A Warning System of Emotional and Spiritual Danger

My handwriting is usually a reliable seismograph of the tremors within my spirit.

Everyone has their own but my most reliable indicator of spiritual or emotional distress seems to be when I put nib to paper. When the beak of the quill has a hard time staying on a straight line I wonder what is causing the motion in the ocean of my soul. Or when the letters of a word get crammed together I have learned to wonder about who or what is jamming up my spirit.

I don’t need a graphologist to reveal that my small writing indicates a tendency to withdraw, be studious or concentrated although that is all true. I do not aspire to the level of sophistication of some who claim to be able to detect schizophrenia and high blood pressure from how the words flow on the page.

For me it is enough to know that when my hand falters I need to look deeper, to ask about spirit, soul and emotion.

The investigation is not always easy or straightforward.

The pop psychology diagnosis could be that I am out of touch with my feelings but I don’t think so. We correspond regularly. The challenge was deciphering their code and the medium.

Some people are blessed with instant emotion and they either know or have been trained to recognize the emotion and deal with it appropriately.

My wife seems to have been raised in an environment where arguing was a recreational activity. And so she deals with anger, conflict and disagreement as routine. I was raised in a different galaxy.

Although most seem to gauge the state of emotion or spirit by what comes out of their mouth I am not sure that is always the case, particularly for men.

It took awhile to become aware of the way my body registered the tremors.

I remember once printing out a list of emotions from some site and wondering about their differences or looking at a list on Vocabulary.com “100 Ways to Describe How You feel.” Wow! One hundred would be about 93 more than I learned from my wrench-pulling father!

When I got serious about tracking spiritual and emotional symptoms, their messages and helpful responses, I carried a card that had five basic states.[Tweet “When I got serious about tracking spiritual symptoms I carried a card that had five basic states.”]

Feeling angry meant there was a violation at some level that needed justice or a boundary. Sad meant something had been lost and required comfort and grieving. Scared meant a threat was lurking somewhere and I needed support or protection. Shame meant I was hearing an overpowering message of “I’m bad” and needed some love. And glad was better than ok; it was joy.

I used the list like a compass. It at least set me in the right direction while I learned to track other signs.

Generally I find the exercise rewarding, although occasionally embarrassing.

In the middle of a sermon it can be disturbing to realize the presence of profound boredom – especially when you are the preacher! Over time though I have become more honest and learned to acknowledge boredom in the preparation stage and (usually) before entering the pulpit.

I have developed a repertoire of gauges and yet still I find that a spiritual life of depth and purpose involves a lot of hard work.


  1. Well just as you name that you were raised in a different galaxy than your wife, so too, you and I.
    But I did reflect on the question of how I know when I am out of touch with my emotional/spiritual self. Certainly not my handwriting which is always a challenge…the result of the school system trying to change my left-handedness to right-handedness (or so I tell myself).
    I spent a number of years in roles as a family court counselor working with parents warring over custody and access of their children. At that same time I also worked with youth and adult offenders in the justice system, who, when they trusted you, often disclosed quite horrific stories of their life. I searched for the line …between caring and detachment…I think in AA they call it detaching with love. And usually I found something like that. Or I think I did.

    But all this practicing of detachment exacted some price in my personal life. My warning sign of emotional spiritual danger zone (danger for me is missing the experience I am might have if fully present in mind/body/spirit) is when I observe a group of others with a reaction that is out of sync with my own. Usually I am observing more emotion, more passion than I am experiencing.

    This causes me to loop back and reconsider whether I might, just might, be experiencing the same or similar feelings to those I am observing. And to let it be OK, to have that feeling,
    with the reminder that I no longer need to detach, at least not the same way as I did “back then”.

    Thank you for your post.

    1. Thanks carol. Really makes me wonder about those times in my life where detachment was a survival necessity that became a bad habit

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