How do you know when you feel hungry?
Really think about it. What does hunger feel like?
Is it an empty feeling in your stomach? Does it hurt? Maybe you get a headache?
But how do you know that's what hunger feels like?
When you stop to pay attention, you start to notice this about all of your emotions.
For example: how do you know when you feel sad?
"I cry!" You might tell me.
Okay. Sure. Crying might tip you off.
But I really want you to notice what it feels like. Pay attention to all the sensations in your body.
I put to you that it's the sensations you're feeling coupled with your thoughts about them that helps create that emotion.
So. What is it about those sensations that lets you know that you're sad?
Why is it that you can cry when you're sad AND cry tears of happiness? How can you tell the difference?
You notice subtle differences in the sensations you're experiencing and the context in which you're experiencing them.
You bring in all of your past experience and make an educated prediction about what emotion makes sense given the interplay between the context and the sensations you're experiencing.
None of this prediction is conscious.
Emotions are incredibly important signals to you about what action you should take. You should listen to them!
That said, understanding them more fully by paying attention to the sensations you're experiencing can help you to take better action and feel more connected with your emotions rather than the sense that they control you.
Next time you feel even the most basic emotion ("happy", "sad", "hungry"), take a moment to ask yourself how you know that's how you feel.
If you catch yourself thinking you know it because of some logical reason, you haven't gone deep enough. I want you to see if you can notice the sensations in your body.
With some practice, you’ll be able to get a little closer to your overwhelming emotions and regain some control in the process.