How are Your Map Reading Skills?

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

GPS was a real game-changer for me. Map reading was not a thing I excelled at. On a flat piece of paper, I could tell you where North, South, East, and West is. Off paper, on physical terrain? ..... Now that was a different story altogether!

Moving to Johannesburg from Cape Town at the age of 30 was interesting in so many ways. I had just gotten married to a guy I barely knew; I was completely undomesticated. I didn't know the difference between braise, poach and fry. And boy-oh-boy! I had no clue how the water got into the washing machine! This is a matter that had me stumped for days! Thankfully, my new groom was patient and kind and All-knowing when it came to all things housekeeping related.

Then there was the other issue. In Cape Town, no matter where you're going, you have beautiful mountain ranges traveling with you, giving you a sense of the direction you're heading in. Here in Joburg, not too much. And people spoke North, South, East and West. I was just about managing left and right. This being a time well before GPS and Google Maps, one of the primary experiences I enjoyed was being lost. Big Time! And to be entirely honest with you, I quite enjoyed it. I learnt so much. I saw so much. I was welcomed in so many places. My expeditions became adventurous excursions; and very soon I was traveling Jozi like a native and telling life-long Joburgers about her various cities and secrets.

This is not to say that it was always smooth sailing. No real adventure ever is. I got into trouble. A few times. Thankfully nothing untoward happened and I always made my way back home safely. In that first year of our marriage, hubby dearest traveled EXTENSIVELY. When he discovered that this was how I spent my weekends he lost the proverbial plot!

I've come to appreciate that for the most part, reading our emotions is a bit like map reading. Our emotions are our on-board GPS systems, and even if they're not leading us somewhere in particular, they're taking us on an excursion to our inner selves. They are leading us to discovery. Armed with discovery, we become true natives of our inner world, and we learn to navigate and to occupy the new depths revealed to us wisely and intuitively.

Without the skills to read our emotions, and to navigate and negotiate them, we are lost and we remain at the mercy of our emotions and we simply follow the twists and turns they lead us to.

Sometimes following the twists and the turns can be a blast. Some of our happiest life experiences happen when there is just a delightful flow of emotion and permission to let them be and permission to follow them.

Oftentimes though, not so much. In fact, our emotions lead us astray when we are unable to interpret them. When we are unable to make sense of them and to place them in the larger context of what we wish for ourselves and in the even larger context of who we want to be in the bigger scheme of things.

Undoubtedly, our emotions are tools to use in decision making. But here is the cautionary. Our emotions are absolutely not THE deciding factor for choosing behavior. Our emotions happen in the moment and are without regard to the bigger picture of our lives.

As with our GPS, we bear the responsibility for plugging in the destination we want to arrive at. As with GPS, we have to set the parameters for route selection. As with GPS, we have to make the selection of which route to follow.

A client recently shared with me her confusion about processing emotions, not understanding what is meant by the concept of 'processing emotions'. It dawned on me that this is not taught to us. At some point, we are regarded as too young and as too immature to process and understand our emotions. Consequently, people in our lives take it upon themselves to regulate us. And then at some point in time, our ability to engage our emotions and our ability to self-regulate is simply assumed. As if some divining rod struck us with a bolt of lightning that instantaneously gifted us the skill to make sense of the varied, unpredictable and inconsistent turbulence that lives within us.

Emotional fluency is the ability to sense, translate, and effectively apply the power of emotions in a healthy and productive manner. Yet, most of us have more training in how to use our cars or our computers, whilst we are not actively tooled in the skill of understanding our emotions. At some point we become aware that we are expected to regulate our emotions. But understanding them? That is not even a blip on the radar of our consciousness. And so starts our patterns of self-destruction, self-limitation and the restraint of our potential.

It is so critical that we come to know deeply that our emotions are ALWAYS telling us something.

  • Our emotions are alerting us to a need that has been met and exceeded on the positive side of our emotions.

  • Our emotions are alerting us to an unmet need on the shadow side of our emotional spectrum.

  • Our emotions are emissaries from the soul trying to light the way towards our greatest gifts.

  • Our emotions are an invitation to journey within and to embark on a self-discovery quest.

  • Our emotions are an invitation to commune with ourselves.

  • Our emotions are an invitation to heal ourselves.

  • Our emotions are an invitation to celebrate ourselves.

  • Our emotions are an invitation to teach us what we value.

  • Our emotions are an invitation to experience our value.

  • Our emotions are valid. The light and breezy ones. The triumphant ones. The happy ones. The not-so-great ones. The 'I want to escape' ones. The batshit crazy ones. The tired, 'I have no strength' ones. Each and every single one is valid, and each and every single one of those emotions come bearing gifts.

Hear This: we are under the influence of our emotions but we are never at the mercy of our emotions.

Our emotions are a gift, divined to us to allow us to experience the completeness of our humanness and of life itself. Without emotion, there would be no experience. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Without knowing and understanding how to work with our emotions, we can never truly experience the full breadth of a life well-lived.

Regrettably, we frequently speak about our emotions and about the fact that we are emotional beings in very disparaging ways. Let that NOT be You.


Allow yourself the joy of experiencing them. Allow yourself to discover the messages they are revealing to you daily. Take action that allows you to exploit the wisdom of emotions and that does not fall prey to the charge of your emotions.

If you would like to drop into the driver's seat of your life, you have to become more skilled at reading, understanding and optimising your emotions.

If you are ready for driver's ed, give me a shout so that I can help you figure out where your emotions are truly trying to steer you. ❤️

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