How to Climb Up the Ladder of Healing and Growth

In any journey, it’s nice to have a map. Healing and growth is no exception. In this essay I employ a system of classifying your emotions, to help you see where you are in your journey and what’s next in your evolution.

In a hurry? Read the digest version.

Elsewhere, I defined what I called Emotional Guidance Principle, the concept that fulfilling life is built through pursuing of good Level 2 feelings (“Satisfaction”).

Here, I want to continue our examination of the emotional terrain, as a tool to discern where we are in our growth and what our next steps may be.  Anyone can find themselves broken and unfulfilled whatever their life circumstances are — but once you realize where you are, you can also start to discover where you need to go in order to further move up the path to healing and fulfillment.

The Emotional Guidance Scale

In the book “Ask and It Is Given,” authors Esther and Jerry Hicks discuss the concept of Emotional Guidance Scale. Now, this book is about Law of Attraction — but when I came across this system, I felt that it is a great way to articulate the whole concept of healing and growth I’ve been discussing here at OBV. Whether you buy into the Law of Attraction or not is irrelevant, as this is simply a scale, a measuring stick with which you can figure out your current location in the healing/growth spectrum.

So, here is the Abraham-Hicks Emotional Guidance Scale, slightly modified by yours truly. 😉

Level Prevailing Emotional State
3 Joy, Empowerment, Freedom, Love, Appreciation
2 Passion
Enthusiasm, Eagerness, Happiness
1 Positive Expectation/Belief
Optimism
Hopefulness
0 Contentment
-1 Boredom
-2 Pessimism
Frustration, Irritation, Impatience
“Overwhelmment”
-3 Disappointment
Doubt
Worry
Discouragement
-4 Blame
Anger
Revenge
Hatred/Rage
-5 Jealousy, Envy
Insecurity, Guilt, Unworthiness
Fear
-6 Depression, Despair, Grief, Powerlessness, Hopelessness, Resignation

Healing and Growth Diagram

How to Interpret the Emotional Guidance Scale

The key is to identify the prevailing mood or feeling — your “default” mode. Obviously, we oscillate among various levels — so identify your current range. People associate various words with various feelings, so the specific order or word descriptions may be slightly different to you. Don’t worry about the specifics. Simply identify the general area where you currently fall.

Also, being in the positive don’t mean that you don’t momentarily experience “negative” emotions — in fact, you do, perhaps more fully than when you’re at a lower level. The difference is that the more developed and secure you are, the more you’ll immediately allow yourself to feel and express whatever emotions you feel — grief of losing a loved ones, anger at injustice, disappointment at unmet expectations. But because you are able to fully feel them right away, you’ll bounce back sooner to your default mode. Even though momentarily you may feel sad, angry, or disappointed, you’ll not equate that as an unhappy state of being.

Another observation Abraham-Hicks makes is that you cannot sustain the state that is very far from where your default mode is. For example, a person at level -5 cannot all the sudden spring up to level 2. Momentarily this is possible, (especially if you have bi-polar tendencies) but you cannot stay there.

My observation, having watched my children, is that a baby born out of healthy, normal birth starts somewhere around Level 1 and perhaps low 2. They are definitely uncompromised, and have their default set on “happy” as long as their fundamental needs are met. And that’s the reason why I numbered the levels the way I did, which is to demonstrate where we fall in relation to the original default mode — as the degrading and falling down occurs after we are born.

My Journey Upward

I consider the birth of first child, my daughter, as the turning point in my life. That was almost 5 years ago. I was pretty darn near the bottom back then, though I never really stayed at Level -6. During my worst era, I was oscillating between -2 and -6, with the center around -5, with occasional, very brief glimpses of Level 1. But every time I have a “high” I would tell myself “it won’t last long.” Does that voice of pessimism seem familiar to you? It was using a correct observation but in a disempowering way.

From the default mode of insecurity and unworthiness, I climbed up to doubt and worry. I don’t know if I ever stayed at Level -4, though I can see how those emotions feel better than those in Level -5. It was a gradual process, and I didn’t recognize it as “getting better,” though I always thought that I like myself as of right now better than me from yesterday. Changing external circumstances did contribute greatly — I’ll tell the details elsewhere, but when I got a steady full-time job for the first time in over 4 years in 2005, it was a step up, reaching closer to Level 0. When we moved to a better house in 2006, I was definitely staying more at Level 0. We moved again in the winter of 2007, and after slightly bumpy transition, I’m now securely in the positives — between 1 and 2, with frequent visits upward (though not without moments of dropping downward, too).

Those big changes notwithstanding, my experience has been that growth and healing is very gradual. I definitely noticed that my default mode was now set to happy — when people ask me “how are you?” I most often answer “I’m doing great!” There are moments of dip, but I seem to bounce back to being happy sooner or later. I can attribute some of the improvements to the moves and changes, but the improvements were never instant — it was more like, we make changes, and slowly I start feeling the improvements.

I’m already looking forward to the next change, which will bump me squarely up into the upper 2 to 3 range. And I also know that there are places to go beyond what I charted out on the scale. Beyond Level 3 there are stratospheres that I can climb up to and explore (though our language doesn’t seem to have words for them — perhaps because not many of us go up and stay there), just as there are places lower you can fall down to beyond Level -6 (which is an area of serious mental sicknesses).

Using Emotional Guidance Scale to Guide Your Healing and Growth

Each level you climb up will feel “better.” By that I don’t necessarily mean you’ll feel happy — but the higher you go, the more empowered/energized/relieved you’ll feel. In my experience, relief is the big keyword in identifying state that belongs to a level higher than where you are. Whatever makes you feel lighter, relaxed, more buoyant is the experience you want to give yourself, to heal from our wounds and move up to higher plateaus. (Note that feeling relaxed may not necessarily mean actually relaxing. If you’re in a stagnant place, sometimes kicking up to a higher activity level makes you feel more relaxed/relieved inside, as being stuck feels burdensome and “tightening.” You can read more about this apparent contradiction in the previous post. )

Abraham-Hicks are teachers in the New Thoughts movement, so they focus on guiding your thoughts to a level that is immediately above where your default mode is. They teach us to observe our thoughts and consciously choose thoughts that feel more relieving. I’m sure we can all agree that seeing the glass as half-full is a better-feeling thought than seeing it as half-empty.

While I don’t disagree with what they say, I would like to add some personal insights to that. A suggestion like theirs can be easily misunderstood to mean that we shouldn’t feel the feelings of where we are. In my experience, it’s not very helpful to tell ourselves that our current feelings are “invalid” and should not be felt. This leads to suppressed feelings, which festers and rots and sinks deeper inside, dragging your default mode downward, instead of up.

It may sound indulgent, but at lower level, the beginning of healing is to accept where we are and embrace our feelings. Cry, complain, moan, scream — instead of denying ourselves the full extent of our hurtful feelings, we need to allow it to be what it is, an all-consuming, desperate, overwhelming force. If your default mode is set to despair, it’s no good to pretend otherwise.

But through the whole-hearted expression of your anguish, you do need to look for a “better” feeling place — something that gives you any inklings of relief. It may mean watching mindless TV. It may mean sleeping. Eating junk food is better than being suicidal. Societies condemn such acts because if you’re around -1 or -2, such actions drag you down. But if you’re at Level -5, then acts that get you to -3 is an improvement. Give yourself permission to indulge and wallow. Do whatever it takes to feel relieved.

But know that once you climb up to that level, then the actions that belong to that state may hold you back from growing further. You need to continuously assess where you are and seek new actions and experience that get you higher from where you are. I’m sure you can begin to see the ever-changing state of healing and growth. What worked for you to get you to where you are will not work in getting you higher. Climbing up the stairs of human development requires you to constantly reinvent what you do with yourself.

Conclusion

Understanding is the beginning of solutions, so this scale of healing and growth spectrum is a great starting point to figure out what is next in your upward journey. First, identify and accept where you are. Then identify what actions and experience help you feel the feelings right above where you’re currently at. Remember that change is gradual — on a day-to-day basis you may not see any difference, or occasionally you may even go through regression. Don’t lose hope. By constantly seeking out relieving experience, you’ll climb up the ladder of our healing and growth.

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20 Responses to How to Climb Up the Ladder of Healing and Growth

  1. Pingback: Our Best Version | This Is the Sound of Your Ripping Yourself into Pieces (Digest)

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  4. Phenomenal post, Ari. What I find most interesting here is how you’ve elaborated on, or articulated on a system where people can identify something solid, something tangible.

    In other words, many people might sense that they feel certain ways, and that they need to do certain things that might lead them ultimately to greater happiness in life.

    But your article reminds us all not to look too far up, but instead, to just focus on things just above us, the things that are in reach.

    For example, your use of junk food versus suicide. To say that eating junk food is bad and so should be avoided, is to assume that everyone is in a position to even want to eat healthy. But that’s not necessarily true. Sometimes eating food that our taste buds like feels good enough to stop and make us think of something pleasurable.

    A completely honest, and quite useful, post.

    Dereck Coatney´s last blog post..Can Twitter Help Promote This Fundraiser?

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Hi Dereck,

      Glad you thought it was a useful post. I certainly thought the idea was illuminating, and it made sense. This is what’s fascinating and difficult about personal growth. One advise does not fit all. Everyone’s at different places (in fact, as Avani and I discussed, everyone’s at multiple spots in the spectrum at once) — and as we change, so do our task/challenge to go a step further.

      It goes on to show that ultimately, individualized approach is ideal for personal growth (and studying, too, like school — mass education cannot be as effective as individualized approach).

      ari

  5. Cynthia says:

    Ari, loved this post as it is relevant both to my personal life and to my work.
    I’ve been at -6 and experiencing anger gave me the motivation to start my journey moving up the scale. Learning positive ways to focus my anger was transformational!

    In my work, I advocate for and case manage adults with disabilities (I’m a person with multiple non-visible disabilities and a chronic illness) and extreme income challenges for a very small nonprofit. It’s social services with a twist, because I have a wonderful boss who lets me do whatever is needed – and everything is based on Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.

    Typically when I begin work with each client, they are at level -6 or -5. My own life experiences enable me to intuitively meet them at whatever stage they’re in, where I can both validate them and begin helping them progress up the scale. The changes that I am blessed to see in their physical & nonphysical manifestations are awe inspiring. Ah, the stories that I could tell!!

    “Enabling them to live poorly is still better than letting them die. I’ve seen despair and it really hurts…but the way to heal is to embrace and feel it fully…so sometimes you need breaks, a temporary relief, a distraction that may come in the form of some indulgences.”
    This is so very true, and I find that once a person has been validated (and validation really is key to everything else!) and enabled, they typically begin intuitively instituting changes that move them into more positive choices and actions.

    Thanks again for a wonderful post. Found you through a comment you made on the All Is Within blog – my lucky day!

    Cynthia
    also new on Twitter – http://twitter.com/Hyacinths4
    and http://twitter.com/PeepsHelpPeeps

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Well, the day you left this comment was my lucky day for being found by you. No, I mean that. You are exactly the type of person I wanted to reach, affirm, and work with.

      Yes, validation is always powerful — at least for me, that is the #1 thing that really helps me. Whenever I’m saying something, I’m looking for validation. Someone to tell me that what I’m saying or feeling is valid, that I have reasons to think/feel that way, and that it’s OK to think/feel so. I really need to write a blog post about this….

      Anyway, I really hope you keep in touch, Cynthia — I followed your Twitter profiles. If there is anything I can do to assist your work — like telling your stories or getting people’s attention on something — please let me know.

      ari

      • Cynthia says:

        Ari – you made my week!! I was so happy to see your response, and deeply appreciate the offer to assist me in my work – WOW! I’m also happy that you’re following me on Twitter (as I am following you) – and that you’ve expressed the hope that I stay in touch. I will do my best to make that happen. Many blessings!

  6. Avani-Mehta says:

    I follow your thought process and quite agree with it. Now it makes sense why two people can describe me in a completely different manner – such that no one can tell that it’s the same person both are talking about.

    As I continue thinking on the same lines, I feel we have created multiple worlds within our own world. We have different relationship/associations with each of these worlds. And that is the reason, we are at different levels at different times (based on which world are we in).

    My take on the same was quite different and simple. As we strive to move forward to a higher level, we pick up one area to focus on. So say even if I am at level 2, I might be experiencing and getting good at love (which is on level 1). Over a period of time, with love, empowerment, freedom etc will automatically come – since they form one unit and are mutually dependant on each other. Similar logic for an area on a negative level – I might have found work around to it or have learnt to avoid it well and hence one aspect from that level will still remains within me till I choose to move forward and beyond it.

    Avani-Mehta’s last blog post..How To Pick Your First Anger Management Area – Anger Management Series Part IV

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Hey Avani,

      Right. It makes me think of the analogy of “inner child” — I can visualize how we may have not one but several inner children stuck inside. They represent the underdeveloped areas of ourselves. And they are at varying levels. I know, for example, that I used to have a teenager me stuck inside when it came to music — rock music being something we acquire taste for around that age — that led me to make a lot of immature decisions. I finally realized he was there and nurtured him to grow up more — and I feel less insecure about that area of my life.

      It’s rather fascinating, don’t you think?

      ari

  7. Maya says:

    Hi Ari,

    Thank you for writing this post. I am so glad you took the time to write it.
    I will reference this post in one of my upcoming posts – where I introduce the framework I have built over the years. This is something I would love to sit down and have a lengthy conversation about …

    Now I cannot wait to publish that post. Thank you once again.

    -Maya

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Hi Maya,

      I found the scale fascinating as well, as I can see how well it applies in real life. I look forward to reading your post! I am subscribed to your blog, but please feel free to e-mail me when you publish it as well.

      ari

  8. Pingback: Healing Your Worries in the Wilderness | Rebel Zen

  9. Quick comment: I wanted you to know that I read this, and have several things to say, but am swamped. It might be a day or two, but I’ll be back with a lengthy comment. 🙂

    Cheers friend.

    Dereck Coatney’s last blog post..An Open Letter to John Chow

  10. Avani-Mehta says:

    Hi Ari,
    I simply loved this post of yours. Quite thought provoking. This map surely charts out a path of how to move forward in life. One question that I have regarding this – is it possible for us to be on multiple levels at the same time?

    I could identify myself with multiple levels as of now and even in past. So just wanted to know whether this is possible, or I need to do some more thinking.

    Avani-Mehta’s last blog post..How To Pick Your First Anger Management Area – Anger Management Series Part IV

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Hi Avani,

      It’s good to hear from you! I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. And thanks for a good question.

      Yes, I do think it’s possible for someone to be on multiple levels at the same time. There are two scenarios I can think of. One, I addressed already — having a central “default” mode and oscillating back and forth.

      The other scenario is the one I think you’re referring to, though. And that is — some of us have multiple versions of ourselves inside. For example, the “work” me is different from “home” me — the variation is small and the core is the same, but I am aware that I feel differently, and I say/act in different ways. For some people, this variation is greater — so much so that you may have a hard time believing that it’s the same person!

      Well, these various versions of us can be at varying degrees of evolution/growth. So when you probe inside to see where your center is, you find that you associate yourself with a number of different emotions. You mind can get fragmented and lose touch with each other.

      I think able, adaptive minds tend to do this more — this is a result of someone trying to be effective and efficient in responding to life’s varying demands. I think you can agree that the ideal is for you to have a secure, central core that’s up in the positive level. That said, I think it’s natural to have phases of fragmentation in our growth — some pieces of us getting ahead of others. That, to me, is a sign of a growing mind and definitely better than someone wholly stuck in Level -5. It’s like going through puberty, in a way. Some of us get taller first then fill up. Some of us get more mentally advanced and the physical catches up.

      Obviously I’m speculating — I have no idea if that is what applies to you. But to answer you question, this is how I think a person can associate with multiple levels at the same time.

      Do I make sense? Do you agree/disagree? Do you come to a completely different conclusions? Let me know —

      ari

  11. Jennifer says:

    Wow, that was very insightful Ari. Thanks for sharing that with us. That scale makes a lot of sense. Baby steps are what will get us to the next level. I think that would explain my frustration a lot of times. Seeing where you want to be and where you are can be frustrating. Focusing on the next level and the necessary steps to get there sure makes a lot of sense. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The steps to get to the next level and to the top are really the same. It’s just a matter of breaking them down into even smaller achievable steps.

    The basic steps for a happy life are always the same. Jesus taught them to us many years ago. If we master and apply humility, a positive attitude, listening skills, accurate thinking, and assertiveness – one at a time – we will climb naturally to the next level and to the top. It is only when we neglect those attitudes and skills and neglect taking care of ourselves, and ignore our pain that we will fall backwards to lower levels. I would say it’s pretty natural to bounce back and forth at least somewhat though. Learning to recognize the slippage is key so that you can go back up before falling far.

    Growth is a journey, isn’t it?! Thanks for helping me think.

    Jennifer’s last blog post..Are you in Balance?

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Hi Jennifer!

      As always, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      I definitely am guilty of constantly seeing where I want to be and get discouraged by how far where I am from it. At least, I used to be — I am making good progress in unlearning that habit.

      I believe we ignore our pain mostly because we get used to it. We are told that that’s part of life and you just accept it. Well, I’m all for accepting, as in allowing myself to be fully what I am, but I’ve come to believe that “that’s just the way it is” is a cop out. We have the capacity to be more. There is no glass ceiling. I’m sure there are levels beyond the maximum I described in the chart above — perhaps a constant state of total peace, ecstasy and euphoria? 😉 You don’t have to stop growing, nor stop becoming happier.

      The challenge that I want to keep emphasizing is that at every step of the way, what one needs to get to the next level is new and different from what one has done to get to that point. If you get to Level 0, for example, by getting a job one can be content with — then to get to Level 1, you have to be more ambitious. You have to look for a job you actually LOVE, not just be content with. And going farther up, you may have to create your own business or job — you see, how the scope of your actions evolve? But if you’re down in Level -5, as I once was, you just don’t have the capacity to do what it takes to get to Level 2. That’s part of the reason the businesses I tried to create in the past failed. You can’t sustain joy when you can’t sustain contentment.

      That said, I think it’s possible to climb up the ladder rapidly, if one is willing to do what it takes to do some extreme learning and growing. By “fast” I’m envisioning a time span of a few months. It’s really not possible to rush and jump steps with this evolution, but there isn’t a speed limit, either. It’s all in what you’re willing to put into it.

      ari

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