Guts, grimaces and Undetermined Outcomes: Celebrating Emotions that Propel

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Let’s celebrate those often-unheralded moments of courage when someone simply puts one foot in front of the other. A teeth-gritting, gut tightening step out of what is no longer working. Outcome undetermined.

Do you know those moment? Sure, you do. Uncertainty. Unwillingness. A moment of longing to simply ‘stay with what is’ because to do otherwise will rock too many boats. We all know them.

My son took his first steps at 11 months, as he recovered from a nasty illness that had laid him low even as his developing body said “walk . . . it’s time!” The energy propelling that first step was anything but happy. Impatient! Annoyed! Discouraged! Hot, bothered and in pain! And with little encouragement from the hovering adults who felt it was ‘too soon’.

Outcome undetermined.

I remember the look of fierce determination on his face as he stepped forward ‘in spite of ‘, back then. I continue to see it in the faces of my loved ones, clients, strangers and occasionally in the mirror. Quiet moments of sheer strength and guts. Where the energy that propels comes from fear, or from outrage, or from readiness, or from bloody ‘fed up ness’. No happy face in sight.

Outcome undetermined.

Happy faces . . . hmmm.

Positive psychology has taken an unfortunate detour. We originally wanted to expand the focus of study from ‘what doesn’t work’ to include ‘what does’. I was part of that movement back in the very late ‘80’s and into the 90’s. Such a wonderful shift away from only looking at illness! As researchers and clinicians, we were able to include a wide range of human experiences and speak the language of courage, determination, acceptance, moral justice, passion and uncertainty.

This was new. We looked at and regained compassion for the range of human emotions and experiences.

And frankly, we stopped looking for ‘illness’ and pathology at every hint of discomfort or confusion. We began to remember the value of emotions that challenge and propel.

We’re living in tricky times. It’s happened before, but this time we know it. Social media ensures that. It seems timely to start celebrating and supporting those moments of courage when someone simply puts one foot in front of the other.

Teeth gritting, gut tightening steps out of what is no longer working.

Outcome undetermined.

Let’s do this together.

Paula Prober and I will be presenting a workshop “Living in Tumultuous Times” at the SENG conference in Houston. If you’re there, let’s talk. Or contact me.

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“Moving forward – one quirky step at a time!” — Maggie Brown


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