This article is about one of the most profound shifts in perspective I've made on my healing journey. I will go into depth on different aspects of this process in future posts, this is just the beginning. Enjoy!
We are not our thoughts or emotions, we are an observer of them.
I only wish I learned this as a child, I would have been much more prepared to face the hardships of life if I had. Instead, I lived most of my life from a place of reaction, as many do. I believed that how I felt was a result of the external world and this guided my thinking, my self-concept, my actions, and my general view of the world. I felt good if I thought people liked me, and I felt bad if I thought they didn’t. I often thought the latter and as a result, I didn’t have the happiest childhood. That was no one’s fault but my own, but I didn’t know any better.
When I faced my first real hardship in life, the loss of my mother, my emotions went wild and I got swept away in the storm. I was not prepared for that level of pain. I felt horrible and I did everything I could to run away. I smoked, I drank, I partied, and I sought validation from women. I remember thinking, “I don’t give a fuck about anything anymore” and didn’t care how others felt because there was no way they felt as terrible as I did.
Looking at that time, I was swirling in the winds of my emotions. They controlled me. And since my external circumstances weren’t great, I was in a dark place. At rock bottom, the path out of this darkness began with a decision to control the aspects of my life that I can, and let go of everything else that I can’t, which you can read about in my article What It Means To Let Go.
The profound realization that we are not our thoughts or emotions, but an observer of them, came a bit later in my healing journey. I grew up largely as a left-brained, logic-minded person that required concrete proof for anything to be regarded as truth. The idea that I was something more than what my five senses could perceive was not even a consideration of mine.
As I developed a daily meditation, over the course of a couple of years, I began to feel a calming sense as I slipped back and saw my emotions swirl like a storm, detached from them, like watching a movie on a screen. Instead of being swept away, I was on the sideline to watch and feel without judgment. Instead of being a victim of anxiety and depression, I learned to observe what it feels like in my body. A tightness in my throat, heaviness in my chest, a jittery feeling in my head, nausea in the stomach. Instead of running from it, I watched, and I leaned in.
I noticed that, through this process, the sting of the emotion softens. The less I try to resist, the less painful it is. Eventually, the emotion runs its course and begins to dissolve. Then, with intention, I replace the emotion with gratitude. Eventually, the comforting calmness of gratitude will replace the feeling of anxiety, lifting my vibration, and resulting in a much more peaceful day.
This takes work, and it is daily work. I am so grateful that my fiance Karina instilled the value of this work in our relationship as a way to help me heal from the loss of my mother and grow spiritually together. Because, when the time came that she faced her journey with cancer, which ultimately led to her passing, I had my tool kit ready.
While the intensity of the pain was just as great, if not greater, than losing my mother, my ability to feel it, process it, and move into gratitude not only kept me from falling into the same darkness as before, but catapulted me into a lightness that I’ve never experienced. It gave me strength, wisdom, and conviction unlike I could have ever expected. It still hurts, but I liken the pain to emotional weightlifting, resulting in growth instead of deterioration.
This is not a one-and-done fix for recovering from trauma, it is not a linear process. There are still days when I feel like cursing the world and I cry and cry like the day she passed. But when those times come, there is a way out, I just have to walk the path, observe my emotions, feel them, let them settle, and allow gratitude to replace them. With time, that intensity softens.
The fact is, whether you truly believe it or not, you will face trauma in your life. We all do. The only certainty in life is that we die. The only question is will you go first, or will your loved ones go before you. How prepared will you be when the time comes?
I lost the two most important women in my life, the first before I had this understanding, and the second after years of this work. I can assure you, both hurt with a pain that is unimaginable to someone who has never faced this sort of trauma, but the grieving and healing process with a dedicated practice is infinitely smoother, with less fear, and tremendous growth.
Whether you believe in a higher power, a universal energy, a God, or nothing at all, the understanding that we are more than what we think and feel is essential understanding for a more peaceful ride through life. Not only are we not our thoughts or emotions, we have the power to control them, and even better, we have the opportunity to use them in extraordinary ways.
Emotions are simply messages. They are internal indicators that there is something within you that needs attention. No one can make you feel anything, no one controls your emotional wellbeing but you. No emotions are good or bad. They may be pleasant or unpleasant, but all are very important for the information they give you.
“But”, you ask “what if my partner cheats on me and leaves me for someone else, surely my pain is their fault.” I would beg to differ. This is not to devalue your pain, it is real and understandable, but it is only a result of a broken expectation to have a committed and loving partner. You get to decide how you feel. If you feel pain, it is on you to claim it, observe it, process it, and move forwards. You are not a victim, even though it is easier to feel that way.
If you deny the victim role and take control of your emotional wellbeing through meditation, observation, therapy, etc., not only will you start to feel better, you will become stronger. With strength comes resilience. With resilience comes perspective and confidence. With perspective comes understanding. With understanding comes joy. With joy comes Love. And Love is the highest vibration, the ultimate gift of all emotional turmoil if we take the courageous action to transform it.
If you received any value from this article, please consider making a donation to help Stephen continue this blog and other writing projects. Thank you!