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Wizard of Oz

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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transcendence

Episcopal priest Rev. Ed Bacon* recently posted a short poem by Kim Rosen titled “In Impossible Darkness.” It caught both my attention and imagination.  Here it is:

In Impossible Darkness

Do you know how

the caterpillar

turns?

Do you remember

what happens

inside a cocoon?

You liquefy.

There in the thick black

of your self-spun womb,

void as the moon before waxing,

you melt

(as Christ did

for three days 
in the tomb)

conceiving

in impossible darkness

the sheer 
inevitability

of wings.

—Kim Rosen

I am sure that this has great meaning for many Christian Believers. But I see meaning and importance far beyond its seasonal Christian treatment. I see profound “spiritual” and psychological implication as well. So in the echoes of Passover, Easter and blossoms of springtime, allow me to muse out-loud. You see, to me this is a poem about change, about transcendence.

Change is seldom easy. You almost always have to “liquefy.”  What does liquefy mean (to me)? It means you have to come apart, dis-integrate, change your current form and then re-organize into something different (and if to have any true importance), something better.  The butterfly has its entire original DNA; it is just reorganized. The butterfly-you and the butterfly-me are the same essential person but our function and capacity are altered. We have wings now—wings that give us freedom and mobility. Unlike a creeping caterpillar bound by the weight of its encumbered life, we can now fly.

The change is seldom instantaneous, there is almost always a “tomb” experience—an experience that is set-apart, and to some degree tumultuous. An experience that is identifiable, if by no other distinction than by its ridiculous disturbance to what we are use to. It could be as simple as a bad-hair day (like one that I had last week) or a more catastrophic event like a divorce or the death of a loved one (like the recent passing of my dear brother-in-law).  In my book, I refer to this as the Land of Oz. The Land of Oz is a passageway, an uncharted pit stop where we go to liquefy and change into something more true to our best selves. It is where we fire our fraudulent Wizards; it is where we face our inner Witches (see my blog on Pain Body) and they melt; and, the place where we develop Lion-power, Tin Man-love and Scarecrow-mindfulness.

I once heard of an African-American preacher who gave a sermon for Good Friday (the day that many Christians honor the death of Jesus). The sermon was profound yet elegantly simple. Here is the sermon in its entirety:

It’s Friday . . . but Sunday** is coming.

He just kept repeating that phrase over and over again with increasing crescendo and varying punctuation.

So for those of us going through a tomb experience, who are “liquefied in the darkness;” for those of us who are in the throes of an “Oz” experience, confused and disoriented—take hope. When we go through these experiences with grace (profound love for ourselves) and truth (with full consciousness), there are wings waiting inevitably for us. Please note: this not cute sentimentality; this is good psychology. This is neurology at its best. The change is real. This is how we become more emotionally intelligent. This is how we become our best butterfly selves.

 

P.S. For those of you who are waiting for Part 2 of my blog on Eckhart Tolle’s Pain Body, it is coming soon.

 

______________________

[*] The Reverend Ed Bacon is the Rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena and a frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Super Soul Sunday. He is the author of 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind (2012, 2013).

[**] Sunday refers to Easter Sunday, which is when traditional Christians believe that Jesus rose alive from the tomb.

Tig and DawnThe Sons of Anarchy recently finished its 6th season on FX. For those of you who are fans—and there are millions of you out there—there are scenes that are indelibly etched into your mind. One of those scenes is without a doubt the opening episode of the 5th season where the character Tig is forced to witness the brutal murder of his own daughter, Dawn. Those of you who watched this amazing episode saw what I consider an Emmy-worthy performance by Kim Coates in the role as Tig.

In anticipation of this scene, and knowing that I was a psychologist, Kim asked me to discuss it with him. He wanted to know what a person like Tig would go through psychologically in witnessing the brutal murder of a loved one. When I have the opportunity to work with actors of his caliber I never presume to coach them on how to act. But what I can do is help them understand how the mind works—in this case under catastrophic conditions. I’d like to share with you a little bit of what we talked about and then comment about the three ways we all react when threatened.

Tig is the sergeant-at-arms at his motorcycle club. He is the “muscle” and when necessary, literally the executioner. So you would think a tough guy like Tig could take anything. The “beauty” of this scene, written by Kurt Sutter, is that this tough motorcycle club member experienced something so unbearable that even he completely breaks. One important factor to consider in this scene was that Tig was chained (as he watched his daughter doused with gasoline and set ablaze). If he had been able to fight, Tig certainly would have tried to save his daughter. But what does someone who bullies his way through life do when he is powerless to do anything?

There are three ways mammals react. I talk about these three ways in my book, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst. So for our purposes here, I’ll use characters from the Wizard of Oz to make it memorable:

  • Lion is a typical reaction. It is the angry reaction. We lose our temper; we yell at someone and maybe—in worst cases—become physically aggressive. We say things that are hurtful.
  • Tin Man represents the adapting reaction. We give into the other. We cave in to their demands, we collude with their negative behavior and surrender our perspective, adapting to their arguments.
  • A third way of reacting is Scarecrow. It is the avoidant reaction.  In this reaction we avoid conflict, circumvent issues and hold our breath hoping that it will all go away.  And if we can’t physically run, we shut down like a plug that is pulled. This reaction is non-relational, passive and detached.

I explored with Kim what it would be like, as Tig, to be totally powerless to save his “little girl.” Tig’s instinct would have been to fight and so he tried. He pulled on the chains that bound him. He yelled; he screamed.  If unchained, he would have taken bullets en route to rescue his daughter and kill the bastard who was conducting this horror. But he couldn’t. And with no alternatives, he did something very unlike Tig. When there were no longer any viable Lion (fight) options, he went Tin-Man: He begged and pleaded. He desperately appealed to his captors. He offered himself up instead, as a sacrifice. “Take ME,” he implored. (I can’t imagine what it was like for Kim to go so deeply into that place of vulnerability and weakness.)

When that didn’t work, Tig found himself unconsciously in a Scarecrow scenario. I talked to Kim about how children who are severely abused use Scarecrow. When they are too little to fight the big perpetrator, and when begging and pleading will not stop their violation, little children often dissociate. I explained to Kim that it was like a mental “circuit breaker” built in the mind to protect a person from a psychological surge that is just too much to bear. In these cases the circuit breaker pops and we psychologically and emotionally go “offline.” We go numb; we disconnect. Anyone who has experienced that scene (no one watched the scene) will hardly forget the fully broken man who numbly watched his daughter die before his out-of-focus eyes.

I did not have to tell Kim how to play Tig in this scene. He is a natural and gifted actor—he knew. But what was helpful—and hopefully is helpful to the reader—was to know that when presented with an emotional/relational challenge we tend to move to our most familiar reaction style (for Tig it was Angry-Lion), then to our less familiar reaction style (for Tig it was Adapting-Tin Man) and finally, when all else fails, to our last resort reaction style (for Tig it was Avoidant-Scarecrow). It is important to note that not all reaction sequences are the same. For example, sometimes we try to run first (flight) and if that fails we fight and finally adapt (appease) to the threat.* In what sequence do you tend to react? If you think about it, you are likely to react differently depending on the situation.

So when important people offend or challenge us (like a spouse, a boss, child or an avenging crime-boss), the first step in managing our own reactivity is to identify that we are reacting and how we are reacting: Angry Lion (Fight), Adapting Tin Man (Freeze/Appease), or Avoidant Scarecrow (Flight).  Once we do that we are halfway there.   The second half of the process will have to wait for a follow-up article.

Thank you Kim for your outstanding performance.

_____

*Dr. Elias Porter describes this sequence in his Strengths Deployment Inventory.

HonoringDifferencesI just finished facilitating a workshop for a consulting firm on the topic of “Honoring Differences & Emotional Intelligence.” All the participants took the ITI– Interpersonal Triangle Inventory, which is an inventory that I developed based on the Interpersonal Triangle model that I introduced in my previous post (See “Emotional Intelligence (EI) in Three-D: Scarecrow, Tin Man & Lion.”)  Based on their scores they were sorted into one of four relationship styles represented by the following colors (the first three are sorted into the three primary colors thus representing the three primary ways we relationally move or connect; the fourth is a hybrid):

  • Red: Moving Against—Lion. These types of relators tend to be more aggressive, directive, take-charge, determined, quick to make decisions, and are opinionated.
  • Blue: Moving Toward—Tin Man. These types of relators tend to be people oriented, empathic, supportive and caring, willing to defer to the needs of others.
  • Yellow: Moving Away—Scarecrows. These types of relators are more measured and careful, want to be accurate and true to the facts.
  • Purple (Blends of Red Lion & Blue Tin Man). People in this hybrid are enthusiastic and readily engage and influence others. They like liking and like being liked. I have a Purple relationship style in most of my relationships.

I’d like to share with you what we learned through the workshop experience (in no particular order):

  • People have different relationship styles. Some are more quick and determined (like the Red Lions) others are people centered (like the Blue Tin Man) and others are more careful and precise (like Yellow Scarecrow). Then there are Purple people like me who want to engage and influence others. One style is not necessarily better than the others all the time (even thought I would follow a Red in an emergency, a Yellow when I want objective facts and a Blue when I want to be understood).
  • Each style has its positive or negative expressions. Each style, in its positive expression, can enhance communication and bring about positive outcomes. However in its negative manifestation, each style can break down communication and be destructive. Often the negative expressions are directly related to their positive expression. Elias Porter—the person who developed the SDI (the Strength Deployment Inventory)—suggested that our weaknesses are nothing more than overdone strengths. Think about it. A quick Red response overdone makes them rushed or impetuous. A Blue’s deference to others can easily become a form of self-denial; and a Yellow’s carefulness is only a couple clicks away from being overly cautious and hesitant.
  • We have different styles in different situations. For example, my relationship style is different at home than when I am speaking or consulting. At home I am more Orange (Red and Yellow) and at work I am more Purple (Red and Blue). And when I get around Red alphas, I have to fight the temptation to become overly Blue (submissive). Different settings and interactions with different people often bring out different elements of how we interact. A person at work might be one way with a boss (e.g. Blue) and then another way with a subordinate (e.g. Red). I am always amused by CEOs who run large organizations who, when they come home, become totally subservient to their spouse.
  • If we don’t honor differences in someone else, we will end up reacting to them. Evolution formed a brain that is suspicious, if not hostile, to those who differ from us. If we don’t leverage our differences for good we will likely get entangled in some sort of estrangement. I worked with a board of directors who had a good number of Red relators. They looked down on the “weaker” Blue relaters seeing them as “soft” simply because they were not as decisive and opinionated as they were. It was unfortunate that the Reds did not honor their Blue brethren because they did not take advantage of their sympathy for client relations and their ability to collaborate. This can happen at home as well. We can write off our “quiet” (Yellow) spouse as disinterested rather than slow and thoughtful. And we’ve all heard of the rough and tough father who reacts to his “weaker” (artistic) son not realizing what a precious gift the son brings to the world.

I’d love to hear back from you: What relationship style do you tend toward  . . .  at home? Are you more Red, more Blue or more Yellow (or like me, a hybrid)? Is your relationship style different at work? If so, how?  Do you ever “overdo” one of these relational styles to a fault? (If you are not sure, ask your spouse, children, or your employees.) Do you ever find yourself reacting to your partner for having a different relational style than yourself?  Please share your experience with us.

Ultimately, be yourself, accept who you are and be positive in your difference. And remember, emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.