The Emotional Hula Hoop
In the middle of a conversation a few weeks ago, my sweet friend Sara said, “So, you’re saying you don’t have to jump into someone else’s emotional hula hoop with them.” And she nodded her head like I knew what she was talking about.
“Emotional Hula Hoop?”
Sara proceeded to tell me about this visual: We’ve all got an emotional hula hoop that we hold around us, and we use it to go about our day to interact with people. It sounds a little silly, but it’s a great visual to help us remember that we are in control of our own emotions.
Envision holding a hula hoop around your waist and walking around everyday. Got it? Okay, so that hula hoop is a magic hula hoop that lets you have your own emotions in your own space. Here’s how it works:
So, one morning, let’s pretend I wake up refreshed and energetic, excited to take on the day. I’m dancing inside my hula hoop on the way to get coffee. And on the way downstairs to the kitchen, let’s say I bump into my daughter with her emotional hula hoop.
Let’s pretend my daughter is in the middle of a sad tale about a big brother stealing her comfy spot on the couch AND her waking up from a bad dream AND losing her favorite stuffed animal AND falling down on the way up the stairs (she probably just needs some breakfast and a drink of water).
This is a totally made up scenario and definitely not based on anything that ever happens at our house.
In that moment, I can remember that I have an emotional hula hoop around my waist, and I can decide to hold onto my own delightful joy in my own hula hoop space, or I can drop my hula hoop and jump into her sad hula hoop of injustice and despair. I get the choice.
If I choose to stay in my own hula hoop and not lose my joy, I can comfort my daughter and tell her that I’m sorry that she’s having a bad morning. But I can keep my own emotions in place. I can remain positive and optimistic about the day.
This hula hoop works for so many situations:
Conflict with your spouse
Conflict with your kid
Frustration with a boss
Listening to a friend
The visual is primarily for person-to-person interactions, but I’ve started to apply it to the circumstances of life as well. A sink of dirty dishes, a financial set back, a disappointment in my schedule - these are all outside circumstances that are not in my own hula hoop. I can decide to complete those tasks without letting them affect my emotions. But if I change my mood from sunny to frowny-face, then I have to admit that I chose to do that.
If you are an empathetic person like I am, you might struggle with knowing where to put emotional boundaries. I want to sit with people in the moment, fully present. I try to match emotions of the people around me, and I am comfortable sitting in another person’s sadness or anger. And while this quality makes me a rockstar friend, I can also lose sight of my own emotions easily.
This is the main strength and weakness of my best quality: I can feel what others are feeling so much that I forget to check in with my own feelings.
The Emotional Hula Hoop visual has taught me that I can still be available and open as a friend. I can still be present and comforting to those around me who need some emotional support. But I can also decide if I want to join a person in their emotions — or not.