You’ve probably seen weight lifters (or folks at the gym), and what their face looks like on that last repetition: veins popping out of their foreheads, everything shaking and straining, as if the muscles in the face are somehow exerting force on the bar they’re trying to lift.
The face of a martial artist, on the other hand, is calm. The muscles she uses, the momentum she creates, are limited to what is needed to produce the desired force. There’s no spillover, nothing is wasted.
The same thing happens to us emotionally.
When we find ourselves under pressure, or provoked, or in a period when the stakes are high, we act as if we need to flex all our emotional muscles: we bark orders at the people around us, we replay conversations in our head, we cannot sleep.
This overflow of emotion, and the resulting unproductive behaviors, is repetitive and exhausting. It’s not just that it doesn’t help us, it actively wears us down.
It can feel impossible to stop acting like a weight-lifter with our emotions: that first wave of emotions triggers more emotions which trigger more… soon enough, metaphorical veins are popping out of our heads, and the anxiety, frustration, and fear all feel so real.
But, once we’ve felt all of these feelings, we do have the option of letting them go.
It’s not easy, but perhaps it helps to remember: my job at this moment is to do less.
Practicing when the stakes are lower is another good place to start.