3 Differences Between Emotions And Feelings
Many people do not realise that meditation is much more than a relaxation activity. Once you sit still and turn inwards, thoughts and emotions get louder, sometimes to the point of driving you crazy.
It is for this reason to help you become more still, it is important to understand what is happening in your consciousness.
This post looks closer at emotions and feelings to help tease out subtle differences between them. You will see that some experiences get in the way and others are helpful, in life and in meditation. Let's look at some examples and differences:
1. Emotions are more conditional than feelings
Let's start with the emotion of 'love'.
In one example, a cat might show it’s ‘love’ for an owner while the owner provides food and care. If the owner were to change their behaviour or become abusive the cat might start looking elsewhere for it’s needs. This type of ‘love’ could be described as conditional. The cat only shows it’s affections and dedication if it receives what it needs.
Now look at a mother who loves her child. Regardless of what behaviour the young child brings, the mother remains there for the child. The love the mother brings could be considered unconditional.
Throughout their lives together, this same mother and child’s relationship might deteriorate. The mother becomes hurt by the child’s behaviours. A breaking point has been reached and she has no option but to break ties with her child. This ‘love’ now feels a little less conditional.
In a third scenario, a spiritual teacher loves her disciple. It could be any spiritual teacher who has come to great inner realisations e.g. Christ, Sri Aurobindo, The Buddha or The Mother. When you feel love from a spiritual teacher it radiates through their being. The love is so strong and alive that it can feel almost physical. When you are in the presence of someone like this, you know what the force of love really means. It can feel as if the person is a vehicle and love is coming through them as a completely selfless giving. There are no expectations in this type of love and it would be the same if you do things perceived as bad or good.
The word 'love' is not sufficient to describe all three examples. It would be much more accurate to come up with different words to describe the different experiences.
These examples show two very different types of emotions. One with a more personal feel and another with a higher selfless feel. For clarity, you could call the personal, more conditional one an ‘emotion’ and the selfless one a ‘feeling’.
When you hold this clear distinction, you can start to feel how different an emotion and a feeling is. An emotion is more likely to drain you and a feeling is more likely to fill you up. Reflect on this difference in your life. When was the last time you experienced an emotion and a feeling?
2. Emotions are more grasping and not as deep as feelings
Let's take a few more examples. For your birthday you were treated to an evening at a fun park where you participate in all sorts of rides and games that keep getting more and more exciting. You are on a ride and you burst out screaming with a mix of joy and terror and you eventually get off the ride feeling dizzy and slightly sick but know that you had the best time you have had for ages. The adrenalin rush was intense and your head is spinning. There is a sense that any sadness or heaviness that was there before had been released and as a result you feel tired but happy. Of course, depending on who you are, if someone asked you how you felt, you might have said, it was very exciting, you had a lot of fun and were very happy for the whole evening and perhaps even that it really picked you up out of an emotional slump.
At another time, you spend the day walking up a mountain and you reach the top just in time to view the most amazing sunset you have ever seen. You sit and watch this breath taking scene. Inside yourself you feel this deep sense of joy and uplifting. There is a level of stillness and peace as your heart opens in amazement. It is so joyful that you almost cry with it's intensity. If someone asked you how you felt, you might have said that it was incredible, that the awe of scene really touched you deeply and that you will remember it for the rest of your life.
Here it's possible to see qualitatively, just how different these two experiences are. You can feel how 'violent' the first one was and how 'peaceful' and 'still' the second one was. The experience with the sunset was much deeper and more profound. It touched you on another level. These two levels of emotions also correspond to two levels of yourself. One comes from your reactional, mental framework or astral body and the other comes from deep in your being, your Ego or a higher part of your self. Differentiating between the two 'emotional' experiences also helps you to differentiate where they are coming from. Are they from your mental framework or from a higher part of yourself? When the goal is to stop mental chatter, this distinction helps enormously. It is possible to become more conscious of what is going on inside yourself.
3. Emotions are more unstable than feelings
There are more differences, but the last one I'll mention here is their stability. It is possible to detect an emotion when you feel just how easy it is to appear and then how quickly it might change into something else. Even though it might be a controversial comment, the most obvious emotional patterns are seen in close relationships. Just how quickly love can turn into hate and rage. Just one word with the wrong intent can send a loved one into a reaction. It feels like the words have hit a vulnerability inside which turns everything into a mess. (Read this blog: The Power of Vulnerability). In Sanskrit, this type of reaction is called a Samskara and is a reflection of emotionally charged patterns stored in the mental or astral layer. Once you become aware of this type of pattern it is possible to be more conscious of what is going on inside yourself and to choose to respond in a different way.
A few years ago, when I was meditating on my own, I could see a pattern forming. It wasn't the first time I had meditated for a few weeks, and I knew that in the last 24 to 48 hours I would start to get restless and the quality of my meditation would decline. In my mind I knew that I would be free to return to my life soon and I would start planning the days after the meditation. These last hours got so intense that my body got itchy with restlessness and agitation - I needed to move. Once I realised the pattern, I consciously changed it. I saw the agitation as an emotional pattern and just held it. This allowed something from deeper inside to fill the space and my final meditations changed completely. I was fully in the moment and I was open to deeper spiritual experiences.
From these few examples it is possible to see how important it is to discern the differences between emotions and feelings. With self reflection and conscious awareness, feelings become more prominent in your life and you are open to the possibility of more profound experiences. Once you have truely worked on stilling the mental layer of your astral body and bringing greater consciousness, expect surprises. Spiritual presences are more available in this state of stillness.