Over a decade ago I read a prediction that in the future the world’s people would divide in two. This process was referred to as “no more sitting on the fence”. Those who did not consciously choose the side of the fence where the grass is greener would unconsciously end up on the more barren side.

The dividing line – the fence – between these two groups would not be along the historical fault lines of gender, race, class, nationality, education, religion or wealth. The new dividing line would be emotional cohesion.

I am no longer sure who made the prediction. But the phrase stuck and over the last few years it has been growing on my mind. It is increasingly clear that the time of “no more sitting on the fence” has arrived.

What is emotional cohesion?

Emotional cohesion is the ability to feel the total experience of life in the moment that it happens. Its characteristics are clear and appropriate emotional boundaries, taking responsibility for one’s own feelings, and a detachment from specific outcomes. More colloquially, this is “having your shit together.”

The person who has emotional cohesion recognizes and respects their own uniqueness and that of others. They are not subject to emotional bullying nor do they project their own unresolved emotional distortions onto others. They are unafraid of change and handle adversity with an uncanny grace.

Conversely, people without emotional cohesion are flaky, needy and emotionally volatile. There is a clear divergence between their talk and their walk. When angered they blame their painful feelings on whoever triggered their anger. These disempowering behaviors mask a set of rigid internal judgments and a fundamental shame about themselves that has been institutionalized into invisibility.

Of course, it isn’t possible to simply divide people into those with or without emotional cohesion. We all have some level of emotional togetherness; it’s a matter of degree, a point on a spectrum. And we all have the ability to move from lesser to greater emotional cohesion if we choose to do so.

How does one gain emotional cohesion?

Emotional cohesion stems from conscious living. I would define this as being aware of the need to be responsible for one’s own emotional wellbeing. With this comes an automatic respect for the wellbeing of others and the natural environment that supports us all.

Conscious living creates an inner path for each of us to follow. It doesn’t matter whether you see this path as a religious, spiritual or mystical journey, or whether you frame it in the more concrete terms of personal development. It doesn’t matter if you pray in an empty church, hug a tree on a frosty dawn or use a structured approach such as Neuro-linguistic Programming. If you follow your own path, one step at a time, and have the courage to accept the challenges that naturally arise along the way, your emotional cohesion will increase. You will move off the fence that most of humanity is currently – and somewhat precariously – perched on.

Emotional cohesion at the World Cup

The current FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil highlights how people are shifting to the different sides of the fence. On the one hand, there is a visibly increased inability to handle the humiliation of failure.

The shocked faces of the home crowd during Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany are the looks of people desperately attached to a certain outcome – Brazilian victory – and emotionally unable to handle an alternative reality

Less visibly than the global humiliation of Brazil, South Korean players returned to their country to be pelted with toffees – a particularly deep insult in their society. Similarly, the governments of both Cameroon and Nigeria announced inquiries into why their respective teams failed to progress beyond the tournament’s group stage. Cameroon aired concerns of match fixing despite FIFA’s assertion that no suspicious betting patterns existed. The Nigerian government sacked its national football representatives, following which FIFA suspended Nigeria. FIFA rules state that national football associations must be free from political interference. The lack of emotional cohesion in all of these situations is abundantly clear.

On the other side of the fence, a veteran commentator remarked how they had never seen so many fans that supported different teams partying together. These fans are not overly attached to specific outcomes. They recognize that football is just a game. Consequently they respect the opposing fans – who aren’t really ‘opposing’ at all. There is no prize for guessing who is having a better time at the 2014 World Cup.

At this moment all eyes may be on the Maracanã stadium in Brazil. But after Sunday’s final, emotional cohesion is the only game in town.