My jumping-off point for this next post about feelings and emotions is Bonnie's wise and helpful comment on my last post. I think it's so important that I'd like to quote it in full:
"With time and attention we can learn not to become identified with our feeling states. We can learn to let them wash over us, giving us the information we need without attaching to them. One of the keys to a balanced, open, healthy emotional life is to relate TO our emotions and not FROM them. E.g. 'Of course I am feeling over-wrought considering the trauma I have just experienced.' You acknowledge the emotion, give it room to be without allowing it to 'rule'.
E-motions are meant to move through us. Our goal should be to not allow them to possess us. Easier said than done, but with practice we can allow the emotion, glean the information it is giving us, and then move on to the next emotion that will surely follow. Feelings are essential to the flow of a human life — adding richness and depth — we just don't have to drown in them as we do when we become identified with them. E.g. 'I am experiencing angry feelings right now' rather than 'I am an angry person'."
Yes! The prime insight here, I think, is the recognition that we are not our emotions. They are closely involved with us but they are separate from us. This perception allows us to distance ourselves from our emotions slightly, to consider them from a more objective standpoint. You could perhaps say that it's our complete self, our whole psyche, that's the essential thing, and emotions take their valued but secondary place within this framework — or rather, as Bonnie states, they move right on through the frame, as feelings always seem to be in flux. Feelings do indeed give richness and depth to our lives, and we would be less than human without them. But we ourselves are more than just our transitory feelings, much more.
In a way, we are the sum of all our emotions, all the feelings we have ever experienced or anyone has ever experienced, just as we are the sum of all our thoughts and actions, and the sum of all anyone has thought or done. We are all connected to a kind of Jungian Collective Unconscious. We are unique individuals, but at the same time we are universally bound together. We are all carbon, all stardust. We all have bodies, brains, thoughts, feelings. And if I'm unable to achieve something in one area of my life, someone will realise it for me in theirs. And vice versa. In this sense, we are all saints and we are all sinners, and everything in-between, and if we truly understand what this means, then it may help us extend empathy towards the whole of mankind.