Saturday, August 22, 2009

Restoration: Emotional Flexibility

The next quadrant of our Restoration Project is the Emotional. How’s your nervous system? How’s your wiring? Frayed? Solid? Feeling at peace or ready to behead the next idiot who wrongfully crosses your path?! Or does it depend on the day and where the mood swings are at?

Our emotions aren’t as simple as good or bad feelings, but rather a complex series of interrelated events and the co-ordination of hormones, brain chemicals, nervous system and mental/cognitive functioning, or lack of – taken all together, leaving us with the experience of our perceived feelings of good or bad; happy, sad, angry or whatever.

Our emotional well-being is complex. It works intimately with what we think of as our physical and cognitive selves. It’s difficult to separate it out from the others as they work synergistically as a whole. But through the workings and expression of our emotions in our day to day activities we can see a barometer, a window into our whole being.

So what does that mean? And what the heck IS emotional well-being and while you’re at it could you please describe your experiences with Bigfoot? In this day, emotional well-being looks just about as elusive and your guess is as good as mine, but here’s some thoughts to get you started.

What I imagine emotional wellness might look like would be a free and full expression of ALL feelings and emotions, appropriately expressed in the moment; engagement in daily activities and relations; a sense of being ‘present’ or ‘awake’ in the moment; and a resiliency and flexibility. But that’s just my take on it.

I do know that there’s an intimate link with our frontal brain cognitive abilities and our emotions, including the ability to apply the brakes to strong emotions. Otherwise, we are all too easily swept downstream by a runaway torrent of feelings. Our emotions don’t stand alone. Our frontal lobes apply the brakes to our mouths and actions when we are under the influence [of our emotions], operating a complex network of chemical actions and activity that have a lot to do with how well or poorly we feel. The level of endorphins and neuro-receptors in this brain-soup of ours makes a difference in whether the glass is perceived as half empty or half full.

One way that you might evaluate your emotional well-being is by answering this one question: How flexible are you?

Flexibility and resiliency in attitude, in our response to challenges and the veers on the road of daily living, are a very good barometer of our emotional quadrant of our being. Think about it: when you’re feeling rigid, threatened, like everything is out of your control and you’re freaking out, is your emotional range full and flush, or are you ready to snap, have a breakdown or climb a tower with a gun? How flexible is your emotional body?

One to ten; pick a number for your self-perceived level of emotional well-being. If choosing a number to assess yourself is difficult, picture holding a branch in your hands. This branch is you. Bend it. How much bend does it have? How brittle and dried is it? At what point does it/you snap? This is only an honest self-assessment to place you within context of yourself and your history of ‘feeling good or bad’. Write it down in the ‘emotion’ corner of the wheel. Try to be honest with yourself; nobody else will see. If you find yourself on the lower end of the scale – don’t despair – any tiny, small bit of improvement will soon feel like huge gain. And it is.

I could go on and on about brain chemistry and emotional well-being; or how isolation aggravates our deficits in the emotional quadrant; or how a sense of hopelessness over our lack of control in situations damages our health, emotional and otherwise; or how fear and worry slowly erode our emotional foundation, but I think I’d rather end this thinking about the remedies.

Simply put, what are some of the things that bring you a feeling of being relaxed – not under threat? What helps you lower your hackles? What puts a smile on your face? [primate code for pleasure] That one bears repeating: What puts a smile on your face – what can help you budge that number up a half a degree? or eight? Here’s a partial list to get you started:

Good food
Pleasurable Sensory Experiences: smells of cooking; art; song; poetry; dance; creative activity. Think pleasure in sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
[add your own]

We are living as human mammals in a sensory, animalistic, earthly experience. If we feed and nourish the biological animal of ourselves, we in turn feed and nourish ALL parts of ourselves, including our emotional bodies. One of the gifts of being human is knowing and experiencing that full range from biological animal to Creative Intelligence. We humans ARE the whole range – and perhaps moving just a tiny step closer toward recognizing and becoming that, we can discover, explore and enjoy our HEALTHY emotional selves – so far as ever elusive as Bigfoot.


Sandi said...

Although I don't lower my hackles often, I thought of this piece today while walking my dog. She is joyous on a walk, leaping with abandon, and I found myself in a different space because of her joy. I smiled and relaxed. You make me exercise my brain with your writings. This is good.

el poquito said...

Hi Sandi, Yes, I know what you mean. You reminded me of when I was deep in the thick of healing, the one thing that guaranteed a smile for me was playing with the dog. Guaranteed smiles.