Default Emotions – parents dancing with anger

A mother shares a story about her struggle with hate. Specifically, she is troubled by the thought that she hates parenting and, possibly, her preschooler.

She’s not alone.

Living with someone from birth to high-school graduation, I expect to feel every emotional state.

Hate, anger and rage are powerful, and unpredictable, emotions. In Boulder County, they are socially taboo when directed at children.

Therefore, as a parent, you’re likely to remember when you feel these emotions around children.

You are feeling everything.

You are remembering hate.

What’s your default emotional state?

Thinking about the five people closest to me. We default to…

  • Tears (flight)
  • Confrontation (fight)
  • Fear (flight)
  • Emotional shutdown (flight)
  • Anger (fight)

Within a preschooler, I can see all of the above within a ten-minute span!

Combine a rainbow of powerful emotions… with a lack of sleep… it’s easy to drop into my default emotional state.

In my case, I tend to pause and address later, when the energy has left the situation.

Take stock of your consumption of external emotions.

  • Media
  • Situations
  • Peers

How do the above make me feel?

Replace the negative with self-care.

  • Are you sure?
  • Are you sure you are feeling hate?
  • Are you sure your child is the reason for the emotion?

Frustration at my lack of skill can feel like anger.

How do skilled teachers feel about my child?

Negative emotions (hate, anger, rage) indicate a need to up-skill for the essential and out-source the non-essential.

Your mommy-guilt might be leaving you tapped out.

Being tapped out means your children, and your marriage, never see your best self.

Tapped out is a tough way to spend a decade.

 

Seven Positive Steps

2016-11-15-16-04-05Seven positive steps…

1 – unfollow the two most prolific sources of agreement in my life – top right hand corner on FB

2 – dial down pundits, forecasters and experts

3 – add sources from outside my circle (Taleb, MartinezAdams)

4 – slowly read a book about manipulation and another about high-conflict people (15 minutes per day) – choose one tactic, apply it for a month

5 – make time each day to use nature to slow my mind down (deserts, oceans, forests, mountains) (twice daily)

6 – teach a kid while demonstrating grace (2×20 minutes per day)

7 – improve my ability to listen by being still and not responding

Simple, not easy.

Pleasure, Happiness and Joy

pancakeI came across a book that shared many stories about happiness.

One of the stories is how we fool ourselves by mistaking pleasure for happiness. An example might be…

  • 1 square of chocolate is pleasure
  • 20 squares of chocolate is a tummy ache

The slogan being… Pleasure Consumes Itself

The risk being… we become slaves to chasing pleasure.

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A story…

Our three-year old was having a tough morning and we weren’t making progress getting him ready for school.

So I picked him up, picked his socks up, picked his shoes up and picked his bag up…

…and headed out the door with the little guy in my arms.

He was screaming that he wanted to go back to the house and put all his stuff on, himself.

As that’s what I wanted him to do, originally, I agreed.

However, I said,

Sure you can go inside. First you need to calm down. We’re going to do it together. I’m going to count to three and we will take a breath after each number.

I held his hand, looked into his eyes, smiled and said…

One, big breath, hold, exhale

He was still crying but took the breath with me.

I said…

Two, big breath, hold, exhale

By this point, he cracked a smile through his tears.

Three, you did it. You’re calm. I’m so happy!

And we walked back into the house to have a “do over” on the departure.

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In reflecting on this story, I noticed that my son taught me to be happy with another person’s success, his own.

I also noticed that I would have been unable to learn without experiencing the pain of his initial meltdown.

The joy we shared was much deeper than anything offered by a piece of chocolate.

I also noticed that I can remember his success and bring myself back to that moment.

If a three-year old can transcend himself then what’s my excuse?

🙂

Lessons From My Divorce

2015-03-31 10.04.40The speed that people bring hate to a divorcing couple is surprising. It comes quickly and unexpectedly.

Having been through a divorce, I want you to know that the hate isn’t useful.

Getting divorced sucks, for everyone.

It’s worth remembering that nobody is enjoying the process, not even your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.

Your wise friends, knowing that nobody is having fun, will help you remove hate from the situation.

They will do this by listening, without knowing the answer.

They will encourage you to settle your differences with compassion for each other, and the rest of the community.

As for the hate…

When I find myself hating, it is a sign that my own actions are inconsistent my values. Hate is a sign that I need to make a change within my own life.

As for the divorcee…

It’s going to take years for the dust to settle.

After 1,000 days or so, you’ll be able to start the process of understanding the small ways that you might have contributed just-a-little-bit to the divorce.

Once you can see an area for improvement, start there.

Gradual self-improvement will lead you to a wonderful life.

Educating A Beautiful Girl

Lexi in MoabAn enduring benefit from working across cultures, races, sexual orientation, body mass indices and beauty is an increased capacity to see myself in other people.

If you look closely then you’ll see that power-seekers have a tendency to focus on the wickedness of “them.” It’s an effective argument employed by the media, politicians and our leaders.

Pointing out “their wickedness” is so common that I search for teachers that are careful to avoid an appeal to wickedness.

A story…

My daughter and I were heading into the supermarket in Moab. People in the desert look different than people in Boulder.

Dad, dad… that homeless guy is stealing all the food.

Sweetie, look carefully, he’s taking his groceries to his car.

With her filters off, my daughter reminded me that I have some work to do.

Another example…

The wealth effect of excessive living is obvious. However, if you look deeply then you’ll discover another, far more subtle, effect. You’ll be able to feel a separation between yourself and other people.

As you separate yourself, you will be prone to seeing “their wickedness.”

The physical separation is in plain sight – education policy, gated communities, exclusive clubs, athletic ability…

In Boulder, we don’t need gates, the price of real estate makes an effective barrier to entry, especially when combined with private school fees (so our children are protected from their children).

If you sit quietly then you will feel a deeper separation. It makes us miserable and allows us to be manipulated.

An antidote…

  • Humility in my own needs
  • Spending time outside my “tribe”
  • Looking inwards at my tendency to hold myself separate

Later in the trip I asked my daughter…

Who gets hurt when you’re scared or angry?

PJs

Sweet Emotion

A while back, I greatly expanded my twitter feed. I did this with an expectation that I’d be triggered. The world didn’t disappoint me and I was triggered by God ripping into someone…

Screenshot 2014-09-27 13.43.27

It’s been a while since I was triggered to the point of replying to a stranger so I looked inward at the nature, and source, of my reaction.

Here’s what I noticed:

The essence of powerful emotion is energy. Whether the emotion is anger, envy, grief, fear, love or joy… they are all just energy. It’s up to me to “tag” the energy and classify the emotion – my tagging is a function of culture, context and habit.

The energy has a clear physical signature in my body. I have an opportunity to “feel” an emotion before it overtakes my decision making.

When I experience these emotions they are triggered by something touching the raw nerve of personal weakness.

All strong emotion is an opportunity to discover something about myself, as creator of my emotional experience.

Once I understand the above, I can work at the margin of my emotional life to shape my understanding and experience.

Situations that prompt me to automatically respond are extremely valuable – those are my raw nerves. However, because I was emotionally out-of-control, I need time to process.

My response (to God) was how I settle myself down when I’m out of control. Each One A Holy Soul – is a reminder to myself that people that trigger me are about me, not them.

Those five words distract my mind long enough so I slow my reaction time. My internal life might be unpleasant but, hopefully, I react far less often. Not-reaction avoids the human tendency to pass along discomfort.

Later, I can think about my reaction and try to break-the-chain in my own emotional life, which improves my capacity to achieve serenity.

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Some principles that I’ve found helpful:

  • Channel the energy of strong emotions into positive action – as a middle-aged man, I’m grateful for the extra energy. I need it!
  • Remember it is all about me, my mind is classifying my experiences into emotional states
  • Remember it is all about me, pain is triggered by my mind touching my own weaknesses. Own my weaknesses.
  • Change at the margin
  • Don’t act on anger

Be brave.

Scoundrels and Rascals

When I lived in Asia, I was taught that desire is a necessary component of deception.

My desire to “be right” often leads me right back to another deception.

Some tactics follow that might help you avoid trouble with rascals that, truth be told, are often entertaining.

They Might Be Right – I get a guaranteed laugh when I tell my wife, “I might simply be different.” She smiles, “yes, babe. You’re different alright.”

When would the other person’s course of action be right?

If we live long enough then we are almost certain to find our present selves holding different opinions from our younger selves.

The Message Not The Messenger – we share a curious desire to bring down others and a glee in catching people being naughty. My opinion of a person can prevent me from learning from them.

What can I learn from this person? this situation?

Turn People into Adjectives – when I’m locked on a person, it’s far more useful to drill down to a description of what’s triggering me.

Think about a person that’s disappointed you and dig, dig, dig… until you move beyond the person and arrive at the behavior. There is always something inside of me that’s being touched by, what I believe is, an external trigger.

Let The Situation Move Away – hands down, the most useful thing I realized. Nearly all my “problems” move away if I stop feeding them. Usually the best course of action is to chill out and let my problems leave on their own.

This doesn’t mean that I support the injustice that I see. I means that I acknowledge that my most effective antidote is being just in my own actions.

Turn problem people into adjectives and correct their behavior in myself.

  • Honesty
  • Courtesy
  • Reliability
  • Kindness
  • Gentle
  • Loving