I used to think that emotions arose within and passed away of their own accord and I was just along for the ride. After I went through the Fischer-Hoffman process with the late Ellen Margron I took her Emotional Mastery* class and learned that the opposite is true. It was really just a few simple ideas that are life changing.
Many of us live as if our emotions arise on their own and last as long as they choose but according to Ellen emotions are ours to choose as we wish. The entire array belong to us and are part of the gift of being human. We can decide which mode to be in at any given moment. We can also decide to change emotions at any time.
A lot of the class time was spent with her running through lists of the many nuances of emotions while we sat, eyes closed, and put ourselves in each emotional state as she named it. Practice at home included things like staying aware of sounds and movements in the room and in the world and in the universe while moving through emotions (playing a tape that guided us from one to another).
I’m greatly oversimplifying the process, but it had a great effect on me. All that practice at shifting from one emotion to another made it clear to me that I can never again claim to be in the grip of melancholy or caught up in a rage; if I find myself feeling melancholy I can choose to be happy or content or serene instead.
On a deeper level,, emotions are often triggered by underlying issues or trauma or learned behavior. If you have issues about abandonment you may jump to panic or tears any time you feel you’ve been left. If your family mode was to start crashing around yelling and stomping every time something went wrong, then that’s likely to be your reaction until you choose to react another way. So it helps to release the old stuff, but even if you haven’t, in any given moment you can choose to react a different way, to respond with a different feeling.
If I find myself feeling cranky I can go inside and think, “Joy” and observe myself moving into a happy space. No emotional state can ever grab me and hold me in its thrall unless I let it. What freedom there is in being the one to choose how I feel instead of letting the feelings choose me.
* Ellen began teaching this in the late 1980’s. If you Google emotional mastery there are now a number of people offering teachings they’re calling emotional mastery but none seem to be the same as Ellen’s work.