walking the tightrope

Extreme living! Are you trapped on the edge?

Nobody lives a perfectly balanced life – well, at least nobody I know. And truth to tell, a constant state of balance sounds kind of bland and boring.  Sometimes, extremes can be more exciting, more adrenaline-pumping, more in-the-moment, more emotional – just MORE. And sometimes a bit of MORE is just what you want. It really lets you know you’re alive.

If we envisage life as walking a tightrope, most of us don’t spend our lives at the  fulcrum point of perfect balance – we may pass over it and linger for a brief while, but mostly we are moving up and down the line, sometimes at one end, sometimes heading towards the other. And that’s good. Life is about movement. It’s about exploring the whole line. Checking out the view from both sides. Seeing where we need or want to be at any given time.

Sometimes, though, we find ourselves stuck at one end or the other. And then we might find ourselves trapped in either/or thinking, unable to see other perspectives or possibilities, or have feelings so strong that they consume us and we are no longer able to respond freely.  These feelings can be polarizing and often all-encompassing. We may feel overwhelmed or numb. Completely powerless or clinging on tightly to control. Apathetic and hopeless, or needing to rush around and do everything right now.

When this happens, we need to make some adjustments – to turn around and head back the other way.  Perhaps even to rest right in that sweet spot of perfect balance for a while. How can we go about doing that? Here’s a couple of things for your toolkit. Give them a try next time you are stuck at the extremes.

Do you have something that works for you, when you are trying to walk the line?  Let us know in the comments below.


PS. Sometimes when we are stuck, the situation is more than we can handle alone. If that’s the case for you, make sure you ask for help. We all need it at times, particularly as the nature of extremes is that they can cloud our thinking and take away our ability to respond on all levels – physically, emotionally and mentally.

PPS. Thank you to Anna for the beautiful sketch above!

 Five simple steps.20160613_083300-1

When we are at the extremes, we may not feel capable of big movements. Small and gentle steps can get us moving on. Try these five simple steps.

1.Stop and breathe. Take five breaths, in and out. Slowly. Notice the ground beneath your feet, the feel of the air against your face, the sound of the traffic or the birds. Feel the sensations in your body.

2. Lean into the situation. Gently. What is at the core of it? What is it trying to tell you? (You are not looking for complete self-analysis here – just a small and simple message for the moment).

3. Think of a small step you could take that would help move you in the direction you want to go. Something tiny – what could you do in the next 5 minutes? The next hour? Today?

4. Consider what can help you to take this step? What inner or outer resource would help you right now?

5. Take that small step. And then take a moment to honour and appreciate yourself for doing so.

Drawing it out

This is an art exercise which I’ve found really helpful for balancing polarizing and extreme thoughts and emotions.  All you need is some crayons or paints, and three pieces of paper – A4 or A5 is good.

Overload - every moment accounted for! Too much!
Overload – every moment accounted for! Too much!

Step 1. On the first page, draw an image representing the extreme state of how you are feeling – eg. overwhelmed, lonely, angry, sad. Take it to the max – don’t hold back. You want to really put on the paper what it’s like when that feeling completely dominates.

Step 2. Now think about what the complete opposite of that emotion would be. For instance, if you are feeling stuck, the opposite might be complete flow or freedom – no restrictions at all. If your first extreme was loneliness, how would a life constantly

No structure - but also no focus or direction
No structure – but also no focus or direction

surrounded by people look?  If you’re totally stressed,  maybe the opposite is perfect unruffled calm.  Are you feeling like a timid mouse? What would it be like to be constantly giving your opinions loudly and assertively? What you are looking for is not the ideal state you want to be in. You are wanting to portray the extreme, total opposite of your first drawing.  Draw this image on the paper.

Some structure makes a doorway and enclosure where freedom can flourish.
Some structure makes a doorway and enclosure where freedom can flourish.

Step 3. Chances are, neither extreme will be a good space to be for long.  But both of them will have something good and something not-so-good about them. So now let an image come to you of what a good state to be in would be like for you. How much of each extreme do you actually want in your life right now? Let this image emerge on the paper.

Take your time with the process and let insights emerge. Your body and spirit knows what it needs and wants to move towards it – this is a way of listening to what it has to say.



2 Responses

  1. JoS

    I love the art exercise: May I print it out and put it on the wall in a students classroom and personal study room? A great way of helping young people connect with their emotions and process strong feelings! <3

    • The Spirit Of Us

      Hi Jo – yes, of course you can. Feel free to use anything you like – we’re into sharing! And young people have so many feelings they don’t have the words for. If it’s helpful for someone, that’s fantastic:)

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