Archives for posts with tag: emotional intelligence

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. 🙂

It’s time to begin again.

Don’t hate. I mean it. What a huge start down the path of being the person you most want to be (probably). Just don’t fucking hate people. Don’t say hateful things. Don’t undertake hateful actions. Don’t enable hate. Don’t support hate. Don’t become the embodiment of hate through your words or commerce. Fuck. How god damned hard is that, really??

I’m rather angry this morning at the horrible way some obviously grown adults have been treating the Parkland survivors… over the choice to protest what those survivors see as the pivotal issue in the attack on their school. Let’s get past the rather obvious fact that we live in a country that says it values freedom of speech – if that were really the case, we’d all shut the fuck up and listen once in a while. (When was the last time you politely and earnestly listened to the entire monologue of an associate’s views without interrupting to object or counter them, and did so without a rebuttal?) What I’m most angry about is that, even in that freedom of speech context, there are actual grown ass adults attacking recently traumatized young people – because they are offended by the opinions being expressed (that are subjective, personal, and informed by recent violence)! What the fuck? When did we become monsters?

I just don’t have anything nice to say to someone who thinks their right to fondle a firearm takes a priority over comforting the victims of violence. That’s some clueless douche-baggery right there. That “right to bear arms”? Not a bigger deal that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Get some fucking perspective.

I take a deep breath. Pull up out of the slime of the depths of the internet. I finish my coffee quickly, still awash in anger – and there it is. The secret sauce of a great many of our most horrible human moments; our anger. I pause quietly and look at my own. It’s often these moments of disappointment with humanity generally, in which I come face-to-face with the things I am still working on myself. Anger is definitely one of those. Few things fuel shitty behavior and vile invective like impotent frustrated rage.

Another deep breath. Anger has a certain intoxicating visceral feel that surges like a drug through my bloodstream. People “high” on anger lose sight of what matters most to them. People suffering from acute anger poisoning aren’t just capable of killing – they become, also, quite capable of feeling righteous and justified in doing so. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” isn’t something a person reacting to anger still gives a crap about – at least not anyone else’s, and sometimes not even their own. That’s something to contemplate. Is your anger worth killing for? If you think so, how do you reconcile that with that other human being’s right to live their life?

It’s hard to even think about anger without becoming, at some point, angry. Weird. Well, frankly, I have issues. lol You know that; you’re reading this. I’m working on them, though, and even my relationship with anger gets thoroughly scrutinized. I can’t say I have what I consider a healthy relationship with anger – my own or anyone else’s. The experience of extreme anger or rage expressed by other people is highly likely to trigger my PTSD – not helpful, I promise you that. My own anger? I’m not “better than” anyone else; it’s capable of driving some really shitty behavior that I am not content to permit from myself. So. I put in the time and study and practice required to better myself, in some small measure, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, provocation-by-provocation – even on the internet. There are verbs involved. Right now, there’s also a book involved. It’s on my reading list.

Frankly, deep-diving emotion and working to develop and improve emotional intelligence, have seemed to be quite critical on this journey – but it is complicated work, and requires a great deal of practice. Worthwhile. Maybe even the entire purpose of existing as a human being is somehow tangled up in becoming emotionally intelligent, learning to balance emotion and reason, and learning to treat others truly well. I don’t know. I rarely ask the question “what is the meaning of life”. lol Not my question. Doesn’t need my answer.

I do need to begin again. 🙂

Sometimes, being heard seems to be a study in actually listening, myself. Sometimes it is about speaking more clearly, more simply, or more explicitly. Sometimes being heard is about being the person listening most carefully to my own heart, my own voice; when I am “unable to hear myself think”, this is a real experience of being unable to hear myself. Sometimes, I am so attentive to the matter of “being heard”, myself, that I overlook the urgent importance of listening deeply. Thoughts over coffee.

The breeze from over the marsh and meadow is scented with flowers and although I have headphones on, as if listening to music, somehow I haven’t yet gotten as far as turning any on. lol It doesn’t matter. This morning, I am busy keeping track of other details – like the precise moment I can start that one load of laundry I need to do before I depart to meet my Traveling Partner at the designated rally point before a final gear check, and departure. Being late would be beyond rude; it would throw off plans and timing for other people, too. I’d like to avoid that. I’m good at deployment. I’ve had a lot of practice. 🙂

There’s a certain uncomfortable free fall in letting other people handle planning. I’m really good at it, and have learned over the years to uphold a high level of self-reliance, generally. It’s not explicitly stated, so I’ll out myself now; I am not so skilled at, or comfortable with, letting go and allowing someone else to plan and lead. So, this weekend – adventure, love, and all – is a complicated bit of life’s curriculum – advanced coursework, even. This weekend I learn to manage my anxiety around loosening my grip on the details, and allowing other decision-makers, other planners, other leaders, to step to the forefront, call the shots, and let the fun of our time together be truly collaborative. Wow. I break out in a literal sweat thinking about it, and I feel my core tighten a bit with anticipated anxiety (which is like, the dumbest and most annoying anxiety, ever).

I didn’t end up, in prior relationships, overburdened with planning and managing life events, travel, and adventure, because no one else was willing to adopt mannerisms indicating they might handle it – it was more because, at least at the outset, I simply couldn’t allow it. I had to have the control. Not knowing all the details of everything could really freak me out. I had to have things done “right” – admitting, even as I type the words, that my notion of “doing it right” was every bit as subjective and centered on my own thinking as anyone else’s would be. Of course, if I offered to do all of the things, the answer would be a relieved “yes” and we all moved on to our chosen roles. The resentment over time was just “a free service I offered” or… an unrequested… enhancement. LOL

I’m okay with learning another way. It’s been a really long time since I participated in an event of this sort – I have no idea what to expect, neither from the event, nor, frankly, from myself. I don’t even know what I want, beyond spending time chilling with my Traveling Partner, making memories. This could be an amazing shared experience…I have to be willing to allow it to be. (I am.) I have an opportunity to connect really closely with my Traveling Partner for a few days, and an opportunity to listen. (Which is, frankly, both more difficult and more important than talking.) Being heard feels really good. Like happiness, it somehow tends to skitter just out of reach if I chase it. On the other hand, in building the skills I need to listen deeply to others, to listen non-judgmentally, to really hear what someone else is saying – to meet that need to be heard for another – I bring profound new opportunities for intimacy and connection into my experience… that results in greater potential for being heard, myself. It’s my plan to practice listening more than talking, this weekend. There is much I do not know, and I won’t learn it by talking continuously. 😀

I heard my Traveling Partner last night – he communicated concern about his own readiness, and mine, and things he hadn’t thought of, and although he didn’t use simple frank language to get those points across, because I was listening deeply it was not so necessary that he communicate completely clearly. It was late. We were both tired. It would be very human and common and understandable if drama had broken out, or strong emotion, or missed understanding – instead, I listened. If I didn’t “get it”, I asked a direct question, no baggage. We narrowed down needs, wants, and expectations very quickly in this way, and my developing anxiety around letting go of control of all the details and all the knowledge quickly gave way to feeling prepared, content, and… ready for bed. lol

Assuming positive intent is a big help. Not taking things personally is a great approach, too. Understanding we are each having our own experience is also definitely an important tool in the emotional intelligence toolbox. Avoiding contradicting or disagreeing with people’s emotions is something I find useful as well (there’s just no disagreeing with emotion, people – those are facts of their own sort, and very subjective). So… here I go. It’s nearly time to load the car (my dining room is currently my “staging area” and everything is ready but the laundry), to do that one load of laundry, to meet my Traveling Partner, check gear and if necessary make a pass by an appropriate retailer for missed this-or-that we ought not do without (totally necessary; I’ve already made a list)… then… the journey. A destination. A weekend. Love.

54 and still daydreaming about love. 🙂

…The Love part is my favorite. 😀

It’s time to begin, again. See you on Monday.

 

I start feeling complacent, every now and then, after things seem easy for a while, after very little drama over a longer time, after a few days or weeks or even – no kidding – months without a significant reminder of the chaos and damage. Things “in here” are generally fairly tidied up these days, in the sense that I am more resilient, more balanced, less prone to storms and outbursts, less easily rocked from a place of calm. Day-to-day, things are… just days. Moments. Experiences of a life well-lived.

Not what I expected to see.

Tuesday night I came home while daylight lingered. Needing a moment of emotional rest and calm after a somewhat difficult day in the office, I went to the patio door. My cushion was waiting for me, left right there from the morning. I opened the blinds expecting my tidy patio and potted garden, and beyond that, lawn, meadow, marsh… and between the patio and the view, my bird feeders on their pole. Which is mostly sort of what I saw, only… the pole was bent low, laid flat to the ground, which… is not at all the expected functioning position of poles, generally, nor this one specifically, ever, at all. It’s not a bit peculiar that I was taken by surprise, or angry – but I was unprepared for the shit storm of emotions that hit me almost instantly. Rage. Real fury. Resentment. As the anger built to an unmanageable level, the frustration, the learned helplessness, the disappointment, all capitalized on the suddenly volatile moment to pile on. Breaking shit is not an option. Lashing out physically is not an option. I took a photograph of the wrecked pole, mostly because I didn’t really know what else to do. Then I cried. I cried and cried like a child who realizes they’ve misplaced their very most favorite toy. I cried like a grieving lover. It was all quite excessive and somehow inappropriate to the moment. I didn’t care about that, and wouldn’t recognize it for some time, much later in the evening.

All of the tears that I haven’t cried over all of the shitty things going on in the world lately finally found their way out of my eye holes. I wept. I let myself have the moment. I indulged the momentary falsehood that it was truly only about a pole. Tears I can handle. I’ve cried a river of them. I’ve wiped them dry with a million miles of tissues. Tears fall. Tears dry. Moments pass.

The rage was harder to handle. Anger terrifies me, even my own.  Even to allow it for a moment, felt like it teetered on the edge of criminal to feel it at all. Anger is such a human emotion. We teach ourselves so little about it. Isn’t that strange? I was unprepared, in spite of putting in so much practice and work, generally, on emotion, and emotional intelligence. Experiencing rage still feels terrifying, and part of what is frightening about it (for me), is how powerful it feels. In that moment, I really wanted to lash out, I really wanted to take action – action has power. I wanted to destroy everything within reach, to “make a mark” on the world, to punish whoever had wronged me, to assign blame, and force “rightness” on my circumstances. I live a life in which I have surrounded myself with precious things, delicate breakables, art, porcelain, glass – and because these things are precious to me, I have learned to stop when I am raging. Just stop. No action. Self-inflicted, self-enforced inaction. Inaction that gives me a moment to recognize that beneath the rage is… the hurt. The sadness. The disappointment. The loss. The tears. I can cope fairly easily with tears. I have so little sense of having tools to deal with rage… but I know this about me; I will not break my beautiful precious trinkets of material life. They hold my memories. The preciousness of breakable things stalls my rage. It has been tool, system, and practice enough to be adequate for a long time…

It’s time to learn and grow. Is life’s next lesson about anger? Is it time? I admit to having avoided it so far, by creating circumstances in which it can rarely surface – some seriously masterful avoidance. I live in my own place, alone, so my relationships rarely cause me anger; there is no opportunity. I live fairly simply in a space carefully managed to limit “incidental anger” from stubbed toes, or wacked shins. I limit my exposure to sensationalized media reporting. I end social relationships with people who seem inclined to provoke me deliberately. I avoid being out in the world if my PTSD is flaring up. I refrain from becoming emotionally invested in the workplace to the point that passion could erupt over points of disagreement. When anger, or issues to do with it, come up in therapy, I carefully back away and don’t bring it up next time. Avoidance, however, is a short-term coping skill, not a long-term growth strategy.

I’ve set this one aside twice now, when I got to the chapter on anger. I haven’t been ready.

I guess it’s time to take another step down an unlit path. It’s been an extraordinary journey, these last 4 years or so. There’s more to learn. More opportunity to grow. More work to be done to become the woman I most want to be. I dislike the experience of being surrounded by precious irreplaceable breakable objects, trembling with barely restrained rage, until fury finally finds its release as tears because no action is “safe”. There’s probably a better way. 🙂 It’s time to face the woman in the mirror, anger and all, and give her a hand with this one.

The commute is usually standing room only. Plenty of seats on the morning of a Day Without Women.

Apropos of anger, yesterday was “Day Without a Woman” on International Woman’s Day. A lot of women stepped away from their roles in the workplace, at home, just generally. Allies and supporters and feminists of all sorts, too. It was a powerful demonstration, probably more meaningful to those of us demonstrating, than those who obstruct us, or who fail to recognize the fundamental humanity of women. Still powerful. That’s an anger thing, I guess, that feeling of power. How can I best harness the power of my anger – without truly understanding it? I don’t think I can. So. It is, perhaps, long overdue to deal with the rage.

At this point, the anger is academic, it is a quiet calm morning and it’s time to consider the here, the now, and the day ahead of me. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

It would be a humble enough victory to end life described as ‘reliable and unbiased’, but I do think it would stand as a victory of sorts, and a lifetime of which a human being could be proud. I mention it because so much of our information isn’t either of those things, and we are often unaware of it. It isn’t enough to suggest a better source of information; most news sources globally are tainted with bias of some sort. I suspect the best most of us can hope for is to select a broad variety of sources and source material, of a variety of known biases, and do our own homework; fend for ourselves, intellectually.

What value is a lifetime of study without reflection?

What value is a lifetime of study without reflection?

I am, and have long been, the sort of person who will gently inquire as to the source of information, and even ask friends and loved ones to cite their references in a friendly discussion. I try to avoid unfriendly discussions, contentious dialogue, arguments, and hostile diatribes entirely; I have no time to waste with bullshit, or conversation on controversial matters that severs any possible connection with reason, in favor of sound bites, slogans, and invective. I recognize that conversation built on emotional judgments can become arguments quickly, and generally without the possibility of resolution; emotions can’t actually be argued with effectively. Emotions are subjective, in every case, and not subject to proofs. It’s rude to argue with someone’s feelings, and disrespectful, inconsiderate, and diminishing of their value as a being. Like it or not, we are each having our own experience.

It’s also rude to use ones emotions to support a seemingly fact-based position on an issue, because there is no room for discussion; each of us is having our own experience, and we are utterly free to feel however we do about the experience we are having, and to evaluate past experiences in any way we choose. (It may be quite unavoidable.)  It’s sort of a logical ‘dirty trick’, but I doubt most people do it willfully; they simple react to what they read or hear, with the full weight of their convictions, which are sometimes based entirely on their emotions, without any underlying personal experience, study, or vetted information, at all.

It can be challenging to untangle this puzzle. I suggest a bit of study on the subject of E Prime, if you haven’t already. I’m not advocating the full time use of E Prime, myself, although I did for a number of years. I suggest, rather, that understanding the basics of E Prime is illuminating and holds potential to improve general use of language. Admittedly, I also think any excuse to read Quantum Psychology has value; it is a book that holds potential to improve ones thinking in a number of ways.  🙂

There’s something unstated here, that is important [from my perspective]; I’ve had this knowledge a long time. Reason, logical discussion, E Prime, and awareness of bias in language have been part of my experience for a while – and did nothing to ease my suffering, or increase my happiness, contentment, or ability to connect on an intimate level with other human beings. At best, it gave me a glib (and false) experience of certainty that I was ‘more right’ than someone else, that really wasn’t particularly helpful, or accurate, and did little to improve my experience. Being ‘right’ hasn’t turned out to have much value at all.  So…I share these words today with the further observation that although ‘being right’ often feels incredibly important, that hasn’t held up under scrutiny for me, and hasn’t been what brings me contentment, joy, or balance. Certainly, ‘being right’ has not one damned thing to do with love, and loving.

If there is 'just one thing', it is far likelier to be 'about' emotion than reason. It is our feelings that define our experience.

If there is ‘just one thing’, it is far likelier to be ‘about’ emotion than reason. It is our feelings that define our experience.

 

So…I continue, myself, on this journey of studying emotion. Emotional intelligence, emotional intimacy, and emotional self-sufficiency seem to hold more promise on my journey toward wholeness, and wellness, and meeting my needs over time, than my old ally ‘reason’ has ever delivered. Emotion has more to do with the ‘who I am’ pieces of my experience than any opinion on a controversial cultural matter, by addressing who I am directly, instead of reflecting back from current events and filtered through social norms. Emotion is hard sometimes. It is visceral, raw, and immediate. It is ‘unarguable’. It is incredibly real – but so often treated as second-class in our experience, or unworthy of our attention and consideration.  Our emotional experience is ‘reliable and unbiased’ – it is reliably ours, and it is our own real reaction to… something. That’s where it gets sticky for me, and why I invest so much study, contemplation, and mindful observation in the experience of emotion, these days, over reason.  So many times I have been bamboozled, not using reason, or logic, or facts, but by playing on my emotions and relying on my lack of skill, and lack of understanding, of emotion to achieve the persuasive win.

Reading the books does not create change. It is our actions that change us, even the action of thinking differently.

Reading the books does not create change. It is our actions that change us, even the action of thinking differently.

I enjoy logic, and reason. I value them. That hasn’t changed, but I now recognize that my emotional life is likely the much greater part of my humanity, and left unattended I am a savage – however educated I may seem to be.

Life isn't all logic and reason; we are emotional beings. It only makes sense to invest time and study in such an important part of our experience.

Life isn’t all logic and reason; we are emotional beings. It only makes sense to invest time and study in such an important part of our experience.

Today is a good day to feel. Today is a good day to love. Today is a good day for compassion and kindness. Today is a good day to change the world.