• Resilient Practice

How to Observe Our Emotions in Difficult Times

When something happens externally and causes an emotional response within us, we give away our power to that situation.

When we cultivate the ability to witness our processes, we can respond in a more conscious way.

Within the psyche, there is a part of us which is sometimes referred to as the observer.

This is the part of us that can report that something made us feel sad or angry or upset.

It is not the part of us that actually does the feeling. It is the one that collects the data.

When connecting with this part of the Self and making the distinction between the observer and the feeler, we can learn to observe and detach from negative emotions.

It is important to remember that, when we stand in the shoes of our observer, we do not judge.

We simply watch and collect the information; we observe ourselves and our responses to certain situations without analysis; preferably without thought.

This week, we witnessed a post on social media which caused an immediate reaction within us.

It was about a lady who had been shopping in the supermarket and had felt uncomfortable with the close proximity of the customer behind her. When she mentioned her discomfort to him, he became verbally abusive towards her in the shop causing her to feel upset and embarrassed. When she finished her shopping and walked out towards her car, the abuse began again only this time the mans girlfriend got out of his car and began spitting at her and telling her that she was Covid 19 positive. She then hit her.

We were outraged.

The immediate reaction was to post a comment such as “That’s shocking! Poor lady! We hope they catch the couple responsible” all of which are true.

This is because empathy is in our nature. We use it to help us understand the reactions of others and to interact appropriately.

This means that we immediately began to imagine and feel some of the horrific emotion that that poor lady had felt herself. When we feel intense emotion, our brain chemistry changes. We had given ourselves a smaller dose of similar brain chemicals to the ones that the lady had had to endure for fight or flight.

We did not need them in our own brains.

When we cultivate the ability to observe these processes within ourselves, we make them conscious, In other, words we become aware of them.

The awareness of these processes provides us with much useful information. When we foster the habit of connection with the observing part of the psyche, we can begin to see cycles and patterns in our own behaviour. This is the prerequisite to harnessing the power to choose.

Do I repeat? Or do I take a different path this time?

We can do this with kindness towards ourselves.

Try this:

The next time that you find yourself in a situation where something in the external environment has created an emotional change within you; press pause.

The very fact that you are able to notice this is a sign that you are becoming more self-aware.

Take your awareness to your breathing and the “aliveness” of your body. This helps you to become present in the situation.

When you are present, you are less likely to be influenced by past events or future imaginings.

Now step into the shoes of your observer.

This is the part of you that collects all of the detail of the situation so that you will be able to recount it later. It does not judge. It simply watches and notices everything.

As you stand in these shoes, you are able to stand back from the emotion that has been generated. You can watch the situation play out and notice the process.

This affords you the opportunity to choose.

You can observe and do nothing.

You can allow old behavioural responses to play out.

You can choose new conscious responses.

In these shoes you realise that you are not the emotion; you are separate from it.

This is liberating.

Your observer does not judge. It only bears witness and collects information. This alone is enough to bring about change.

Imagine the energy that is required to live in your emotions and to act immediately as a result of them.

Now you can use that for something of your choosing.

Your observer is a great teacher.

Cultivate the habit of observing your own processes as they happen, and you will become conscious in all situations.

Share this with friends, family and colleagues and feel free to comment.

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