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Emotional Whiplash—What it is & What to Do About It.

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We all chase good feelings—I think that’s a given.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that, for a majority of humanity, this is what we make life all about. Even when we do things that are hard—things we find highly unpleasant—we do so with the self-assurance that some better feeling will be born of our efforts.

I love feeling good; I mean, who doesn’t? And I fancy myself as pretty “skilled” at it. I’m a relatively happy person, and when I feel joyful it’s a whole-body, sunshine-out-my-ears kind of joy. Even more, I love making other people feel good too and will expend a great deal of energy to support them in finding it.

No problem here; right?

Wrong.

Because eternal states of happiness are about as elusive and mythological as “The Last Unicorn,” despite there being exceptionally less skepticism about it. Frankly, I think more of us believe in the destination of “true happiness” than we do in Spirit or God.

The main problem with chasing happiness isn’t even the impossibility of it. Rather, it’s the effect it has on our emotions the rest of the time—when we’re not blissed out.

I call this problem “emotional whiplash” and it goes something like this:

We’re going about our day, doing all our normal things—drinking coffee, going to work, checking our Instagram, meeting up with friends in town—when something surprising and great happens. Maybe we ran into an old friend, or perhaps we got a positive report at work, or we watched an inspiring Ted Talk—whatever’s our own flavor of a joyful experience. And when it’s happening, we’re in it. We feel great. Totally in the moment and blissed out. I call this the “emotional high.”

What’s the natural response to this? We want the feeling to last as long as possible, of course! So we feed the good feels to keep ‘em going.

I’ve discovered a few go-to ways for extending my emotional highs—including calling a loved one to tell them all about the great things happening or listening to hyped-up music. I distinctly remember going out for a “joy ride” in my car listening to my “Good Vibes Only” playlist on many occasion, even when I had nowhere to go. Some people go out for drinks to celebrate. Others might go shopping. We all have ways to light the fire.

None of these things are bad, per-se, but it’s important to note when we’re intentionally revving ourselves up even more than an original, organic experience.

Sure, it’s natural to feel more expressive, energized, and open when we’re on an emotional high. But the thing is, no matter how beautiful, exciting, or rewarding life was in that moment, no good feeling lasts forever.

Enter: emotional whiplash.

Because, as the old adage says: “what goes up must come down.” In other words, we crash. And, often, we crash hard. It’s like simple physics really; the height of our emotional high is directly proportionate to the depth of our following emotional low.

When we go chasing all those blissful, good feelings, and then further fuel them with artificial energy sources, we’re actually setting up the conditions for the direct opposite feeling we’re trying to create. We ping-pong between intense joy and intense exhaustion, and we never know when the switch is going to flip.

Here are some traits to look for if we’re experiencing either end of the emotional teeter-totter:

Signs of an emotional low include:

>> Exhaustion
>> Lethargy
>> Irritability
>> Mental fog
>> Sudden sadness
>> Mild depression

Signs of an emotional high include:

>> High energy
>> Enthusiasm
>> Open-heartedness and connectivity
>> Bursts of creativity
>> Heightened awareness of the senses
>> Easy joy and love

While the bliss of an emotional high may seem worth it at the time, chasing good feelings puts us at the mercy of our emotions. It’s difficult to depend on ourselves to show up for ourselves on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis in this condition. We lose our sense of self-trust.

Luckily, not only is there another way, but there’s a clear path to take the reins back from our emotions without compromising our natural joy.

The goal is to move from emotional whiplash to emotional equanimity.

This doesn’t mean we flatten out our emotions altogether, there is a natural ebb and flow to our emotional selves as human beings. Rather, we learn to not chase the “good” ones while rejecting the “bad.” We do our best to notice and appreciate when pleasant experiences enter our lives, and offer just as much presence and love to ourselves in times of challenge or sadness.

In this way, we might be surprised to find that our natural happiness comes with a sense of deep appreciation and ease. We don’t have to try so hard to feel good. It’s just there.

This is something I am challenged with on a daily basis, but every day that my intention to honor my natural feelings is in place, I feel the pendulum swing lessen.

Let’s free ourselves from the instability of emotional whiplash and remember that just being ourselves, at level ground, is actually a really good place to be.

In Soul, Danielle

(This post was originally published on Elephant Journal)

Home Is

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HOME IS
if home is where the heart is
i’ve found mine in many places
i’ve left a nest in
iron skylines
redwood rainforests
lovers from campbell to canaan
home is where i am
but also where i want to be
in a cluster of stars i swear i’ve seen
and in the damp sweet soil mother gave me
is my heart shattered and scattered?
or rather expanded,
encompassing hours of
ruffage and road?
perhaps home is not a place
but rather a state
beyond the surveyor’s tape
beyond the postmarked letters
or white picket gate
home is in knowing
our fate is in the hand
or rather foot-drawn map
of every step before
and even more
each to come
home is here
wherever we stand
welcome

Nahko Bear’s Manifesto

Anyone who follows me on Facebook for long enough knows the deep respect and appreciation I have for the activist/musician/revolutionary heart of Nahko Bear.

I’ve been acquainted with his music for many years, but as my own spiritual path deepens, so too does my embodied understanding for the wisdom woven into his music.

I have many favorite songs, but his classic “Manifesto” stands the test of time. Not only is there constructive, good advice (“there is no medicine on the television so turn it off and turn yourself around”) but also empowering truth (“you can do this, you’ve got purpose”).

In the case that any of you sweet souls out there may need a pep talk or a wake-up call, this one’s for you.

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“Manifesto”
by Nahko & the Medicine for the People

Well this is real talk, this is non-stop
It is looped now tongue and mind
Played off the sidewalk, straight to your boombox
How it travels from ear to memory
Well this is medicine, there’s a message within
And each will find it in their own time

Well this is music, this is how I use it
It makes you move and move the movement
This is how I focus, knowing it’s not hopeless
But it sure starts with me and ends on a whole note
Musical medicine, this is my healing
For past and present future things to come

I see people stressin’ over space and possessions
Out of fear and a need for visual aids of our abundance
Give me examples or something tangible
Something I can get my hands on and find real meaning
Where is the medicine, well I’ve been searching
And I suppose each will find their own kind

Well everything’s at stake, it makes it hard to concentrate
And there are men who see a war and see a paycheck
Such different programming, to live so fearfully
Terror this and terror that, terrible reality
There is no medicine on the television
So turn it off and turn yourself around

And let’s just face it, the world’s fuckin’ racist
Even the most peaceful of us gets caught in the trend
To live cohesively is almost a fantasy
And we ought to know it starts with humbling our egos
What is the medicine for cultural woundin’?
Has its moments, has its melodies, has its time

Well I was listening to the outgoing seasons
About climate change and some of the reasons
When the sky opened, like I been hopin’
And there came horses by the thousands
And there was thunder on their tongues, and lightning on their minds
And they were singing this old melody from some other time

They sang don’t waste your hate
Rather gather and create
Be of service, be a sensible person
Use your words and don’t be nervous
You can do this, you’ve got purpose
Find your medicine and use it

They sang don’t waste your hate
Rather gather and create
Be of service, be a sensible person
Use your words and don’t be nervous
You can do this, you’ve got purpose
Find your medicine and use it

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In Soul, Danielle

Listen Here



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LISTEN HERE
my body
is my most sacred instrument
i will make love with her
make some kind of magic
make that sweet music
strum my ribs like tender strings
spread my limbs like angel wings
raise my voice to sing
my truth like a melody
’til life takes its last from me
no one can silence me
hold me back or keep me still
i refuse to gather dust
on the shelf of my bedroom
because someone else
never learned how to play me right
so if you’re ready
hold tight and listen here
i will take you as my student
teach you ’bout appreciation
of a woman
of a human
of the heart’s enduring beat
how to make ends meet
on sweet love
spare change
and common sense
for it always adds up
when you learn to count your blessings
and let me tell you
i am worth my weight in gold