Are You Only Carrying a Ratchet in Your Emotional Toolbox?

Are You Only Carrying a Ratchet in Your Emotional Toolbox? October 17, 2022

Unsplash/J Waye Covington

We’ve all been handed ratchets.

You’ve probably used one before – a ratchet is a tool designed to tighten nuts and bolts with ease (sometimes called a socket wrench). Using a mechanical gear and teeth, they work in one continuous direction – there’s no going backwards, which makes them easy to gain leverage with and easy to operate.

The thing is: we’ve all been handed emotional ratchets. And you’ve probably used these before as well.

You know the experience: someone slights you, stings you, says something that gets under your skin and your anger climbs and climbs and climbs. It ratchets up. And before you know it, you’re stewing on it and pissed off and can’t calm yourself down. You’ve used the tool you had on hand – your emotional ratchet.


We need inner work

Without engaging in our inner work – through therapy, shadow work, introspection, somatics, learning to sit with ourselves in the silences of the unknown – an emotional ratchet is the only interior tool many of us have. This is the tool of the 3-year-old who can’t self-moderate just as it is the tool of the work-obsessed 30-year-old trying to climb to the top of the business ladder and the old curmudgeon who projects his emotions onto others.

But when we look inward with soft eyes and begin to work with our stories, our narratives, and our beliefs about the world and ourselves, we begin to develop new tools: tools that allow for us to set down the ratchet and begin to untighten our grasp on what we’re clinging to, release the pressure we’re placing on ourselves to achieve, and step into our communities with a stance of curiosity rather than that of domination.


A practice for introspection

Go for a walk this week in nature. Find 30-90 minutes to simply wander without headphones, your phone, or any other tech distractions. As you look around and acquaint yourself with your surroundings, take an inventory of your inner life: what interior tools (skills, techniques, etc.) do you have? Which ones were you handed and trained to use when you were young? How have they served you well? How have they not? Which tools in your emotional toolkit are going to be vital for you this week? Or perhaps today? Maybe even in this moment?

About Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang is an educator in the Pacific Northwest, an alumnus of Richard Rohr’s Living School for Action and Contemplation, and author of the forthcoming book, Unmasking the Inner Critic: Lessons for Living an Unconstricted Life. Along with blogging regularly, he facilitates workshops helping people to navigate their inner lives and explore their sense of identity and spirituality. You can read more about the author here.

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