We develop habitual tendencies through one or more lifetimes, predisposing us to manifest a habitual state of mind. With these tendencies established, we perceive an individual person, an object, or situation, and immediately generate a pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent feeling associated with the perception.
Because the nature of the mind is analytical, it proceeds to isolate the positive or negative qualities that we associate with the pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent feeling, thus exaggerating the positive or negative qualities and generating and fixating the disturbing emotion.
Although we think and feel that the emotions are somehow related to (or even caused by) particular people, objects, or situations, they are just internal mental events. They project our attention unto these externals, and as long as we comply, the emotions are sustained.
However, when we look at the emotion, it self-liberates, it ceases to have power. The ‘trick’ is precisely to change our focus of attention, to observe the emotion, instead of its object.
The instant we observe the emotion itself (and not its putative object), it becomes evident that it has no real basis. We have simply imputed it, projected it onto an external person, object, or situation. It is of our own making.
The more we practice observing our afflicted emotions, the less powerful they become, and the faster they retreat. If we can anthropomorphize emotions for a moment here, once their chicanery is revealed, they slink away in shame.
So, what are these emotions, if what we feel are just distorted, imputed projections? Just like cold does not exist from its own side (it is merely the absence of heat), these afflicted emotions are only absences of specific aspects of primordial wisdom.
Attachment is the absence of the wisdom of discernment; aversion is the absence of mirror-like wisdom; indifference is the absence of the wisdom of suchness; pride is the absence of the wisdom of equality; and envy is the absence of all-accomplishing wisdom.
When we directly observe afflicted emotions, since they are mere absences, their true basis shines through, if only briefly. That is why we can recognize them for what they are: emptinesses.