I want to be lovingly (or brutally – you choose which word is accurate for you) honest with you today. Not that I’m not honest with you every time I write, but today, let’s get down to the core of how I really feel about your feelings.
The truth is: I don’t care about how you feel.
Allow me to show you why. And once you understand this, you won’t care either. You’ll be free.
Almost two decades ago, I found a used condom in my then-boyfriend’s small wicker trash basket by his toilet. The problem is that I was on the pill and we didn’t use condoms.
My heart sank. I felt like someone punched me in the gut.
While I waited for him to get home, my anger and anxiety rose. He’d told me he was going to softball practice with his office team.
I knew better.
A tornado unfurled in my mind, whirling thoughts and emotions stormed through me. Unanswered questions and memories of times past when he’d come home late supposedly because he was working or some other reason. Were they all lies? How long had he been lying? Who was it? How could he do this?
I was livid. And the more I waited, the more livid I became.
When he arrived home, I released the Kraken.
I yelled and screamed and cussed and cried, my arms waving abruptly high and wide, slicing the air like swords, as I expressed how I felt.
I don’t know how long I was at it, but suddenly, in a moment of pure grace beyond my control, my consciousness left my body. It was like what you see in the movies when someone dies and a semi-transparent, spirit-like floaty soul lifts up and out of the person’s physical body, and it looks back at the dead body on the ground, detached and curious.
Except… I wasn’t dead.
My body still went on in its dramatic expression, my fists still clenching and unclenching, my shoulders tight, my arms moving rigidly. My voice was still booming through the apartment, still yelling and screaming. My eyes were still overflowing tears, bloodshot, angry and hurt.
I was still there… but I wasn’t.
There was me, the betrayed girl, feet firmly planted on the ground, hurting, yelling, wailing and flailing. And then there was me, the calm soul, unharmed, watching the experience unfold in front of her.
It was like there was a human me, and then there was a soul me, a deeper, more real me.
Somehow, maybe because the pain was so intense, my soul did me a favor and removed me from the experience. One moment I was there, fully engulfed in the pain and drama, feeling anger, betrayal in every inch of my body and being, and the next moment, I’d been lifted out of the dense physical reality and given the gift of witnessing.
Instead of being lost in the drama, I became a witness to the drama. It was no longer my drama, though I recognized that it was tied to me… but it was no longer personal. I no longer identified with it and it didn’t hurt me in the way it was hurting only moments before. It was like watching a movie where I know I’m an actor, and while I’m still experiencing all the emotions and pain and drama that the actor does, I’m aware that I’m merely an actor playing out my part, not the character living the drama. I inherently knew the pain was only hurting the fictional character, not the actor.
It was surreal, to say the least, and my first conscious memory of what I’ve come to call “taking the witness seat”.
This moment of taking the witness seat has helped me immensely throughout the years. It’s helped me come to the place I am today, where I can teach others about the importance of taking a step back, a step outside of their drama, and simply observe rather than trying to control.
Even after having this experience, there are times I forget and still try to change or control the circumstances outside of me, stuck knee-deep in the drama, unable (or unwilling) to recognize the REAL ME in all this, the actor playing a role, the soul.
We talk about emotions and how to let them flow, but usually what we REALLY want is to avoid the painful ones and hold on to the pleasurable ones. We want less suffering, more joy. Less anxiety, more calm. Less anger, more peace. Less constriction, more freedom.
Often, instead of looking inward to get these, we try to change our external circumstances first.
Had someone knocked on our apartment door that night, in the heat of our confrontation and asked me if I wanted to look inward to heal my hurt, I would’ve slammed the door in their face.
What I want is a loving, loyal partner who has the integrity and respect for himself and me enough to commit to an intimate, honest and nurturing monogamous relationship. Fuck that inner-work shit. Give me a good man, THAT’S what I want! And more so, in this very moment, what I want is to let my current lying, cheating partner know how bad he made me feel and how he ruined me and our relationship because of his lying, cheating ways! THAT’S what I want! Screw you and your let-it-flow-spiritual-inner-work shit!
That’s where I was two decades ago.
Today, I lovingly recognize the role all my exes played in my unfolding, along with their own, and am truly grateful for the experiences we shared together, especially the painful ones that caused me to explore myself deeper, even if I didn’t know I was exploring myself. I recognize now that they, like me and all of us, are actors playing out our parts for the greater good of the perfectly orchestrated play.
While I understood the importance of inner work back then, in the moment of seeing him walk through the apartment door with his crisp, white softball uniform on, knowing it had been put on likely in the car before coming upstairs to the apartment, I didn’t care to grow inwardly. All I cared about was letting him know how I felt, how much he hurt me.
But here’s the truth of the matter. The deeper truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
It didn’t matter how I felt.
What mattered was I who was feeling.
This is the deeper truth, the core of things.
It’s not about how we feel. It’s not about how someone else made us feel. It’s not about what we’re feeling or any of the labels we’ve given our feelings (jealous, angry, betrayed, sad, mad, glad, happy, etc).
It’s not about our feelings at all.
It’s about the ONE who is feeling.
WHO is the one feeling? This is the question to ask.
Not, “HOW am I feeling?” But, “WHO is feeling?”
I don’t care about how you feel. I care about YOU who feels.
Who is the YOU who feels? Who is the YOU who has desires and preferences? Who is the YOU who feels emotions and energy bubble up?
Who is the YOU?
The next time you have an argument with your partner or something happens that triggers a negative emotional response, take a step back into the seat of the witness, and watch as the barrage of thoughts and emotions swirl around in front of you. Witness the unfolding of the human drama without getting lost in it, without identifying with it.
Instead of trying to explain how you feel to your partner, observe the one who is feeling.
When your emotions are heated, it’s more difficult to do. So try practicing it throughout the day when your emotions are neutral and less charged so you can get used to it. It helps me to envision a spirit-like floaty me popping out of my body (like in the movies) and I can better detach from the physical human me with all her drama and embody more of the soulful witness me behind her. If you were standing next to me, you might see me shifting my upper body slightly up and back or even taking a physical step back. Making a physical movement back with my body helps get my mind into focus, setting the intention with my whole self (body, mind and spirit) that I’m shifting into the witness seat now.
When we shift into the witness seat, we don’t judge ourselves or others (if we do, we simply notice ourselves judging), and the emotional pain we were completely immersed in moments before subsides. It may not go away, but we’re not as affected by it because we’re not identifying with it. It’s no longer personal. And instead of trying to manipulate or control the people and circumstances around us, we merely observe it, watching with presence and awareness as it unfolds in front of us.
In your moment of witnessing, you come to realize that HOW YOU FEEL doesn’t have the importance you once placed on it. It’s as fleeting as the thoughts in your head. One moment happy, the next sad. One moment positive, the next negative. Thoughts and feelings are repetitive and while incessant, they’re impermanent compared to the soul of who you are.
Once you start taking the witness seat, you discover that it’s never been about how you feel, it’s about YOU who feels.