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emotional intelligenceIn a previous article I talked about the painbody and how it undermines emotional intelligence (EQ). Now let’s talk about how to deal with the painbody in our lives. But first . . .

There are many ways we typical react to the painbody that erupts in our lives and relationships. Here are a few:

  • —Most importantly and most often, we identify with the painbody. As I mentioned in Part 1, the painbody often takes over our mind and we think as it dictates us to think. We cannot tell the preverbal “forest from the trees.”
  • Act it out. (This is similar to identifying with it.) For example we might start a fight with our spouse just to prove s/he is a hurtful person.
  • We numb it. There are many ways to numb pain. Here are just a few:

o   Drink alcohol or get stoned (most addictions are part of the painbody)

o   Work, work and work some more

o   Complain until you run out of friends

o   Eat a high caloric snack (when no is looking) and then go back for seconds.

  • We try to fight the painbody. This is the most interesting because it seems like the “right” thing to do. We desperately try to dispute it and fight emotion with facts. Sometimes this works for a short time but like Dorothy’s witch, she keeps coming back. Very often when we fight the painbody, it only gets bigger. It’s like some sci-fi monster that eats up your energy and turns it on you. So good luck fighting your painbody!
  • Or we can do it the healthy way . . .

Eckhart Tolle has a very simple yet powerful approach to the painbody. It is consistent with many psychological and spiritual approaches that we all know (and practice?). Here are a few of them:

  • AAA:  Acknowledge . . . Accept . . .  Allow . . . the painbody. Don’t fight it, it will win and take parts of you with it. Instead acknowledge its eruption. Accept that it is there and mindfully allow it to be there without resistance.
  • Watch it with compassionate . . . Presence. Tolle frequently uses the term presence. He endorses being present with the painbody without reacting to it, without identifying with it, without fighting it. In this way we take away its food source, our mental engagement with it. This practice is very similar to what I write about regarding Witches in my book, Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Taking Dorothy’s lead, we should face the Witch and douse it with the water of Awareness and Compassion (what I fancy to be truth and grace, respectively).  When we do this, the witch melts.
  • Befriend it?  It might seem strange—if not masochistic—to see the painbody as a friend or ally. But when we greet it for what it is––un-integrated, impacted emotional pain that we carry around in our psyche—and we know that when it is metabolized (melts) it will release positive energy; we don’t have to be afraid of it. In fact we might welcome it as an opportunity to grow and heal. (See Getting Your Wings in the Land of Oz.)
  • Surrender. There is another discipline that uses the idea of surrender. Do you know who it is? Yes, Alcohol Anonymous prescribes the concept of “surrender” in its First Step on road to recovery. Tolle identifies two types of surrender:
    • Level #1: Surrender to the reality . . . as it is. The other day I spilled a cup of chunky soup inside our refrigerator. Becoming upset, I cursed at the horrendous crime that had just fallen upon me. And then the Awareness in me spoke. “It is soup spilled, nothing more nothing less. Be present with the reality of spilt milk soup  . . .  and oh yeah, and clean it up.”
    • Level #2: Surrender to the pain . . .  feel it. We are generally afraid of our painful feelings. But if we can separate them from the old negative “emotional notions” in our head (Tolle calls this our “Unhappy Me”), we are left with simply emotions,   which will pass with time (and the sooner we surrender, the sooner they leave).  Sadness, loneliness and anger without their “mental containers’ (e.g. “I am defective” or “No one loves me”) are just feelings and feelings come and go.

I challenge us to try this practice. Next time our painbody erupts, wait for the Awareness-within. Acknowledge and accept the painbody’s appearance. Bring compassion and grace as you watch it. Don’t give in to the temptation to identify with it, numb it, act it out or even fight it. Simply be present. Then enjoy the inevitable melting of the painbody Witch and the release of positive energy that will follow. This is emotional intelligence.

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training the brain

Four Pathways to Retraining Your Brain

This is the follow-up to my December 1st post, which was based on an article by UCLA researcher Daniel Siegel. His article describes a healthy brain-mind using the acronym: FACES:

Flexible … the ability to bend without breaking
Adaptive … ability to adjust to different conditions
Coherent … clear, logical, and forming a whole
Energized … having vitality and enthusiasm
Stable …  firmly established, not easily upset, not likely to give-way

At the end of Part I in this series, I wrote:

Can we retrain the brain?  Fortunately the answer is YES, however it is a qualified yes. It is not easy, and not everyone is willing or capable of retraining his or her brain. Siegel and other neurobiologists agree that the brain is “elastic.”  What they mean is that—although difficult—we can recondition the brain: build new and better brain-mind integration. . . . And one key way to effect and eventually develop this part of the brain-mind is through awareness.

As promised, Part 2 of this article will discuss how to raise awareness in leaders so that we change their middle prefrontal cortex and thus generate real learning, growth and effectiveness.  Following are four ways to raise awareness as leaders in the business world in order to retrain the brain. The principles apply likewise to our roles as spouse, parent and friend but in different forms, which I will mention briefly at the end.

1. Experiential Training: I start with the most common, but least effective way to retrain the brain. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in training. One of my favorite things that I do as a consultant is to facilitate training sessions among business and executive teams. But even when I do the training myself, I almost always try to make it experiential and STRONGLY encourage follow-up—the more personal and experiential the follow-up, the better. We retrain the brain primarily through experience, not through taking notes or watching colorful slides. The more we repeat the experience, the more new neural pathways we form.

2. Targeted Personal Assessments: This can take many forms. The most common form of this is the routine annual or bi-annual review. Human beings thrive on accurate, digestible feedback.  When the feedback is about us, we generally listen with a higher level of attention. It is particularly helpful if the feedback comes with clearly stated and doable actions. Changed behavior is changed experience, which equals new and better neural pathways.

As a business psychologist I often give assessments to key employees and leaders in a company.  These assessments can take on many forms. There are the typical self-report assessments, which are valuable but easily skewed. I particularly like using what is call a 360-rater feedback where any number of people (up-line, down-line, peers, etc.) can take the test about you and you can see how others perceive you.

3. Business Coaching:  Probably the most powerful way a leader can raise awareness and retrain the brain is through coaching. Business coaching (executive coaching, corporate coaching or leadership coaching) is based on a one-on-one relationship with a trusted advisor (usually from the “outside”) who provides a discovery process, in-time feedback, support and advice to improve an individual’s effectiveness in their organization.  It is the individualized, ongoing process that makes it the most salient brain-changer. If a basketball player benefits from a coach, any and every business leader would likewise be the better for the process of interaction and feedback.

4. An Aware Organization: This last suggestion is the hardest to come by but is the most comprehensive. It goes beyond helping individuals become more aware (the goal of the first three points above) by making awareness part of the corporate culture itself. The organization creates a  culture that not only models and encourages awareness from all its members, but is interestingly aware of itself as well. It is an organic living SWOT analysis. In other words, it is an organization that is aware of its

  • Strengths to exploit,
  • Weaknesses—(yes, its weaknesses)—to monitor,
  • Opportunities to leverage, and
  • Threats to be privy to.

How does an organization become aware? It starts at the top. If its top leaders are not aware, then there is little hope. The Aware Organization is also an organization that is open to outside review (assessment) and feedback and is willing to hear and face the truth about itself. This organization is one that will naturally promote awareness as a norm.

How do these principles apply to other roles that we assume—for example, as a spouse, parent, or friend? Well, any way that we can raise our awareness in one relationship (without shame or defensiveness) does the same thing for us in other types of relationships. Here are some examples (that correspond to the 4 areas above):

  1. Taking interactive courses and workshops. For example, I run occasional courses for couples and parents that are highly interactive and “awareness raising.”
  2. Take online assessments. There are many free assessments that you can take. (If you’re interested in knowing more, leave me a comment below and I will forward you the links). Listen to your partner’s (child’s/friend’s) feedback carefully without defensiveness. Consider what parts of what is being said might possibly be true. This should raise awareness and change your brain.
  3. Instead of getting coaching, try a stint in your own personal therapy, or consider working with a mentor or spiritual director.
  4. Create an “Aware Home” where part of the culture of your household is a commitment to non-defensive listening to feedback. Also be part of organizations (clubs, churches) that are awareness-prone organizations.

If you want leaders (partners, parents or friends) who have the ability to bend without breaking while remaining firmly established and persistent (Stability), and the ability to adjust to varying conditions and markets (Adaptability), are able to think with clarity and logic (Coherent), and have a vitality and an enthusiasm (Energy), then you want a leader (partner, parent or friend) with a high-functioning middle prefrontal cortex. And to retrain that part of the brain you need to increase awareness and foster growth experiences.

Share with us strategies that you use to raise your awareness. And remember, emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.

This is my last post of 2013. I wish all of you a wonder-filled Holiday and a great 2014.

MandelaStampThis week’s blog was supposed to be Part 2 of last week’s “The Emotionally Intelligent Brain, Part 1.”  However because of the passing of a historic man, I decided to digress for one week.

Nelson Mandela’s greatness was of historic proportions. He was also—in my humble opinion—emotionally intelligent. Now mind you, I do not believe that all great people are emotionally intelligent. Steve Jobs was a great man. He changed the world. I am not sure if we could say that he was emotionally intelligent—ask his employees. Nelson Mandela was.

In a previous blog (November 11th) entitled “Emotional Intelligence (EI) in Three-D: Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion,” I introduced the Interpersonal Triangle and what I consider the three dimensions of emotional intelligence (EI). The basis of my book, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst, is that Dorothy’s three companions represent the three dimensions of the interpersonal world:

  • Courageous Lion represents the Power or “Self “dimension (Moving-Against)
  • Heart-filled Tin Man represents the Love or “Other” dimension (Moving-Toward)
  • Thoughtful Scarecrow represents the Knowing or “Mindfulness” Dimension (Moving-Away)

InterpersonalTriangleAs far as the Interpersonal Triangle describes EI, the premise is simple: When we relate to others—and the world in general—in the positive expressions of all three dimensions, in dynamic balance, then we are at that moment emotionally intelligent. If we get out of balance, unable to function positively in any one (of the three) dimensions we become lopsided and emotionally “unintelligent.”

Mandela and Dorothy have much in common. Mandela and the people of South Africa were under the dominion of the wicked Apartheid regime.  At first the people of South Africa—and Mandela himself—understandably reacted to this regime in one or all of the following ways:

  • Negative Tin Man: they were frozen in fear, like Tin Man in the forest, immobilized and compliant
  • Negative Scarecrow, detached, indecisive and ineffective in the cornfield
  • Negative RED Lion, violent and angry

By the end of the story, Dorothy pulled her inner Team together and with equanimity was able to move fluidly in all three dimensions so that she could eventually melt the Wicked Witch of the West. Tin Man was no longer frozen, but with some oil was able to move with passion and compassion steadfast in the mission.  Scarecrow was no longer ineffective and indecisive. When he found his knowing, he was able to mindfully and persistently see how to move forward with self-control and wisdom. And yes, Lion (finally) found his nerve and was willing to march into hell (the castle) for a heavenly cause to face the most dangerous witch. This, my friend, was Nelson Mandela. Mandela eventually and consistently pulled together his inner Team—like Dorothy—to melt the wicked regime of Apartheid. This is why we love and admire this giant of a man.

With notable equanimity, Mandela lived and functioned in the positive aspects of all three dimensions:

  • Courageous Lion: He spoke truth to “Power” (not unlike Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King). And what courage he exhibited, to confront the green-faced hag of Apartheid and then survive an oppressive and impossibly prolonged imprisonment!
  • Heart-filled Tin Man: His compassion for his people and his passion for the mission was unshakeable. His life was a life of service. But the thing that I admire most about Mandela was his capacity for forgiveness. He was once asked if he forgave his jailers who brutalized him for nearly 3 decades.  His response was profound.  He said that he was their prisoner for 27 years and if he did not forgive them he would still be their prisoner.
  • Mindful Scarecrow: He was a man of patience and self-control. Prison allegedly taught him the benefits of silence and solitude, attributes of mindfulness. One of the sub-categories of EI is what is called “political savvy.” Mandela had political savvy. He knew when to fight (Lion) and when to forgive (Tin Man).

His ability to move freely and dynamically in all three dimensions is why I consider him a notably emotionally intelligent person and a model and inspiration for all of us—on whatever stage we live out our personal and work lives. Emotional intelligence is an intelligence that he lived by. South Africa is grateful; the World is grateful. Rest in Peace.

Oil for the Tin ManIn the previous (maiden) blog on EI, I introduced some initial ideas on this most important concept, emotional intelligence. If you remember, in the first article I featured Daniel Goleman’s four basic factors of EI:  Self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management. Well I have another way to cut the EI pie, taken from my book (Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst). It is also the subject matter of my new book coming out in 2014 and I am pleased to present it to you now.

Over a half-century ago Karen Horney, M.D. enhanced the psychological world with her book, Our Inner Conflicts. The now-classic book introduces the three primary ways people relationally move: we move toward, move against, or move away from others. Across the ocean in England—and independent of Dr. Horney—Wilfred Bion, M.D., used three different terms to describe how we emotionally “link” or connect to each other. He said that people interpersonally connect either through love, hate (Power) or knowing.  Although the terms differ, in essence, these two psychoanalytic giants—independently of each other—identified the three fundamental ways in which we interpersonally move or connect to others.

Over the years, I have relied on these tripartite concepts to guide me as a therapist, a teacher and an organizational consultant. As I have worked with these concepts, I’ve gradually developed a model that I call the Interpersonal Triangle. The Interpersonal Triangle is strongly confirmed throughout psychological literature, as well as in other places such as systems theory, biology, organizational psychology, philosophy, religion, literature and even pop culture (too many to speak of in this article). But what does all this have to do with the Wizard of Oz?

Early in her journey Dorothy meets three companions—Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Each of these companions has some characteristic that is underdeveloped and in need of fulfillment. Remember Tin Man who cares about having a heart? He represents “love,” or “moving toward.” Lion, who battles for courage, represents “power,” or “moving-against.” Finally, Scarecrow, preoccupied with having a brain, symbolizes knowing, or “moving away”—mindfulness, if you may. Each of the movements can either be negative or positive in their impact, as we will soon see in the example below. 

InterpersonalTriangle

So what does this have to do with EI?  I maintain that an “effective, mature and decent” human being is someone who relates to others in a dynamic yet flexible way, integrating the positive aspect of all three dimensions at the same time. And when we are not able to respond in a positive way in one or more of the dimensions, we are thrown out of kilter. Let me give you an example.

Mary owns her own small firm. Ever since she was a little girl she had a hard time with Tin Man. She believes that all the “touchy feely stuff” is a display of weakness. Because of that, she tends to overdo Scarecrow (being cold and distant) and Lion (being impatient and domineering).  I was hired to help Mary find out why she was having such a difficult time retaining talent in her company. A quick (anonymous) survey of the employees, along with some personality testing, soon brought the answer clearly into focus.

Based on the feedback that I gave her, she reluctantly agreed to a series of coaching sessions (after all “needing” coaching—moving toward—is a sign of weakness).  Based on the theory of the Interpersonal Triangle, we did not focus on her overdone cowardly Lion behaviors (her impatience and micro-management) nor did we consider her overdone Scarecrow (her cold disposition toward employees). Instead we focused on Tin Man–her least favorite dimension.  At first we experimented with safe Tin Man behaviors; for example, giving compliments to employees who did a good job.  Later we worked on more difficult Tin Man behaviors, like seeking input from the project managers on how to run a project.

Even though I focused mostly on Tin Man, my goal in this coaching assignment was to move her toward full positive functioning of ALL THREE of the characters. As she began to improve in her Tin Man behaviors, a wonderful thing began to happen. Not only did she begin to exhibit more positive Tin Man behaviors, which was most welcomed by all employees, BUT she no longer manifested the overdone negative LION and SCARECROW behaviors. Instead LION transformed into effective leadership and candor; and SCARECROW showed up more as wisdom and patience.  Mary was learning to more effectively move through the three dimensions of her interpersonal world.  She was exhibiting Goleman’s self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management. Mary had become more emotionally intelligent.

In this very brief introduction of the Interpersonal Triangle, it is enough here to raise awareness of the three ways we can relationally move—positively or negatively.  And to know that if we are weak in one mode, we will go out-of-balance in the others—making us less effective in how we relate to and impact others.   And when we find the “synergy” of all three we can move powerfully and effectively through the three dimensions of the interpersonal world.

Dorothy’s weakest link was Courageous Lion. When she finally found her mojo, she was able to pull the inner team together and melt herself a witch and fire a wizard (more to come on Wizards and Witches). Which character do you have the most trouble with in your life . . . as a manager, a parent, a spouse? (We are often different in different settings.) Don’t bother working on your weaknesses, work on the strengths that are underdeveloped and you will be more emotionally intelligent. And emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.