(Excerpt from the book The Misleading Mind)
As with self-consciously named roles like “father” or “teacher,” we sometimes treat emotional states of mind as permanent aspects of our self. For example, depression. When we’re depressed, the feeling itself may seem unending, as if it will never go away. Of course, we know even our strongest feelings will change over time, eventually, but we may still come to believe that we are a depressive person by nature (or an angry person, or an anxious person, and so on). This quality feels like an unchanging, concrete part of ourselves, and our attitude is: I’m always going to be depressed, now and forever, because that is who I am and how I’ve always been. I am depression.
And yet, this becomes just another limited identity, the “depressed person.” Further, no emotion exists out of context, without being related to or dependent on what else is going on. Certain disturbing emotions arise or are triggered by certain identities, which arise due to particular circumstances. Through our disturbing emotions are experienced directly, arising unpremeditated and instantly in reaction to events, they still remain products of a specific context. We almost never consciously choose how we react. And in fact, we can use our disturbing emotions to help us see and identify the “role” or “identity” particular situations cast us in.
(This topic continues in the book The Misleading Mind)