Thursday, October 30, 2008
This theory makes sense to me and extends beyond the problems associated with chronic fatigue. I’m convinced that when we don’t follow the promptings of our heart, we can get sick, have accidents, or career implosions. How many of us are doing the work we long to do? Our true destiny calls to us, from the depths of our soul, when we are quiet. If we refuse this call, aren’t we living out of our own natural flow? Then, why are we surprised to pay a price, in our physical or mental health? We are wise to look at our “bad luck.” Is it actually a message from our soul? A warning? Or even the karmic result of an inner lie?
Monday, October 27, 2008
I have a friend from high school. We graduated over 25 years ago! I have affection for Leslie but since she lives an hour away, we rarely see each other. Over the years, even our emails have become infrequent and we've grown apart. Several months ago, we made plans to meet at a party. Unfortunately, through poor communication (or another reason?) we came at different times and missed each other. Afterwards, we played phone tag until I suddenly stopped calling. I wasn't mad at Leslie; I just had to accept what her actions were telling me. For several years now, Leslie responded to my emails or calls but never initiated them. She wasn't interested in maintaining our friendship. It was time to let go.
On the other hand, if I told you I wasn't angry with my cousin, I'd be lying. I may act nonchalant and deny my resentment. I may create plausible excuses for why I'm not returning phone calls. But I know the truth. I'm angry with my cousin.
It is ironic that an outside observer may be fooled (does Leslie think I'm angry since she arrived late to the party and I haven't talked to her since?) but this isn't important. What is vital is that I know the truth. Since anger is taboo for women in our culture, we often make a great effort to convince others we aren't angry with them. We don't want to be perceived as “mean” or worse. But are we also convincing ourselves of a lie?
Even if I decide to lie to my cousin because:
**I don't trust her with the truth, or
**I don't want the hassle, or
**I just want to be passive aggressive and punish her;
I need to know the truth.
If I convince myself that I'm really not angry with my cousin, then:
**I won't acknowledge my own passive aggressiveness and its effects, and
**I lose the message of what my anger is telling me about my needs, and
**I lose the opportunity to grow closer to my cousin by helping her know my needs.
As someone who teaches others about Emotional Intelligence, I'm humbled to see how I don't always make the most ideal choices when I'm frightened or angry. Still, as the Greek philosophers remind us, the first and most important step in health and maturity is to “know thyself.” If I can at least acknowledge my true feelings to myself, I can begin to take responsibility for their effects and learn their unique wisdom for me.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
My husband, Rick, is struggling with an angry colleague at work. “Jim” recently raised his voice at Rick, saying, “I’ll get to it!” While the words themselves were not abusive,
Jim’s angry delivery upset Rick. My husband walked away, enraged and confused. As we talked about the episode, I scoured my mind for helpful exercises. Rick could examine his thoughts and see how they led him into a habitual pattern of withdrawal from confrontations. He could look at his own “reaction cycle” and practice other responses to the often-unpredictable Jim.
We both agreed that Rick needed to stand up for himself more. Ideally, he could strongly but calmly let Jim know that his behavior was unacceptable. But, knowing Jim, and knowing the often brutal company culture, would this work or even be the best option?
Rick could fight fire with fire. He could throw back strong language and a fierce delivery. Would this be a more emotionally intelligent action under the circumstances? There are no clear-cut answers in this work (one reason I love it so much). Brutal self-honesty is necessary to help discern what is ethically responsible and emotionally intelligent.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The video suggested that mirror neurons function even more profoundly when we witness an emotion or activity that we ourselves have experienced. This explains why my husband can feel intensely involved when simply watching a football game and I am unmoved. Could this also explain why women are more often affected by “chick flicks” that explore subtle or complicated emotional situations? (Sorry for the stereotypes in this entry, I use them only to offer simple examples!) In this case, young girls and women in our culture seem to practice and explore these “complicated emotional situations” more than men.
I recently met a manager who was supervising a team of eight women. “Tom’s” struggle to relate to his team compelled him to attend one of my EI seminars. Tom confessed that he wasn’t comfortable expressing emotions. He also acknowledged that the women on his team seemed like an alien species. If Tom isn’t emotionally literate, are his mirror neurons less able to help him relate to the “emotional” women at work?
Learning about brain structure continues to help me understand how emotional intelligence offers practical assistance in daily life. I see the benefit of constantly developing our awareness of emotional states. For Tom, recognizing his own fears and angers could help his mirror neurons fulfill their function--helping Tom empathize with his team.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
My folks went off to a movie with some friends. They live in a Sun City development outside of Chicago. In them I see the genesis or my own crazy fear filled mind. They have so many blessings but each day is still dominated by an unseen task-master. Each minor activity on their agenda: grocery shopping, laundry, or lunch with neighbors, is filled with psychic worries about being late or somehow, "not doing it right." They seem to have no release from these constant worries and free themselves as best they can by watching lots and LOTS of tv and scheduling themselves very sparingly. Perhaps my current psychic purgatory is a purging. If I suffer through these outdated and unnecessary feelings, I can get through to the other side--freedom and peace.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I'm reminded of yesterday's reading (Helen Luke's The Laughter at the Heart of Things). Luke discussed "the daemon," the life spirit that animates and directs our life. When we oppose that spirit, we set up neuroses, psychoses, anxieties, and depressions. My conflict seems to be that I want to be the "good, likeable girl" and my daemon is wild, unpredictable, fierce, impatient, bold, and even rude. Or is that my (in Jungian terms) shadow? Hard for me to figure this out on my own, but in either case, when I deny this essential part of me, I get screwed up. In this case--irrationally afraid.
This struggle, to be true to my daemon, is the main theme of my mid-life-crisis-filled life right now. I feel like an awkward teenager, trying out different personalities and groups, groping for where I belong. But now, as I sense time to be at a premium, I feel a pressure to choose well. I don't have time to waste any longer. There is so much left undone.
(Is it the influx of aging boomers that has lead to our cultural preoccupation of "not enough time?" It seems like many of us are feeling this crush of duties vs. dreams.)
This morning I suffer through my feelings and projections that "I'm in trouble, everyone's mad at me." I know it isn't true but even if it were, I'd have to persevere. I must simplify my life! I need time to write, to meditate, to think! Besides work and Rick, those are my priorities.
How long does it take to release cultural conditioning? Soon. I can feel it. My anxieties show that I'm on a threshold.. Moving toward the doorway of a truer Self. May it be soon.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
We lived in an anonymous world. If I thought I could easily cheat “the system,” I now see that each of our minor moral lapses adds up to a world-wide catastrophe.
Still, if together we created our many dire problems (financial disaster, global warming, poverty, hunger) we can together create solutions. But first we must confront our own laziness and fear. We must learn to be honest with ourselves. We’ve become so familiar with “spin,” double-speak, and lies that we may have to work hard to rid ourselves of fuzzy thinking. Are we brave enough to look at our racism, avarice, and sloth? Only then, when we face our own “dark side,” can we begin to choose right actions. Choosing right actions, helps others to choose well. Speaking the truth, helps others choose truth.
We can each begin today to try to choose right actions. We can seek to offer goodness to the world.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Then, a final shift in the project parameters meant we had to postpone. We felt terrible and feared calling Tom. Again, his response was “No problem.” But the words didn’t seem to match the terse phone conversation. Was it our guilt or was Tom angry with us?
When the time came to renew the project, we needed slightly different services. That’s probably the reason we hired a different contractor. Still, we preferred Tom and wanted to give him our business. Would we have called him if we felt more comfortable with our last encounter? Perhaps.
It is possible that we misread Tom’s reactions. It’s difficult to determine a message on the phone. Without seeing all of Tom’s non-verbal cues, it was much harder to gauge his sincerity. But I wonder: what if Tom had said something like, “I understand your need to postpone, circumstances change, but it’s a bit frustrating for me since I put you in my schedule. If we work again in the future, you’ll need to guarantee that I’ll be working for you during the time I’ve blocked out for you.”
Frankly, I prefer that explanation instead of a cryptic, “no problem.” I now know where I stand. I feel safer.
One value in recognizing our emotions is being able to name them for others. When there is congruence between what I’m sensing and what someone is telling me, I feel assured and secure.
Our desire to hide our emotions from each other (and ourselves) harms our relationships. Building up our knowledge of our own emotions is a key focus of emotional intelligence. If we accept our own feelings, we can respectfully describe them to others. This leads to more transparency and much more trust in our dealings with other people.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Although we were famished, we decided to “go green” and take our bicycles. We had waited this long, we could wait a bit longer for our special meal. As we parked our cycles, we noticed the overflowing outdoor patio. Would we have to wait longer? Thankfully, we received the last table. It was going to be a fabulous celebration. What wine should we order? And then…. Thud. Thud. Thud.
We were seated next to the parking area where a boy was throwing his ball against the restaurant sign. Thud. Thud. Thud. I looked at the boy. He was oblivious to his game's effect on my nerves. Thud. Thud. Thud. I looked to a woman at a neighboring table. She was watching her son and then walked over to whisper in his ear. Whatever her message, the whacking continued. Thud. Thud. Thud. I glared at the woman. What to do?
I hope you aren't surprised to know that those of us who teach emotional intelligence aren't saintly. Practicing the techniques of EI won't make you perfect. But EI can make you more conscious of your patterns and your choices. As I sat in the bustling restaurant, I weighed my options.
1. I could continue to feel outraged that my meal was “being ruined” and sit, stew, and glare.
2. I could talk to the family and ask them to rein in their child.
3. I could try not to be bothered by the loud thumping behind me.
4. Rick and I could move to another table inside the restaurant.
Perhaps this would be an easy choice for you? Not for me.
1. It was difficult to let go of my feelings of righteous indignation, but I knew this was a self-defeating choice. My anger would ruin dinner for both Rick and me.
2. Talking to the family was a courageous alternative but….even if I was the model of diplomacy, such a discussion could prove upsetting to all parties. Was this annoyance worth that risk?
3. This wasn't really a choice for me. I was truly disturbed by the intermittent whacking.
4. I could think of no other possible solution but….. I didn't want to move inside! I wanted to eat outside! I had been stuck inside all week and this lovely outdoor meal was my reward!
What to do?
After further deliberation, Rick and I moved inside and had a lovely meal.
Emotional Intelligence recognizes that, while we cannot always choose how we feel, we always have a choice in our actions and even our reactions. My own self-reflections had warned me of some of my tendencies. I was then alert for my patterns of “seeking justice” or seizing onto righteous anger. Since I was more prepared to see my patterns, I was more prepared to question them and determine other choices.
Would my “dilemma” be immensely easy for you? If so, think of your own version-your own situation that rapidly triggers intense feelings-especially anger or fear. When you think of the circumstance, do you find yourself reacting automatically? Are your reactions serving you? Or would you like to change your patterns?
To be emotionally intelligent is to continue to practice our awareness and managing of emotions. It is a lifelong process. But if we continue to persevere, we will find ourselves gaining self-knowledge and mastery of difficult situations.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I saw this definition play out at work, yesterday.
My boss, Jan, asked Kathy about a recent sales call. I watched as my colleague’s face turned red. Kathy sputtered, “What do you mean? I just said that…..” Kathy outlined the basic features of our product and ended with “I don’t know! What do you want me to say?”
“No, that sounded good,” Jan replied coolly. Kathy’s eyes narrowed. Did she realize she was scowling? “I don’t know what you expect me to say,” she repeated. Her gestures were sharp, pointed. I had never seen Kathy so angry in a meeting. Jan ignored the episode and continued with her agenda.
Afterwards, Kathy came into my office. “Did you see how angry, Jan was?” I gave a vague, noncommittal answer. Jan had looked annoyed but it was Kathy who had seemed enraged.
In this case, Kathy was “projecting” her own anger onto Jan. Now, instead of understanding her own experience, Kathy has the added difficulty of fighting with her manager.
Emotional Intelligence begins with understanding (and accepting) our own emotions. If we can look honestly at ourselves, we can learn much about our desires, our fears, and our wounds. We may not always like what we see but such self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom, and internal peace.