I have a friend, she’ll remain nameless (Shari), that has seemed somewhat distant lately. As some of you may know who read my blog, Shari was involved in a terrible dog attack 5 years ago. The physical trauma she sustained is nothing compared to the emotional strain and lasting scars that she is going through.
It started me thinking, as it always does, as to why she might be feeling so low or distant. I started thinking about our emotions and I really think that one of the ugliest of our emotions is the one of feeling “just bleh”. (Shari’s response to me the other morning when I asked her how she was feeling). I don’t know, despair? Despondency? Hopelessness? Melancholy? If I were an artist, I would paint it a solid color, or blob of ugly grey. No lovely shades of (insert your favorite color here). Just nothingness. Just bleh…
I was reminded of the saying describing optimism vs pessimism..the glass is half full or empty quote. You know, “oh, you must be a ‘glass is half full kind of person’…those people so full of optimism it makes you want to puke..or “oh, (with a sad tilt of the head and a look of pity on your face) you must be one of those ‘your glass is half empty’ kind of people”.
But I realized there’s two other parts to that glass. The one part is the “cup runneth over” people. You know, the ones whose lives are so full of hope and optimism that their heart is just overflowing with positivity, joy, satisfaction and love. But then there’s that empty glass. Nothing in it. Not even a drop. And the thing is, how in the world can that glass even begin to get an ounce of moisture in it?? That is, how in the world can I even imagine reaching a tenth of the way up, let alone HALF WAY, or overflowing???
And this is on a spectrum, of course. No single person (well maybe there are a few) spend their entire lives living in one state all the time. I mean, that naturally optimistic person you know, surely doesn’t live in that state all the time. Right? And although I know a lot of people who I would describe as being generally negative, they have times of happiness and enjoyment. Don’t they? Well, let’s say they do. We’re all living this life on a ladder of emotions.
I learned about this theory of the ladder of emotions in my alcohol free class. I found it so interesting and helpful. They discussed how difficult it can be wanting to go from feeling really down to all the way to euphoria. When you’re feeling really down, has anyone ever said to you “well, just go for a walk, get some fresh air, you’ll feel so much better”? Or something along those lines. Well, that may be true. Yes, I can go outside and take a nice walk with my dog, and, yes, I might feel a bit better. But I can almost guarantee once I go back to what I was doing before, that feeling of despair is coming right back.
So the practice is to think of our emotional states like rungs on a ladder. The lowest rung of the ladder being the most negative emotional state (despair, helplessness, just bleh..) going all the way to the very highest rung with emotions of positivity, happiness, joy. As you can see yourself climbing that ladder, wouldn’t it be much easier to take one rung at a time? Rather than skipping over several rungs to reach the very last one? In fact, isn’t that impossible? In a ladder with even 5 rungs, the average person cannot physically start at rung 1 and stretch to rung 5.
I’ve added a photo of a rung of ladder emotions. One that shows the emotions, step by step, rung by rung. The suggestion is to try to take the next rung. So if you’re feeling fear, try the next one up, say feeling trapped. Then try feeling rage, then anger, then worry… You catch my drift.
When I learned about the ladder, it was fairly early on in my AF path. I had a lot of guilt and shame and I found using this theory helped me a lot getting out of that state. Guilt, as you can see, is way down the ladder. By gradually going up, rung by rung, I turned my shame and guilt into more powerful emotions, such as anger and irritation. This eventually led me to pushing myself to much more positive emotions like hope and fortitude. Rung by rung..
So my friend, start climbing that ladder, one rung at a time! ❤️
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