Emotions: They’re Not Where You Think They Are

emotionsAfter we’ve deconstructed the notion of an objective reality, it’s now time to wade through the debris and pick apart whatever conceptual structures still remain that allow us to misperceive reality. One such notion is that of containment.

We think that emotions exist within the body, but they don’t. Feelings aren’t ‘in the gut.’ Look to your direct experience – do you experience feelings as existing ‘within’ the body? Isn’t the body itself a sensation? Are there not merely some free-floating sensations present, some of which you call ‘the body’ – but which themselves don’t contain other sensations? Do you ever experience one sensation as containing another?

Sensations don’t exist within each other. A feeling sensation doesn’t arise within another feeling sensation. A visual sensation doesn’t arise within another visual sensation – or within a sound or a touch sensation. Our idea of a ‘body’ however, is fundamentally dependent on this type of grouping of sensations – as a single momentary sensation is not at all what we picture when we think of our body. Instead, our minds conjure up a multitude of sensations—visual, auditory, tactile and emotional—that together seem to form the physical object we call ‘body’ – which would be the object that ‘contains’ all of these sensations.

But all of that is only going on in thought. In reality, there is no actual ‘container’ of sensations. The only real life referent we could have of a ’container’ would itself be a sensation – and sensations cannot exist ’within’ each other. Sensations are nothing but their experiencing – and experiencing cannot exist ‘in’ experiencing.

When we at last realize that this model of the body ‘as a container of sensations’ isn’t representative of anything in our direct experience, we can finally drop the notion that containment is a viable model of what’s actually going on. Thinking in terms of containment isn’t based on our direct experience – it’s based on the universe-model of reality wherein objects are physically contained by other objects.

We believe that thoughts are literally in our heads and that emotions are actually in the body – and these beliefs make it seem as if that’s true in our direct experience. But having rid ourselves of these beliefs in the objective sense, we must now investigate to see if they match up to what’s given by our direct experience.

So look for yourself, right now.

Are thoughts in your head? Do the thoughts arise within the sensation that we call ‘head?’ And are emotions experienced as being in the body? Isn’t the body itself merely a sensation?

Thoughts only seem to come from our heads because we believe that they do. But if you envision thoughts as coming from, let’s say, the belly instead (try to put your attention on your belly and ‘think thoughts’) you’ll see that pretty soon it starts to feel as if they do – which demonstrates that ‘containment’ is imagined rather then factual.

Thoughts seem to arise from wherever we believe they do. Drop the assumption that they’re located to begin with, and thoughts simply cease to arise from somewhere in particular – and instead arise without being located anywhere at all.

We also feel that the tactile feeling of, for example, our hand is ‘within’ the corresponding visual sensation of that hand. That is, I look at my hand and it seems as if the feeling of it resides within the visual boundaries that make up the outline of my hand. But when I investigate closely I find that this isn’t the case at all – the feeling of the hand is merely a free-floating sensation that isn’t located within the visual field whatsoever. It is just a thought that suggest it does.

It’s easy to believe when we look down and see our belly, that emotions exist in there – but in where? That belly is nothing but a visual sensation – and emotions doesn’t exist ‘within’ visual sensations. Emotions exist on their own, uncontained by any other sensation—whether visual, tactile or otherwise.

By seeing that nothing is contained in direct experience, we gradually lose the ability to believe that we’re actually experiencing objects, such as one’s body, which is a giant step towards liberating the knowing of ‘I am’ from being object-bound – to instead allow for the sense of being to expand and encompass the entire field of experiencing—equally and neutrally—as the sensations of reality in the absence of containers are clearly revealed as a unified whole.

But moving even beyond that, we must realize that ultimately there are no sensations at all. ‘Sensations’ are nothing but their experiencing—they aren’t ‘something’ that is known—but what sensations ultimately are is nothing but their momentary subjective know-ing.

And knowing is not some ‘thing,’ some positive entity that is situated within a larger reality – no, knowing is all there is to reality as such and ‘it’ is no thing at all – it’s a pure negative, the very absence of objectivity, and is none other than our own being. Not a being, but be-ing.

Non-objective, it cannot be ‘known.’

Non-positive, it cannot ‘exist.’

‘It’ can only be.

Further reading:

9 Responses to Emotions: They’re Not Where You Think They Are

  1. Mark says:

    I’ve been working on this problem for some time now, and have reached the point of being open to the possibility that what you say is true. Maybe my difficulty comes from needing to unlearn the common meanings of words that trap the mind in duality. Still, the perception that the body-mind is the focal point of consciousness remains. If the body goes on vacation, consciousness doesn’t have the option to stay home. So it appears that consciousness can’t arise without a support system. Please explain. I understand there is some faulty reasoning here but can’t “put my finger on it.”

    • Kristoffer says:

      Hey Mark,

      Have you fully realized the impossibility of a world external to consciousness? If so, doesn’t that negate the possibility of what you call ‘a support system that gives rise to consciousness’ in that such a system presupposes an independent space for its existence?

      If realized that there can be no space ‘outside of’ consciousness, you must also realize that there is nothing more to the ‘body’ than sensations of color, sound, touch, and so forth. And as explained in this article – without erroneously mentally superimposing a belief where these sensations are ‘grouped’ within an imagined ‘container’, we can’t find a ‘body’ in our present experience – just the empty momentary fleeting sensations of color, sound, touch that come and go.

      Keep at it. It’s a lot to process and it takes time, but you’ll get there, one small step at a time.

    • Kristoffer says:

      Our present experience Is without ’prior to’, it arise out of ’being’ unbound by time and space, and as such it is nothing but the subjectivity of ‘that’; the pure self-awareness of beingness – there just can’t be an experience of this non-dually as long as the notion of ’an object’ remains possible and intact. Deconstructing the notion of a physical, objective universe is step one. Deconstructing the notion of a ’container’ after a purely sensorial reality has been unveiled, is step two. After that, the self, along with all objects, must eventually vanish, leaving nothing but unbound beingness in its wake. These are real, concrete keys to attaining non-dual awareness.

    • David says:

      Is it that neither body nor consciousness go on vacation OR is it that vacations don’t exist? Either way drives home the fact that what’s going on is all inclusive.

    • Kevin says:

      There is no worl external to consciousness or external to perceiving? Is there a difference between perceiving, perceiver percieved and consciousness?

    • Andre says:

      Kristoffer, quite insightful your comments. Felt like reading more.. Thanks!

  2. Piers says:

    Wonderful post. Delighted to have discovered your writing.

  3. Andrej says:

    You really should be giving some credit to Greg Goode and Rupert Spira. I don’t see that you mention them or suggest them in your recommended “reading” even though you are directly lifting their words and ways of expressing this understanding. Just saying.

  4. Katharine says:

    There is both experience (human self) and their is observation (spiritual self). To discount either one would be ignoring our human self and /or our spiritual self. To ignore our human experiences whilst we are here, is to ignore the emotional lessons that we have chosen to learn during each life. This is where emotional intelligence comes from; Too much attention either way can get us into trouble, just as too much denial can. I am a spiritualist and a medium and always have been (in this life anyway). I am very aware of a dual reality, of existing and being in two worlds; one of experience and one of observation. But I am here in the body, as every other human being is, so my experiences will be both human (emotional) and spiritual (observation). Developing the heart is what achieves our emotional intelligence – and the heart is located in the body.

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