Tag Archives: identification

Owning emotions versus identifying with emotions

I just got asked a really interesting question over email about the mindful approach to emotions. I thought I’d share my answer here.

My friend was asking whether there is a conflict between how we’re encouraged to engage with emotions in mindful meditation and the idea of ‘owning emotions’ which is common in psychotherapy and counselling.

Basically they had understood the mindfulness approach to be that you objectively note things that arise (thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc.) without identifying with them (this is my anger, my thought, etc.), and also noticing them fall away again.

But in psychotherapy and counselling they had come across the idea that it is important to ‘own’ emotions. This is important in terms of recognising that we do experience the full range of emotions (rather than having some we don’t acknowledge due to messages like ‘it’s not okay to be angry’ or ‘boys don’t cry’). It is also important because we often see our emotions as being somebody else’s fault (‘you made me angry’, ‘I’m jealous because of you’). Owning emotions is about recognising them as ours and not somebody else’s, and taking responsibility for what we do with them.

This is my answer to the question that the email posed, but I’d be very interested to hear whether others have different thoughts on this issue:

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