Are you over reliant on your Emotional Autopilot?
Part-and-parcel of the ‘deal’ of being a human being, is that we are also ‘emotional beings’.
Recently, over the last number of decades, since the 1980’s, there have been growing campaigns drawing our attention to our physical health. We’re much more aware of our weight, body-fat, cholesterol and calorie intake than ever before. Wherever we look, we are constantly reminded of the importance of keeping fit, our diet, water intake, alcohol consumption, BMI and so on. The outcome of this? We’ve all become more physically health conscious, fitter, and alert to warning signs, regardless of whether we heed the advice or not! But what of our emotional health?
Physical health is much more tangible than emotions – perhaps because its outward, and therefore we can physically see its effects. We can see and measure the benefits of taking care of our physical selves; our weight decreases, we build muscle, become fitter. Suddenly climbing 4 flights of stairs no longer leave us feeling breathless! Emotional health, on the other hand, that’s a different story.
Our emotional worlds are internal, and, for the most part, private. Much of what goes on in our here is private, that it happens outside our awareness! Our feelings and thoughts happen automatically – as if being managed by an Autopilot. The thing about Autopilots is that they often conceal from us the complex world that they manage. Take, for example, the Autopilot on a modern airliner. The humans flying the plane have become so over reliant on it that there are documented cases where a problem arose, and Autopilot managed it until ‘it’ became overwhelmed. At this point, it passed control back to the humans – taking them by surprise by throwing up with it an array of warnings and buzzers, leaving the crew feeling overwhelmed, confused and out of their depth!
We can parallel this with our emotional health. As a counsellor I spend much of my time familiarising people with their emotions, and oftentimes, particularly with men, I feel that as I do I’m guiding them into new, unexplored territory! It’s like they’ve rarely taken ‘manual control’ of their emotional selves. Perhaps lots of men, like Pilots, are reliant on [emotional] Autopilots. Many don’t realise that there is a problem until the situation has grown to become critical – often not seeing the many building warning signs in the lead up – because the Auto pilot has been concealing them! Warning signs like that niggling feeling in your head, or a heavy feeling in your chest, tummy or back. Perhaps you find that you’re not interested in the things that used to fill you with joy, or you’re shutting down – disconnecting – from those around you?