Anger, fear, jealousy, malice, love, passion, selflessness and gratitude. These are some of the most powerful emotions we have. They drive us to greatness, and they remind us of the greatest of pain.
These emotions can, if left unchecked, run our lives. They can take us to the highest of highs and deliver us to the lowest of lows. And if we let them, they will; over and over again like a bad roller coaster ride. They can steer us in the direction of poor choices; either through the choice to chase after joy to the exclusion of all else, or to lash out blindly at anyone near us when we are in a low.
Emotions are a primal part of being human. How do we get off that roller coaster? Is it to become emotionless, ruled strictly by logic? Living with nothing but steely logic leaves us with a lack of depth in our experiences. Should we do nothing and let the emotions take us where they will? How do we find that middle ground? If you think of emotional content as a wave with highs (happiest times) and lows (darkest times) you find a space in the middle (for the math geeks out there, think of it as a sine wave on a graph). As we move toward the center, there is less emotional “noise” whereas the fringes are more emotionally charged.
Our goal is to first make space for ourselves to observe where we are along that graph. Next we can gently guide our emotions from the fringes a little closer to the center. To be clear, I do NOT advocate an emotionless experience, nor trying to nudge all emotional experiences. That is what the space is for; to allow for us to feel what our reaction is and then make a conscious choice. Do I want to experience this emotion as is, or is it a drain or counter-productive? If you want to experience it as is, then ride it out. However, if you want to make a change, if you are not happy with the experience you are having right now, you have the space and the ability to change how you are reacting. This is the beginning of emotional balance.
This doesn’t mean you will never experience a negative emotion or thought. What it does mean is that those super strong emotions (whether positive or negative) and thoughts will not become the rule and they will not rule you.
Now it is time to breathe. See how this lands with you. And when you are ready, I have an exercise for you.
The next time you are in the middle of an intense feeling or thought (negative ones are easier to pick out at first) stop, take a breath. Give yourself the gift of a moment to consciously decide if your current reaction is really how you want to react. If the answer is yes, then proceed. But if the answer is no, you now have the option to choose what comes next. Continue as you are, or choose to react differently. The first few ( or many) times might be challenging to make the change in reaction that you want. Be compassionate with yourself. Make a mental note of it and let it go. You will have another opportunity. And when you do make that first change, allow some space to celebrate. You have taken the first steps in balancing your emotions by consciously choosing what you want to experience and how you want to experience it.