Dis-identifying from Feelings

The mechanism of taking feelings personally and identifying with them is all part of the egos plan to keep us identified as an ego, a separate me. The first step in learning how to dis-identify from feelings is noticing them when they arise rather than taking them personally.

What does this mean to not take a feeling personally? It means not claiming it as ours—seeing the feeling as one of many things that are arising in awareness in this moment, without attaching to it. For example, here is what is arising in awareness in this moment: a car driving by, leaves blowing in the wind, the feeling of keys against my fingertips as I type. I don’t identify as the leaves or the car or the sensation in my fingertips. I don’t merge with them and think that I’m them because they register as neutral experience delivered to me by my senses. They don’t erupt in the body in the same way as feelings do.

Let’s say that anger is also arising in this same moment.  Not taking it personally would mean not owning it, not seeing it as different from any other phenomenon that is arising. Anger and leaves blowing in the wind would carry the same weight. Again, this is much easier said than done because it means moving against our programming. When a negative feeling arises, our natural instinct is to jump in with both feet and claim it as ours! We identify with it and merge with it, becoming anger, sadness, or boredom embodied. We believe that it’s our anger and as such, we feel justified in expressing it and acting it out, usually to the detriment of our relationships.

When a feeling takes us over, we literally lose ourselves in it. We lose our connection with our true self and forget who we are as spiritual beings. Instead, we become what we have never been, identifying completely with the ego or the false self. Following our programming, we become the feeling, losing all objectivity, and we feel powerless to do anything but react to it.

People talk about feeling overwhelmed by a feeling or a craving. This is perfect description of what happens when we become identified with our feelings. Our power comes from creating some distance from them and moving back into awareness.

Thankfully, this is easier than it sounds. Here’s how it works. First, notice that a feeling is on the scene. You can say to yourself, “Anger, sadness or a craving is on the scene.” This noticing and labeling begins to extract you from the clutches of the feeling. Then, you take it one step further by saying to yourself, “Oh that’s just sadness. It’s not me. I’m over here noticing it. And if I’m noticing it, I can’t be it.” This is just common sense, right?

Moving back into noticing and recognizing that you’re not the feeling is the secret to dis-identifying with any feeling. In my experience, it immediately cuts the power of the feeling in half and allows you to experience some objectivity and relief. From this place, it is much easier to use whatever tool you choose to dismantle the conditioning that gave rise to the feeling in the first place: inquiry, allowing the feeling to be present, or simply moving back into alignment with essence, either through meditation or the direct experience of sensation.