You've probably heard it a million times. The analogy of the duck: peacefully serene on the surface, but paddling furiously underneath. How many times have you been told that that's how you're supposed to "do" life?
"Be the duck." Stay calm and cool on the outside, even if you're struggling on the inside. Never let them see you sweat. Etc. Etc.
While it might sound like good advice at first, this commonly accepted idea actually puts a lot of pressure on us to deny what we're really feeling. We're under tremendous pressure to show up a certain way in life and to meet societal expectations for what a "put-together" human looks and acts like. We're taught that "troubling emotions" are somehow wrong. We're only supposed to feel and exhibit "good" emotions.
Emotions aren’t good or bad.
What's important is what we learn from them and do with them. Our response to our emotions either helps us or doesn't help us - and humanity as a whole.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Stephen Covey said, "It's not what people do to us that hurts us. It's our chosen response to what they do that hurts us."
Pause and let that sink in.
Emotions are messages that give us valuable information. They physically form in our bodies and then dissolve in just a few seconds. Beyond those first few seconds, if we continue to experience the emotion we are actually choosing to stay there, even if it's an unconscious choice.
Explore the messages of your emotions.
If we experience a traditionally "negative" emotion like anger or sadness, perhaps a boundary has been violated. Perhaps we're being called to nurture ourselves and spend some time in creative pursuits that light us up. Perhaps we're being encouraged to share our story in a powerful way. Perhaps we're being invited to learn new ways of communicating. Perhaps we're being called to take action for a cause we believe in. Perhaps we're being invited to revisit our values and remember what's really important to us.
By all means, experience your first reaction. Experience your emotions. Let them be ok. It's the acceptance of them and the experiencing of them that allows them to move through you and release after you've learned the messages they're telling you.
Denying your feelings, trying to bury them, turning a frown upside down, and just pressing through with a societal mask on is what makes emotional energy get stuck. That stuck energy causes physical, emotional, and spiritual damage that may explode later.
The more we grow our awareness of what our emotions are communicating to us, the more we expand our capacity to respond consciously in a powerful and resilient way. We're no longer afraid of our emotions. We use them as tools to aid in our expansion into who we really are.
It's time to invert the duck analogy.
No matter what chaos surrounds you on the outside, cultivate inner peace and serenity under the surface.
You are always connected to a deep reservoir of resilience, power, and peace. You are always connected to a universal field of intelligence that has your best interests at heart. And your best interests align with the best interests of all of humanity. We are meant to thrive together in community.
If you truly believed that, what would be different for you?
When you can access your own inner power and peace no matter what circumstances you face, you can connect with your emotions, understand the message they're sending, and respond in a powerful way - whether it's taking time for yourself or engaging with the world.
By the way, "engaging with the world" doesn't mean screaming and yelling at each other on social media. Keep your power where it belongs - with you. Take radical responsibility for your own feelings. Check in with your own self and what's really going on for you. When you feel safe and strong in your own self-worth, others' opinions no longer threaten you. From that place, if it's the next helpful step, invite someone else into dialogue. Real communication happens when we can hold space for how we feel and believe and how someone else feels and believes, even when they appear to be in opposition.
Imagine cultivating a default response of inner peace instead of inner chaos. Even in those end-of-the-world moments, your kernel of inner peace tells you that you are supported and you will be ok. From that space, you may even begin to influence the shape of outer events.
If you felt like this on the inside...
What would be possible on the outside?