Going With The Flow: not as passive as it sounds

A topic of continual reflection for me is adaptability or "going with the flow". There are many layers and levels to this, and one recurring pitfall in achieving sustained growth in this area has been my propensity for over-reaction. Not all the time, and certainly much less than in my early life, but sometimes when the unexpected occurs, whether through a gut-punching blindside or a minor divergence from the daily plan; before I have a chance to remember just how far I've come, how much inner work I've logged and how very evolved I am *wink wink* -- I erupt. My disbelieving indignation, defensive posturing or expletives spoken through tears are all, I realize, varying disguises for my fears. 

Everything works out, eventually. EVERYTHING. We get proof of this time and time again. And yet, after forty years of evidence to substantiate this truth, I am often disappointed by how truly over-reactionary I can still be. A pause and a deep breath are so often the simple solution that evades me, not occurring as the fear-spin antidote until the blessing/curse stage of hindsight arrives.

It's said that the only control we have is in how we respond to the events in our lives. I wholeheartedly agree and yet, as evidenced by my recurring over-emotional reactions, some part of me has not deciphered how to "live" the positive potentiality of this belief. Then, this morning, a new perspective on old information emerged with the help of this quote.

"The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." ~ Carlos Castaneda

What is – just – IS, right? Okay, so following that paradigm, I understand that excessive emotional responses or over-reactions are not at all value-adding, but serve only to season the moment. Thus, although I may not be in complete control of the flavors of what life serves me, I am in control of how I choose to season them. I can compliment the inherent flavors of an experience or perhaps artfully disguise displeasing flavors. In contrast, I can create discordant and disgusting flavor combinations or further intensify unsavory flavors for my pallet. Either way, it's the only meal being served and it's all on my plate.

Controlling how I react, in the moment, is a step toward personal responsibility, but there is another layer of this story. Memory and recall are strong influences in our lives, so when I over season an experience with bitterness, righteous anger and disgust, then further over-pepper it with disappointment in myself for those exact reactions, I will likely forever associate the current experience with the awful taste I have assisted in creating. Can you imagine the revolving cycle or "loop to nowhere" in that future? This really got my head spinning with worry about my ability to create a new personal paradigm, as I have often been (justifiably) categorized as an "emotional person".


Through a great deal of insight and awareness gained on my own personal growth path, I am slowly transitioning to the self-label of "unapologetic expressive". You see, expressiveness is part of what I bring to the world; who I am, and who I am to be. It is not realistic or even healthy to expect myself to forgo emotional responses. However, I can be mindful of the seasoning metaphor, allowing myself just a sprinkle or a dash of pure emotion before I pause and taste the dish, thereby tuning in to the reality of the situation – not just my reaction – then deciding what else, if anything, is needed before clearing the table and moving on toward the next meal.

As it turns out, going with the flow is not just the chilled-out, passive acceptance of all the stimulus presented in life. For me, going with the flow is a practice of tempering my emotional responses, not suppressing them into extinction. Allowing emotion to have a true voice in my life, but as part of the choir – no diva solos! And now that I've begun spinning one metaphor into another, I think I've gone as far as this flow is meant to take me today. I hope you've found some food for thought here.

In strength,