Emotional Integration Methods, part 1

Note: I originally wrote this in 2004/5. But, since we all have the tendency to forget what we have learned, I’m re-posting today. I need to read my older articles to remember what really works for me!

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reframing your thinking in a positive light is not just for the affirmation spouting “feel good” types.  Research is finally catching up with what many have suspected all along: positive emotions can change your life.  Specifically, they can “broaden people’s habitual modes of thinking and build their physical, intellectual and social resources” according to BL Fredrickson.

When you engage positive thoughts and emotions, not only are you leaving no room for negative emotions, you are also creating new neural pathways in your brain.  This means your brain changes, and thus, you change! 

You can become a healthier person on all levels, especially in relation to your emotional consistency and resilience—something all people  need to be successful.

Doc Childre reminds us in his work (Heartmath) that “attitude directs how you manage your energy.”  How we manage our energy really is how we run our lives and businesses, don’t you think? 

If your energy is scattered or fragmented, you may feel like you are working an awful lot while not achieving the results you want.

IF your energy is being directed by fear or anxiety—emotions often felt when taking huge leaps of faith—your intuition could become stifled along with your creativity resulting in stagnant performance.

Learning how to focus one’s emotions, neutralizing the negative ones, can directly affect productivity, profit and performance.  We know from current research on the brain and heart that these changes are not only psychological in nature; your physiology changes along with your emotions.  It’s not all in your head! We’ve all experienced clammy hands when we are nervous, for example.

Obviously, we can’t control primitive reflexreactions  

Figure 15 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

—like when we are startled—but we can learn to minimize the body reactions by neutralizing our negative thoughts and emotions.

Next: In part 2, we look at some techniques that work to regulate emotions

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No Easy Fix

The difficulty of changing our minds and brain patterns is not lost on me. It takes consistency and repetition. This is true regarding eating and body issues also.

Anxiety and depression are plaguing 21st Century culture. It’s an epidemic.

We have never had better medications to provide relief, never had better therapies available. Health care, thorough physicians, EAP programs for free counseling, nurses, and other professionals has never been as accessible.There is no world war, most of us do not have a terminal illness. Employment is at an all time low. So what is the problem? Is there any hope?

Day after day people tell me in counseling that they have been dealing with anxiety and depression for years, even decades. They have been on antidepressants literally for generations. They believe that they have a biological issue, some sort of genetic flaw, though no one can identify when or how they were tested to confirm the neurochemical prognosis. Many people, at least in my part of the world have seen a psychiatrist who, after ten or twenty…

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Body Image

Wonderful post on Body Image and what one college student did about hers.

Something revolutionary happened this week. A woman posted a photograph of herself in her underwear on the Internet. Although there are thousands of pictures of women in their underwear on-line (and in magazines, catalogs, television, billboards, etc…), this picture was different. It was different because this woman is fat (not my word).

Stella Boonshoft is an 18 year-old student at New York University and she loves her body. She is proud of her body and she wanted to use her body as an agent of change. She struggled with hating her body for much of her life. She was bullied and tormented as a child and adolescent. And she learned to make peace with her body. So she posted a semi-nude picture of herself on her blog and opened a nation-wide conversation about body image, misconceptions about health, and acceptance. She is extraordinarily courageous.

Stella posted this picture of…

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How to Avoid Meltdown

It’s one of those days: You’re sleep deprived, recovering from a cold, over-worked, having to deal with the most hated parts of your profession (What is it for you?), and you’re PMS-y (sorry men).

Sounds like melt-down,

shut down material to me.

How can you pull yourself out of the pit before

all out emotional catastrophe hits?

1. Be AWARE – Without this there is no hope. You know you are in trouble when your co-workers ask “Why are you so irritable today?” Or “What’s wrong with you?” and you are SURPRISED by the question!

  • Take a few minutes and let yourself quiet before entering your work environment.
  • Notice any feelings or sensations that are nipping at the edges of your consciousness.
  • Take your noticing a step further and ask yourself questions, “Hmm, I’m feeling cranky, what’s up?” or “I’m not wanting to deal with ______ now. What is that telling me?”
  • Look for information, not judgment. Now’s not the time to whack yourself in the head.

2. Take a time-out — you need to stop what you are doing, get off the merry-go-round, and re-assess your options.

  • What activities can be put-off, rescheduled or deleted all together?
  • Tone down to only the absolutely ESSENTIAL tasks while you are not at your optimal levels

For example, one Monday I had something scheduled every hour for 10 hours straight. Then PMS hit hard. I dropped ¾ of the activities and only kept the most necessary, unavoidable ones. I took time out for a “rest” in the afternoon between appointments so I could focus on the next step.

3. Use your “self-talk” arsenal. I’m an auditory learner so I take this advice very literally –-I talk to myself out loud. If you don’t already use anti-catastrophizing tactics start now. These are borrowed from cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT) and work wonder for changing your perspective and attitude.

a. Say the thought/feeling (i.e. “I can’t handle this! I hate this.”)

b. Question it (“Is this true?”)

c. Come up with proof for the doubt. (Well, I’ve handled this before and I can do it again.)

d. Turn the language around (I can handle this even if I do hate it!)

e. Find support to give yourself –- find a lifeboat. Ask “who or what can help me feel more capable (in control, aware, competent, etc.) in this situation?”( ex: oh, so and so is an expert at this, I’ll call her and pick her brain before the meeting so I feel confident.)

f. Identify the feeling behind the thought/lie (i.e. I’m scared of looking like a fool and this has me wanting to run and hide…)

g. Congratulate and reward yourself for being PRO-Active and not giving in to the mood gremlins that thrive on your stress.

                                                                                  

  Some healthy ways to reward yourself:

Cancel a meeting and go for a 20 minute walk on the beach with your shoes off. Feel the sand shifting…along with your stress.

Call a friend you miss and have a 15 minute catch-up girl chat. Laugh a lot.

Exchange funny tweets! (but be careful…)

Go get a spa treatment

Walk to your favorite “juice” spot and have a yummy smoothie, while standing in the sun for a few minutes.

Run home and play with your cat or your dog on your lunch break.

You’ve got the idea. Recover your smile and realize you successfully avoided over-reaction melt-down mode.

To increase your arsenal of tools to draw upon next time try incorporating some of the following into your life on a regular basis:

• Reflective journaling • Work with a life coach • Exercise regularly • Take up yoga or meditation • Prayer • Surround yourself with funny friends • Start a nurturing hobby like gardening, knitting, marathon racing, or bird-house building! • Express joy and gratitude daily • Join a supportive group situation where you can be vulnerable and safe.*

(*This could be an actual support group, an affiliation group, a church small group. Explore your options. Living intentionally in community, although challenging, is well worth the rewards.)

What do you choose as your escape pressure valve? How many ideas have you tried? Tell me what has worked for you in the comments.

Brave Action Plan: Get Moving! Part 2

                        Part Two

In Part One we looked at whether we were Big BeginnersMagnificent Middlers or Competent Completers

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As you looked at which type best fits your preferences and experience, you might notice that if you have a strong aversion to a particular stage of the process, a pattern of avoidance was set in place. Once this pattern becomes entrenched it’s very common for fear to kick in, so that next time we encounter the dreaded ending (beginning or middle) anxiety surfaces.

One of my friend’s suggests asking the following questions:

If I’m not beginning, following through, or finishing well…ask

  • What am I doing instead? (notice/observe)
  • What am I afraid of? (looking bad, messing up, not being perfect?)
  • If I were living in faith (or courage), would I choose to do this?

We have a couple of choices in taking courageous action. First, figure out why we have the fear/anxiety so we can be aware of our unconscious motivations. Examine our motivations with complete honesty. Are we actually sabotaging ourselves by settling for “I don’t want to”? It’s important to explore these areas first before moving on to the next part.

Once you’re sure you’re not sabotaging yourself, holding yourself back in fear, or simply giving up to the deterministic idea of “I’m not good at that part, so why bother?” You’re ready for more courageous action.

Be clear about your strengths and preferences and partner with people that complement you. If you’re a great beginner and finisher, have your partners be accountable for a magnificent middler. This is playing to your strengths is a key strategy for all successful and fulfilled people!

Let me know what your pattern is and how it’s working for you!

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Brave Action Plan: Get Moving! Part 1

   Part One

 So you’ve got your vision, mapped out your plan, took some steps in the right direction, and then…nothing.

 What happened?

 People get stuck at different parts of their process, either the beginning, middle or end. Simple, right?

 Take a few minutes to think of how you go about accomplishing a project, or for your child, how she goes about completing (or not!) school assignments. Once you’ve analyzed your patterns, you’ll see what part needs support for completion to actually happen.

Big (or What?) Beginnings

Do you love to vision, dream big, plan out huge projects? Do you love exploring possibilities? Does the idea of brainstorming for a new project get your energy up and running? Then you are probably blazing through beginnings!

Your child will get excited when you ask her to brainstorm solutions for her school (or personal) problems. She’ll wake up with more energy and start entertaining possibilities. The question for you will be to see if she can translate those ideas to the next stage, or does she become bound by possibilities instead?

Another option is to feel frozen, confused and confounded on how to get started! You may wish that someone would just hand you the plan so you could run with it. The idea of brainstorming make you queasy and you get dizzy when presented with so many choices…ugh. You wonder, What Beginning?

Magnificent (or Muddled) Middle

Some people enjoy implementing a strategy. They may not be into the act of visioning and/or planning, but once the plan is set, they are gifted in making it happen.

You may be a Magnificent Middler if you noticed increased motivation at the thought of diving into ACTION; you can see exactly what is needed to make the plan a reality. You know who to contact and the best people for each part of the plan. You won’t miss an important detail. You’ve got it covered!

Here your child will need you to help him plan out the process and walk him through the initial steps. He’s a slow starter and needs lots of prompting. He may complain that he “doesn’t know how to start!” Once you finally get him going he is able to do the legwork and follow the plan, working with a degree of independence.

On the other hand, you might be a Muddled Middler if your eyes start glazing over “too many details”; you can’t decide who should do what; you lose steam early in the implementation and want to work on a new project instead. 😉

Competent (or Casual) Completer

Others may enjoy the beginning and/or the middle of a project, but really feel their energy rise with the thought of sprinting to the finish.  With the end in sight, the creative juices start flowing and the joy of competent completion kicks in. You may not even enjoy the early stages of a project. What you want is to come in at the end and hit a home run. You love the end result out there for all to see.

In the same manner, your child might take forever to get started on a school project, or even homework. She might need you to actually hold her hand and sit her down. You’ll have to hover to get her through the beginning stages, but finally, as the end nears you can tip-toe away and watch her finish with excitement.

Anybody with a modicum of success has at least learned to be a Casual Completer. You had your fun envisioning and/or implementing the project. Your love of the challenge is over now that the end is in sight. If there is a lot of pressure, you’ll respond and the cross the finish line because it is necessary. Or not so successful professionals might be so casual about it that you leave others to finish as you wander over to a new different race.

In the next post, we will look at what is motivating or driving our patterns and explore what we can do to be successful at all the stages!

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Courage v. Confidence

The Path to Personal Courage

What do you think about cultivating courage in your personal actions? How necessary is a high level of confidence to the task?

An element that is extremely useful for understanding concepts that are life-transforming comes from Thomas Leonard’s idea of coaching distinctions. Here we are looking at a post by Tom Morris using the famous analogy of Plato’s Cave to explore the difference between confidence and courage.

The only way out of the cave was well known to Plato, and was highly regarded by his student, Aristotle. It is the path of personal courage. Aristotle understood courage as a primary virtue, or strength, in human life. He saw it as a midway point between the extremes and vices of timidity and temerity – or the overly cautious capitulation to fear, on the one hand, and the irrational disregard of danger, on the other. Courage recognizes challenge, understands risk, and while fully cognizant of danger, moves forward with the insight that the best path to the future demands positive action now.

We’ve heard a lot of talk recently about the absence of confidence to be found throughout America, and our pressing need for much more. Confidence is an attitude expectant of success and is a universal facilitator of achievement in situations of uncertainty, as many of the great philosophers have understood. We do indeed need more of this quality than we’re demonstrating right now across the culture. But the virtue of courage can be even more important in a situation of dark threats and daunting anxieties. Deep within the cave, our first need is to be brave.

A courageous person does what’s right rather than what’s easy. He does what’s needed rather than what’s expected. He’s willing to take a chance to make a positive difference. He’s not rash in his actions, or careless in his commitments. And yet he’s not so cautious as to remain trapped in chains of fear. A confident person believes that his actions will succeed. A courageous person may start out only hoping that they will. He does what he thinks he should do, regardless of his degree of confidence. And then, quite often and wonderfully, the actions arising from that courage help to build up and justify the confidence that then works to support him as he goes on.

I love the distinction regarding how a courageous person may not have the confidence to act, yet still does; that courage compels one to move forward in the face of anxiety and fear; that the same courage then can increase our confidence when one is on the other side of the fear by stepping through inertia and moving forward.

What is one way that you acted courageously recently?

How do you instill this courage in your children?

Please share your comments below.

Have a courageous day!

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