I am currently on a flight from Juneau Alaska to Portland Oregon, my home state.
My fear of heights is nearly debilitating. The word nearly is critical in this context. In fact, I am so afraid of heights that I won’t climb onto a chair to change a burned out light bulb (although I would if I could not find someone else who was willing to do it for me. I might pass out doing it, but when I came to, I would climb onto the chair again, and keep doing it until the bulb was changed). I use the term ‘nearly’ because I do not allow my fear of heights to stop me from living my life fully.
Emotions (fear as one example) are important in the sense that they tell us things about ourselves that pure intellect sometimes can’t, or doesn’t tell us.
Examples of this are plentiful: pain within a relationship can tell us that something needs to change. We might not be ready to accept on an intellectual level that things aren’t working with our spouse, partner, family member or friend – but our emotions can signal us that something is wrong. Emotions can inform us that we are unhappy enough in our work environment that it might be worth talking to our employer about things that can be done to make things more tolerable.
The goal, at least for me and for the people I counsel, is to find a balance between intellect and emotion. To use a rough analogy, if we injure our foot and it gets infected, the pain tells us that we need to act. Intellect then (hopefully) kicks in and we make the decision to go to the doctor to get treatment. If it weren’t for the pain, we might ignore the infection, thinking, “It’ll get better, this annoyance isn’t so bad.” If it weren’t for intellect, we might simply sit in pain, not knowing what to do to fix the problem, and putting it off, hoping it would go away.
Within relationships, we can use emotions to guide us. We can feel alienated from our partner or we can feel pain or loneliness or betrayal and we can look at those emotions and use them, in conjunction with our intellect, and relying heavily on our intellect to help us sort out what the issue is, what our potential contribution to the problem might be, how we might improve things and, to help us communicate with our loved one in order to mutually try to find ways to make things better.
Alternatively, we could rely solely on our feelings and if we allow them to, they can override our intellect to the point that we are rendered helpless and unable to communicate effectively—we’ve all seen examples of this in ourselves and in the people in our lives.
When emotions drive us, we scream and cry and throw tantrums which get us nowhere. Or we shut down completely and refuse to communicate at all. When we are in enough pain, it is difficult to fight the impulse to ignore intellect and swim in our feelings. Lives driven by emotion, and without intellectual balancing, are often chaotic, painful, and punctuated by endless broken relationships and lack of stability.
I began this blog by talking about my flight home from Juneau.
This trip was personal and not work related. I could have chosen to stay home and avoid the trip because of my fear of flying. I certainly wouldn’t have beat myself up if I’d chosen to do that, but if I had stayed home, I would have missed out on a wonderful adventure. I faced my fear and subsequently experienced a wonderful vacation.
This is an ongoing struggle for me. Every time I fly, I feel terror. But I keep flying.
Why do I do this? I enjoy being home. I love the routine of my daily life. I push myself to face this fear and fly because I want to live fully.
We are, all of us, alive for a limited period of time. We are all going to die. I want to live. I want you to live. I want us to experience the joy that life has to offer and to be willing to suffer when we have to, in order to experience that joy.
This isn’t just about fear of flying. This is about a way of living life. If you are miserable, please don’t continue to accept misery as the way you will spend your limited life on Earth. Use your emotion to guide you, and your intellect to help you navigate your life so that you can maximize your peace and joy and spread that peace and joy to the people around you.
If this plane crashes, I hope someone finds this blog and posts it for me because I mean every word. Even if the plane goes down, living, really living is worth every bit of loss.