Are You Following Your Internal Compass?
Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC
Did you know that you have an internal compass that tells you what direction to move toward? It also tells you what’s really important to you. Your emotions are this compass, and you have access to it at any time. Unfortunately, most people do not understand what their emotions are telling them, especially if they are unwanted feelings. Instead they try to numb them or push them down, or they may artificially create negative emotions through rumination. All three of these activities cause your internal compass to not function properly.
When you experience joy, love, happiness, peace, or bliss in the present moment, it is a signal that you are on course and moving toward what gives your life meaning and purpose. When you experience anger, dislike, fear, or dread in the present moment, it is a signal that you are off course and moving in the wrong direction. Strong emotions are also signals that something is really important to you. However, when you ruminate by replaying negative events over and over in your head that either cause you to worry about the future or regret the past, you are messing up your compass’s calibration. Those events are only in your mind and aren’t actually happening right now, but your brain doesn’t know the difference. So you feel all of the negative emotions and experience all of the physiological sensations from the hormones that your body produces as if it were actually happening now. This throws your compass off track. It can’t tell what’s real and what’s made up in your mind.
When you push down difficult emotions, you are ignoring what your internal compass is trying to tell you. When you try to numb hard emotions with alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, or excessive eating, exercising, shopping, TV, gambling, etc. your internal compass can’t function. Brene Brown says that “We can’t selectively numb emotion. When we numb the hard feelings, like vulnerability, grief, shame, fear, and disappointment, we also numb joy, gratitude, and happiness. We numb everything. Then we become miserable, looking for meaning and purpose. So then we numb even more, and it becomes a vicious cycle.” Eventually our internal compass stops working.
The good news is that you can always re-calibrate your internal compass and get it functioning effectively again. All you have to do is allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you are experiencing in the present moment, and be curious about them. Ask, “What am I feeling? What is causing me to feel this way? What is this telling me? What do I want to do about it?” Unless you are experiencing trauma right at this second, everything is okay right now in this moment. Therefore, when you focus only on the present moment, you will naturally experience happiness, peace and serenity. May you activate and follow your internal compass to live your life on purpose and find all of the meaning, joy and happiness you were meant to experience.
***Disclaimer: This newsletter is not a substitute for therapy. If you need help getting through a trauma, seek the help of a licensed professional.
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” – Brene Brown