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The Pursuit of Emotional Equilibrium

Since 2020 we have continued to have displaced norms, with disrupted routines and uncertainties at our feet. This has prompted many of us to question, “What is a balanced life? And will I find it?” In times of uncertainty, life can feel tenuous.  We avoid emotional extremes and seek a stable middle ground, but is this the best way to live? Instead, could we choose to embrace the highs and lows we experience?

Emotional extremes, both Highs and lows, can feel scary, uncertain, and overwhelming.  People often spend time “chasing” their highs (drugs, extreme sports, peak prof) - in ways that can feel out of control. Fostering our ability to navigate (survive) is the first step towards being (thriving) with all different types of emotions. 


Benefits of Emotional Peaks

Research has consistently highlighted the benefits associated with embracing emotional peaks. A correlation exists between experiencing emotional highs and achieving positive life outcomes, as demonstrated by studies conducted by Cohn et al. (2011) and Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener (2005). These positive outcomes affect various areas of life, including enhanced mental well-being, enriched interpersonal relationships, and an overall heightened sense of success. Interestingly, the findings challenge the conventional notion that success is the primary driver of happiness. Instead, the evidence suggests a reversed relationship, wherein happiness serves as a precursor to and predictor of positive life outcomes. This paradigm shift underscores the importance of not constraining oneself from activities that bring joy, as doing so may lead to enduring consequences for one's holistic well-being.

In essence, the research proves that engagement in activities contributes significantly to an individual's overall life satisfaction and success. The acknowledgment of this dynamic interplay between positive emotions and life outcomes encourages a reevaluation of traditional narratives surrounding achievement and happiness, emphasizing the role of emotional well-being in shaping a fulfilling and prosperous life.


Benefits of Emotional Valleys

As a society, we are inclined to sidestep or repress negative emotions. Scholarly studies underscore the crucial significance of accepting and comprehending these emotions for achieving optimal mental health (Ford et al., 2018). Research reveals that the act of repressing negative emotions not only poses a potential risk to one's mental well-being but may also have significant repercussions on overall health and longevity (Grossarth-Maticek, 1980; Mund and Mitte, 2011; Chapman et al., 2014). The findings suggest that embracing the full spectrum of emotions, even the uncomfortable ones, contributes to a healthier psychological state.

Executive Director at Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, Michelle Palmer, LICSW shares that the act of grieving and experiencing sadness, with, can highlight the unique purpose of these peak emotions. Rather than being viewed solely as undesirable states, these emotions play a crucial role in helping individuals comprehend the boundaries of their capacity for love. The acknowledgment and acceptance of negative emotions, therefore, emerge not only as integral components of mental well-being but as avenues for profound self-discovery and understanding.

Mastering the art of navigating our emotions is an essential life skill. Ideally, we should strive to be present with our emotions – experiencing them fully without being overwhelmed or controlled by them. This requires the proactive development of emotional agility, similar to building skills before encountering a challenging task. By intentionally practicing to sit with uncomfortable emotions, a valuable discovery emerges: discomfort fuels awareness. Immersing ourselves within the range of emotions, even the unpleasant ones, allows for deeper learning and understanding of ourselves and the world around us.


Living the Complete Emotional Spectrum

Amid ongoing uncertainties, we are wired to maintain emotional equilibrium i. However, perpetually steering clear of emotional extremes comes at a cost.  We need to proactively build our capacity to embrace the full spectrum of emotions, from the elation of joy to the profound depths of heartache.  Feeling the full spectrum of emotions opens opportunities for deeper understanding and creates meaningful connections within our lives. As we navigate the enduring impact of the past few years, may we understand the value of each emotional high and low that comes to pass.



- Cohn MA, Fredrickson BL, Brown SL, Mikels JA, Conway AM. "Happiness unpacked: positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience." Emotion. 2009 Jun;9(3):361-8.

- Lyubomirsky S, King L, Diener E. "The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success?" Psychol Bull. 2005 Nov;131(6):803-55.

- Ford BQ, Lam P, John OP, Mauss IB. "The psychological health benefits of accepting negative emotions and thoughts: Laboratory, diary, and longitudinal evidence." J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018 Dec;115(6):1075-1092.

- Grossarth-Maticek R. "Psychosocial predictors of cancer and internal diseases: An overview." Psychother Psychosom. 1980;33(3):122-8.

- Mund M, Mitte K. "The costs of repression: a meta-analysis on the relation between repressive coping and somatic diseases." Health Psychol. 2012 Sep;31(5):640-9.

- Chapman BP, Fiscella K, Kawachi I, Duberstein P, Muennig P. "Emotion suppression and mortality risk over a 12-year follow-up." J Psychosom Res. 2013 Oct;75(4):381-5.