Thoughts, feelings, and emotions are all fiction.
It has become a habit to identify with our thoughts. An idea enters our head ("I could just be happy if my lover would stop being such an asshole!") and it gets stuck because we think it's real.
We really believe that if we could just change this one thing, everything would be OK.
So then we make a change, but something else inevitably changes along the way, and almost immediately a new thought arises in reaction to that. New feelings follow thoughts, and we react to those, too. Pretty soon life has become a series of reactions to thoughts and feelings that we do not control. We think they are real. Without realizing it, they enslave us.
Stop a moment and ask yourself: where do my thoughts come from? What causes my feelings to arise? Look closely and you see that even though I feel pissed off, that other person isn't really the cause. The trigger has gone away but the feeling lingers. And the deeper you look, the more you will notice that there's nothing really there. You can't find the place where all this stuff comes from.
And it's not under your control.
So when an idea goes through your head, hold it lightly — even when it seem like its the most important, essential, undeniable thing in the world.
Most of the pain and hurt that humans have caused each other over time, big and small, comes from people thinking the idea in their head is real, and then trying to impose it on the world where it doesn't really fit. War, patriotism, and even tiny things like the way we treat our lovers and children when they don't act the way we expect them to.
Make use of your idea when it's useful. And let it go when not.
It is only how we act that matters.
I can be the most insane, sadistic, cruel maniac in my head sometimes — but if I don't take my thoughts very seriously, it doesn't matter. With time and attention I develop the capacity to let them go, and instead find myself acting in ways I don't understand, over and over, with kindness.
Photograph: Minor White, Movement Study, 1949.