We usually take them for granted, hardly noticing them as our constant companions. From the pleasure of a first cup of coffee in the morning to the frustration of the commute home from work, they were with us all day long. When we’re with family, friends or loved ones they are welcome to join us. But they can really get in the way during challenging times: during a relational betrayal or breakup, the impending loss of an aging parent, times of uncertainty about the future of our children, and the security of our health or our finances. Every day is filled with the many faces of feelings, the emotional companions we often ignore or dread.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an emotional GPS (Global Positioning System), a map that would help orient us and provide a sense of direction during emotionally perplexing times? When we are confused, overwhelmed, hopeless or lost we could use our EPS (Emotional Positioning System) and find out where we are, what to make of our experience, and how to head in the right direction. Not only that, we could use this EPS to pinpoint where to derive more satisfaction, pleasure and wisdom from life.
Here’s how it would work. We’d plug in the EPS and pull up the most current “Personalized Map of our Homeland.” We’d get the lay of the land, noticing the wide range in our emotional terrain. The first region we look at is the coast known for its vulnerability to destructive emotional weather. Here, too much unmanaged emotional energy can build into a pressure system and lead to intense weather patterns. Emotional hurricanes, flooding and acting out are common occurrences here. Life is full of bruised and turbulent relationships and conflicts, poor judgment and addictions. Outbursts and reactivity substitute for depth of feeling and end up blocking movement toward emotional maturity.
On the other coast, the problems are much more underground. Feelings are denied, overlooked, projected onto others, kept at a distance or suppressed. Here, we are chronically focused on how things look at the surface while ignoring the build-up of pressure on emotional fault lines. Energy in this region is habitually diverted into rivers of rational thinking, leading to stagnant ponds of emotional unavailability and patterns of negative evaluation of ourselves and of others; life feels empty and meaningless. Additionally, there is the growing likelihood of a cataclysmic shake-up often coming in the form of stress-related health issues.
In the center of our map is the region known as Heartland. Here we live in abundance and adapt to the changes and seasons of life. It’s in this region where emotions actually nourish and enrich us--working for us and not against us. Sadness does its job: helping us to grieve, find relief, adjust to losses and create something new. Anger does its job: we set better boundaries, are able to protect ourselves and are spurred to take action to create change in ourselves and in the world. Fear does its job: we recognize danger, appreciate our human limits and develop courage to face both by making meaningful choices. Joy and love do their jobs: expanding us, leading us to new horizons of self-expression, satisfaction and spiritual experience.
Make this EPS real for yourself. As often as you can during the day, ask yourself, “Where am I right now, in this very moment?”
If you’ve “gone coastal” here are some helpful tips:
Directions from Hurricane to Heartland:
The best way to keep from being reactive or overwhelmed is the “STOP-BREATHE-FLOAT” tool. First, you must STOP; get a fix on your EPS, notice that you are in a bad weather system and that you want to get back to Heartland. BREATHE; take lots of long slow, relaxing inhales and exhales. FLOAT; open up your chest and relax any constrictions in the center of your body. Imagine yourself lying back, floating on a warm ocean. Let the waves carry you. You don’t have to ignore rough water, you just need to keep afloat and feel your body. Trust the ocean, don’t fight it.
Directions from Faultline to Heartland:
If the EPS has you located on this coast, make a decision that despite the work entailed, you’d rather live in Heartland than risk being swallowed by an earthquake. Laying down new riverbeds (new neuro-pathways) will hasten the journey to Heartland. Start by making a habit of checking your EPS every hour or so. Ask yourself “What am I feeling right now?” If you have no answer, dig deeper with “What sensations am I aware of in my body?” Then ask, “If these sensations had a voice, what would they be saying to me?” Be interested in what’s below the surface. Curiosity of this sort will act as a seismograph, providing readings on the deeper currents within you and yielding lots of new experiences and rewarding insights.