In any journey, it’s nice to have a map. Healing and growth is no exception. In this essay I employ a system of classifying your emotions, to help you see where you are in your journey and what’s next in your evolution.
In a hurry? Read the digest version.
Elsewhere, I defined what I called Emotional Guidance Principle, the concept that fulfilling life is built through pursuing of good Level 2 feelings (“Satisfaction”).
Here, I want to continue our examination of the emotional terrain, as a tool to discern where we are in our growth and what our next steps may be. Anyone can find themselves broken and unfulfilled whatever their life circumstances are — but once you realize where you are, you can also start to discover where you need to go in order to further move up the path to healing and fulfillment.
The Emotional Guidance Scale
In the book “Ask and It Is Given,” authors Esther and Jerry Hicks discuss the concept of Emotional Guidance Scale. Now, this book is about Law of Attraction — but when I came across this system, I felt that it is a great way to articulate the whole concept of healing and growth I’ve been discussing here at OBV. Whether you buy into the Law of Attraction or not is irrelevant, as this is simply a scale, a measuring stick with which you can figure out your current location in the healing/growth spectrum.
So, here is the Abraham-Hicks Emotional Guidance Scale, slightly modified by yours truly. 😉
|Level||Prevailing Emotional State|
|3||Joy, Empowerment, Freedom, Love, Appreciation|
Enthusiasm, Eagerness, Happiness
Frustration, Irritation, Impatience
Insecurity, Guilt, Unworthiness
|-6||Depression, Despair, Grief, Powerlessness, Hopelessness, Resignation|
How to Interpret the Emotional Guidance Scale
The key is to identify the prevailing mood or feeling — your “default” mode. Obviously, we oscillate among various levels — so identify your current range. People associate various words with various feelings, so the specific order or word descriptions may be slightly different to you. Don’t worry about the specifics. Simply identify the general area where you currently fall.
Also, being in the positive don’t mean that you don’t momentarily experience “negative” emotions — in fact, you do, perhaps more fully than when you’re at a lower level. The difference is that the more developed and secure you are, the more you’ll immediately allow yourself to feel and express whatever emotions you feel — grief of losing a loved ones, anger at injustice, disappointment at unmet expectations. But because you are able to fully feel them right away, you’ll bounce back sooner to your default mode. Even though momentarily you may feel sad, angry, or disappointed, you’ll not equate that as an unhappy state of being.
Another observation Abraham-Hicks makes is that you cannot sustain the state that is very far from where your default mode is. For example, a person at level -5 cannot all the sudden spring up to level 2. Momentarily this is possible, (especially if you have bi-polar tendencies) but you cannot stay there.
My observation, having watched my children, is that a baby born out of healthy, normal birth starts somewhere around Level 1 and perhaps low 2. They are definitely uncompromised, and have their default set on “happy” as long as their fundamental needs are met. And that’s the reason why I numbered the levels the way I did, which is to demonstrate where we fall in relation to the original default mode — as the degrading and falling down occurs after we are born.
My Journey Upward
I consider the birth of first child, my daughter, as the turning point in my life. That was almost 5 years ago. I was pretty darn near the bottom back then, though I never really stayed at Level -6. During my worst era, I was oscillating between -2 and -6, with the center around -5, with occasional, very brief glimpses of Level 1. But every time I have a “high” I would tell myself “it won’t last long.” Does that voice of pessimism seem familiar to you? It was using a correct observation but in a disempowering way.
From the default mode of insecurity and unworthiness, I climbed up to doubt and worry. I don’t know if I ever stayed at Level -4, though I can see how those emotions feel better than those in Level -5. It was a gradual process, and I didn’t recognize it as “getting better,” though I always thought that I like myself as of right now better than me from yesterday. Changing external circumstances did contribute greatly — I’ll tell the details elsewhere, but when I got a steady full-time job for the first time in over 4 years in 2005, it was a step up, reaching closer to Level 0. When we moved to a better house in 2006, I was definitely staying more at Level 0. We moved again in the winter of 2007, and after slightly bumpy transition, I’m now securely in the positives — between 1 and 2, with frequent visits upward (though not without moments of dropping downward, too).
Those big changes notwithstanding, my experience has been that growth and healing is very gradual. I definitely noticed that my default mode was now set to happy — when people ask me “how are you?” I most often answer “I’m doing great!” There are moments of dip, but I seem to bounce back to being happy sooner or later. I can attribute some of the improvements to the moves and changes, but the improvements were never instant — it was more like, we make changes, and slowly I start feeling the improvements.
I’m already looking forward to the next change, which will bump me squarely up into the upper 2 to 3 range. And I also know that there are places to go beyond what I charted out on the scale. Beyond Level 3 there are stratospheres that I can climb up to and explore (though our language doesn’t seem to have words for them — perhaps because not many of us go up and stay there), just as there are places lower you can fall down to beyond Level -6 (which is an area of serious mental sicknesses).
Using Emotional Guidance Scale to Guide Your Healing and Growth
Each level you climb up will feel “better.” By that I don’t necessarily mean you’ll feel happy — but the higher you go, the more empowered/energized/relieved you’ll feel. In my experience, relief is the big keyword in identifying state that belongs to a level higher than where you are. Whatever makes you feel lighter, relaxed, more buoyant is the experience you want to give yourself, to heal from our wounds and move up to higher plateaus. (Note that feeling relaxed may not necessarily mean actually relaxing. If you’re in a stagnant place, sometimes kicking up to a higher activity level makes you feel more relaxed/relieved inside, as being stuck feels burdensome and “tightening.” You can read more about this apparent contradiction in the previous post. )
Abraham-Hicks are teachers in the New Thoughts movement, so they focus on guiding your thoughts to a level that is immediately above where your default mode is. They teach us to observe our thoughts and consciously choose thoughts that feel more relieving. I’m sure we can all agree that seeing the glass as half-full is a better-feeling thought than seeing it as half-empty.
While I don’t disagree with what they say, I would like to add some personal insights to that. A suggestion like theirs can be easily misunderstood to mean that we shouldn’t feel the feelings of where we are. In my experience, it’s not very helpful to tell ourselves that our current feelings are “invalid” and should not be felt. This leads to suppressed feelings, which festers and rots and sinks deeper inside, dragging your default mode downward, instead of up.
It may sound indulgent, but at lower level, the beginning of healing is to accept where we are and embrace our feelings. Cry, complain, moan, scream — instead of denying ourselves the full extent of our hurtful feelings, we need to allow it to be what it is, an all-consuming, desperate, overwhelming force. If your default mode is set to despair, it’s no good to pretend otherwise.
But through the whole-hearted expression of your anguish, you do need to look for a “better” feeling place — something that gives you any inklings of relief. It may mean watching mindless TV. It may mean sleeping. Eating junk food is better than being suicidal. Societies condemn such acts because if you’re around -1 or -2, such actions drag you down. But if you’re at Level -5, then acts that get you to -3 is an improvement. Give yourself permission to indulge and wallow. Do whatever it takes to feel relieved.
But know that once you climb up to that level, then the actions that belong to that state may hold you back from growing further. You need to continuously assess where you are and seek new actions and experience that get you higher from where you are. I’m sure you can begin to see the ever-changing state of healing and growth. What worked for you to get you to where you are will not work in getting you higher. Climbing up the stairs of human development requires you to constantly reinvent what you do with yourself.
Understanding is the beginning of solutions, so this scale of healing and growth spectrum is a great starting point to figure out what is next in your upward journey. First, identify and accept where you are. Then identify what actions and experience help you feel the feelings right above where you’re currently at. Remember that change is gradual — on a day-to-day basis you may not see any difference, or occasionally you may even go through regression. Don’t lose hope. By constantly seeking out relieving experience, you’ll climb up the ladder of our healing and growth.