Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Balancing Act

Fractal print: "Feelings" by Titia VanBeugen

This post started out as a response to someone else's blog posting on anger and the subsequent comments. You can find the original post and comments (I'm Diva) on Joyce Lee's blog.

The participants were discussing anger and how to live without it in their lives, but as I read along, I realized that what they were discussing was really what I would call reactionary behavior; not the feelings - the emotions - of anger, but rather the behaviors that often accompany it. Reactionary anger is very different than responsive anger. Reactionary anger lashes out; responsive anger seeks resolution. In reactionary behavior our emotions rule our actions; in responsive behavior our spirit (our wisdom) rules our actions.

Lots of folks seems to consider anger as a "negative" emotion, but that's a misperception. Emotions simply are - they are neither positive nor negative. We may not like how some of them feel in our bodies and spirits, but they are God-given and we need to embrace them, live with them, and work through them. That is “responsive” (and responsible) behavior.

Emotions are nothing more than gauges. They are highly intuitive and impart to us valuable information that we need to know. We have a responsibility to ourselves to listen and really hear what our emotions are telling us.

You walk into a room and suddenly you find yourself feeling sad. Why? What is it about that situation that brings out sadness? If you can identify the source of the feeling (hint: it’s probably something long past), you can work to resolve it and get back to the business of living.

Someone cuts you off in traffic and you get enraged, pounding on your steering wheel and shouting obscenities. Why? You know you've done the same thing yourself and probably will again. What is it about this situation that triggers such anger? If you can identify the source of that anger, you can seek a resolution and next time you’re in that situation, your actions will likely be less reactionary and your emotion less intense. Now you are regulating the gauge instead of it regulating you.

When you feel a strong emotion - not just anger, but any emotion: happiness, anger, sadness, loneliness, fear, etc. - explore it! Don't just take it at face value or bury it because you don't like it. Sit with it and let yourself really feel it for a little while. Usually it means that there's some unresolved issue in your life, sometimes even in the far distant past. Caution: when you're exploring it, don't let it become your sole focus. That's just as unhealthy as ignoring it. Find that middle ground - that balance.

Anger is no different than happiness. It's simply an emotion. We are the ones who charge it as "negative" or "positive." Truly, without anger, we have no motivation to change injustices, to rework unworkable laws, to find and punish criminals, to live a balanced life.

What if your child were molested? Would you feel anger at the molester? Would you consider that anger to be “bad?” Would you seek to put it behind you and move on?

If you did that, I would say you were deeply in denial about the issue and that you would need some very heavy-duty counseling to work through that intensity of emotion. In this circumstance I would consider intense anger – rage, in fact – to be an emotion perfectly fit to the disastrous circumstances and your powerlessness over them. You have to allow yourself to feel that anger, and work with it before it can release you from its grip. Anything less is burying it – which is just as unhealthy as dwelling on it. Burying an emotion does not mean that you stop having that emotion or that you are “at peace” or “balanced.” In fact, that is a misconception about peace, in my opinion, and a sure-fire way of UNbalancing yourself.

A peaceful person does feel anger (and other intense emotion), and does not deny it, push it aside, or bury it. The peaceful, balanced person recognizes that anger/emotion, investigates it thoughtfully, then digs up the courage to work on the issues it reveals. Sometimes those issues are incredibly painful, but you cannot live a life of wholeness without working through the rough parts. If you do, it's no different than a surgeon who closes up a gangrenous wound without cleaning it out. Just because you stick your fingers in your ears and say "lalala I can't heeear you!" doesn't mean it's not there.

What happens when you leave it untreated is that it festers and begins to infect the whole body. That is what happens to a spirit that does not confront whatever issues place them in the path of overly strong emotions. You will find that unresolved anger coming out in other ways, like the road rage I mentioned above. Unresolved emotions demand your attention with increasing intensity over time until you find that your every action has become reactionary rather than responsive.

A healthy life is lived in balance. That means experiencing all parts of it - good, bad, and indifferent – and working with and through those parts so that you can become a truly whole person.

In short:
  • Emotions are neither positive nor negative.

  • Emotions are a gauge and you need to be willing to listen to them.

  • You must be willing to investigate and feel your emotions to reveal their source.

  • Once you have revealed the source, you can seek a resolution to it in some fashion.

  • Choose responsive behavior rather than reactionary behavior.

  • Peaceful, balanced people feel intense emotions from time to time, but they treat them in a healthy manner.
It's a tough balancing act, but I have faith that we can do it!

People all have expressions
Upon each and every face.
Yet you are like a canvas,
A blank one, without a trace
Of any emotions appearing upon
The surface that I see.
You are about as readable as
A water drop in the sea.

- tiannangel from

Print: "Tightrope" by Vera Brosgol


Pretty, Pretty Princess said...

Wow!!!!!!!!!!! This was an enlightening blog to read! :) I had never really thought about emotions in this context before. Have a blast this weekend:)

DeskDiva said...

It shall now and forever be "Chicken Friend Rice!" Thanks. :)