The Problem With Explaining Away Our Emotions

So, like…if we just don’t take risks, don’t fail, don’t get embarrassed, don’t get shut down, or disappointed, or rejected, then we’ll always feel good, right? 

If we just stay safe and never expose ourselves to the intense vulnerability of following our dreams, we’ll always be happy, right?

Wrong.

One major barrier to following our hearts is the illusion that our circumstances produce our emotional states.

It is the belief that emotional freedom comes from controlling our circumstances.

For example, at the beginning of The Shift Retreats, many of the participants say things like, “I feel overwhelmed because I have so much to do,” or “I feel anxious because I’m not sure which passion I want to pursue,” or “I feel scared because there’s so much at stake.”

And in response, they give up on their dreams in order to clear their schedules, or they give up on their passions to avoid feeling anxious, or they choose to not take a risk because it’s scary.

Although these “I feel _____ because _____ ,” statements seem harmless, framing it in this way actually allows our feelings to have power over our choices. It debilitates us from being able to really go for what we want.

What most people don’t understand is that we never feel what we feel for the reason we think.

Feelings are inexplicable. Feelings are the present-tense, sensation-based language of our bodies. Feelings are immediate—instantaneously arising.

Yet the story we tell about our feelings is a whole different type of language. It is a time-based, non-immediate language. It is a language that is one degree removed from what is actually happening. There is no way to accurately and truly translate the language of our body into the time-based linguistics of our minds.

Therefore, the stories we tell about why we feel what we feel are fiction, rooted in the past. For example, “I’m angry because he was late.” But the past can never explain the present, because the past doesn’t actually exist outside of our story about it.

The present moment, where all emotion exists, is simply a dance of energy. E-motions are “energy” in “motion.” There is no true story that we can tell about it.

When we pretend like we feel afraid because we aren’t certain about how to follow our dreams, we are pretending like there is a necessary correlation between uncertainty and fear.

There’s not.

When we pretend like we feel overwhelmed because we have a lot to do, we are pretending like there is a necessary correlation between busyness and overwhelm.

There’s not.

We are placing responsibility for our emotions outside of ourselves and onto circumstances.

And then we try to control the emotion to match the circumstance. We start to feel like we shouldn’t be so upset about that breakup, or we should feel more sad about that loss.

Telling a story about our emotions puts them into a box, confining them to what we think we should be feeling and preventing us from just feeling the particular sensations of being alive in this moment.

To fully explain exactly why we feel what we feel in any moment, we would have to explain cause and effect all the way back to the big bang.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So here’s the trick-stop saying “I feel overwhelmed because I’m so busy,” and instead say “I feel overwhelmed and I’m so busy.”

Stop saying “I’m scared because I don’t know what to do.” Instead, say “I’m scared and I don’t know what to do.”

This allows us to accept our emotions as they are, while leaving us free to choose how to act in spite of them.

This eliminates internal resistance to our emotions and gives us the space to watch them as they dynamically move and change and morph, like clouds in the sky.

When we realize that we don’t need a reason to feel what we feel, we can give our emotions space to be however they are.

When we realize that we are never happy because we lost weight, because we got a promotion, or because we are in a relationship, then we begin to realize that our happiness is unconditional. And we can take responsibility for it.

When we realize that we are never upset because of what someone else did or because of our circumstances, then we stop resenting, guilting, and manipulating others for how we feel.

We don’t need to explain away our emotions.

We don’t need reasons to feel.

We feel happy because we feel happy.

We feel sad because we feel sad.

End of story.

So feel what you feel and go for what you want. Stop using your emotions as an excuse for holding back.