Evolving Ourselves as Emotional Beings

Feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something, or not supposed to do something your emotional guidance system lets you know.

—Oprah Winfrey

Several years ago on a road trip with my family, we stopped at a rest area for that necessary bio break. Because I had been driving, I got out to do yoga postures, to stretch and relax my body. I looked over. An adult male got out of a minivan a few yards away roaring like an angry bear at three boys. The youngest boy wailed as (I assumed) his father held his arm in a twisted, painful-looking vice grip which almost lifted the little boy, probably four years old, off the ground as they walked over to a grassy area. “Get on the ground and give me 100 push-ups, NOW!” he hollered. The two older boys immediately complied. The father continued to hold the youngest in that twisted grip. As the dad yelled angry, awful words at the boys, the youngest continued to wail in fear and pain.

With a pounding heart and a passionate commitment, I walked over and joined the two older boys on the ground. I did the push-ups, the sit-ups while whispering quietly to the boys. “You’ve got this. I’m doing this with you. I know he’s angry, but you don’t have to believe his cruel words.” While doing the sit-ups, I noticed that the four-year-old now hiccupped with a tear-stained face.  His round, saucer eyes stared dumbfounded at me. The dad had released his vice grip and stared at me, also. He stopped verbally vomiting the cruel words about the boys. While he continued to call out a few more exercises, I noticed his body posture had softened a bit. After a few more minutes, I popped up on my feet, calmly looked at the dad, and told the boys to take good care of themselves. I turned and jogged back to our minivan.

When I returned and climbed into the driver’s seat, I heard both of my children, son in middle school, daughter in high school, excitedly talk over each other.  “Mom, I cannot believe you did that! That was so amazing! Weren’t you scared? Wow, that dad was really angry, but he stopped yelling and hurting the littlest boy! Wow!”

“Yeah, that dad was really angry. I trusted that my presence could be a pattern interruption. I cannot bear to watch children being abused.”  I’m certain neither of my children has ever forgotten what they witnessed.

A few days ago I had a fascinating conversation with my now-adult son, who works with young men who have multiple challenges. His passion to deescalate emotional tensions through body language, facial expressions, energy presence excited me. He offered how our body postures can send powerful messages to other human beings when we aren’t speaking any words. He shared about pattern interruptions including his ability to be comical in certain situations, how his humor consistently de-escalated what might have been a tense interaction.

My son also talked about the benefits of being able to notice his thoughts and emotional states, to notice his body sensations, and to keep himself in a place of dynamic equanimity.

We discussed positive reinforcement for calm states rather than resisting or clashing with explosive or self-harming states of another human being. He observed that the young men he works with are often using bad behavior as a way to get attention. If the negative behaviors get someone’s attention, people will often persist in the negative behavior. However, if the healthier behaviors get reinforced (I see you being calm in your body—even if at first, it’s for 15 seconds-), the underlying yearning or need for attention begins to be met. Further discussions can take place about additional needs and challenges as the individual’s bandwidth for the healthier behavior expands.

What you resist persists. What you look at disappears.

—Neale Donald Walsch

If at our core, even as adults, we yearn to be “gotten” emotionally and energetically with empathy, noticed for the human beings that we are, and “heard” from an entire body language perspective as well as our words, then what a rich gift to hold space, to discern with empathy, to deeply listen with our whole bodies and hearts to another human being. When we can emotionally regulate ourselves from the inside out, we become an energy presence, modeling, guiding other people to see their way through their own internal processes.

If the experience of trust got ruptured along the way to adulthood, then the work of restoring trust in interactions with people becomes essential to our growth and evolution. Learning ways to feel all our feelings without hurting ourselves or other people, connecting with that centered, neutral place deep inside ourselves, and compassionately modeling this in our interactions can be a profound pathway.

A centered, loving, open emotional energy presence can be felt before we even open our mouths to speak. Through receptive, non-threatening body posture, soft eyes, and welcoming facial expressions we communicate volumes. Our whole bodies can be instruments by which we communicate dignity, courage, empathy, love, and compassion in our noisy, sometimes volatile, ever-changing world. 


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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    • As someone who knows the harm of rage, I find myself compelled to intervene when I can to diffuse volatile situations. It’s important to take in the full context of the situation. Thank you so much for your kind words, Larry.

  1. Laura, thank you for writing about this experience and sharing with us the importance of non-verbal communication. Moreover, what you did that day exemplifies compassion, and I imagine that those boys will always remember the person who joined with them that day – and the father probably does too. Hopefully, he gained some perspective from your selfless act of kindness. You have such an open heart and loving presence, and I thank you for sharing it with us.

    I’m so glad that this is the first article I read today. You have made an impression on my heart. Thanks for being you, Laura.

    • Oh, Laura, thank you for taking the time to read this, to offer your kind reflections here, that it “made an impression on your heart.” I believe the recent conversation with my son, how passionately he shared about what he’s experiencing now as an adult in his work with the young men with multiple challenges sparked that story to bubble up from all those DVRs inside of me. I appreciate you very much, too, Laura.

  2. Oh my goodness Laura I would be by your side joining in too… that’s an amazing story and I adore you already, it doesn’t surprise me as your true goodness always shines from the core and that is your strength. I’m so glad that I got to read this. This type of action in life does make an impact… and in the most profound way too! Thank you so much for this. Our bodies do have a language that is interpreted without words. Great use of yours! The body is the soul’s .. use it well. 😀🙏

    • Oh, Paula, I know you would be by my side in this experience-you, your words, your poetry, your videos, your life force-mind, heart, body, and soul shine so brightly for dignity for all human beings and so much more. Even now I’m struck by how much people can communicate with their entire selves-sometimes beyond words spoken…How important for us to know we are more than just words or thoughts (mindset)-we arrived in these incredible bodies-that can be used for rising strong and holding one another high. Thank you so much for all your kind reflections that you’ve offered, the loving support, for being you!

  3. Oh, thank you, Darlene. In many ways this experience felt like a paying it forward from years earlier when a painter walked up to my son, who was a toddler at the time and having a full blown tantrum outside next to our vehicle (we were in transition to go to the grocery store-my daughter was buckled in her car seat). The painter-he was dressed in all white painters’ gear-, like an angel who emerged from seemingly no where-he crouched down next to my son and spoke gently, softly, kindly to him. His presence and words completely shifted my little boys’ meltdown into mesmerized staring accompanied by hiccuping. I had felt scared, helpless in the space of my son’s anger—other than to wait it out. I felt certain neighbors were going to come out of their homes because my son screamed so loudly. The painter’s energy radiated tenderness, compassion. He said to me, “Parenting is the hardest job in the world. You’re a good mom.” I cried with relief and utter gratitude. Sometimes I truly believe we are being held by one another and that’s simply what there is to do. Thank you, again, for all your kind thoughts and reflections. I appreciate you ever so much.

  4. Laura,

    I was about to say you were amazing as I read the ingenious way you handled the situation with the little boys, and I see your children witnessed your amazement. Indeed, you are. Maybe, that father will think twice going forward. We will never know. What I do believe is that the children will always remember your inspiring act of kindness! Your action may have created a Butterfly Effect later down the road. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story from the remarkable you!💖