One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
One is Negativity. It is anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame and hate.
The other is Positivity. It is joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, LOVE. ”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Good emotional flexibility allows us to experience the full range of emotions throughout our day without getting stuck. When we become aware of our awareness we have control over the focus of our thoughts. The name of my coaching business is ‘Be the River’ because I love the river as a metaphor for emotional agility and for life in general. There are so many ways I see the river as a powerful example of staying true to our purpose. The river lives it’s purpose, always flowing toward the sea. It doesn’t matter how man or mother nature challenges the river, it never ceases to know that it’s purposeful is to flow towards the sea. It can be strong and wild and dangerous and it can be quiet, peaceful, and magically meditative. It is integral and impactful in shaping communities, lifestyles, and travel while supporting life for animals, plants, and humans as it knows and ives it’s purpose. In his book Mindsight, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, writes of the middle of the river as the place where we integrate emotionally rather than getting stuck up against the shore of chaos, or on the opposite shore of rigidity. It is in the middle where integration of those extremes happens and flow and purpose is restored. I really love that. We all likely have experienced what it is like when our mind and therefore our lives get stuck ruminating on the shores of chaotic or rigid thoughts/things we say/how we behave. When we are aware of this happening we can acknowledge it, notice how we feel about it, and move our mind/thoughts/actions back into a flow that represents our authentic purposeful flow.
Throughout our day our thoughts will be bouncing off the shores of chaos and rigidity and if we are aware and flexible in our mind we can quickly bounce back into the flow and keep moving forward. This takes practice and a willingness to recognize old patterns as well as a desire to move beyond them.
Being flexible with the feelings that accompany our thoughts and the emotions that often accompany them is also critical to our health and wellness. We are a culture that has been mostly trained to minimize our emotional reactions, to not really feel our feelings, especially if they are not the “good” ones. Research has shown that we can’t differentiate if we are going to not feel emotions. If we push out the band ones, we aren’t truly able to experience the good ones either. In reality, in order to be truly healthy and happy, we need to know how to feel the emotions that come up, know that it is OK to feel that way, be comfortable sitting in uncomfortable emotions, and then decide how we want to move through them. Imagine if we could experience our emotions, whatever they are and in whatever way was appropriate and then move on, totally free from judgment (that especially includes not judging ourselves!). We would be living more true to who we are, more authentic and we could stop hurting ourselves by banishing the feelings that come with emotions.
Unlearning… is a prerequisite for effectiveness, which leads to growth. We see the world not as it is, but as we would like it to be, and unlearning is like seeing the world with new eyes.
When we are on auto pilot living our lives around the thought patterns that have come to define us as a result of our past, we cannot be present in every moment to respond to the change in current, log jams and floods of real life. There is no emotional flexibility in being a prisoner to old thought patterns. When we are mindful of our thoughts, we notice our thought patterns and accompanying behaviors, purposefully shift them out of the negative perspective to a grateful one; we get the pleasure of living authentically. We decide what we will focus our thoughts on and in doing so; we begin to change patterns of thought/words we speak/ and behavior. I love this quote from Tui Kupferberg: “When patterns are broken, new worlds can emerge.”