So What’s So Different Here?
In checking on “Walking the Talk” as a possible blog name, I found very few listings, and I could not find a single one that takes the format of a blogger attempting to teach and coach by openly sharing examples of his or her own daily walking the talk of what they teach and coach. And in this blog, I will be sharing with you what it is like to live as what I term a Real Adult (as distinct from a Pseudo-Adult. If emotions are just energy, like a cherry bomb is just energy, then containing feelings is cherry bombs being set off in an empty oil drum. Lots of noise, and no action.
(please note that you can click on the red underlined text for more information about the meaning of that particular term.)
So as you contained your feelings, you could use Real Thinking long enough to effectively assess what was actually true and real, and what might work or help, regardless of how you happen to feel about what’s true. You could then just use your best judgment, act accordingly, let the chips fall where they may, and if none of them killed you, use the same process to deal with those chips all over again. And the more you use it, the more effective it becomes, because it’s very self-reinforcing.
What’s different about the kind of Life Coaching offered here
On first hearing this, many people respond something like, “Well, sure, sounds great (and it really does, doesn’t it?!), but easier said than done! You make it sound so simple!” As if, therefore, everything just described is somehow irrelevant, meaningless, or otherwise just irritating. And yes many “common sense” descriptions like this one are just that.
I acknowledge that what I am offering most likely does not contain anything new under the sun of human psychology. What’s different I believe is the all important and often ignored distinction between “simple” and “clear”. I think you would agree that what I described is quite clear. And accomplishing it is anything but simple! The clarity, not simplicity, is in the succinct specificity and precise wording of the descriptions. The complexity is in how to do it. Fortunately, I can offer useful clarity in that area as well. Very succinct, clear, and specific help, with lots of ready-made examples.
What is required in order to get beyond our knee-jerk reactions and do Real Thinking is what I refer to as Emotional Clarity. And Emotional Clarity is probably one of the most difficult and daunting tasks around in human experience. `”Know thyself” is clear. Doing it is not simple, nor is it clear how to, without appropriate coaching. With appropriate coaching, it is trainable and achievable as an ongoing life skill to be developed like another skill. Only probably more useful than most.
Sounds great, right? Well, there are just a few little glitches in all this, and they’re the ones that had my patients objecting, “But you make it all sound so simple!”. First, we ALL have lots of “knee-jerk” emotional reactions to what’s now true based on what was true in our (usually childhood) history. And that tends mostly to screw things up.
When someone says something the slightest bit offensive, or disturbing, or upsetting, or whatever, the normal reaction is to get reactive/defensive/accusing/blaming/punitive, etc. In short, we usually do some form of “fighting back”, or else slinking back. We fight, or we flee.
Gravity Really Doesn’t Care How You Feel!
As far as feelings go, gravity (which I am using here as code for Reality) really doesn’t much take into consideration (“care?”) how we feel if we fall off the bridge or jump off. It just “does gravity”. As in Reality, the outcome is the same no matter how we felt.
Most of life is like that. Life and gravity do life and gravity, and we have feelings about it. Then, it’s up to us whether we learn to think and act rationally in the face of that reality. AND, whether we deal with gravity, or just with our feelings. You might even say that wars/fights/arguments with our kids and spouses, etc., are mostly about not doing that.
This gets even more complicated (discouraging?) when you consider the unfortunately misnamed “fight or flight” response (think “knee-jerk”). It’s not a response, as we think of consciously responding. It is only an automated physiologic reaction. And if evolution theory is accurate, our built in ancestors’ “knee-jerk” reactions were largely responsible for their having been our ancestors and not just food for some other beastie.
That is, beginning with the “reptilian brain” that we still all carry around with us as our brainstem, emotions were and still are “designed” to completely disable rational thinking when the danger is perceived as threatening enough (uh, so just how threatening is it that he/she won’t take the garbage out, put the toothpaste cap back on, etc? Hmm…). Because you don’t want thinking to interfere with immediately fighting or fleeing. After all, you can only figure out whether you should have if you’re still alive.
It kind of all makes very sobering sense out of “I’m just too upset to think right now!”
So what would it look like to learn how to recognize your emotional knee-jerks, and manage them appropriately so that you can do Real Thinking and have Real Conscious Choice? Many people would answer, “Oh, sure, you mean if I could just learn to control my emotions.”
NO–absolutely, categorically not. That is not possible. We do not have a choice about what we feel, or when we feel it. We just feel it. The only conscious choice we do have with regard to our feelings is after we feel them.
Because it has now been demonstrated that no part of the brain can physically perceive incoming stimuli faster than our “emotions”, or the infamous “limbic system” of the brain. You might want to read that sentence again, because it’s the fulcrum point of everything we do as human beings.
In this sense, we literally first perceive and react emotionally to everything we perceive. This is not a choice. It is a physiologic reality.
“But people’s emotions don’t obliterate their thinking all the time!” Of course not. And when they don’t, there’s no problem. Only those aren’t the times that make the difference between divorce and reconciliation, life and death, or war and peace. Those are the times we’re talking about here.
So How Can We Learn To Make Conscious Choices ?
Since our brain’s physiology dictates that when our knee-jerk emotional perceptions and attitudes are strong enough, we actually have no conscious choice about how we react. That is the definition of a knee jerk reaction. It is an automatic, unconscious reaction rather than a response.
What would your life be like if most of the time you could manage yourself and your emotions in a way that consistently enabled you to do Real Thinking, and to actually distinguish between “what’s so” and how you happen to feel about it? Put another way, what if you could consistently and reliably make Conscious Choices based on what’s currently true rather than just have “knee jerk” reactions to what was true based on your history?
And by the way, how many of us feel like anybody ever got good, if any, training or instruction about “recognizing” or “managing” our emotions”? (“Are you kidding me?!!!”)
So in the face of all this, how are we ever supposed to learn how to recognize and manage our emotions? And especially to recognize and manage our “knee-jerk” emotional reactions? There sure doesn’t seem to be an abundance of stellar examples of that walking around out in the world. (Do I hear, “Well for sure not in MY family!”?)
Believe it or not, I am young and foolish enough to say I have an answer (please note the use of “an”, not “The”), which I will begin to offer in my next blog. As a teaser, it begins with, “gradually, with patience, and by incremental steps that I (and others learning along with you) can coach you and support you in as we all go about learning from each other.”
And perhaps if enough of us join together in learning it, we can then keep learning from and coaching each other being Real Adults instead of Pseudo Adults, and keep growing the number of people in the world learning about that. Because Nobody has (or ever will have) the “corner” on this market. It is only something we can learn and sustain with help from each other.
I hope you’re interested. ‘Cause we sure do need some Real Adults out there.