Emotions

UnknownWe have a choice in every moment to focus on what brings us joy or what brings us misery.  We can fixate on a “woe is me” mindset, we can focus on the positive aspects of our lives, or somewhere in between.

The choice is ours and ours alone.

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Inside Out

images-4I recently watched a Disney/Pixar movie called Inside Out.The movie’s premise is around five emotions that drive Riley, an 11-year old girl’s, thoughts, actions, and behaviors and her struggles surrounding her parents decision to move away from the home and friends she’s always known.

images-2The five emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust all play important parts in the movie yet in the beginning, Joy was in charge of the control center that drove Riley’s feelings.

It was interesting to watch as Joy toiled with why Sadness was one of the members of the emotional team. At one point she draws a circle on the ground and asks Sadness to not step out of it. This was Joy’s way to prevent her from having any influence on Riley’s psyche. As I watched her do this I thought oh no….emotional suppression…this is going to backfire. Spoiler alert….it did and in a big way.

In the film, like in real life, all of our emotions serve an important purpose to our well-being. They provide us insight to our inner and outer environments in ways that help us to connect with others, avoid danger, and recover from loss.

Anger helps us to overcome obstacles, fear alerts us to threats and engages our fight or flight responses, sadness signals loss, and happiness (joy) helps us to pursue and attain important goals and encourages us to cooperate with others.

images-1Another task that Riley’s five primary emotions performed was to take care of her “core memories;” the memories that define her personality. When Sadness touched one of memories, it started to shift from a happy memory to a sad one. This frustrated Joy who only ramped up her efforts to control Riley’s emotional state. Her frantic behavior caused the core memories to become dislodged from their secure location, requiring Joy to chase them. Next thing you know she and Sadness are out of the control center and into Riley’s memory banks and unable to get back inside.

images-6This left Fear, Anger, and Disgust in charge of the control center. As you can imagine, Riley’s thoughts, actions, and behaviors soon led to chaos and a re-creating of her core memories.

Most of us, at one time or another, have wondered what purpose sadness serves in our lives. Sadness helps us to slow down and examine a situation, a process, a decision. Without it we wouldn’t think too deeply on how our actions and behaviors affect ourselves and others.

images-5There are a couple of scenes in the movie where Sadness’ natural tendency is to lay down and rest in the mist of challenge. This balanced out Joy who is overly full of action and ideas on how to get back to the control center. Joy had the energy to move them both through the memory banks and Sadness provided the road map on how to get back. T

We need to think of our emotions as a gift rather than something to be suppressed and avoided. When we don’t acknowledge our feelings we loose our sense of self. We may be conscious or not of this but feelings are the drivers of everything we do – they are in charge. The movie was a great visual depiction of this process.

“Our feelings are the primary motivating source in our lives. Without acknowledging our core feelings, we lose our sense of self.” – John Bradshaw

In the movie Inside Out the five emotions provide:

images-4The gift of Joy provides us with emotional vitality. It gives us the zest for living and involvement in our life.

images-1The gift of Anger provides us direction, motivation and boundary setting.

images-5The gift of Fear is that it is a primal part of being human. It helps protect us from harm and keeps us safe.

images-3The gift of Sadness provides us with sensitivity and compassion for ourselves and others. It brings with it also the gift of soulfulness and increased depth of being.

images-2The gift of Disgust or who’ve I identified as Shame, give us humility. As human beings we have limits and shame reminds us that we are “perfectly imperfect.”

Knowing, feeling, and expressing all of our emotions whether love, joy, fear, sadness, shame, anger, etc…is good for our health. They keep us moving steadily through our lives. The word emotion derives from the Latin verb meaning to move or move out. This is exactly what our feelings do; they help us to move in the direction which we need to go.

Being able to notice a broad range of feeling provides us with a richness and balance in our lives. Emotions give us clarity about our responses to events and access to them is a critical piece to developing heightened self-awareness.

Our Limited Energy

imagesAre you headed for an energy crisis?

Most of us experience our lives as hurried, rapid fire, and relentless. We rush through without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go.

We are trying to do the best we can yet when demands exceed our capacity, we begin to make choices that get us through the day and night but, they are taking a large toll on us over time. We are surviving on too little sleep, eating fast junk food, drinking coffee to ramp us up during the day, and alcohol to cool us down at night.images-1

We have relentless demands at work causing us to become short-tempered and easily distracted. We return home feeling exhausted with no energy left for those who are most important in our lives.

We need to learn to better manage the limited about of energy we have. Our job performance, our health, and happiness are all grounded in the management of our daily energy.

images-3Energy management is the ability to understand how our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual attributes affect our ability to be productivity. These traits fuel the limited well of energy we tap into each day so we can be engaged in our work.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” – Benjamin Franklin

Each source has its own ways of being replenished and depleted; it is the foundation of understanding energy management. In our culture of working and numbing through the pain, we sometimes cannot hear (nor are we listening for) the subtle whispers our body is telling us – that its time for a break. When we don’t listen, the whisper becomes a scream and our bodies knock us on our ass making us sick so that we are forced to rest.

Status check – let’s do an energy inventory assessment: when taking the quiz below put a check next to any statement that even partially applies. The more honest you are the better understanding you’ll have. Remember no one will see your results but you!

Body

____ I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and I often wake up feeling tired.

____ I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t nutritious.

____ I don’t work out enough (meaning cardiovascular training at least three times a week and strength training at least once a week).

____ I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew and recharge, or I often eat lunch at my desk, if I eat it at all.

Emotions

____ I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, or anxious at work, especially when work is demanding.

____ I don’t have enough time with my family and loved ones, and when I’m with them, I’m not always really with them.

____ I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.

____ I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others or to savor my accomplishments and blessings.

Mind

____ I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, and I am easily distracted during the day, especially by email.

____ I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crises and demands rather than focusing on activities with longer-term value and high leverage.

____ I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing, and creative thinking.

____ I work in the evenings or on weekends, and I almost never take an email–free vacation.

Spirit

____ I don’t spend enough time at work doing what I do best and enjoy most.

____ There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.

____ My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.

____ I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others or to the world.

How is your overall energy?

Total number of statements checked: ______

Guide to scores:

0–3: Excellent energy management skills

4–6: Reasonable energy management skills

7–10: Significant energy management deficits

11–16: A full-fledged energy management crisis

What do you need to work on?

Number of checks in each category:

Body ____

Mind ____

Emotions ____

Spirit ____

Guide to category scores

0: Excellent energy management skills

1: Strong energy management skills

2: Significant deficits

3: Poor energy management skills

4: A full-fledged energy crisis

Now that you’ve taken the quiz, the first thing I want to say is IT’S OKAY!

On average most people put a check mark next to eight to ten of these statements. But here’s the bonus of doing this inventory: having the list in front of us helps us to clearly identify those behaviors that are counterproductive to managing our energy. When we can increase our awareness on how improving our sleep, diet, exercise, mindfulness, and spirt, we will begin to understand as well as how to influence our daily energy level.

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” – Aristotle

Keys to an Effective Relationship – Part II

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Communication….the next frontier. This is the voyage to understand and improve communication……. .to seek strange new ideas and thoughts…to boldly go where no one has gone before!

imagesOkay, I’ve been looking for a way to get my geek on and throw a Star Trek reference into a post since Leonard Nimoy died earlier this month. Man, I loved watching re-runs of Star Trek’s first generation in the 1970’s! Illogical? Yes, but that was part of the fun. I loved Mr. Spock’s highly used phrase: live long and prosper.

Communication, according to Webster’s dictionary, (hear me out!) is the “act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, and feelings to someone else.” I don’t mean to bring in dry information such as dictionary meanings to loose you so early on in this post; I do it purely to solidify the depth of how important communication is to our relationships.

images-4When we think about it, relationships are built, grown, and die because of our communication. This is why we need to constantly be focused on how our communication lands on others. Last week we reviewed a paradigm shifting quote by John Wallen: “We judge ourselves by our intentions. We judge others by their impact.” So how do we ensure our message is being received as intended and we are making the desired impact?

To effectively communicate we need to be self-aware of what we bring to each conversation. The more self-aware we are the more we are able to manage our own behavior and chosen words to convey the intended impact.

Being self-aware includes an understanding of our personality, personal values, habits, and emotional responses. A few of these we reviewed in previous posts yet we have not yet touched on the importance of our habits and emotions.

We all have habits that can either enhance or detract from how we communicate. Two ways to understand these are to: 1) be present – observe yourself during conversations and; 2) ask for feedback from those you know will be honest with you. For example you may have a habit of filling in gaps during a conversation with ah’s and um’s. Or you may have a habit of speaking so quickly others cannot keep up with you. Usually we don’t know this unless we observe our own interactions or someone is kind enough to make us aware.

By stepping back from our own experience and observing what is happening during a conversation we can objectively decide on how we will respond in the future with greater confidence and finesse.

images-2Our emotions during communication can either get the best of us by overshadowing our intention or we avoid them to protect ourselves or we believe the other person. Either way we need to learn to use the messages our emotions are telling us to more effectively communicate.

Our feelings are the primary motivating source in our lives. Without acknowledging our core feelings, we lose our sense of self.” – John Bradshaw

Our emotions are the driver of everything we do. Sometimes we are aware of our emotions and sometimes because of our upbringing and habits we are not. We need to learn to acknowledge our emotions and understand they are in charge of our actions. This is huge so let me say that again….our emotions are in charge of our actions. Like it or not, this is a scientific fact and the sooner we can get better at reading the messages the sooner we can discover how they can help us in our relationships.

Each emotion provides us valuable information on how our life is working. Noticing them can provide the direction we need to promote self-awareness. The better we are at recognizing them and learning to read the purpose of their message, the more authentic of a life we will live and the more true we will be to our genuine self.

brainHaving access to our emotions puts us in charge of communication rather than our feelings. We can choose to express our emotions (or not) but we will benefit from noticing them and listening to their messages. If you have difficultly (like most of us!) try these practices to help get in touch:

  • Understand what triggers your emotions. Notice what happened before you felt it. Make a list of these triggers to identify patterns. This will help you to manage the feeling in the future and to ensure your intended impact while communicating is clear.
  • Ask a trusted person to share how they experience you and your emotions. Use this clarity to help you recognize and feel your emotions; again this supports enhancing your desired communication impact.
  • If you are in a tense situation and cannot name a feeling, identify what you are feeling in your body. Focusing on that part of our body can be a powerful portal for identifying that emotion in the future.
  • Share your emotional impact with others. For example: I felt disrespected when you didn’t call after not showing up for our lunch date. Was that your intention? This practice helps us to own and articulate our feelings and clarifies our needs to others. As a side note – this should be stated in an open and non-judgemental method.

Next week we’ll review another segment on keys to an effective relationship; The power of understanding another person’s perspective.

“Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.” – Tom Hanks