With the rise in understanding and valuing emotional intelligence, empathy is often exercised through how we interact and treat people. However, there's strength in cultivating a deep sense of emotional intelligence from within. This strength allows us to not be merely reactionary to our emotions and instead maintain a sense of peace in the present.
I first read this statement at Doe Bay in their zen like soaking tubs probably three or four years ago now. At the time I was reflecting on polarities since I was deeply steeped in my conquest for knowledge regarding healing crystals and, separately, empathy. My journey to spiritual fulfillment and finding solace in my own personal accountability stemmed from carrying crystals around, researching what they meant, how they've historically been used, and on the broader more socially and culturally acceptable avenue reading all about emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence? In a simple word, empathy. Empathy is NOT sympathy. (Here's a great video about it) The main difference, according to Brene Brown, is that empathy brings connection and sympathy drives separation. Empathy is sitting with a feeling that is being experienced and holding space for it to exist without dismissing or ignoring it. Sympathy is saying: "That sucks," or "Look at the silver lining." When this occurs, either by someone else or by an effort to tuck away the feeling from ourselves, we dismiss the experience. These unexpressed emotions have to go some where, so they become bottled up eventually released as passive aggression or even a meltdown. Who else has lashed out at someone who wasn't really the target or burst out in tears over seemingly "nothing"?
Historically, I have been a "wildcard." This has manifested in fun ways as the predictably unpredictable. However, what I didn't like was the abusive system I created for myself in ignoring my intuition and how I actually felt. I recognize that there are some "ouch" memories of lashing out at people who didn't deserve it or crushing humiliation the next morning of saying something I shouldn't have or taking a joke a too far. What was hard to realize was that these actions were a manifestation of a lack of personal emotional intelligence. I reacted to my feelings rather than operating from a place of personal trust.
Wow. That's a doozy to get out of my system. I spent many years boxed in by others' perceptions of how I should or should not behave, letting others' define my levels of appropriateness all because I was too scared and self-conscious to actually get in touch with my own emotions. How I learned, and continue to learn (the never-ending journey of personal discovery) was through insatiable curiosity about how our emotions drive us. I always seemed to have loads of feelings, but that didn't always mean I handled them well. It's actually quite embarrassing when I truly think about some of my more cringe-worthy outbursts. However, they don't define me, and the path to forgiving myself lies within this idea that between two opposites is the path.
In order to understand the world around us we need a baseline and that's where polarities come in. Hot or Cold. Angry or Happy. Sad or Joyful. Sober or Drunk. High or Low. What all of these contradictory states have taught is the value in its polar opposite. We can't know the value or strength of light if we don't know dark. We can't know joy without sadness, and all of the other feelings without understanding their contrary nature. It wasn't until I played around with this book that I truly started to get this sentiment. This book explained the value of crystals within their existence between emotional polarity they invoke. As I started understanding the varying degrees of gray between the opposites and how I expressed them, I was able to start taking an earnest look in the mirror about how I wanted to express myself authentically.
I see the the path between the opposites being present enough that when we experience extreme emotions on either side of the spectrum, we remain in control without discrediting what is being brought forward within ourselves. Instead of seeing a situation as "OMG THE WORST FUCKING THING EVER" or another extreme which tells me that I am failure, worthless, etc. I am able to acknowledge that emotion, place forgiveness on myself, and remain neutral and in the present. Of course, some days are better than others and the journey towards a less extreme emotional swing has been one of consistent practice and patience.
What I see value in this is that the swings aren't as large and I am not blindsided by them. I can sit back and reflect and evaluate the merit of these feelings. Is it worth being this upset about? Am I going to crash after this high? Rather, the path between the extremes is much more mellow, sustainable, and nourishing for my own personal and spiritual homebase. I am a work in progress, but I am striving for the balance between the opposites as my primary mode so I can persevere on this journey of happiness.