When we are told of good or bad things that have happened to someone else, we might feel glad or sad, but our reactions are not comparable to what we feel when such things happen to us. It is not as though our response is more intense. It is different - it's total, it occupies the whole of our self: we identify.
The demon of worldly desires is always seeking chances to deceive the mind. If a vampire lives in your room and you wish to have a peaceful sleep, you must first chase it out.
Buddha (B.C. 568-488)
We might say that we identify with someone else's ups and downs, but our identification is overwhelmingly with ourselves, with our personal joy and pain.
Identification means getting lost in our very personal “soap opera,” a subjective approach towards what is happening to us. We examine everything from the angle of whether it will cause us pleasure or suffering, whether it shows us in a good or a bad light. But it is not just an examination of what has happened: it is a total involvement. We’re in heaven or we’re in hell. There is no distance, no perspective. Everything happening to us in our emotions absorbs us completely.
This is emotional identification, and it leads to the conviction that our emotions are us. But it is not true. We have been conquered by our emotions: they have taken us over. And here is a paradox: this identification does not improve our awareness of our emotions. The opposite is true: the more we identify with them, the less we are aware of them.
The identification leads to our taking everything that happens to us very personally.
The other, more extreme, paradox is that we consider ourselves to be rational, logical human beings. Science is our bible and adults are proud of their ability to evaluate situations through facts and logic only. They believe they do not allow emotions to divert them from an objective mental evaluation.
When we are young children, we do not know that there are other people and that they have emotions too. Children do not know that they are not the center of the world. Unfortunately, many adults have only grown up in external ways, while at the emotional level they are still young children, keeping their identification with every suffering and happiness. This is an infantile approach to life.
This biased polarity, the desire to feel good and escape from what makes us unhappy, is superficial, and distances us from the truth of ourselves.
This identification snatches the experience of life from our being.
All self-work must begin with an attempt to create a distance from this identification, to move out of the way of our emotions. The greater the distance we take, the more there will be a space in which our inner being can wake up, grow, and come to maturity, which, in turn, can bring about a conscious, awake state.
You cannot cause your spiritual growth. You can only try not to stand in its way or disturb it. The effort begins with decreasing the strength and frequency of emotional identification.