How To Transform Our Emotions

How to transform our emotions

Every day we encounter a varied range of emotions that trap us and cause us problems. However, We can transform them and turn them into a source of growth and wisdom if we know how to understand them.

From Contemplative Psychotherapy, we address the emotional world using resources validated by introspection and observation of the mind. Currently, these resources are being corroborated by Western science through the study of the brain during the practice of meditation.

Two principles of emotional health

Buddhist psychology gives us two interesting factors to take into account in our therapeutic practice, to learn to manage and free ourselves from disturbing emotions or kleshas: letting go of clinging to the self, and knowing that emotions are empty in their essence.

Release the clinging to the self

The Sanskrit word klesha defines those emotions that cause us concern, discomfort or disturbance. They cause us a mental state that leads us to carry out behaviors that can harm other people or ourselves.

These emotions are rooted in the idea of ​​a fixed or solid self that cannot change and that they have a perception of themselves as if they are separate from others. “I get angry because you make me angry…”

However, The reality is that the idea of ​​the self is something conceptual What does this mean? Our life is made up of a sequence of moments of consciousness that we accumulate in our mental continuum and create our experience. If we analyze this in depth, who is our self? The one from a year ago, two, ten…? My child, adolescent, adult self…? We cannot find a fixed self.

If our emotions change, our thoughts flow, and our sensations constantly arise and fade, it means that all the processes that manifest in us are impermanent Therefore, there is no self that can remain static.

This gives us a great opportunity for change: we can transform everything that arises in our mind if we do not associate it with the idea of ​​a fixed and immovable self. Letting go of that erroneous idea of ​​a solid self leads us to the release of the emotions that trap us again and again. If there is no self that clings to them, Emotions will manifest and dissolve on their own without causing a sequence of actions that are chained to others and cause suffering.

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Emotions are empty in their essence

Emotions are an energy that arises, usually provoked by a thought and associated with a physical sensation.

This energy develops, has a journey and then disappears naturally. It is a manifestation of our mind, it arises from it and dissolves from it. If we have an emotion and hold on to it, feeding it with thoughts of the past or encouraging it with projections of the future, the emotion can solidify, or it can intensify. If we look in depth at their roots, we will realize that they are actually insubstantial. Where are they? They are in our mind, but they are not our mind Because if they were our mind they would be something fixed and immovable, and it doesn’t work like that.

They are essentially empty because they have been formed by a series of causes and conditions that have favored them and when these causes and conditions disappear, the emotion dissolves naturally. They do not exist independently.

For anger or pride to arise, something must have happened that caused that emotion in us. And furthermore, different manifestations of emotions arise in each of us and are caused by different causes. Which leads us to the conclusion that In themselves they have no entity, but depend on specific situations and experiences This vision also offers us another great opportunity to learn to manage them.

How can we transform our emotions?

By not being something rigid or solid, we can dissolve them and transform emotions. Like alchemists who turn lead into gold. Disturbing emotions give us the great opportunity to turn them into great qualities.

Let’s see what other aspects we have to take into account to transform them.

1. Mindfulness

It is the first step: having an attitude of introspection and observation to promote self-knowledge. If we are not aware of what causes a disturbing emotion or we do not even recognize it, we will hardly be able to transform it.

It is important to maintain an honest and brave attitude to unmask the emotions that appear in our minds. Many times we deny or hide them. Sometimes because we are not even aware of it and sometimes because we are ashamed to know that we feel jealous or envious. The reality is that we all have seeds of disturbing emotions in our minds (pride, jealousy, anger, ignorance, greed, attachment…). Some manifest themselves more easily and others are hidden until the moment arises to manifest themselves.

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Paying conscious attention and observing ourselves is very important if we want to free ourselves from its consequences and transform them.

2. The Unidentified Witness

Mindfulness is important to be linked to a disidentified observer.

What does it mean? We know that as human beings we can be aware of ourselves and the mind has the quality of observing itself. This ability helps us to be able to observe our mental processes and emotions from a new perspective: why they arise, what have been the causes and conditions that have caused the emotion, how do they affect us, how do they manifest themselves in our behavior, what are their consequences and how can we transform them.

If, through full attention and mindfulness or meditation, we become aware of how emotions arise in our mind, without identifying with them, we will increasingly see more clearly that emotions are not our mind.

We will observe a consciousness in which the experience of emotions is manifested As we dissolve the self, we will realize that they have no power over us. This process can also be followed in a therapeutic process if the professional knows this spiritual path of personal development.

Training in the disidentified witness is a resource that will help us create a space of consciousness in our experience. We disidentify so that we do not feel trapped by the emotion. We observe it, we experience it and we let it go.

3. Impermanence

Just as we explore the empty quality of emotions, we must realize their impermanence. Emotions arise and fade in the mind, but they are not part of the inherent nature of the mind They are transitory.

This quality is tremendously important, because it offers us the freedom of knowing that they do not want to stay with us. We don’t need to hold them back. What’s more, we have the ability to decide what to do with them, whether to solidify them or let them go.

We all feel angry at some point, but it depends on us if we feed back the anger and become victims of its plans by throwing it at someone; or we express it without harming anything or anyone and let it go. If we carefully observe the insubstantiality of an emotion and its impermanence, we will have taken an important step in managing it without causing harm.

4. Causes and Conditions

We have mentioned that emotions arise due to causes and conditions and I am going to explain it in more detail. For example, For anger to arise, some situation must occur that causes that emotion This already shows us that people do not cause emotions, but rather the situations that are generated between people. And these situations depend a lot on each person.

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A look at one person can provoke threat and another indifference. It depends on what we are projecting into it. There are situations that at one time of the day we accept naturally and at another they cause us reactivity or discomfort. What does this mean? That it depends on us how we manage emotion.

Just as causes and conditions are created for kleshas to emerge, we can promote causes and conditions to promote positive emotions that neutralize the disturbing ones or to promote them in our environment and our mind.

5. Balancing trends

One of the important antidotes that we can mobilize is to create positive habits If we promote our qualities and put them at the service of our kleshas, ​​we will create new positive tendencies that can balance the disturbing tendencies.

To the extent that we unmask the emotions that make us uncomfortable and generate antidotes to counteract them, they will lose intensity and frequency and little by little they will fade away.

That is why it is very important to train ourselves in mindfulness to realize and remedy it immediately, preventing us from getting carried away by the uncontrolled consequences of conflicting emotions.

6. The antidotes

It is curious how on many occasions, the antidote is found in the poison itself. It occurs in vaccines or in other everyday items (soap is made with oil…). The same thing happens on the spiritual path. Wisdom arises from suffering.

If a person gets on our nerves, we can turn them into our patience teacher and take advantage of the opportunity to cultivate this quality. Any situation that creates discomfort in us can be turned into a great opportunity for growth if we know how to use the appropriate antidote.

For example, pride can train us to be more equanimous and humble, anger can connect us with love and compassion, envy with the joy of other people’s good…

It is recommended that each person discover, being honest and courageous, which emotions most frequently destabilize them. Observe them, analyze them and find your own antidotes to convert them little by little into qualities and wisdom.


The emotions that capture us are a source of growth and wisdom if we know how to transform and manage them. For it we need to commit to maintaining full and conscious attention to how they manifest and the consequences they have on ourselves and others.

By knowing its nature and letting go of our clinging to an idea of ​​self, we can move forward on our path of self-realization.