Years ago, I worked with a lady by the name of *Lynn. She was one of those people who seemed to always be passionate, about her job, her family and her community work. She was a top achiever in the sales department. She was always just that bundle of warm fuzzies. First to give you a hug. Always happy to see you. She was first to offer her help, to lead a new project – you get my drift.
Lynn was like a puppy, one of those rare people whose passion and enthusiasm was so unceasing that it actually become a little irritating at times. “Can you, just like… chill and under perform a little?” I used to think to myself.
But that never happened. She was like an energy source of unyielding passion and performance. I suppose I was jealous, or maybe worse – just not as extra ordinary as she was.
Because Lynn was filled with energy, you couldn’t help but be lifted up by her spirits. She always wanted to know what was going on in your life. She was encouraging. She was happy for you and proud of you, even when you weren’t so happy or proud of yourself.
I eventually just accepted that Lynn was one of those people who had it figured out. A person who somehow managed to walk between the raindrops. A person who was blessed and knew it and spent her days trying to make others feel just as great as she did.
Then one day, she took an overdose and died.
No! Lynn was supposed to be the one who had it figured out! She was the one who was supposed to be immune to bad things! Surely, Lynn did not have mental health issues!
It turned out, Lynn did. She was doing her best to manage her Bi Polar Mood Disorder. Lynn was a mess. Her family life was a mess. Her personal life was a mess. Her job and sales achievement were the only things holding her together.
And here’s what took me a long time to figure out – Lynn’s real problem was that she wasn’t able to manage her emotions. I know that might sound crazy — on the surface, she appeared to be what we all want to be: perfectly happy, loving and giving, always positive and encouraging, never having a bad day or a low mood. But it was true. She didn’t deal with her emotions and she suffered terribly because of it.
Lynn set her mood to one extreme emotion – passion. She wasn’t able to understand and manage her emotions and the darker side of this was major depression.
Think how your skin moderates the temperature relative to the weather and then sends a signal to your brain saying, “it’s hot” or “it’s cold”, and so you dress accordingly. Your emotions do the same for you, they moderate your response to situations based on your expectations of the environment. For Lynn she sent a signal to her brain regardless of the circumstances and her response was always – passion, high energy and fuzzy hugs.
Emotions are wonderful things. They are designed to create strong incentives for us to take action and do something to remedy the gap between expectations and our environment, either by changing our environment or changing our expectations.
That’s what makes our emotions so powerful and so useful. It doesn’t matter if they make us feel good or bad as long as they motivate us to take appropriate action and deal with whatever comes our way.
This is the problem with the feel-good-all-the-time-no-matter-what strategy of life. And this is why Lynn ended up being such a mess. Instead of engaging the right emotions in the right situations, Lynn set her emotions to passion regardless of what was happening in her life. And dealing with a Bi Polar Mood Disorder, people most probably only saw the side of her life that she wanted them to see.
Have you ever considered that having the ability to navigate a diverse range of emotions is healthy, a good thing? Emotions are not just made up of a few “good” and “bad” emotions. There are loads of emotional subcategories, like amusement, joy, contentment, gratefulness, pride, love, hope, and anger, sadness, guilt, contempt, anxiety, disgust, embarrassment, and on and on the list goes.
Living a life of passion is wonderful. Yet living a life or phase of your life at a 100% passion – actually any one emotion – is an indication that you may not be getting it right. The crash and burn will most probably be super-hot.
As our emotions are so powerful, I have a task for you to help build up your library of emotions. Pick one positive emotion, let’s use gratitude. Take today to actively find things and opportunities to be grateful for. Consciously use this word in your daily conversations, add it to your vocabulary. Try this for a week. You will find that a magical thing happens – you will easily and naturally experience gratitude.
Then the week after, pick another positive emotion, let’s use amusement. During the week, actively find things and opportunities to be amused. Smile, giggle and laugh. Consciously use this word in your daily conversations, add it to your vocabulary. And I bet the same thing will happened, you will find that a magical thing happens – you will easily and naturally find amusing things happening in your life.
Don’t be like Lynn. I encourage you to use your emotions to regulate your response to the world, your environment. Find gratitude and amusement – experience frustration and disappointment and actively make sure that there is a healthy movement of your emotions from “good to bad” and “positive and negative”.
*not her real name