Emotions can be very powerful fuel for actions that benefit or for actions that harm. In general it is better to be in touch with your emotions than not.
But, once you can express your emotions, learning to detach is an excellent skill. Why? Well, for one reason, as I just stated, emotions you are not in control of can cause you to say or do something harmful you greatly regret afterward. A lot of people in prison could tell you that is exactly how they got there; their emotions got the better of them in the heat of the moment.
Even if your emotions don’t lead you to criminal behavior, out-of-control and reactive emotions can still create a lot of havoc in your relationships and career. Learning to detach from your emotions is a way to create an empowering awareness that allows you to choose your emotions and therefore your actions.
The challenge is that when emotions strike, it can be difficult to choose what actions are thus forthcoming. The emotion rules rather than your intention! To create more balance and less reaction in your emotional life, learning the art of detachment is necessary.
First, in order to detach, you have to get in touch with your emotions. Only when you are accepting of your emotions’ full import and at home with the gamut of them, does the ability to detach from them become possible.
However, sometimes getting in touch with long denied emotions is a little (or a lot) like opening Pandora’s box. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by your emotions, use the services of a reputable counselor, therapist, spiritual director, or healer who can help you. Once you can name your emotions and accept them, without them overwhelming you, then you are able to move on through the process of detachment.
Second, notice your language. Most often, once someone is in touch with their current emotion, they will say something that clearly identifies themself with the emotion. For example, “I am sad” or “I am angry.” Whenever we fill in “I am _____” we are essentially saying, “I = ______.” So, rather than fully identifying with the emotion, change your language.
Say something different, such as, “I am noticing sad/angry feelings arising.” This makes you the observer of the emotion without identifying with it. This in and of itself creates distance from the emotion yet without denying that it has come into your awareness either.
By creating some space between you and the emotion, there is far less chance that the emotion will overwhelm you. Then you can process it without being reactive or destructive.
Third, once you have named it, and disidentified with it, then you can dialogue with it. Talk to the emotion as if it’s a guest who is passing through with a gift for you. “I see you anger/sadness. I am glad you have arisen so you can teach me something. What are you here to teach me?” Allow the emotion its own voice to speak to you. Once you have heard the lesson, then you can thank your emotion for being such an excellent teacher, and send it away or release it. Add visualizations if this helps you.
I learned this skill by myself out of necessity. It was a time of great grief and stress (see my book, My Karma Ran Over My Dogma, for the details!) and expressing all of my emotions was literally killing me. It is possible to die of a broken heart. Thus, I had to find another way to process the emotions without emoting them and stressing out my body more, and yet without denying them either.
I found that I could visually process my emotions by looking at them in my mind’s eye, having a dialogue with them and then releasing them up and out my spine or by pulling the energy out of my body. I did not have to emote or express them in order to release them. I only had to acknowledge, honor, dialogue and learn from them. Today, I do the same process with clients who come to me for energy healing.
The bottom line is—You are not your emotions. You can observe your emotions. So who is the You who is observing? You are not even your thoughts. You can observe your thoughts so who is the You who is observing? This is the trillion dollar question.
When you know the answer to this, the resulting emotional equilibrium is a peaceful, calm, deep sea that brings peace to your life as well as to all around you. Be the peace!