What Time Zone Are You in Emotionally?

By Susan Dunn


Part of Emotional Intelligence is understanding TIME ZONES. It's a special little saying of mine, as an EQ coach and trainer. I coach and train individuals internationally, so I have a chart of time zones pasted on my computer right in front of me. It isn't just internationally that people have trouble; anyone who isn't in a business like mine, or who doesn't call friends all over the US, just isn't that familiar with time zones.

I also have, in my head, when I start a coaching session, to find out what TIME ZONE the client is really in. I was reminded of this when I was informed an article of mine entitled, “How to Comfort Someone Whose Child Dies," was being used on a website. Reading the title again, I wondered why I'd chosen to use "dies" instead of "has died." It's about time zones. There's a reason I chose to word it that way; more about this in a minute.


Some people are living in the past. It's all about past memories; usually not good ones, but sometimes. It's typical the older we get to spend more time enjoying past memories, simply because there are more of them. But some people are full of grudges, resentments and hostility about the past, and are usually blaming people or circumstances in their past for something important.


Some people are living in the future. It's all about "when I get this..." or "by then I should be..." It has to do with our goals and plans. When it's all about "pie in the sky," however, it's not a good thing.


Some people are living in the present. Fine if they're taking action and are mindful. Not so fine if they're ignoring something in the future they need to be planning for. An example of this would be saving money.

Ideally we want to be living fully in the present moment, enjoying past memories and benefiting from past learning experience, looking forward to the future and also planning for it. We want a fluid interface with all three, and mindfulness.


However, in times of transition and also crises, we find that our time zones get fused. The death of your child is one of these. There's a Proverb that says: "When you die, your sister's tears will dry as time goes on, your widow's tears will end in another's arms, but your mother will mourn you until the day she dies."

I was reminded of this the other day. I'd been chosen for jury duty and was going through the voir dire. That's when the lawyers question each person in turn, asking what seems to us a strange variety of questions. When it was the turn for the woman next to me, the lawyer asked her, "How many children do you have and how old are they?"

She replied, "I have three children. I have a son who's 36. I have a daughter who's 34. And I have a daughter who would have been 30 this year."

Parents who've lost children often stumble over the tense of the verb. My son ... was ... is ... It's painful and it's also part of the process.

The same thing happens when we're divorcing or parting in a relationship. My wife must become my ... for a while there isn't a word. She isn't "my former wife" yet, she isn't "my ex-wife." She actually isn't a wife, any more.

As one dear friend of mine said, who was going through the process, "Soon she'll just be someone I used to love." He's trying to move himself through the process of letting go. As he told me, he knows intellectually that it's over; after all he has filed for divorce. But emotionally, it’s far from a reality.


When you're talking with someone, check out what time zone they're in. And while you're at it, listen to yourself as well!

You want to learn from the past and enjoy it, anticipate the future and work toward it, and yet be fully present in actual time, and enjoying it. In that way, you can keep your emotions appropriate for the people and circumstances you’re currently with, not dragging in past experiences, or fears or fantasies about the future, and also you won't miss anything! It’s the emotionally intelligent way to live.

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