Friday, February 27, 2009

More Thoughts on Anger

In my previous post, I asserted the importance of acknowledging anger as vital to our health and central to self-knowledge (emotional literacy). But it is complicated. How do I honor my anger but still create more compassion in myself and in the world? Until recently, these felt like mutually exclusive mindsets. I'm only now beginning to reconcile my internal split--between the positives and negatives of my Midwestern upbringing. I'm relearning a spirituality without succumbing to a little-girl piety. My piousness may have looked good to my neighbors but it also repressed and distorted my true spirit.

With time, I gain more perspective on the pendulum swings of my inner journey. If I was the overly sweet girl who lacked basic self-knowledge and assertiveness, I grew into a tough woman who lost track of the tenderness in myself (for more on this, see my recent review of the movie “Wall-e). I see this same split or swing in others. The challenge is to both allow anger while not becoming overwhelmed or obsessed by it. An Olympian task! Still, to live fulfilling lives where we nurture ourselves and others, we must learn to walk this razor-edge.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Anger-The Unwanted Emotion

While I’ve never lived in another country, I have lived for long periods in the Midwest and California. As I moved from one region to another, I felt a seismic shift between two cultures that seemed radically different in their approach to emotions. Were my encounters atypical? Perhaps. Still, as I contemplate my 20-year study of the “inner life,” I’m fascinated by the differences I found—especially regarding anger.

At 26, I left the Midwest (and the Catholic Church) and moved to California. I began a 10-year odyssey, exploring theatre arts, psychology, and “consciousness studies” in Berkeley, San Francisco, and other mind-bending communities. I was surrounded by groups who explored their emotions without dodging the great taboo—anger. With talented professionals and earnest friends, I intrepidly began to explore my own inner minefield--sore spots, wounds, (complexes for the Freudian/Jungians out there) and springs of anger.

When I returned to the Midwest I, felt immediately disoriented. My family and friends seemed to have a radically different set of norms. While I had painstakingly learned to identify my feelings and gently admit them to others—now even the slightest acknowledgement of anger seemed to threaten my companions. All my hard-won inner knowledge and commitment to honest communication was suddenly destroying a fragile emotional ecosystem I no longer understood (or appreciated).

I’ve been back in the Midwest for 12 years now, longer than the time I spent in exotic California. I continue to explore my own inner landscape and the taboo of anger. In my workshops, it seems to be the emotion that most haunts my participants, especially the women. When I discovered the field of emotional intelligence, I was grateful for its validation of my own beliefs—that anger was a necessary emotion that should be examined, not repressed.

Have you experienced cultural differences regarding comfort with different emotions?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I’m curious. What are your feelings about money?

How do you relate to money? Do you feel differently about big purchases versus small ones? I know many people (myself included) who can splurge on a big expenditure but fret over buying an “expensive” Starbucks coffee. What are your habits? What are your fears or obsessions? Are you basically confident about your money flow or are you always worried?

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Smile for you Today

I just discovered this awesome video on youtube. A fantastic meditation on the power of kindness and how we have the power to validate each other.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What Training Can Really Offer.

While reflecting on yesterday’s EI class, I’ve been thinking about Josh’s 12/15 blog entry on While I am always awed and humbled when participants ask me to solve their personal problems, I agree with Josh—there are no quick fixes to offer. What to do? I want my participants to feel good about our training. How can I meet each person’s particular needs—especially if their requests are impossible to grant?

I’ve had similar struggles when teaching Time Management. My participants sometimes declare that I have nothing to offer them—their own situation is too unique and intractable. They describe untenable situations that have (in the past) caused my blood to run cold. Should I just pack up my things and go home? Then I remember what I know. I’m not a magician that can transform their workplace, but I can offer proven principles that work. When I feel lost in a training situation, I return to the principles. They are often quite basic but still, incredibly valuable. They also often require hard choices and the breaking of old habits.

In yesterday’s class, when “Ted” repeats his concern about his inability to feel emotions, I can’t let myself get dragged into his fear and despair. I need to remind him of a principle—Emotional Literacy is a skill that can be developed through practice. When “Annie” wants me to solve her problems with “manipulative” co-workers, I need to step back and find a principle. In this case, I can remind Annie that Emotional Intelligence involves our own skill at handling our own emotions, not controlling the behavior of others. We want to control others because it is scary and disconcerting to feel our own anger at “manipulative” co-workers. In this case, focusing on our self instead of others, we can use EI principles and competencies to learn how to manage feelings, examine thoughts, and choose helpful behaviors.