4. Ups and Downs
Not only is it natural to get pulled in lots of different directions, but you can also expect to experience lots of ups and downs. Some ups and downs are big and some are little. Some last a long time and some are fleeting. Sometimes you will experience an “up” in one part of your life and a “down” in another. Understanding that these ups and downs are normal and natural is important. It is also important to get increasing good at managing these ups and downs.
"Life shrinks or expands inproportion to one's courage."
- Anais Nin
The Roller Coaster of Emotions
Why pay attention to feelings? Because they are a critical part of the experience in their own right and because they influence thoughts and actions in important ways. Talking about feelings can also provide common ground for people of diverse opinions, perspectives, and beliefs. Where thoughts and beliefs may differ, feelings are often shared and provide a bond, a connection.
Hiding from feelings or ignoring them can be problematic. A lot of risky behavior is a way of avoiding or muting feelings. This is particularly true for drug and alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors. Feelings can be really confusing, but they are much better experienced and dealt with than ignored.
There is a stunning range of emotions, so samples are provided below just to provide some vocabulary for the conversations. You can safely assume that you will experience many, if not most, of these emotions at different points on the journey.
Often there will be a mix of emotions happening at the same time.
Note. This list is particularly important for teenage boys as boys usually do not naturally come equipped with the same emotional vocabulary—that is true.
The Energy Traps: "Challenges to the Heart"
Living takes energy. Living heroically takes lots of energy. This section addresses how energy can be lost or quickly burned up. The next section looks at sources of energy.
One word of caution. As with all of these sections, the elements that follow are natural to the journey. Their existence does not mean that something is wrong or that mistakes have been made or that all is lost.
They are presented for consideration ahead of time or in the midst of the journey. Reviewing the list is particularly helpful when energy starts to diminish. Sometimes just identifying a source of energy drain can take the power away from it. You can also talk with others and help each other deal with these energy traps.
The fact that there are an impressive number of energy traps may be daunting, but that's the way it works on the journey. Everyone is dealing with these demons. The key is to (a) know they are there, (b) understand that they are natural and not an indication that you are failing or inadequate, and (c) deal with them directly. AND remember that heroes don’t go alone, so talk with others about how to deal with them.
- Refusing to let go of old ways, relationships, images, affiliations…
- The desire to turn back vs. the desire to go ahead
- Losing sight of the vision—losing the way—getting lost
- Getting tired, worn-out (physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually)
- Injuries/illness (hurt, pain, loss of function, etc)
- Successes overlooked/discounted
- Failure/defeat/losses/mistakes (those from which little or nothing is
- The unexpected
- Disorientation and confusion
- Negative self-talk
- Becoming disconnected or separated from others
- Difficulty of the learning process—awkwardness of new skills, initial drops in competence and performance, etc.
- Lack of a sense of purpose or significance
- Lack of sense of significance or that behavior really makes a difference
- Emotional Focus
- Stress - either too intense or unrelieved (chronic)
- Doubting the worth of the journey
- Doubting the ability to successfully complete the journey (potency/effectiveness of self, tools, strategies, helpers, etc)
- Points of despair (bottoming out)
- Discouragement or despair
- Fear (may have an early burst of energy, but then drops or wears out)
- Beyond You
- Others’ fears and anxieties
- “Nay-sayers”—“you can’t...” or ”who are you to...?”
- Bullies, “mean girls”, people who are jealous of your progress, etc.
- Lack of money or other resources
Sources of Life Energy For the Journey
One of the differences between these sources of energy and the preceding energy traps is that people on an heroic journey usually have more influence over the sources of energy (as a group) than they do over the energy traps.
That is not true in every instance, but it does reinforce the 70/30 principle, which argues that it is best to spend 70% of your attention and effort on the energy generating side and 30% dealing with the energy traps.
Taking advantage of these sources of energy is another direct challenge to "be the author". It means not allowing yourself to be the victim of the inevitable traps.
This is a big list of possible sources of energy, so stay aware of just how many opportunities there are for you to take care of yourself.
- Places of rest or renewal—where you can go that allows you to rest and relax—places that give you energy
- Celebrating success in meeting trials, tests, challenges, "crucible experiences" (small successes as well as large ones)
- Revisiting, renewing purpose/meaning
- Reviewing desired personal profiles or heroic codes or heroic spirit
- Centering or grounding the self - within self and beyond - grounded below/beyond the area of change
- Building competence/capabilities/attitude and employing them
- Symbols and objects of meaning
- Receiving from companions and helpers/healers/teachers/mentors
- Revisiting role models (talking with them?)
- Positive internal dialogue
- Resistance met and turned around
- Successes of others (companions, etc.)
- Experience of learning (insights, skills, capabilities)
- Time with pets
- Time spent on hobbies
- Sports or exercise
- Listening to music
- Creating artwork
- Cooking or baking
- Making things (from woodwork to knitting)
- Going to movies
- Writing in a journal
- Being in a group that is fun or meaningful
- Community service
- Mastering something—even little things