The Neutral Line Phenomenon

Article in the Mindscape Section of the July 2016 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran

Ask yourself how you feel right now on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being horrible and 10 being awesome. Now how do you feel today in comparison to other days on the same rating scale? You could extend this inquiry into an assessment of how you feel this week, this month or even this year. We all have days that are a 10 or even a 14 while on the other hand, there are days that are a 1 or 0. While it’s absolutely normal to experience these highs and lows, the larger question is where do you spend most of your time? I mean towards which end of the feel good scale?

The neutral line phenomenon is a concept I’ve used to get answers to some of the above questions and process those answers to live a better and more fulfilling life. The neutral line phenomenon refers to an imaginary line that is in between the highs and lows, that indicates habitual behaviour or your customary state. Someone, who at any given point of time feels they are at a 10 probably has a higher neutral line compared to someone who on most days feels they are at a 1 or 2. While 1, 2, 10 or 14 are just numbers on an imaginary feel good scale, the neutral line is real. It is your habitual behaviour or state and in turn is a true assessment of the kind of life that you might be leading. The people who are living an awesome life, are actually the ones who are feeling like a million dollars most of the time while people who are going through a mundane existence or even living a life of struggles are the ones who are feeling down and out or oppressed most of the time. There is absolutely no point having a high net worth, buying a mansion, taking fancy vacations, getting to the top of the corporate ladder or even retiring at 30 if you don’t feel good. Rest assured that you’ve had a pretty lousy year, if you spent the whole year working a job that you hated and doing other things that you were forced to and that you hated yourself for, just to take that 10 day international vacation in December. What this does is that it puts your neutral line way close to the zero mark. On the other hand if you at least did that lousy job for 5 days a week but had a blast during the weekends doing the things that you absolutely looked forward to, then that immediately puts your neutral line closer to a 4 or a 5. Now imagine that you were doing a job that you loved from Monday through Friday and you had other interesting passions that you spent your weekends being involved in and to cap it all you also took that lovely vacation at the end of the year. Now that is when your neutral line would hovering around the 10 mark. I’m sure you get the picture. The bottom line is to push up your neutral line. Rather than aim for those isolated high times of your life that are far and few between, do what it takes to feel good more often and to increase the intensity of that feeling. And I don’t mean do whatever it takes.

Someone whose neutral line is at the happy level, on good days feels happier and on great days feels elated. While for someone whose neutral line is at the depressed level, even the great days are just slightly sad days.