Many years ago, fed up with backpacker type rooms in India, I booked myself into a more expensive place with a big bed, a nice bathroom and a balcony overlooking a forest. There was also a television.
One day, I turned on the TV out of curiosity. Flicking through, there was a channel named something like Guru channel. A lady was speaking and after a few moments she made a statement that has stuck with me ever since.
She said, “You are always the source of your own emotions.”
I remember turning off the TV shortly after and pondering for a good while about this statement. Yes, I thought, but then what about this situation and this circumstance… and I went on exploring a range of different ways to apply this concept. In the end, despite having thought about a long list of caveats and extenuating circumstances, I agreed with this lady. Yes, okay, ultimately, I am the source of my own emotions.
You see, it doesn’t matter what’s happening to you in life — even when upsetting things happen, things seem to be going wrong, people are giving you a hard time, or some ghoul is attacking you — you are still always the source of your own emotions.
People will often say, “My boss is driving me crazy.” “My kids make me so angry.” “The tax system is to blame for my misery.” But in reality, it is their reactions that are causing their emotions. Maybe the boss is incredibly abrasive, maybe the kids are very mischievous, and maybe the tax system is unfair. Yet, how we react to these circumstances will directly relate to what emotions we experience.
What tends to happen, is people have all sorts of expectations, opinions and desires for how they want their life to be, and for how they want other people to treat them. Yet, when things go awry and not the way they want, they are faced with a contradiction that causes emotional reactions. So, their idea of contentment and happiness is dashed by what actually happens, and emotions such as anger, sadness, resentment, indignation and hopelessness can creep in. A person can then feel threatened and out of control.
It is normal to experience a wide range of emotions in life. From sadness and grief, to joy and elation. And sometimes, negative emotional reactions are useful and serve a purpose. They can provide us with information about what is causing us inner friction — and with this information we can make changes. But people often waste valuable energy by reacting unnecessarily.
We have to endure a certain amount of disappointment in life, and there will be times when our desires and expectations won’t be fulfilled. But in many situations, you can free yourself from negative reactions simply by letting go of the desire to control, by letting go of the need to be right, and by letting go of the need to get what you want all the time.
Look to see if you could avoid causing yourself negative emotions. For example, if the boss is abrasive, are you going to always let this upset you? Or can you just accept the boss is a monster, and not let it affect you?
If the kids are misbehaving, are you always going to react with anger? Or can you join in and laugh and be mischievous with your kids at times?
Is the tax bill always going to make you miserable? Or can you accept that the tax system is run by a bunch of crooks? And instead of being miserable about it, you accept that’s just the way it is, or you play their game and set up your company in an offshore tax haven, such as the Isle of Man?
For your own peace of mind, you can lessen your emotional reactions. You can lessen your desires so that you are not so easily upset by other people’s behaviours or by circumstances you find yourself in.
And when you don’t languish in negative emotions, you won’t hinder yourself with stress. You’ll be in a better position to make decisions that improve your life. And you can also better appreciate the circumstances that evoke emotions of a more profound nature.
Many of our deeper feelings occur without any discernible mental reactions. For example, the ineffable joy you may feel when watching a sunset, the elusive inspiration you may feel when looking at a piece of art, or the mysterious elation you may feel when you are with your lover. Without the mind reacting with opinion or intellectual commentary; you can still experience feelings and emotions.
You are the source of your own emotions.