Gratitude For Emotional Control

In the movie Phenomenon, John Travolta spends much of the movie in a frantic attempt actualize himself. It’s only at the end of his life that he finds a sense of balance and peace. He seems to transcend himself from observing the rhythms of nature, a kind of passive acceptance of life – almost a wakeful meditative state. I wonder about that. Personally, that doesn’t seem like balance to me – it’s more like one side of the pendulum: peaceful rest. To have balance, a person has to experience its opposite – frenetic activity – while spending most of the time in between these two extremes.

There is no such thing as everything being in balance all of the time. I am grateful for that, as it would mean a monotonous existence. Life has a lot of flux to it, and so balance seems to be more of a medium experience of what life has to offer. It is the average of all of the experiences that we go through. That being my understanding, the pace of life and how we handle it – matching it or providing a counterpoint to it is important and part of creating that balance. What is important is to know what is most valuable in our lives, our core principles and being true to those, no matter what specific event (or events) are going on in our lives.

Yet, being in harmony with the pace of our lives means understanding that we have to be accepting of change. Still, we prefer change to be within our comfort zones, in areas that we feel confident in. Our joy diminishes when we have little control. We want to feel as if we are the helmsmen of our lives, that we direct the rudder and the ship of our destinies.

Although most of our control is illusory, how we react to events is within our abilities – for which I am grateful. Ironically, it often feels that I am not in control of my inner thoughts and emotions. They often seem like they are separate from myself and that I am a helpless observer. That makes getting myself aligned to the pace of the events in my life harder. Perhaps it has to do with the content and the context of the emotions. They are a part of me when they are happy thoughts and emotions and they are not a part of me when they are negative and accusatory. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to put the brakes on emotions that are positive – I don’t want them to end. Yet, I am aware that the negative emotions are making my life harder but it’s difficult to re-orient myself and get back into a positive mindset.

I suppose it’s fair to say that emotions have inertia. The more intense an emotional state is, the harder it is to reverse or even change their direction. It’s clear that awareness is the first step to changing how I interpret a situation and for events where I feel a lesser degree of emotion, that might be enough to turn things around. But when emotions are white-hot, being aware of how I feel, even when it can cause relationships to worsen, it is not enough. I am being dragged along by my emotions and my thoughts are along for the ride. Even setting an intention for something different isn’t much of a help. Where awareness is being cognizant of how I am feeling and that I want to be something different, intention is deciding where I want to go to activate my better self. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that even with intention, it’s like pulling out a map to figure out where I want to go, but the car is still heading in the wrong direction.

That’s why I’m grateful for the ability to control my environment. Environment has a huge impact on habit and emotive response. I suppose that’s why many men have their “caves” that they go to be by themselves. It allows them to reconnect and re-center themselves so that they can interact with others in a productive manner. Music can do this too. We can create playlists to we tie to positive moods to shake us from our negativity. We use quotes in the same manner. If we feel railroaded into certain emotional patterns, there are ways to change the rails and ultimately the destinations. Physical action is also another way to do this. That can be part of why physical activity can boost mood – we often listen to music while engaging in exercise in an environment that promotes health and improvement.

The key, at least for me, is to find ways in the moment, where I can change my mental state – not a single silver bullet but a collection of habits and strategies that work in a cohesive manner to create a better outlook.

Action Steps:

  1. Set the intention of what you want to do. This many not change the emotional direction you are heading in at the moment, but it is a starting place.
  2. Change your environment. If you can’t get up and go somewhere else, pull up a picture from your phone that represents where you want to be mentally and emotionally.
  3. Serve someone else, no matter how small in a way that might be. We are often too focused on what we are feeling. Focus on another person and your mindset will go into positive overdrive.

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