Internal Changes and Emotional Plateaus

My most recent post addressed the topic of demographic shifts and the waxing and waning of personal interests and excitements. As an outgrowth of this, I choose to write about emotional plateaus—you know, those times when you feel notably neutral. Not happy, not sad, not even blah, just…dispassionate. Have you ever experienced this? When was the last time?


I believe that, sometimes, these plateaus can serve as indicators of significant internal change that is occurring. Not always, of course—sometimes when you’re feeling blah, that’s just what it is—but transitions in how we think or feel about ourselves and the world around of us often reveal themselves through a change in our reactions. Dare I suggest that you might be experiencing an internal growth spurt?


Recently, I asked someone what he was looking forward to in the coming months. His answer: nothing. And this is not somebody who’s depressed or bored or lacking in resources. “I’m too busy to be happy,” he explained. Huh.


Emotions can be inconvenient things, but they constitute a core part of the human experience. Mastering our emotional responses and learning how and when to use them appropriately is a key goal of Re-booters. All too often (and I’m guilty of this myself), people err by utilizing their emotions to assess and make decisions about key occurrences in their lives, in lieu of examining the issue from a more rational standpoint.


But reaching a state in our growth and maturity where we recognize that emotions are not always helpful or appropriate doesn’t condemn us to a life of emotional plateaus. I think that’s the fear of a lot of folks—they worry that, somehow, by “containing” their emotions they are consigning themselves to a flat lined existence. No, no, and no! Worry not, fellow Re-booters! Emotional plateaus and emotional maturity do not consign you to the life of Spock!


So, what positive purpose might an emotional plateau serve? Well, first of all, it can serve to reassure you and others that you’re not some wacked out, emotionally stunted psychotic. So that’s a good thing. Secondly, it may indicate that all is going well in your life. The wild, dramatic arcs we see on tv do not speak well for family life as a whole—I don’t care where the Kardashians go on vacation or how much they say family is priority for them. The sort of carrying on we witness in such dramas is reason enough to retreat from the world let alone seek out emotional plateaus. Thirdly, let’s turn this question on its head: what personal growth or maturity may evidence itself when you experience a plateau as opposed to becoming enraged over something that previously was a sore spot for you? And rounding out to home plate, is it possible that a plateau may serve the purpose of allowing your psyche to marshal its emotional resources when the matter at issue will demand much from you over the long haul?


Hmm. So, maybe feeling neutral isn’t so bad after all.


Now, what this post fails to address is whether or not we can continue to feel as giddily excited about anything as we did in years past. Alas, if my experience is a reflection of general opinion, I regret to say that no, I don’t believe I’ll ever again feel giddy with excitement. Happy? Yes. Eager? Uh huh. Ready to go? You bet. But out-of-this-world elation? Probably not. Not anymore. But, if it’s a choice between me as I am now or some version of me laughing maniacally, sure that whatever comes next is The Best Thing Ever, well, I gotta confess that the plateau is looking pretty good.


What about you? Where do you come down on this topic? What is your experience with emotional plateaus? Do you wish your reactions to certain people or situations hewed more closely to the way you reacted in the past? Can you articulate and recognize what internal changes you’ve made such that you no longer respond the way you used to? Would you go back to feeling the “old way” if you could?


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One Response to “Internal Changes and Emotional Plateaus”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    Love this post. I think plateaus are incredibly important in our growth. Not everything can be a constant uphill climb. Plateaus give us time to reflect, dig in, explore, revel, contemplate, or simply “be.” And it is during these times that SO much happens to us. We think we’re neutral, but I think much is actually brewing under the surface. Not in a ready-to-explode kind of way, but more like a good tomato sauce that’s been cooked and then needs to sit to allow all of the flavors to come together to become the delicious sauce it WILL eventually become. I think whenever we realize something, it’s because it’s already happened. When we realize we’re on a plateau that’s when we’re actually preparing for next steps. Emotional neutrality can be a good thing. And like anything else, we’ll go through ups and downs, and just plain flats. Too often we get focused on life needing to either be on the up or on the down, and we forget that the flat is a good place to be sometimes, too. And will you ever feel giddy again? I bet you just might…but probably not about the same things. Sparks in life come and go, just like anything else. You may not be giddy like a 6 year old, but then when you were giddy like a 16 year old you probably couldn’t be giddy like a 6 year old anymore either. I’m looking forward to finding ways to be giddy in every decade of my life. Experiencing the full spectrum of giddy is good–like a color, it has many shades.
    And now I’m digressing….thanks for your thought-provoking blogs!!

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