by Marti Eicholz, Ph.D.
We each have physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual "rooms" within us that combine to make us who we are. The doors that provide access to each of our internal rooms are made of varying substances, and are created and developed during our early childhood. What is in our rooms will determine how difficult it will be to gain access to what lies within.
If we want more joy and balance in our lives, we need to learn how to open the doors and move from room to room more freely. We need to be comfortable with the contents of each of our rooms and maintain some kind of equilibrium among them. We will examine each of the four predominant behavioral patterns and their corresponding dimensions: dominance and our physical element, extroversion and our emotional element, structure and our mental element, and patience and our spiritual element. In doing so, we will increase our self-awareness and empower ourselves to take action to modify our perspective and behavior.
We have no idea what lies hidden in our psyches until we start delving, exploring and poking around in new places. This explains why we can't truly evolve until we know what we're working with inside. Once we have an idea what lies behind our doors, we can make wise and informed decisions about what we want to do with that particular arena of our lives.
Education, training, religion, philosophy, psychology, meditation, and self-work are all forms of opening a door. Making the effort to start an exercise program or eating more healthfully are ways to open our physical door. Enrolling in a class or reading a book on a new subject will open our mental door a little wider. Healing the scars that we carry around from childhood is a form of opening our emotional door. Taking a walk alone and self-reflecting, keeping a journal, or learning to meditate or pray are ways to open up our spiritual gateways.
These four rooms represent different facets of our being, and they're all useful at different times in our lives. Our ultimate goal is to become more versatile in coping with our life situations by being able to understand and remodel our rooms to match current needs and goals.
Accompanying our orderliness is often an underlying sense of fear; the problem with correctness is that it's so easy to be incorrect.
All door opening is valuable; none should be viewed as more difficult or significant than another. Also remember that just because opening a door is easy for us does not mean that it will be an effortless task for someone else.
Every person is an extremely complex system, and even small changes in one area affect every other area of our being. A change in our physical status or even in our attitude toward our physical status will bring about simultaneous changes in our heart and mind. For example, think about how we sink into the doldrums when we have the flu, or how awake and alive our mind is after we've just finished a rigorous physical workout.
Similarly, an emotional or mental disturbance will manifest in our body. This is the basis for the modern branches of psychosomatic medicine and holistic healing practices. Happy, contented people simply don't get sick as frequently as stressed-out, miserable types. An improvement in any part of an individual's physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual being results in similar improvements throughout the system.
Our Physical/Dominance Room
The first door we will open is our physical being, which is associated with the behavioral trait of dominance. This is our "power center," where we draw upon the elemental energy necessary to make decisions, accomplish tasks, and exercise our will. It's a realm in which some people are very comfortable, a place where they enjoy existing; but to others, it's a place of pain, either due to illness or injury and either currently or from past trauma.
The style and intensity with which we experience this physical realm can be viewed on a spectrum, and the direction we consistently choose explains a lot about who we are and how we cope with situations that arise in our lives. We either handle situations by taking control or by waiting for someone else to lead the way.
When we're in the physical element of our psyche, we're likely to become angry; vice versa, whenever we're angry, it's because we want a change in our physical environment. These two things, dominance and anger, are inextricably linked.
Our Emotional/Extroversion Room
We're going to enter our emotional "room" next; this is where we experience love, understand our connections with others, and enjoy the power of our emotions. This is also the area where we relax, are playful, and have fun. The ends of the spectrum here are defined by how much we need other people in our lives.
Extroverts and introverts seem to have different biological requirements. Extroverts get more energy from being around other people, and get sad and lonely when they're forced into solitude. This explains why they want to do everything surrounded by a group. But introverts feel drained when they're with other people, needing time alone to "recharge their batteries."
It's important for us to avoid judging our place on the continuum from introversion to extroversion and, instead, simply notice where we feel the most comfortable. We should then examine how far we would like to extend our mobility in this room for us to be able to better meet life's challenges the way we'd like.
We all have our own ways of reacting to emotional and social setbacks, and we all carry around a certain amount of emotional "baggage" with us from growing up, no matter how hard we try to deal with issues in adulthood. These skeletons in our emotional closet can create severe imbalances in our approach to relationships with other people. We need to name and define our skeletons, and then evaluate the extent to which they are related to our current issues. By spending more quality time in our emotional room, we'll acquire the skills to deal with these haunting memories, so that they eventually have less power to color our present actions.
Our Structure/Mental Room
The third main chamber within us, our structure room, corresponds to our mental element and the need for order and correctness. It is also important to realize that accompanying our orderliness is often an underlying sense of fear; the problem with correctness is that it's so easy to be incorrect. Therefore, the more we're ruled by our desire for organization, the more we're also vulnerable to fear and worry and manifesting "dis-orders" such as compulsiveness, perfectionism, and hypersensitivity to criticism.
Some people are simply not disposed to an orderly existence. They feel that it's a big imposition to show up for work at a regular time, wear a uniform, or perform routine tasks. In fact, they take great pleasure in proving their independence by rebelling against many of these social demands. But it's not only rebellion that exists at the opposite end of the conformity spectrum, but also a craving for adventure and exploration.
The question, then, becomes how we dwell in our mental room and to what extent our mental activities are controlled by fear. Is our mental room a methodical place, or is it full of inventiveness? Is the fear that exists caused by an anxiety about possible mistakes or an underlying refusal to be fenced in by convention? Let's nudge this door to our mental room open and ask if we're comfortable with its contents and whether our current existence is in balance with the rest of our rooms.
Our Spiritual/Patience Room
The fourth element corresponds with the behavioral trait of patience, and brings with it an appreciation for harmony and peace. Our spiritual room is our healing room. It's the place we go for inner nurturing, comfort, and tranquillity, but like anything else, we can take this detachment too far. We can become stoical to the point that we aren't feeling real emotions anymore and are numb to the full experience of life around us, or we can become so complacent that we are incapable of making decisions and acting in our own behalf. This spiritual room of our being is of the utmost importance to our happiness.
Let's all take an hour this week and reflect on the quality of living we've created in each of our four rooms. Do we enjoy dwelling in all of them equally? Are there some rooms from which we want to escape or in which we'd prefer to lock ourselves forever?
The first step to a more balanced existence is becoming aware of where we stand in our rooms and whether it is where we want to be with each. From there, we can figure out our plan of action to make the desired modifications in order to become more comfortable in our rooms, as well as create a working balance among the four dimensions. It is a process of action toward our highest potential that begins with self-awareness.
Marti Eicholz, Ph.D., national speaker, radio personality, consultant, and author, is founder and executive director of the Institute for Transformation in Kirkland, Washington, a research and educational organization dedicated to maximizing human potential. Her most recent book is Transformation: Opening Doors to Your Highest Potential. Learn more about the Institute for Transformation at their Web site, http://www.transformation.org.