Navigating Emotion Requires More than Awareness and Perspective

It’s natural that any time you start to grow you will face challenges, setbacks, disappointments. And so it has been for me for several months. 

Little things, big things, things I didn’t even know could be big things …

Emotion offers clues – what did you really want, why do you really care, are you really invested, are you really present, etc … But that’s a different conversation – we’ll have it soon if I remember to share. 

Today I’m thinking about sunflowers.

Because today I received an email – not a personal one, just a newsletter I’m subscribed to – that contained an announcement I’ve been dreading. (There’s a clue right there!) 

And reading that email set off a chain of FEELINGS (I would say “all the feels” except that there were no feelgood feels at the party.)

Now I KNOW I’ll be fine, I am not powerless in the situation. 

But I didn’t FEEL fine. I felt sad, scared, even a little stupid for getting myself into a situation where this could affect me and for allowing myself to hope it wouldn’t. 

Navigating emotion is more than perspective. It’s also science.

So I took a break. Made some spicy chicken soup, read some Kahlil Gibran, listened to music, cuddled with the fur-babies while visualizing my dearest dream come true, meditated to the sound of raindrops on a metal roof (thank you YouTube.) 

Less than an hour later I was back at my desk, focused on the client project that email interrupted, and feeling fully in a place of power and optimism. Sounds like a simple change in perspective, right? Not exactly.

I didn’t need that break simply as a way to shift my perspective any more than a sunflower turns to the sun for a tan. (This article supplied both the “tan” haha and some good info on why sunflowers follow the sun – check it out on

It’s science. 

The young sunflower follows the sun because of growth hormones and need for pollination. It’s DESIGNED to face East when the day begins and slowly rotate to the West as the sun moves through the heavens.

As humans, we’re DESIGNED to respond with emotion and for those emotions to produce chemicals. We’ve evolved to produce our own drugs, to self-medicate in order to respond to crisis, to survive disaster, to conquer challenges and enemies, and also to bond, to love, to mate, to form tribes, and to respond and process grief, sorrow, excitement, elation, and joy. It’s an infinitely bi-directional loop; emotion produces a chemical, the chemical reinforces emotion, body/brain responds, and so on.

If you’ve ever taken drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter, sacred or recreational, you know that their effect doesn’t end the second you decide you don’t need them anymore. Unless you have developed an extremely high level of control over your body’s processes you don’t say “oops, took more of that muscle relaxer than I should have” and presto! you’re back in control of your motor responses.

The chemicals you produce when you experience an emotion are no different. Until you use them up, purge them out, or counter them with another chemical they’re there, doing what they were designed to do.

It’s one reason why it’s so hard to believe someone who has said something that made you angry when they insist that what you heard isn’t what they meant. Your body/brain has to find a purpose for the chemicals you dumped into your system when you got mad in the first place so it’s predisposed to justify your anger rather than accept their explanation and apology.

Emotional Intelligence is more than awareness or control of emotions. It’s having the intelligence to use our emotional responses wisely.

So today, reading the email, I experienced emotions. And those emotions triggered a chemical response, and that was like a 5-martini lunch without the yum factor (if you like martinis which I do but one a time as I like the yum but not the buzz!)

So I had a choice – not a choice of perspective, although that’s important, but a choice of what drug I was going to be under the influence of for the rest of the day. Would I deal with the stress cocktail I’d just dumped into my system by trying to justify it (which amounts to wallowing in a tar pit) or by trying to push through it (which is like lifting 300 lbs while standing in said tar pit) or would I take the appropriate measures to get that cocktail out of my system so I could get my head and heart back in the game?

My inner voice said, “Walk away from that tar pit, girl!”

I chose to move away from the tar pit, turn my face to the sun, and dose up on feel-good chemicals to counter the not-so-good drugs I had running around in my body.

The cocktail I was going for included a healthy dose of endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. So a little light reading with a focus on gratitude and personal knowing, a little goal-focused visualization, spiced comfort food, connection with my fur babies, deep meditation with the sound of nature, and it’s like taking the antidote to a powerful poison. I’m me again. In my power again. Still intellectually concerned about what this news means to me, but not fearful, not angry, not ashamed of being hopeful because guess what, I’m good at being hopeful. It’s not empty wishful thinking, it’s expecting that something positive will come of every event because that is my intention and therefore it shall be so. (I have a track record to prove it too!)

So yes, my perspective has changed. But it’s because I took control of that bi-directional loop of emotion and chemical response that my perspective changed so quickly and painlessly. And these tools are available to anyone with the emotional intelligence to CHOOSE to use them.

I turn to face the sun. Not just because it’s pretty or I want a tan, but because I know that, like all human beings, I’m designed to thrive when I follow the sun instead of sticking my head in the sand or hanging out in a tar pit.

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