On the emotional rollercoaster: a study in wave forms

One of the most important things I should remember about living my life is that it has a lot in common with a sine wave. (Image taken from Wikipedia’s Sine wave page. 12.6.11. Apologies for the big space underneath it.)

The simplest way I look at the sine wave is as an illustration of the emotional rollercoaster, with the portion above the mid-line (0) being positive emotion and the portion below being negative emotion.

However this is not the main way I apply it to my life. A better way of using it is to say that the things above the line are active and those below the line are reactive; if I expend energy to achieve something (e.g. cycle 30 miles,) it shows as a curve above the line and also results in tiredness, expressed as a balancing curve below the line. In this interpretation the curve is most closely linked to my energy levels, both physical and mental. This way of looking at it allows for the fact that not everything above the line is a positive thing – I might expend a lot of energy having an argument or getting stressed about being late but I still have to pay the resulting energy debt on the next part of the curve.

By combining the views above I can see that the ups and downs in life have a balance to them and are often not as random as they sometimes appear. It helps me to remember things like: if I work to my limits all week, even if I feel like I can manage it at the time, there will be a cost to be paid to balance things out.

That might sound like a negative sort of thing to be mindful of but I find that it helps me because I don’t have a lot of energy to spare. I’m just not one of those people who can work hard, play hard – I have to work hard, rest and recharge before I’m able to play, and I still might not have the energy to play hard. Otherwise I end up deep in the belly of the sine way, way below base line, waiting for the curve to come up again.

One of the benefits of living the curve is that it’s never static. Even at the low points you are still moving towards something. You may still be moving downwards but what goes down must come up.

Why is life a curve in the first place? Well nothing about life is static. There’s the overarching curve of natural life-span in which we have less ability at either end of the curve than we do in the middle. The repeating patterns of the seasons, the academic year, the working week, the lunar cycle, the cycle of paydays, the fluctuating blood sugar and hormones that drive us to eat and sleep (among other things) and the complex curves of our heartbeat underlying it all.

So in truth my life is not a sine wave, it’s a complex wave made up of many overlapping waves all interfering with each other; some cancelling each other out, some accentuating each other. As long as I live I’ll never be static, I’ll always be travelling the curves and riding the complex waves.

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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