Managing our emotions – shift focus from emotions to actions

Stop trying to control how you feel, start taking control of what you do

Our emotions often interfere with our purposes. We may resolve to do something important, but may not feel like doing it. Either we give in to that feeling and stop doing it. Or we resent and try to reject the feeling, but that seems impossible. Significantly however, we have a third option: shifting our focus from our emotions to our actions.

To understand this approach, let’s compare our emotions to the weather. Just as the weather keeps changing, so do our emotions. When the temperature drops steeply, we naturally feel cold and reluctant to go out. But still, we can don warm clothes and venture out. And doing that physical action is possible, even when changing the weather isn’t.

Just as we can’t control the weather, we can’t always control our emotions – they often emerge from our inner weather, which is shaped by strong, subtle, natural forces known as modes. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (14.22) urges us to observe the arrival and departure of our emotions nonjudgmentally.

When we treat our emotions like the weather, we recognize that just because we can’t control our emotions doesn’t mean we have to be controlled by them; we can still control our actions. Even if we don’t feel enthusiastic, we can still start acting according to our purpose. And if we keep doing purpose-driven actions, our emotions will gradually change, like the weather, from unfavorable to favorable.

Purpose-driven actions become easier when we connect with a higher power: specifically the omnipotent supreme, Krishna. We can connect ourselves with him by practicing bhakti-yoga steadily (14.26). Here, bhakti-yoga practice refers to practical devotional activities that we can do even if we don’t feel devotional.

By such practice, we access a higher grace that empowers us to transcend and transform our emotions.


Think it over:

  • What are three ways to deal with our emotions?
  • Even if we can’t control our emotions, we don’t have to be controlled by them. How is this possible?
  • How does bhakti-yoga empower us to manage our emotions?

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