My six year old son came to me the other day and said: “Daddy, I feel sad but I’m not sad about anything. What should I do?” My first thought: “What question!” was followed by: “Out of the mouths of babes!” I quickly formulated a response.
Not being one to miss an opening, I explained that our hearts are like ears. You hear a lot of things, but not everything you hear relates directly to you. He asked what he should do about it (he’s a caring soul) and I told him that he had three choices:
1. Ignore it and focus on something else
2. Take it personally and feel bad all day for no good reason.
3. Meet it, lift it up, give it a hug and tell it everything will be ok.
He told me he couldn’t ignore it, he didn’t want to waste time all day and that he was a good hugger, so he’ll try the last one. He must have done okay with it as I didn’t hear any more on the topic and he was within minutes back to his silly self.
I wish more children could be taught that we are not our feelings. We have feelings and yes, they can be powerful and confusing, but our feelings should never form the basis of our identity (e.g. I am sad, angry, nervous, shy, etc.). You are not any of these feelings, you have them.
Moreover, not all feelings are yours. You may perceive them, as a radio picks up different frequencies, but you needn’t personalize every feeling you have. You needn’t, as I once heard it put, give every phantom feeling a body (yours or another’s). You don’t have to attribute every feeling that passes through to something specific if outer circumstance. For example, many people when faced with the same confusing experience my son was having might search frantically for an explanation in themselves or the world around them.
The world of feeling is malleable, suggestible. You can correct the subtle, fluid energies at work in your heart. In fact, it is far easier to work in this way than it is to give the feeling a physical (again, yours or pinning it on another’s) body and then wrestle with that body. Water is easier to reshape than a block of ice.
The next time you have a feeling or complex of feelings that seem to come out of nowhere, don’t take it personally! Don’t fixate on them, don’t thrash around in them and most importantly, don’t incorporate them! Look instead to acknowledge them, bless them and move on.