You Are Not Your Feelings: A Mindful Approach to Dealing with Difficult Emotion

It’s easy to get caught up in the intensity of your emotions. Your emotions are valid. They affect you and are real. They could never be “wrong” in the same way that a cloud could never be wrong. It may be stormy or puffy and bright, but it’s just what it is; a cloud.

However, when we become overwhelmed with emotion, it can be difficult for us to notice that it is not the same thing as us. Gaining mindful perspective on your experience can change your relationship to your internal experience and help you withstand difficult times.

When you become overwhelmed, try this technique: Imagine you are a mountain. Observe and describe your experience using as objective language as possible. For example, “I am sitting in my living room. My nose itches. I’m so anxious. I don’t know what I’m going to do about my relationship…it’s not working out.”

Simply pay attention to the thoughts that come into consciousness. Notice them like you would weather around a mountain. You are the mountain and the emotions and thoughts are the “weather” around you.

Now try to use objective language to describe your experience: “I’m having the feeling of anxiety. I’m having thoughts about things that may happen in my relationship”.

It may seem like a small detail, but the way we talk to ourself matters. Our perspective matters. Return your attention to your body and take several deep, slow breaths. Focus on the path the air takes into, and out of, your body. Notice the way your body makes contact with the surface on which you are sitting, just as a mountain makes contact with the earth.

Notice the thoughts and feelings you may have as they cross your field of awareness like clouds and rain. Inhale. Exhale.

Notice that you are an entity that is capable of experiencing many thoughts and emotions, but regardless of the nature of these experiences it does not fundamentally change “you”.

Notice that between painful or difficult experiences, there is peace and space for light. Inhale. Exhale.