When you are able to cultivate the ability to simply observe a thought or emotion as it arises, and then watch it fade away peacefully, you suddenly become very powerful.

As I write in my guidebook, overcoming retroactive jealousy requires that we learn to observe thoughts and emotions without becoming attached to them.

The inspiration for this chapter in Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy came, in part, from Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), a renowned Indian philosopher and writer on spirituality and metaphysics. In the interview below, Krishnamurti details the practice of observing oneself:

Interviewer: Emotions are strong. Our attachments are strong. How does looking and seeing reduce the strength and power of these emotions?

Jiddu Krishnamurti: Trying to control, suppress, or sublimate emotions and attachments in no way reduces the conflict, does it? Are one’s emotions so extraordinarily strong that they act? First one has to be conscious, aware, to know or recognise, to see, that one’s emotions are strong and also that one is attached…[…]

So awareness of your emotions, your attachments, is part of your nature, part of your structure. If you are looking at yourself there is no division, there is no duality as the ‘me’ and attachment. There is only attachment, not the word but the fact, the feeling, the emotion, the possessiveness in attachment. That is a fact; that is ‘me’.

So, what am I to do with the ‘me’? When there was division between ‘me’ and attachment I could try to do something about it; I could try to control it, I could say, ”I must suppress it”, – which we do all the time. But if it is ‘me’, what can I do? I cannot do anything; I can only observe. Before, I acted upon it; now I cannot act upon it because it is ‘me’. All I can do is observe. Observation becomes all important, not what I do about it.So there is observation, not, ”I am observing”. There is only observation. If in that observation I begin to choose and say, ”I must not be attached”, I have already moved away, I am no saying that it is not ‘me’.

In observation there is no choice, there is no direction, there is just pure, absolute, observation, and then the thing that is being observed dissolves. Before, you resisted it, you controlled it, you suppressed it, you acted upon it; but now in that observation all energy is centered. It is only when there is the lack of that energy that there is attachment. When there is complete observation without any interference of thought – why should thought come in? – you are just observing as you observe the thing that you call the fly.

Just observe in the same way your emotions and attachments, then there is the gathering of all energy in that observation. Therefore there is no attachment. It is only the unintelligent who are attached, it is only those who do not see the full implications of attachment who are attached. They pervade the world, they are the stronger element in the world and we are caught in that.

But when you come to examine this closely, then you are no longer caught in that and you are no longer dissipating energy in something which has no meaning. Your energy is now centered completely in observation, therefore there is total dissipation of attachment. Test it, do it and you will find out. You have to examine the thing very, very closely so that your mind is absolutely clear in the observation. It is only the unaware who jump over the cliff. The moment you are aware of danger, move.

Attachment is a danger because it breeds fear, anxiety, hate and jealousy, being possessed and being not possessed – the whole of that is a tremendous danger. And when you see that danger there is action.

Below is a half-hour documentary from 1966 featuring Krishnamurti on observation. Highly relevant for our purposes:

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of RetroactiveJealousy.com, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.