The Hero’s Journey can be seen as the pathway from one level of life to another. The most painful journeys are those that impact the “body” levels: survival, sex, power. “Love” can be extremely difficult as well: ask any teenager.
But personal or genetic survival stuff, or the sense of being able to control our actions and environment (power, third “chakra”) are probably the root of most negative emotions. The trick is that IF you have an empowering outcome, the negative emotions are just fuel that can propel you forward.
The ability to convert negative emotions into positive action is one of the primary life skills. Simplicity is your friend here. If you use a hundred different terms for those negative emotions, and they motivate you to act, GREAT! But if you find yourself mired in depression and despair, it might be useful to look at all negative emotions as versions of one primary impulse: fear. The “Fight or Flight” response. This is incredibly powerful, and for many people, the thought “Am I afraid?” will trigger shame on top of the fear, and be crippling instead of empowering. In every case of negative emotions: anger, grief, guilt, shame, depression, etc., if you trace the emotion back to the fear beneath it, and identify the actions that would allow escape or combative response, you “take the brakes” off the fear response and it becomes what it was evolutionarily intended to be–a shock to the system, a message to TAKE ACTION.
So…if Step #1 of the Hero’s Journey is “Confronted with Challenge”, if you see something that needs to be done, and you don’t do it, it is safest to assume you are not acting (Step #2: Rejection of the Challenge) due to either fear (if I act, I will lose or be hurt) or lack of clarity (I don’t know how to begin. There are so many things clawing at my time, splintering my attention).
Clarity is a sovereign remedy. Fear can clarify thought, but if combined with the illusion of helplessness, it paralyzes. Many stories deal with people paralyzed with fear or confusion, unable to act until either
- The motivation increases until it hurts more to stay still than move forward
- They gain resources that change perspective or potential
- The situation changes sufficiently to offer an opportunity
- They gain clarity that inaction is actually the more damaging course
External circumstances, or external allies can certainly be found, but it is also incredibly valuable to know how to get yourself in gear when stalled.
CLARITY on the desired outcome can be powerful. What do you want? Why do you want it? This can be meditation, contemplation, journaling, therapy.
SHIFTING your emotions can be powerful. The fastest way to shift your emotions is physical. Using drugs or alcohol certainly accomplishes this, but with serious downsides: even not considering the negative physiological effects, you aren’t developing the mental/emotional muscle to shift your emotions voluntarily. But you’re on the right track: MOVE YOUR BODY. Exercise, especially sweaty exercise that takes you through “second wind”. Exercise that focuses all your efforts on a single point (resistance exercise) or that simulates survival experiences (rock wall climbing, martial arts, sprinting, etc.) hits the “reset” button, takes you out of your head and into your body, where the action is.
FOCUSING on what you love, or feel grateful for. Gratitude is an antidote for fear. In life coaching, clients often have the “I’ve never had anything to be grateful for” attitude. It is always a lie. ALWAYS. It might take some digging, but once you unearth a single happy memory, you’ve cracked the ice, and can begin to find others. Faith can be produced by remembering other times that things turned to shit…but somehow worked out anyway.
The fastest way as well as the best is the “Morning Ritual” where you MOVE, FOCUS and AFFIRM all at the same time. No one, not ONE PERSON who has done this for thirty days has failed to feel its power. Your only choice will be to either quit, or actually engage with your life from a position of power. I’ll bet anyone a dollar that this is true. All you have to do is try it:
- MOVE YOUR BODY with positive posture,
- While chanting some affirmation that is a statement of positive intent and purpose (for instance, the old “every day in every way I’m getting better and better” will INSTANTLY expose the demons in your head, and show you where you have your brakes on, unless you have permission to thrive)
- Remember at least three things you have to be grateful for (is this hard? Then think of three things you’d hate to lose: sight, logic, family. Now: don’t you think it would be wise to be grateful for having them?) IMMERSE yourself in these positive emotions.
- TAKE THE SAME EMOTIONS and project them into the future, imagining positive outcomes you desire greatly. Body, Career, Relationships. One in each.
- Make a statement of FAITH that you CAN and SHOULD accomplish your goals.
Spend 1-5 minutes on each of these steps, averaging 10-20 minutes. MOVE CONTINUOUSLY WHILE DOING IT.
If you will do this for 30 days, intensifying your movement and emotions, gaining greater clarity on your desired outcomes, you’ll find that when you finish, it will be easier to brainstorm actions that will take you toward your goal.
OUTCOME: What do you want? What three-fouroutcomes, one in each major arena, will you confess to wanting?
EMOTIONS: Why do you want it? What three motivating reasons will drive you when things get rough?
ACTIONS: What will you do today to take three steps toward your destiny?
There are quiet, sad stories about people who cannot move through this second step, who reject the challenge and live lives of quiet desperation.
Don’t let that story be yours.
The core of anger is fear. What are you afraid of? If a direct survival threat, run or fight. If you cannot, and must deal with it…or if it is not a direct survival threat, the antidote for fear is gratitude and faith. Gratitude for the past and current blessings, faith in a future possibility. Focusing on your outcome rather than your irritations is a powerful solution.