the territory of our feelings

emotional map

I found this fascinating map through a blog suggesting it was a map of neuroses. I think it’s mis-titled as a mental map. It seemed more like an emotional map and a fine and useful way to identify  feelings, and bring them all to consciousness so they don’t languish unexplored. I truly believe that the more familiarity we have with this territory then the less we will be trapped by our unconscious feelings and caught in the cycle of emotional reactivity: ensnared in forests of despair, about to be surrounded by a bush fire of fury, or afloat without consciousness on a sea of delight.

I reflected on my day and pondered the territory I had traversed. Snagged for a while in a bramble of anxiety until I decided to dedicate an hour or two to catch up with finances on Monday, then some deep delight as I followed a flowing path of creative writing, I found myself uncertain during a phone call where I had to pay heed to a startling sense of clarity and not mind where that led (a later phone call revealed the destination was somewhere very good), followed by a bit of subtle satisfaction as I washed all my floors–they are gleaming now in gratitude.

Those of us with a more graphic imagination may want to draw a map of feelings like the one from Anne Emond or picture a day or month or year in the life of feelings, as a garden of different flowers, plants and patches of earth, or a conversation with a busload of characters. We can dare to play in these slightly scary territories and see what our imaginations reveal. Our feeling life can offer wisdom when we allow a little courageous exploration. The dragons needn’t scare us. Rilke reminds us:

We have no reason to harbour any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.