If your emotional fitness was visible to others as an external physique, would it attract or repel?
Because our physical appearance is usually the first thing others notice about us, we give it a lot of attention. What we usually don’t realize is that our emotional state is probably the next thing people pick up on about us and they usually do it pretty quickly. The reality is that emotions are contagious and our neuronal circuitry is wired so that they are easily influenced and “caught”.
Having grown up competing in sports and being physically active, I identify much easier with the physical than the emotional. Perhaps you do too.
It’s pretty easy to tell a lifter who is well rounded vs one who just focuses on their favorite body region or workout routine. The guy in the gym with bulging biceps, a massive chest and pencil legs is an easily identifiable example of the latter. No question that an upper body workout is more fun and less difficult than lower body but the end result is a bit grotesque. If you want the full package, you have to work on the full package (leg day, anyone?)
Emotional Mastery and Symmetry
Likewise, maximum emotional fitness requires mastery and symmetry of our ability to experience a full range of feelings and virtues, not just the ones we gravitate toward naturally or like. Besides the lack of the visual, what makes things more difficult in this arena is that the mind doesn’t like to hold the tension brought on by contradictory impulses.
- If you value toughness you may undervalue tenderness.
- If spontaneity is your thing, then self-control may be excused.
- If you value honesty above all else then it’s easy (and convenient) to forget the compassion.
- Just because you’re bold doesn’t mean you can do away with caution.
- If “happy land” is your preferred destination, avoiding any hint of sorrow or pain can land you in the opposite location quick.
The list of opposite emotions and virtues that need be held in tension and symmetry could go on, but I think I the point is clear. The real issue is our self awareness of how we’re balanced in this area and our level of mastery with it.
To be fully engaged emotionally requires the capacity to hold opposite virtues and emotions simultaneously, or anacolouthia. Anacolouthia is the mutual entailment of virtues and accompanying emotions whereby a virtue isn’t a virtue by itself. After all, honesty without compassion becomes cruelty.
Here are 3 ways to build anacolouthia.
- Accept the tension that comes with holding opposites- view them as a tension to be managed not a problem to be “fixed”.
- Learn to value all the virtues- discover what proportions work best and see the synergy; don’t choose sides.
- Appreciate your weak areas- qualities you naturally oppose or don’t like have their merits; let go of judgement and find leverage instead.
Often the most important things are simple to understand but hard to do. In this case, it’s complex and contradictory as well. The end goal is to build your capacity move freely and flexibly between your own opposites.
If your emotional “physique” were as visible as your physical one, where would you start working asap?
Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear where and how the symmetry is for you.