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The Power of Letting Go of Thoughts and Emotions

there's power in letting go of information that doesn't help

❝Don't let the troubles in your head steal too much time; you'll soon be dead.❞ -Dave Matthews

I'm curious if this has ever happened to you: you notice somebody, say online, do something you find despicable. This person's actions get you thinking about how bad this person is. These thoughts about how bad this person is triggers anger inside of you. Now you are thinking about all the ways you have every right to be angry at this person, making you angrier. Then this added anger makes you think about all the other things you could be doing with your time, which triggers even more anger mixed with a little bit of guilt.

And you ride this thought/emotion loop for an hour before you realize you're not present with your family.

It's easy for us to identify with our thoughts and emotions or identify ourselves or others with behaviors. But there's a lot of power in letting go. By breaking this identification, you can let these mental and physical states go when they're no longer useful.

thought/emotion vicious cycles


The language we use is important because it both shapes our beliefs and is shaped by our beliefs. For example, telling your daughter that she is bad or even that she is being bad creates the narrative that she is a bad person. Telling her she's a good person but has done something bad separates her from the behavior.

Similarly, being disappointed with your spouse differs from being disappointed with something they did or didn't do.

If you are arguing with somebody, you can reframe the discussion away from being a you versus the other person situation and towards a situation where it is you and the other person versus the problem.

People are not their behaviors. Breaking the identification between people and their actions separates their character from what they do.

you are not bad, you did something bad

The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire measures your level of mindfulness among five interrelated components. These components are observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudgment of inner experiences, and not reactivity to inner experiences. They can be helpful in gaining an understanding of the areas of mindfulness in which you may want to focus.


Thinking of our emotions as part of our identity removes our ability to feel like we're in control. If, for example, I think I am angry, then I'm more likely to act in a way that an angry person acts. If I think I am sad, then I will act out how I think a sad person acts. It can start to feel like I don't have a choice and that my emotions drive my behavior.

Instead, if we can start to see emotions as information for us to use, then we can start to learn what our emotions are telling us and use that information to make the best choice going forward.

There's a difference between saying, "I am angry," and saying, "I feel angry."

You are not your emotions. You experience emotions.

you are not your emotions, you experience emotions


We generate a lot of thoughts. We have around 60,000 thoughts every day. If you've ever spent any time doing mindfulness meditation, you know just how wild your thoughts can be. They jump around faster than you can pay attention to them.

It can feel as though our thoughts are a part of us. And when this happens, we can become lost in thought. We end up thinking without knowing that we're thinking and we get yanked around by whatever our thoughts happen to be. We are a victim of whatever our last thought was.

Breaking identification with thought helps you see thoughts for what they are. Thoughts are just passing ideas that you don't have to give any attention to.

You have thoughts. You are not your thoughts.

you are not your thoughts, you have thoughts


When you begin to break identification with your behaviors, emotions, and thoughts, you start to see that everything simply arrives and then leaves. If we don't pay attention to them or only pay attention insofar as we get any helpful information, then we allow ourselves to let them go when they're no longer useful.

Thoughts, emotions, and feelings are nothing more than passing guests that want the best for us.

thoughts, feelings, and emotions are guests passing by

We don't have to let ourselves be pulled around by our behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. We can let them go. And letting them go gives us freedom.

You get one life; live intentionally.


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Related Meaningful Money Reading
References and Influences

Ben-Shahar, Tal: Happier, No Matter What

Burkeman, Oliver: The Antidote

Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler: The Art of Happiness

Feldman Barrett, Lisa: How Emotions Are Made

Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis

Hanh, Thich Nhat: You Are Here

Hanson, Rick: Hardwiring Happiness

Hanson, Rick & Forrest Hanson: Resilient

Hanson, Rick & Richard Mendius: Buddha’s Brain

Harris, Dan: 10% Happier

Harris, Sam: Waking Up

Irvine, William: Guide to the Good Life

Irvine, William: The Stoic Challenge

Krueger, David & John David Mann: The Secret Language of Money

Manson, Mark: Everything is Fucked Mindfulness X

Reivich, Karen & Andrew Shatte: The Resilience Factor

Wallace, David Foster: This is Water

Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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