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Welcome

Thank you for visiting my blog ==> two important points:

I. ACCESS the INFORMATION you seek:

INDEX to ALL my POSTS….

There is a TON of useful information in the 100 + posts available to you.

But, finding what you want can be challenging. 

So, in order to help you to find what interests you, I have posted an INDEX to all of my posts. This is like a Table of Contents in a book.

Here is the link to the Index:

This will take you to an updated PDF which lists all posts. When you know the date, you can go over to the “Archives” (right side of home page), click on the month you want and scroll down to the post you are seeking.

LINKS to my BOOKS (on Amazon)….

Should you want to take a look at my books, here are the links for you.

Emotions as Tools: A Self-Help Guide to Controlling Your Life not Your Feelings

 

Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool

Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool

II.  THE DISCLAIMER:

My focus in this blog is two fold. First of all, I want to educate people about their emotion, relationships and other topics and, secondly, I want to publish information that you can use to improve your life and your relationships.

But, this blog is INFORMATIONAL only!

  • It is not intended to, and CANNOT, diagnose or treat any specific mental illness or psychological condition.
  • So, if you hurt, psychologically, please get professional help.
  •  If you get sick or your car gets “sick”, you see a doctor or a mechanic.  Hurting psychologically is no different, does not mean you are weak, and is telling you that you need some professional help or advice.   PLEASE… GET IT!
  • Therapy works!

And now… Here is my most recent post.

 

Part 3: The Benefits of “Gratitude”. Happy Thanksgiving.

This is Part 3 of a 4 part series of posts.

In this post, I discuss the emotion of gratitude.  Being involved with others can lower the possibility that a disagreement escalates into a conflict.

To put it another way…people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

In the US next week, we will be celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday.

This Holiday is supposed to commemorate a feast that took place between  native Americans and the Pilgrims who landed in America.

Today, however, It is basically an enjoyable time off from work during which we get together with family, eat too much, and watch parades or football on TV.

In my house, we’ve attempted to emphasize the “thanks-giving” part of the Holiday.

This post is an extension of that focus.

Most of us think of being “thankful” and being “grateful” as the same thing.

Well, while they are very similar, they are not the same.

Indeed, being “grateful” goes beyond being “thankful” and the emotion of “grateful”(gratitude) is both misunderstood and underutilized.

“What”, you say. “misunderstood and underutilized?”

Yes. On both counts.

First, let’s take a closer look at “thankful” vs “grateful”.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online), “thankful”and “grateful”are the same with the exception of two significant words. Thankful is defined as “conscious (emphasis added) of benefits received” while grateful is defined as “appreciative (emphasis added) of benefits received.”

Being “conscious” implies only an awareness while being “appreciative” implies an involvement with whatever it is that you are choosing to acknowledge and highlight.

Here is an example of the difference between these two.

You go into work and your colleague says to you, “Hey, there, how are you doing?”  In most instances, you say (often automatically) “Fine.” or “Good, and you?”

This interaction reflects ONLY an acknowledgement, or awareness, of the other person.

Now, in contrast, you meet up with an old buddy from your past and he asks you, “How are you doing?”  You most likely would begin to fill him in on what has happened to you since you last met.

This is involvement.

Imagine the surprised response you would get at work if you responded to “How are with you?” with an indepth explanation of your whole weekend, the argument you had with your spouse, and so forth.  This would be an example of confusing involvement with acknowledgement.

Misunderstood

Sure, you are very familiar with saying “Thank you” whenever appropriate and maybe even being “grateful” when someone does a favor for you.  But, in most cases, the emotion just sort of happens and you don’t really think about it.

Someone holds a door open for you and you say “Thanks.”  Sure, you appreciate the gesture but you aren’t really involved in the interaction.

And, in fact, why should you be involved?

This is a casual interaction in which someone has done something nice for you and you have acknowledged their actions.

That’s it. You go about your business and they about theirs.

But, think for a minute about being caught in a  downpour and having someone specifically notice you and the packages you are trying to keep dry, run toward the door, and hold it open so that you can run to get out of the storm.  In this case, you might be both thankful and grateful.

Holding the door is the same in both cases. Going out of one’s way to help you out, as in the second example, is a step beyond.

Unlike anger, anxiety, and sadness, gratitude, as an emotion, doesn’t get much attention. It is not problematic, is easily expressed, and often only becomes an issue when someone else, who we think should be grateful for something we’ve done for them, fails to express this emotion.

Hence, it is misunderstood.

Underutilized

Anger, as an emotion, is also underutilized and  can, therefore, be used as an example to illustrate the concept.

Because angry people and the inappropriate things they do are often seen in the news, we tend to think that there is too much anger in the world.  These folks could benefit from reading my book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool.

The flip side of this coin, however, are  many people who suppress, or choose not to show, their anger because they are concerned their anger might “take over” and lead to unwanted behavior or because, as is often the case for women, anger is perceived as unfeminine, unwelcome, or even threatening in some environments.  In these cases, anger is underutilized.  These folks could improve their lives and their relationships by utilizing their anger more but doing so in a more adaptive way.  For them, mastering anger would also be an improvement.

For gratitude, however, the situation is different.

Gratitude is most likely not expressed more because it just is not considered relevant.   People don’t usually avoid feeling gratitude.

But, going back to my Headline: The Benefits of “Gratitude….”

Did you know that, based on research, there are numerous benefits that come to the person who is grateful.

Keep reading…

According to an article posted on  positivepsychology.com, gratitude can:

  • help you make friends
  • improve your physical health
  • improve your psychological health
  • enhance empathy and reduce aggression
  • improve your sleep
  • enhance your self-esteem

Look, I have not verified these studies and I am not saying that they are all true or that you will experience any of these benefits.

I am, however, suggesting that  there is a real possibility that expressing gratitude or appreciation toward the good things that people do for you or, if you believe in a benevolent “Universe”, the good things that are bestowed upon you, could very well benefit you.  And, at the very least, will not harm you any way.

So, you have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

So, how do you begin to do this?

While the article I cited above does have some suggestions, if you are not psychologically minded, the suggestions may seem a bit wonky.

To me, something you can do right now is to begin to be more mindful of your interactions with others.

Mindfulness involves paying attention to and being aware of what is happening to you in the moment. Being mindless is to react to what is going on out of habit.

In other words, take yourself off of “auto-pilot” in your relationships with others and attempt to consciously think about how others interact with you and how you want to respond to them.

Let me give you an example of being on “auto-pilot”.  And, I am not suggesting that you eliminate “auto-pilot” because, when appropriate, being on “auto-pilot” enables you to multitask.

When you shower in the morning and go through your hair-washing routine, have you ever found yourself wondering if you used the conditioner?  You did, of course, but it is as if you weren’t even there.  And, the interesting part is that on the level of consciousness, you weren’t there because you were thinking of something else.

The same thing happens when you can’t “remember” where you put your car keys.  Memory isn’t the issue, you were thinking about something else (You weren’t mindful) when you tossed your keys down.  So, the location never made it into memory in the first place and wasn’t available to you when you tried to access it.

So, regarding gratitude, stay in the moment.  Someone does something nice for you, consciously thank them and think about appreciating their interaction with you.

It will take some time to begin expressing gratitude as an ongoing part of your interactions with others.

But, stay with it and it will happen.

If you are in the US, Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are not in the US, Happy Thanks-giving.

Part 4 will be published in two weeks.

 

 

 

Part 2: Seven Top Conflict Resolution Tips Using Emotions As Tools

This is the second of a three part series of posts covering conflict.  During this Holiday season, issues may come up between you and members of your family or between you and complete strangers. In this post, which was originally published on 9/14/16, I have updated and discuss 7 strategies, based on using your emotions as tools, for dealing with that conflict should it arise.

……

If you have not done so, already, I encourage you to download the first chapter of my book Emotions as Tools: A Self-Help Guide to Controlling Your Life not Your Feelings  by scrolling back up to the top of this page and clicking on the “EMOTIONS as TOOLS TOC_Intro_Ch 1 PDF link.  This is not an opt-in.

If you have ever found yourself facing another person who is angry with you because of something you did (or did not) do that the other person thought was important, you have experienced conflict.

When this happened did your conflict resolution strategies include using your emotions as tools to gain valuable strategic information?

If not, the 7 step process below will teach you how to use the information provided by emotions to resolve conflict between you and someone else or between two other people.

So that we are all on the same page, here are some basic working definitions:

Difference of Opinion: A misunderstanding between two people that may involve some mild emotions and can be usually be dealt with through discussion, clarification, and compromise.

Conflict: A strong disagreement between two parties that involves some action that was taken or some action that was not taken. Conflict is always accompanied by strong emotions. With human beings, conflict is almost impossible to totally avoid.

Emotions as Tools model:

1. States that our emotions are created by our thoughts and how we perceive the environment

2. Every emotion has an underlying message which reflects the perception of the individual that created it.

3. By reading the emotion and understanding the underlying message, we can address how a person perceives his or her situation and help them change that perception.

4. When the perception changes, the emotion changes.

The three steps of conflict resolution:

1. Finding out what the presenting issue is by asking questions and actively listening to the answers.

2. Using the information provided by reading emotions to determine the real underlying issue.

3. Taking the necessary time to address the underlying issues and come to an agreement about how to best deal with the presenting issue so that both parties are satisfied (win/win) or at least agree to live with what is agreed upon (compromise).

The 7 step process:

Please note that you may not need to use all of these steps in dealing with your particular conflict.  Learn the process and improvise as you need to.

Step 1: View all disagreements as a difference of opinion NOT as a conflict.

With a difference of opinion, the presenting issue is what it is. Two people have differing opinions. Depending on the situation, the emotions that go along with misunderstandings or differences of opinion are surprised, confused, possibly frustrated, or maybe even amused. These tend to be milder emotions that usually do not get in the way of further discussion.

Differences of opinion can escalate into conflict if not resolved.

Step 2: Recognize a “conflict” by identifying the emotions (specifically anger) that are present.

If you notice that you or another person is getting angry about an issue, it is likely that a conflict has developed.

This is why.

The message of anger is that the angry person both feels threatened and believes that if he demonstrates his power through his anger, he can eliminate the threat.

When we are in threat prevention mode, we are not in problem solving mode.

The specific threat may be to his (or her) ego, to some goal, or to an ideal such as fairness. When you see anger, it means that, in addition to the presenting issue such as when a teenager gets angry when her parent sets rules for dating, there is an underlying issue of perceived threat which must be addressed first for successful conflict resolution to occur.

The presence of a perceived threat is what leads to a conflict.

Step 3: Keep your own head level.

Adopt a conflict resolution mind set.

This includes:

-Acknowledging and understanding your own perception of threat if you are angry.

-Having mutual respect for everyone and their position.

-Remaining non-judgmental.

-Being willing to actively listen to the other party and hear their story

-Expressing your own story without accusing the other party.

-Remaining open to possible solutions other than your own.

Step 4: Address the underlying issue of perceived threat.

In most cases, when anger is present, one (or both) party perceives a threat. Examples include:

(i) Threat to Autonomy

Strategy: Reaffirm the maturity and independence of the other person.

(ii) Threat to a sense of Fairness

Strategy: Reaffirm that any decision made will only be reached after all sides have been heard and an agreement reached that is agreeable to both.

Note: If the issue is between a parent and a child, a different approach may be needed

(iii) Threat of Loss

Strategy: Acknowledge their sense of loss and reaffirm that each loss also may involve a gain.

An example is when you give up some autonomy to do your own thing and gain cooperation and harmony in an office setting.

(iv) Threat to one’s beliefs or values

Strategy: Acknowledge that while you may have a different perspective on an issue, you accept their right to believe what they want and that you are not trying to impose your values on them.

Step 5: Address the presenting issue.

Once the threat is addressed, the conflict becomes a difference of opinion and the presenting issue can be addressed.

Step 6: Resolve the conflict

Once the issue is addressed, a win/win solution or a compromise can be agreed upon. Or, you can agree to disagree. Always seek a win/win solution first.

Step 7: Finalize the agreement

State the agreement or write it down with information about who will do what by when and any consequences that will happen if “WHAT” and “WHEN” are not done by “WHO”.

Part 3 will be published in two weeks.

The darker side of the Holidays: A four part series of posts.

November marks the beginning of the Holiday Season starting with Thanksgiving and moving through Christmas and New Years.

The holidays are times when families get together and celebrate.

Hopefully, the Holidays and the celebrations are happy times for you. 

Sometimes, however, there is a darker side to the Holidays.

In some families, Holiday gatherings might involve disagreements over politics or other topics.

And, when people are stressed while shopping, driving, or standing in line, emotions can get out of hand and result in rage.

While I hope that none of these posts apply to you, my intent is to raise your awareness in the next four  posts and provide you with some useful information to help you weather any challenges which may arise.

Part 1: You Cannot NOT Communicate

Part 2: Emotions as Tools- Seven Top Conflict Resolution Tips Using Emotions as Tools.

Part 3: The Benefits of “Gratitude”. Happy Thanksgiving.

Part 4: Holiday rage: Where does it come from and what you can do about it.

I hope theses posts are useful.

You Cannot NOT Communicate

Today’s post is a reprint from September 2016 and addresses the idea that you are always communicating eventhough you may not be saying anything. 

In other words..”You cannot not communicate.” 

Your non-verbal language is always “on” and sending messages to others.  In the same way, those people with whom you interact are always communicating to you. 

And, if you, or they, don’t like these non-verbal messages, conflict can result.

The title of this post may look like I added an extra word.

I assure you, (no pun intended) that I did not..

The point I am making, and that most people miss when they interact with others, is that we are always communicating something whether we intend to or not.

Most people believe that communication is a fairly simple process. This is an unfortunate myth.

The process of communication, while I admittedly am simplifying the process, can be illustrated with two examples.

Example #1: Think back to the days of the telegraph.  If you wanted to send a message, you had to write out the message, the telegraph operator had to convert it to Morse Code, the wires had to be in place between you and the place to which you were sending the message, the receiving  operator had to get the signal, decode the message, and write it down so that your target person could receive your message.

The first example illustrates the verbal communication process.  Most of us can easily encode an idea into words, deliver the words, and expect the receiver to accurately decode the message and understand what we mean and intended to say.  And, in most cases, when it is factual information we are communicating, this process works.

There are some underlying assumptions here.

  • Both of the participants speak the same language and can understand the words being used.  Words can be thought of as one “filter” through which ideas are processed. (One way to understand the idea of a filter is to think about what happens when you take a black and white picture with your camera or smart phone. The filter takes out the color.) Words can have a multitude of meanings and, therefore, can be thought of as a filter in that you choose the words you eventually use based on what you want to convey.
  • The message is clear, does not involve emotional issues in either party, and is not easily misinterpreted. (Emotions are another “filter” through which ideas are processed.)
  • Both participants are paying attention to each other, are not distracted by “noise” in the environment (think about having a conversation in a loud lounge), and are “actively” listening with the goal of receiving and understanding the message.  They are not  “passively” listening while engaged in some other activity such as texting or planning tomorrow’s schedule.

If we are dealing with issues involving emotions (or complex issues), the process becomes more complicated.

Example #2: Think about the last time you sent a text or an email thinking that you were being very clear only to have the person to whom you sent this electronic message get upset because they misinterpreted the message they received.

The second example illustrates a situation in which the message has several different “layers” but the only layer of information that is “available” is what is “written” down.

There are several possible complications here:

  • The message may contain implied emotional overtones. For example, you are upset with the person and have not directly expressed your feeling.
  • You may have directly expressed your feelings but the meaning of the emotional words you have used were misinterpreted when “decoded” by the recipient of the text.
  • You tried to use humor in your text or an emoji.
  • And so forth.

By the way, the above process is why we are frequently advised, and warn our kids, to be very careful about what they send in an email or a text.

There is a quote from the Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) literature that says: “The meaning of a communication (to the receiver) is the response that you (the sender) get regardless of what you intended to say.”

The receiver’s (upset) response clearly suggests that he (or she) viewed the message as “threatening”. This is the “real” meaning of the message to him.

If the communication process is to be successful, you will need to determine where the “disconnect” is. Perhaps, the misunderstanding occurred because the message contained implied emotional overtones that were included in the message (either intentionally or unintentionally) or the receiver read emotional overtones into the message that were not there.

When you are involved in a face to face conversation, there are additional complications that can take place because of the nature of non-verbal signals.

  • Non-verbal signals comprise a significant (perhaps, major) portion of the communication process and involve your tone of voice, the expression on your face, the way you are standing and so forth.
  • An important part of the emotional process is the constant scanning of our surroundings that our senses engage in, our Amygdala monitors, and our bodies unconsciously react to if there is a threat.
  • Our primitive brain is programmed to “read” non-verbal signals because they are often a more accurate (though not always so) indicator of possible threat. This is because humans are not very good at modifying their non-verbal signals (unless they are trained to do so).

Consequently, you are always communicating non-verbally and your listener is always tuned into your non-verbals.  Hence, the title of this blog: You cannot NOT communicate.

An example of this potential conflict is  the saying “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.”

Communication problems can arise for at least two reasons:

  1. The meaning of non-verbal signals is not always clear and can easily be misunderstood.
  2. The non-verbal signals you are communicating with your tone of voice or body language are not consistent with the verbal message.

You master your emotions (and the emotions of others) when you are aware of and utilize the nature of non-verbal (and verbal) signals.

  • In your own communications, take extra care to insure that the message you are conveying non-verbally is consistent with the words you are using.
  • Be aware of the non-verbal signals your receiver sends to you, the emotions indicated by those signals, and the message those emotions tell you about how he or she has interpreted your communication. Using this information, you can seek clarification if what you see in their response is different from what you expected and you can clear up any misunderstanding.

Part 2 will publish in 2 weeks.

What are some sensible things to do to calm down, when a person gets angry or frustrated?

This is a reprint of an answer to the above question I received on Quora.com.

Madhura:

This is an interesting question and two of the answers you received which suggest taking a deep breath are correct but limited.

The third answer suggesting that you won’t get angry as you mature is problematic as it doesn’t seem to understand what anger is and may perpetuate a myth that anger can (or even should) be eliminated. The answer, however, is correct, in noting that anger can be mitigated or, as I talk about, mastered by using your ability to think through what it is that is eliciting (not causing) your anger.

That being said, you have asked about two feelings: anger and frustration. While frustration can certainly lead to anger, these two are not the same.

The quick answer to your question is that when you experience either anger or frustration there are two physical actions you need to take. The order in which you take these first two actions is not important. That you do both is important.

The first action involves taking a step back from the situation and the second is to take a deep breath.

Taking a physical step back from the situation creates a physical space between you and the situation. This is particularly important if anger is the emotion you are dealing with because this step backwards creates some safety for you.

The second action (again, order is not critical) is to take a deep breath. The purpose of taking a deep breath is to create some psychological space between you and the situation.

The deep breath does this in two ways.

First of all, a deep breath is a natural relaxant. The deep breath can lead to you relaxing your muscles just enough so that you release some of the natural muscle tension that occurs when the emotional cycle (anger) prepares your body for war. The message of anger is that you perceive a threat that you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. Anger prepares you to attack and muscle tightening and a focusing of your attention on the “threat” occur without your having to think about them. Both of these reactions are mediated by the Limbic System in your brain.

Secondly, taking a deep breath provides some psychological space because it temporarily shifts your focus away from the threat. The purpose of creating psychological space is that it enables you to engage the thinking part of your brain (your cerebral cortex). Your cortex allows you to assess the nature of the threat and choose how you want to respond to it.

The emotion of frustration is different. The message of frustration is that a goal toward which you are moving has in some way been blocked. Put another way, your frustration is another way of saying “This (whatever the block is) should not be happening!”

With frustration, the same two steps of taking a physical step back and a deep breath are also appropriate. The step back from the situation which is blocking you isn’t for safety but to reinforce the deep breath which prepares you to think about what is going on, assess it, and choose what you want to do to correct it, learn from it, and move past it.

I have written two books dealing with mastering emotions as tools both of which are available on Amazon. The first is Emotions as Tools and the second is Beyond Anger Mastery.

The focus of both books is that all emotions can be viewed as tools which, just like your cell phone, computer, TV remote or fancy sewing machine, can be understood and mastered so they work better for you.

Emotional mastery involves understanding that:

  • each emotion both communicates how you perceive your current situation and prepares your body to deal with it. This is the message of the emotion which I’ve discussed above.
  • the initial perception of the situation and the initial message may not match what is actually going on
  • with each emotion, you need to assess the match between what is actually going on and your initial perception the message of the emotion, which I’ve given you above, and
  • you need to choose a response that fits what is actually taking place

So, Madhura, when you experience either anger or frustration, the “sensible things” are physical and mental. Physically, you need to take a step back from the situation and take a deep breath. Mentally, you need to assess your situation and choose an effective response.

Finally, let me address the third answer about anger.

While it may be true that as we mature, we are less likely to get angry, the reason for this is that maturity changes the way we perceive threat. Less threat leads to less anger. It is important to note that anger is always appropriate when we are threatened regardless of age or gender. Consequently, maturity should lead to more focused and strategically applied anger not necessarily less anger. The myth that many people believe is that anger is somehow bad and should be minimized. This myth disempowers women in particular (“Women should not get angry. it isn’t feminine.”) and older people (“An older person who gets angry is just being crotchety.”)

It is quite likely that this is not what the respondent meant but I wanted to clear up any implication that might be made from his answer.

Can you please motivate me (to finish what I started)?

This is the third in a series of posts addressing issues related to productivity.

This post, which also originated as a response to a question on Quora.com, looks at productivity through a different lens.  Here the writer was asking if motivation could be external. He is a composer who apparently hit a rough spot.

In other words, he was asking me to improve his productivity.

While someone else can motivate you if they have enough influence over you as I discuss below, internal motivation leading to increased productivity is what most of us seek to achieve.

If you have ever found yourself avoiding a project, procrastinating, or hoping some external miracle would come along and build a fire under you, you might benefit from my response.

By the way, if you are a writer, you might benefit from my looking at my own loss of motivation when I was writing my first book and how I overcame it.

My quick answer to this question was: “No, I can’t motivate you.”

Here were my suggestions to this individual’s query.

The reason behind my answer is that unless I have some influence over you which I could use to push you into action, only you can motivate yourself.

I can, however, provide some information which may help you look within and generate the motivation you seek.

Clearly, you have talent and a unique gift. This is a point you probably don’t give yourself enough credit for. You can, as other answers have suggested think about how much you will bring to others if you complete your work.

To you, my reader… To what extent do you  denigrate yourself and your abilities because you believe that you do not measure up to some external standard or because you are not “perfect”?  If you do and this prevents you from moving forward with your project, I suggest, as do all experts on writing, that you put these concerns aside and complete your project. Once this is done, you can get some feedback from someone who can be objective.

Let me ask you this. What emotions are you feeling that seem to compel you to stop composing? Are you feeling anxious and stop to make the feeling of anxiety go away? Do you start out being excited about the work you are composing and, when that excitement begins to dwindle, do you stop because you believe your lack of excitement is telling you that you have lost interest in the project? While this feeling is similar to boredom, it is different in that boredom implies that the work is no longer holding your attention and the lack of excitement is simply saying that the work you are doing is not “new” to you (although still important) and you need to tap into a different emotion to “motivate” you to complete the work.

I have written two Amazon best seller books on emotions (Emotions as Tools and Beyond Anger Management) and I have experienced both anxiety and a decrease in excitement (never boredom) while writing.

So, let me explain what I did as it may help you.

If you have read any of my other posts, you know that all feelings communicate a message to you about how you perceive the situation in which you find yourself.

Anxiety is a future based emotion, the message of which is that you perceive a possible threat which might cause you some harm in the future. For me, the future threat was that I would write my book and no one would buy it or people might be critical of it.

If you stop composing because you project yourself into the future and see your work as “failing” (however, you define this), then you are experiencing anxiety.

The flip side of anxiety is the emotion of anticipation.

The message of anticipation is that your work might be well received by at least one person who hears it (and possibly more). Anticipation may help you to find the motivation you seek.

By the way, I do not believe that all the works of Beethoven were well received when he wrote them. This did not stop him from composing.

Let’s talk about getting excited about what you are composing.

I almost stopped writing my first book because the excitement that initially “motivated” me to write quickly wore off as I struggled with how to get my words right and doing more research when I needed to.

This is normal. Your initial excitement won’t last.

When this happened, I did not assume that I was no longer interested in the project.  Rather, I realized that the project I was working on was just as important and relevant as it was when I originally got all excited about it and used this realization to propel me through the process until I once again became excited. Excitement goes up and down until you are finished.

To my readers:  I hope that the above comments have been helpful to you if you have ever found yourself “unmotivated” and stuck. 

Motivation, or the emotional drive to move forward, happens because you view what you are doing as valuable. 

Productivity flows from motivation.

This perceived value can flow from several different perceptions including:

  • your anticipation regarding the impact what you create will have on someone else   or
  • your desire, however your work is received, to “give birth” to your  creation just because it is yours to create

The important point to keep in mind is that motivation is an emotion.  You create your emotions so you can create motivation by changing how you perceive what you are doing.

It is completely up to you.

How do I get over the fear of being wrong and the fear of failure?

This post was originally published in October 2017,  I am republishing it here as a follow-up to my last post covering emotions and productivity.

The author of the title question posted this on Quora.com.  While he doesn’t mention procrastination or productivity directly, the “fear” he asks about, while actually anxiety as I discuss below, is the emotion that holds people back, leads to procrastination, and results in decreased productivity.

Here is the original post.

As an expert on emotions with two Amazon bestselling books, Emotions as Tools and Beyond Anger Management, I would offer a bit different perspective on your question.

You have used the word “fear” as it is commonly used. You noted “fear of being wrong” and “fear of failure”.

Unfortunately, both of these uses are incorrect because the emotion you are really referring to here is anxiety.

I should mention that, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t really matter which word you use. When you understand the difference between anxiety and fear, you enable yourself to master both emotions and the suggestions I make below will make more sense to you.

Fear is an in-the-moment emotion, the message of which is that you are perceiving a threat that will “kill” you unless you get out of that situation. Fear is the hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck raising up. The best response to fear is to get out of the situation. Too often, women, and sometimes men, experience fear but ignore it to their own peril. An example is when your feelings tell you the guy standing in the elevator is bad news eventhough he looks fine and has done nothing wrong. While you might be wrong about him, trust your feelings and take the next elevator.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a future based emotion the message of which is that there might be a threat that might hurt me.

Notice in your question that you are concerned about what might happen if you are “being wrong” or if you experience “failure”. Both are future possibililty. If you were wrong or had failed when you were writing the question, you would have asked a different question.

So, let’s address your question.

The antidote to anxiety (fear of being wrong) is to ask two basic questions about what might happen in the future.

The first and most important question is this:

If the worst possible outcome happens to me (however you define “worst” and “being wrong”), can I survive (however you choose to define “survive”) it?

If the answer is “I won’t like it but I could survive it”, then you no longer have to dwell on the issue and can move on to the second question.

By the way, there are very few situations in which you would not “survive” if you made a mistake. So, the answer to question #1 will usually be yes. Now, if you are talking about being wrong about whether or not the mushroom you are about to eat is poisonous or not, or whether you have chosen the right rope to repel down the side of a mountain, well it will be in your best interest to get more information before you make a decision.

Whether you could survive the future or not, question #2 becomes your next focus.

Question #2 is:

What do I need to do, learn, make happen in order to reduce the possibility of being wrong.

I need to explain that there are two types of anxiety. The first is called distress and the second is called eustress.

Distress is disabling, focuses on the worst case scenario, and leads you to act as if this outcome is inevitable. It is distress that you are most likely referring to when you talk about the “fear of being wrong”.

Eustress is enabling, uses the same motivating energy of anxiety, and focuses on what you need to do to make the right decision. This is the energy my students use to motivate them to study for an upcoming exam. When you prepare for a future event, you no longer have to avoid it because you are now prepared for it.

So, if you are prepared for the future event and you can survive it if goes bad, you will no longer have the “fear of being wrong” you asked about.

Finally, let me give you a different definition of “failure”.

Most people think that “failure” is a destination. You either “succeed” and reach your goal or you “fail” and fall short.

This is a disabling definition as it only gives you two options.

A more adaptive definition of failure is to see it as a process. As a process, failure is defined as “falling short Y times and getting up X times, where X > Y” It is this definition the person who quoted Edison is referring to.

As long as you pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, make the corrections you need to make, and move forward, you can’t fail. You only fail when you give up.

And, for you readers seeing this for the first time, when you learn from your mistakes an move forward, you are more than likely being productive.

Emotions and Productivity

This is the first of three posts dealing with “productivity”.  In this post, I talk about emotions and productivity directly.  In the next post, I address overcoming “fear” to complete a task.  In the third and final post, I address the issue of motivation.

If you work with, or relate to, other people, you probably have experienced a situation in which you did all the right things but got the wrong result.  Most likely, the “wrong result” was elicited by an emotion.

Please note that I did not say the emotion caused the “wrong result” because emotions do not make you do anything.  But, the emotion can elicit or lead to a reaction that does not match the situation and, therefore, by definition, can be viewed as “wrong”.

Let’s dive deeper.

Productivity, when it comes to a job or a task, involves getting the right job done.  If you are getting the right job done, you are being productive.

This is called being effective.

Now, you can increase your productivity by doing the job in the right way.

This is called being efficient.

Effectiveness and efficiency are two sides of the same coin and there are numerous articles written on this subject and different ways to measure both effectiveness and efficiency.

In a very general sense, if you have a job or a task to complete and it is not getting done, there are at least 5 areas for you to consider:

  1. is the job clearly defined?
  2. do you have the necessary skills to complete the job?
  3. do you have all the resources you need?
  4. do you have the necessary authority to do what needs to be done?
  5. are there emotions (yours or someone elce’s) which are impeding the completion of the job?

For most jobs, if the answer to the first four questions is “yes”, the job gets done and that is all there is to it.

However, if the job is not getting done, then the fifth area dealing with emotions is where you need to look for an explanation.

Let me give you two examples.

My letter to “Sophie”.

When I promoted to the position of Supervising Senior Psychologist, I had an employee who tended to do as little work as possible, had little respect for policy, and who was clever enough to avoid being held responsible for his actions.

As I was not sure how to handle this individual, I asked “headquarters” for some suggestions.  I was advised to write a general memo to all of my staff saying that rules and policies needed to be followed.  I was also advised to add a standard (boiler plate) statement at the bottom of the memo stating that failure to comply with what was stated in the memo could result in “disciplinary proceedings”.

The memo was generic and was addressed to all staff as I did not have enough “evidence” to direct my comments to the specific staff member who was the “target” of the memo.

When I went into work following release of the memo, I was accosted by “Sophie” who was visibly upset and who noted that she needed to talk to me immediately.

In my office, Sophie informed me, in dramatic terms, that she had worked in the Institution for many years, had always followed the rules, was a reliable employee, and was offended by my “threat” to expose her to “disciplinary proceedings”.

Having been taken by surprise and knowing that there were no issues  with  Sophie, I asked her what was the issue about which she was concerned.  She pulled out my memo and pointed to the “boiler plate” comment on the bottom of  the paper.

When I explained to her that this comment was generic, that I was advised to put it there because it is supposed to be on all memos which “address” policy issues, that it had nothing to do with her and that there were no concerns about her as an employee, she took a deep breath and went back to her own office.

In retrospect, what happened is that Sophie incorrectly personalized the memo, felt threatened by the implication that she was going to be disciplined, got angry at the implied threat and wanted to take me to task and defend herself.

Emotions had entered into and impacted the interaction.

Items 1-4 were clearly in place.  She knew the policies and, to the best of her ability, followed all the rules.

Her misinterpretation of the “boiler plate” in the memo elicited her anger and her anger initiated her attempt to deal with the perceived threat.

The second example involves procrastination.

When you procrastinate, you put off doing a task and you justify and rationalize your avoidance in any number of ways.

By the way, the English spelling of rationalize is, of course…

r-a-t-i-o-n-a-l-i-z-e

The psychological spelling of the word is…

r-a-t-i-o-n-a-l    l-i-e-s

The implication is that the excuses you may offer to justify your avoidance of doing the task at hand including, but not limited to,

  • I really need to check my (email, Facebook feed)
  • I really need to clean or organize my (desk, file cabinet)
  • I really need to (you fill in the other task)

while probably true (and therefore “rational”) do not need to be done now and clearly are not more important than the task you are avoiding (hence, they are “lies”).

In August 2018, I wrote a post which suggested that you view procrastination as an emotion.  I suggest you click on over and take a look.

Getting to “Done”: Master Your Procrastination as a Strategic Tool

For the purposes of this post, however, it is possible that you can know what the job is, and have the skills, resources, and authority to do the job (items 1-4) and still find a “reason” to avoid doing it or putting it off.

This is item #5 and usually involves an emotion. The emotion typically involved in procrastination is anxiety.

As an emotion, anxiety is a future based feeling the message of which is that there may be a threat and that threat may hurt me.

I was a procrastinator in college.

It was only when I got into graduate school and began to self-reflect that I understood my procrastination.

The reasoning that led me to procrastinate went like this..

  • If I take the time necessary to do the task right and fall short, I have only myself to blame and I might see myself as inadequate or inferior.
  • If I procrastinate and do the task at the last minute, I can do my best in the time I have available.
  • If I fall short, I can still justify my actions because I did my best and I can avoid any self-criticism.

Yes, there are flaws in the logic and these flaws comprise the “rational lies”.  But, for me at the time, the justifications worked.

I give this example to illustrate how emotions can get in the way of one being productive.

The antidote is to master the emotions by assessing them and choosing an effective response.

This is what I had to do to overcome my procrastination.

I hope this post has been informative and helpful.

 

 

 

 

How to express your emotions.

I will talk about how to express your emotions to another person below.

But first, I need to address the question that both precedes the issue of expression and is often overlooked by people who write about emotions.

That question is….How do I know what emotion I am experiencing?

I address this issue in my book Emotions as Tools: A Self Help Guide to Controlling Your Life not Your Feelings.   I also provide checklists which will help you identify your feelings.

That being said, let me give you enough information about how to identify your feelings so at least you can get started.

Physical signs: 

Typically, your first indicator that you are experiencing an emotion will be physical changes in your body.

This could include muscles tightening, a sense of warmth, your body preparing to go to war (fight), run (flight), or stiffen (freeze).

That your body is your first indicator follows from the subconscious element of the emotional process which involves your subconscious (and continuous)  scanning of your surroundings for any threat and your brain preparing your body (again subconsciously) to deal with the perceived threat.

This is the primitive part of the emotional process which has existed in humans since we lived in caves and which evolved to help us survive as a species.  This part of the emotional process is very fast and automatic which, by the way, you would want it to be if you were about to be eaten by a saber toothed tiger.

The problem, however, for all of us today, is that this primitive emotional process continues to function unchanged in us just as it did in our cave dwelling ancestors.  This rapid reaction is the reason that many people feel controlled by their emotions, they view emotions as beyond their comprehension, and they blame their emotions for the inappropriate behavior they display when they experience an emotion.

None of these “assumptions” about emotions are true.

  1. You are NOT controlled by your emotions eventhough your initial reaction is subconscious.
  2. You can comprehend your emotions by reading my book, checking out the index tab to all my posts by scrolling to the top of this page or tapping into any number of resources available to you on the internet.
  3. The actions you take or your response  to your emotions are always your choice.  Your emotions do prepare you for a response but do NOT force you do anything.

Cognitive signs.

The “modern” component of the emotional process involves the thoughts you have about the threat your scans have perceived and your body has alerted you to through its physical reaction.

You might be more sensitive to changes in your thinking than you are to changes in your body.

If you are, you will become aware of “threat-based” thoughts which are preparing you to engage with the threat (indicative of anger), getting you all worked up over something that could occur in the future (indicative of anxiety), or, perhaps, alerting you to a situation that has immediate and unavoidable potential to do you great harm (fear).

You can learn to acknowledge these thoughts, accept their initial message as possible, question the extent to which these thoughts match what is happening to you, and choose whether to act on the thoughts or change them to match your situation.

By the way, if your thoughts alert you to an eminent threat and you are feelings fear, my suggestion is to escape the situation and assess it later.  An example would be a stranger in an elevator who looks “okay” but elicits an uncomfortable feeling in you.  Trust your “gut” and take the next elevator.  Whether he is or is not a threat is irrelevant.

This process of assessing your thoughts is what mastering your emotions  as strategic tools is all about.

How to express emotions

I have written a series of three posts entitled “How to deal with someone who directs their anger at you.” which touch upon some of the same suggestions that I address below.

Use “I” language

I language sounds like this… I am angry about your comments you made to me.  I found what you said to be inappropriate.  What exactly did you mean by what you said?”

There are several elements in the above statement…

  •  I am angry about your comments you made to me.

This person labels the feeling (anger) and takes full responsibility for the feeling.

  • I found what you said to be inappropriate.

This clearly states this individual’s perception and does not place any blame.

  • What exactly did you mean by what you said?

This question starts with “what” which is designed to focus on the other person’s intent and not “why” which often elicits an excuse.

This question also leaves open the possibility that the questioner might have misunderstood or misinterpreted what was said.

Finally, this question gives the other person a chance to explain, apologize for, or even change the comment that was made.

Stay focused on the feeling and the issue which elicited the feeling.

  • Don’t bring in info which is not directly relevant to the sit you are addressing.
  • What happened last week is not relevant here unless the actions of the other person is representative of an ongoing and unresolved issue.

Acknowledge that you might have misunderstood and ask for clarification.

If appropriate, apologize for any misunderstanding.

  • This is not saying you are wrong.
  • This is not negating your feelings.

If you are wrong, acknowledge this directly and apologize.

Be congruent.

  • non-verbals should match verbals

Remember the concept of escalation

  • Start with the lowest amount of energy needed to accurately reflect what you are feeling. This is being assertive.
  • You can always increase the level of aggressiveness if you need to.

If you are registered, please leave a comment or a question.

 

 

Is it “okay” to have a feeling such as anger, anxiety, jealousy, etc?

This seems like an easy question.

And, in one sense, it is.  The easy answer is …

“YES, it is okay to feel whatever emotion you experience.”

This is true whether:

1.  You grew up being taught (or learned as an adult) that feelings should be avoided because they are bad, “unladylike”, messy, impure, or dangerous

    • The correctional staff I worked with viewed all emotions as both messy and to be avoided as unnecessary because they “got in the way of” their doing their jobs.
    • The incarcerated young women I worked with viewed emotions as hurtful and  dangerous because they “caused” these young women to hurt others or themselves.
    • The professional women who interacted with me on LinkedIn noted that they were demeaned when they attempted to express their anger in a work setting.

2. You were never taught how to master your feelings so avoiding them was the easiest way to cope.

    • This was my experience.

3.  You tend to do dumb or hurtful things when you experience strong feelings, you blamed the feelings, and you chose to avoid them if you could

4. and so forth.

But, if you are attempting to master your feelings as tools, as I recommend you do in  my two Amazon Best selling books (Emotions as Tools and Beyond Anger Management, there is more to this question.

Indeed, the question has two underlying assumptions that are not obvious..

  1. The first assumption is that there are some emotions you might choose to experience and some emotions that you might choose not to experience.

There are two parts to this assumption.

The first part is that there are good and bad feeling and you might want to eliminate the bad ones

The second part is that there are emotions which feel good and others which feel bad and you might want to eliminate the ones that feel bad.

2.  The second assumption is that you have a choice whether you experience some emotions and not others.

Let me address these two underlying assumptions.

The first assumption above is based on the emotional myth that the emotions that feel “good” are the ones you want to keep and the ones that feel “bad”, or hurt, you might want to eliminate.

This myth, while sometimes upheld in articles, is incorrect.

The truth is that all emotions are just tools that provide you with information that you can adaptively utilize to improve your life and your relationships.

There are no “good” or “bad” emotions. There are only emotional tools.

While it is true that some emotions such as happy, enthusiastic, and pride which “feel” good in that they are uplifting and lead to you engaging in an activity with renewed energy and interest and some emotions such as anxiety, sadness, guilt and jealousy which “feel” bad in that  they might lead you to withdraw from an activity or from other people or result in a sense that you or what you have done are inferior and worthy of contempt, how you experience the emotion does not reflect at all on the value of that emotion as a tool.

A car can be used as a life-saving tool to get you to the hospital for needed medical care or, as  we have seen in the news, it  can be used as a murder weapon when it driven into a crowd of people.

We don’t label the car as good or bad although we clearly could put a label on how it was deployed.

As all emotions are a source of valuable information about how you perceive your surroundings and a source of motivation to deal with your surroundings, I  suggest that you welcome all your emotions and learn how to master them as tools so that the information they provide to you can guide you to make better decisions.

So, even if you could eliminate an emotion, which you can’t as I’ll show below, you would not want to.

Let me give you another example.

No one really likes to experience pain and we have a variety of ways to minimize our pain.  But, pain, serves an important purpose in that it alerts us to a situation which requires our attention whether it is stopping what we are doing, getting help and first aid or more rest, and so forth.  My nephew has no sensation below his waist from a congenital condition.  Should there be a “threat” to his lower extremities which was not immediately obvious, he would not know about it.

Emotions provide us with important information and prepare us to deal with that information.  You do, in fact, want all the emotions you can get.

The second assumption shows a lack of understanding how the emotional process works.

The emotional process, which includes the unconscious scanning of your surroundings and the initial emotional reaction, occurs out of your awareness and, therefore, is not controllable by you.

By the way, if you ever need your emotions to alert you to a life-threatening situation which is not  obvious but from which you need to escape NOW, you would want this part of the emotional process to be beyond your control.

As you can see if you download the free PDF of the anger mastery cycle by clicking on the link which will take you to another page on this site, the cycle contains an unconscious and a conscious set of actions.

Once you become aware of your emotion, you can inhibit your initial reaction but you cannot eliminate it.

Controlling your emotional reaction is the basis of anger management courses. It is useful but often inadequate.

The conscious part of the emotional process which includes validating the initial emotional reaction, assessing the match between your initial perception and the situation, and choosing an appropriate response is in your control and constitutes emotional mastery.

The same is true whether you are mastering anger or mastering an emotion such as envy, anxiety, or jealousy.

In my books, I recommend going beyond managing your emotions and learning to master your emotions by choosing an appropriate response.

You can access prior posts on mastering anger and anxiety as well as jealousy and envy by clicking on the index tab above.

If you are registered, I welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Anger Myths Explained, Discussed and Debunked Part #2

In Part #1 of this two part series, I discussed what a myth was and looked at the first of 5 anger myths.

In this post, I discuss anger myths 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Myth #2: My anger  controls me.

Myth #2 also appears in many forms.

  • My anger made me do it (whatever action “it” refers to).
  • I had no choice (to do what I did).  I was so angry.

The implication of the myth is that you are a robot without free will when it comes to the emotion of anger.

This myth persists in part because of the nature of anger and all emotions.

Emotions have existed since man, as a species, lived in caves or on the Savannah.  Emotions evolved to help us survive as a species. Humans survived by constantly scanning their surroundings for threats that would kill them.  When a threat was perceived (consciously or subconsciously), the brain automatically engaged a fight or flight reaction to protect the individual from the threat.  This process, initiated through the Amygdala and the Reticular Activating System in the brain,  was (and continues to be) fast and automatic as it should be if a genuine threat exists.

The emotion that was experienced always matched the nature of the threat and prepared the person for appropriate action.

Today, because most of the threats we face are psychological in nature and not survival based, the match between the emotion and the reaction is less reliable.

The process, however, has not changed since we lived in caves.

Because of the automatic emotional reaction, it is easy to see why some people may believe the emotion forces them to act.

As humans continued to evolve and develop a bigger, more complicated brain, the cerebral cortex, or thinking part of the brain, allowed us to think about, or evaluate, what we were experiencing and gave us access to more choices.

Today, the emotional reaction still exists but we now have the opportunity to evaluate the nature of the threat and choose how we want to respond.

So, while the myth persists, the truth is that our brains have evolved and given us the opportunity to evaluate our emotional reaction before we act-out and, therefore, to choose how we want to respond. This is the more “modern” part of the anger mastery cycle.

The downside of the myth is that those who believe it feel helpless to deal with their anger and are left with two choices:

  1. never get angry
  2. always act-out on their anger

Choice #1 is nearly impossible and choice #2 could result in their getting in trouble or to others avoiding them.

In addition, if anger is perceived as the causative element, these individuals will perceive no need to get help.

Myth #3: Someone else can make you angry.

This myth is similar to Myth #2.

The difference is that while myth #2 blames the anger and implies a sense of helplessness, this myth avoids responsibility for inappropriate anger by blaming the “victim” of one’s anger for causing the acting-out.

Aggressive men who abuse others use this myth as an justification for their behavior.

The myth persists because it offers those who act out inappropriately an excuse for their inappropriate actions, a way to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior, and a way to blame someone else for what they have chosen to do.

In other words, the angry individual..

  1. Claims that they  did not (mess up) because they are a bad or hurtful guy (which they most likely are) but because their anger gave them no choice and
  2. Avoids personal responsibility for their actions by blaming someone else for the inappropriate behavior

As an aside, people who get drunk and act-out attempt to blame the alcohol for their actions.

“If I wasn’t drunk, I would not have…”

While this statement may be true, it ignores the fact that the person chose to get drunk and is, therefore, completely responsible for their actions.

Similarly, with anger.

Yes, it may be true that if a (wife, girlfriend) had not done what they did, the abuser probably would not have gotten angry, and if they were not angry, they probably would not have acted-out. However, this sequence ignores the fact that the individual is not a robot and always has a choice regarding the actions they take.

Anger is never the cause of inappropriate behavior.

Myth #4: Anger is always a secondary emotion

Many writers choose to label anger as a secondary emotion.

This assertion is  wrong, it ignores some basic research findings and it is disempowering because it denies the primary function of anger as a primitive threat detector.  In addition, it denigrates the energy anger provides as a motivator of effective corrective action.

A secondary emotion is one that is used as a substitute for another feeling.

Men tend to use anger as a secondary emotion to substitute for feelings of anxiety, hurt or vulnerability.

This happens because anger is an empowering emotion which elicits a sense of power, ability to go on the attack, and a sense of strength.  Anger evolved to do exactly this.

Feelings like anxiety, sadness, and vulnerability, however, leave men feeling weak and inadequate. Again, this is what these feelings are supposed to do.

So, when faced with feeling weak or inadequate, all of which “hurt”, a man may choose to express anger.

This is secondary anger and it is always dishonest.

The truth is that men need to learn to master all their feelings and the information their feelings provide if they want to be more interpersonally effective.

Myth #5: Women should not get angry.

This myth states that women should not get angry because:

  • it isn’t feminine or
  • the consequences aren’t worth it

This myth persists because the the truth is that for some women, expressing anger (especially in a professional office setting) can lead to unwanted consequences.

Several years ago, I went onto a professional women’s forum on LinkedIn. I identified myself as a man and respectfully asked for feedback from these women regarding what happened when they showed appropriate anger in a professional setting.  I received over 2000 responses to my query.  The message clearly was that when women showed anger, they were demeaned, marginalized and negatively labelled. It seems that their male colleagues were not equipped to deal with these women and their issues in a professional and validating manner.

As a side note, I recently went to the same network on LinkedIn with another question, clearly identified myself as a male and was “informed” that I was not welcome on the network.  How times have changed!

The bottom line is that this myth implies that a woman is not entitled to be angry and to use her anger as a tool to bring about change in her environment. This implication is both incorrect and insidiously disempowering.

The truth is that while she may have to adjust how she expresses her anger, she needs to validate her feelings and choose a more indirect strategic approach to using the energy of her anger to facilitate change.

My book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool has a whole chapter devoted to Professional Women.

In these two posts, I introduced you to five widely held myths about anger.  My goal was to show you these myths, make you aware of the various ways these myths present themselves, help you understand why the myths persist, and empower you to overcome these myths and strategically express your anger rather than be hobbled and let your anger be taken away from you by  half-truths, misinformation, and ingrained misunderstandings.

I welcome your comments.