern of reaction to life that you adopted as a child, were conceived by yourself. Because of this, to heal the childhood emotions you must not pay attention to them, but you also eventually must surrender this mode of behavior. It is possible to change your emotional reaction to life, but it is hard because it is more ingrained than the thoughts. Often your reaction is problematic because it is selfish and leaves no space for anyone else. In a couple, for example, there are two childhood reactions happening that cannot coexist until each gives up his immature reaction.
The process is the same as with the thoughts. You must distance yourself from your emotions through the practice of watching them with detachment. After a time you will notice that your feelings no longer have as much power over you, then that they control you less and less. The result is that you experience fewer problems and more positive things in your life. The interior torments of the past no longer reign. There are more possibilities in your life, more choices. There is less suspicion, anger and fear. There is more acceptance of changes in your life, more flexibility in the face of difficulties.
It is not easy to change your thoughts and feelings, but the difficulties you are experiencing in your life can motivate you. You get tired of creating the same scenario again and again. After listening to your thoughts and feelings for a while with detachment, you realize that they are not true or sometimes they are not the whole truth. As you unplug from the power source, from the hold these thoughts and feelings have over you, they will hold much less sway. They exist in you and maybe always will, but they do not control you any more.