Is your ‘Sliding Scale of Emotional Balance’ working well? This reflects how easily we can hold our emotional center when we are being buffeted by life.
Do Feelings = Emotions?
If we are going to talk about emotions best we define what they are. Do you think feelings and emotions are one and the same? Something I find useful is to accept feelings as uncontrollable and always valid – they show up uninvited and can be vague or very definite, persistent or fleeting and I don’t get to choose them.
Our bodies are our feeling feedback center – our gut may churn, our heart rate increase, our hands get fidgety and sometimes we have the urge to get the hell out of somewhere or never leave because it feels so safe and pleasant. Our heart and our gut have an intelligence all of their own and our head can be left thinking ‘what the hell is going on?’.
Having respect for our feelings will often give valuable insight into ourselves. If we come from a ‘stiff upper lip’ culture then we may stuff down our feelings until the dam breaks drowning all within earshot – pretty messy.
E-motions are ‘energy in motion’
Emotions on the other hand can sometimes be reasoned with. When you break it down to ‘e-motions’ it becomes ‘energy in motion’. We can have some interaction when comes to emotional responses eg. If I feel fearful I can ask my body ‘What is the threat? What do I need to do to get safe?’ rather then just screaming the house down. That said sometimes a good cry is the most useful way to put our energy in motion.
The pregnant pause
There is a moment of separation between feeling and emotion where we can choose how we respond and with practice we can expand this moment so we can feel our feelings yet not immediately display emotion. We become better at leaning into the discomfort of difficult feelings and understanding their messages.
Not everyone takes responsibility for their emotions and it can be a pretty grey area when it comes to what is a feeling and what is an emotion but as we gain emotional agility we get better at honouring our feelings and controlling our emotions.
The good, the bad and the ugly
When our emotional balance is working well we don’t over identify with our ups or downs – we just see them as part of life’s rich tapestry (cliche factor 10!). A few things can happen when our ‘Sliding Scale of Emotional Balance’ needs a little repairs and maintenance: (you can see I am a visual communicator – if graphs make you think of a mean maths teacher then picture them as Emotional Terrain pictures with mountains, valleys, flat lands…)
- On the back foot – starting well into the minuses makes for a long journey to the pluses eg. we generally feel irritable even when things are going well
- Over reaction – 0 to -10 in the blink of an eye or a dog peeing on the carpet or a glass smashing
- Never good enough – emotional range of 0 to -2 eg. acknowledging your exam results will make you lazy
- Wallow – we get ‘stuck’ eg. we sulk for days after getting ‘feedback’ at work
- Ping pong – flip from ‘Over the moon’ to ‘Devastated’ multiple times a day eg. drama queen
- Flower power – drift around in a haze of ‘peace and love’ eg. denies fear as valid biofeedback
- Comfortably numb – the lights are on but nobody’s home. eg. distracted and numb using alcohol, drugs, masses of coffee, junk food, constant shopping, living on facebook, obsessive exercise…
- Watch your back – don’t get too happy or we’ll jinx ourselves eg. don’t celebrate doing well at sport or you will fall over next time
I doubt whether there are many people who can’t identify with some if not all of these scenarios at some time in their lives – I know I can! This is not a blame and shame game – just an invitation to bring awareness to the difference between feelings and emotions.
We all need nurturing
Our emotional balance is effected by how well we nurture ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Some things we have more control over – how much sleep we get, what we eat and drink, who we spend time with, what we read and watch, whether we make time for exercise etc. Other things we have absolutely no control over ie. cursing the rain seldom mades it stop…
How sensitive is your joy detector?
When we struggle to balance our emotions it’s hard to be present which means we forego being moved by the simple things and gorgeous little moments. Like seeing a stranger help an elderly person put their groceries in the car, noticing that wet leaves under a bright moon look like fairy lights (thanks Mark x) or our kids with chocolate icing on their noses. Personally, I want to be open to getting a top up of joy from all things great and small.
Next time your Emotional Balance needs a little work look for ways to nurturing yourself. Constantly traversing mountainous emotional terrain can be exhausting for us and those we love. Conversely a never-ending flat emotional plain can put you to sleep. Break up your emotional journey by stopping often and take the time to look for little loveliness-es.
Those graphs are very interesting. Emotions/feelings are such an integral part of the human condition. Many philosophies teach being neutral (not numb) and simply becoming an observer of the ups and downs in life. Much easier said than done.