Everything is Neutral

Since the spring of 2006, I have been volunteering in the men’s prison. I facilitate a two-day, 18-hour class called Alternatives to Violence. It’s like anger management meets group therapy, and then collides with summer camp. Perhaps ironically, working in the men’s prison restores my faith in humanity. Good people, really bad decisions.

One of the activities I lead is about building empathy. It starts by addressing the vast and diverse emotions we are capable of feeling and expressing. We are all dynamic, creative beings who are capable of a wide spectrum of expression. The point is simple: all situations are neutral. We individually and independently assign value.

Following a discussion about feelings, I place about two-dozen paper plates all over the floor- each labeled with an emotion and facial expression. I read all the feeling plates as the participants stand along the periphery. After I state a scenario, participants wander around and eventually stand by the plate that matches their feeling about it. “Stand near the plate that represents how you felt on your 18th birthday… how you feel on Christmas morning… how you feel every day at mail call… how you will feel on the day you are released…” Once everyone finds the right fit, each person shares the feeling and why they selected it. Naturally, they do not respond to situations the same way. Each of the stated scenarios is neutral; everyone has a unique perspective and response.

We cannot necessarily control situations; however, we can control our reaction to them. We are constantly assigning value to people, events, circumstances and relationships. While situations remain neutral, our feelings and responses are extraordinarily diverse. We personally decide if something is funny, silly, tragic, embarrassing, blissful or humiliating.

Your task? Start to notice how you react and respond to situations. Some folks tend to play the victim, as though life is happening to them. Others recognize their own power and understand that life is happening through them. You have extraordinary power to decide how you want to understand yourself and the world around you. The choice is always yours.

Cheers to all that you are and all you are becoming!

Love, em

Amy Fukuizumi