The Pain of Emotional Identification

By Anthony Gold

Pick any emotion you don’t like.

Maybe it’s sadness or depression or loneliness or regret. Or maybe fear, anxiety, or guilt.

Now think about the last time you experienced any one of those emotions.

Anytime we become [insert that emotion], then we’ve been “taken over” by that emotion. Our identity is now tied up in the emotion.

I am sad.

I and sad are now one. We could write this mathematically as “I = sad”.

Anytime we feel any sort of negative emotion, we are equating our sense of me with those feelings.

At that moment, our entire sense of identity is intertwined with the negative emotion.

That’s why when someone asks us how we’re doing, we respond with “I am [insert emotion]”. We don’t say “the body is feeling a bit blah.” Instead we say, “I am sick.” The emotion and the sense of I are now one.

That’s what happens anytime we identify with anything. To identify with anything physical or emotional literally means that our sense of self is enmeshed with the physical thing or the emotion.

Think about the concept of a car.

If you were walking down a city street and saw a thug peering into a random car parked on the street, you might feel some sense of “that guy is probably up to no good”.

But now imagine that it wasn’t just a random car, but it was your car. Now how would you feel?

Now that there’s a sense of “my”, our feelings are likely far more extreme. Perhaps including fear and/or outrage. In this moment, our identity is equated with the car. It isn’t just a car, and it isn’t just my car, but a part of my identity is being victimized.

That’s the problem with this kind of identity – associating ourselves with anything physical or emotional. This is a false sense of identity and will always lead to pain. Always.

So, how do we escape this false sense of identity?

Do we de-identify with everything around us? Perhaps enter into a state of denial?

Nope – neither of these will serve us very well.

The pathway into freedom and peace – a true sense of identity – is simply this: observation.

We can’t be both the observer of the emotion and stuck in the grip of emotion at the same time. At any given moment, we can only be one or the other: wrapped up in a false sense of identity where our self is equated with our emotions, or experiencing our true identity by calmly observing, without judgment, whatever comes into our presence.

The gentle awareness of all that is, in each moment, dissolves the false sense of identity and brings us profound peace.

Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of false identity and how we get so tied up in our emotions. And we’ll learn techniques for escaping those severely limiting chains of bondage. I look forward to seeing you then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *