The concept of power is widely misunderstood, yet how we conceptualize “power” — our own and others’ – shapes our innermost values, and thus the neurochemical processes that decide the direction of our behaviors, relationships and life.
As human beings, it is our nature to attribute meanings to our world through the use of language and symbols. These meanings in turn shape our lives, especially when they are hidden from view.
Our view of “power” forms a core belief system.
Several top psychological theorists of the 20th century, such as Alfred Adler, Rollo May, William Glaser, Abraham Maslow, Virginia Satir, Victor Frankl, Carl Rogers, William Glaser, among others, describe power as a healthy inborn striving.
If you’ve ever experienced a moment of emotional connection with a loved one, then you know that, like the sweet fragrance of lemon blossoms, it can be a profoundly enjoyable experience, perhaps too heavenly for words.
To make this a regular experience, it takes a conscious plan, one that sets your intention on doing what you observe “works” to improve your life and relationships, and stop doing what doesn’t.
What will it take to have such command of your choices? A mindful mastery of the emotional-physiological states of your body, a conscious intention to focus your attention on being present in challenging moments of your life and relationships. This is a training of sorts that you consciously choose to participate in to cultivate your ability to handle, understand and regulate upsetting emotions of anger (and fear). You always have a choice, and cultivating a mindful mastery of your emotions is a conscious choice at any given moment to take action from optimal emo-physiological states of mind and body.
In Part 1, defensive ways of expressing anger, whether passive and aggressive, were described as toxic to relationships (in most situations). Like too much lemon juice, anger can have a souring effect that inhibits meaningful connection and intimacy. In Part 2, the emotion of anger was identified as essential, a potentially healthy, balancing agent that, when effectively expressed, can move us to take action to not only survive, but also to thrive, to live authentic lives; it prompts us courageously express who we are or what we think and feel, our unique talents and abilities, and so on.
Without the emotion of anger to propel us to take the reins of our lives as the choice-making agent we’re designed to be, conceivably, we might get so overwhelmed by the emotions of vulnerability associated with our hardwired emotion-drives, i.e., for meaningful connection and intimacy — that we’d fail to make any distinctions between ourselves and others as separate beings. It’s not a question of eliminating anger, it’s a question of how to direct this energy to create optimal outcomes, rather than tear down, punish, retaliate and the like….
Largely, it’s a combination of what we consciously or subconsciously believe and what we most want or (emotionally) need in the situation. What we believe is possible or what we believe we or others “should” (or shouldn’t) do, for example, activate emotions and neural command networks in our brain that shape our behaviors.
The questions below are designed to expand awareness of your emotional experience of anger, what you’ve learned and believe, and perhaps the beliefs that underlie how you express or respond to anger, others’ as well as your own.
Instructions: Write down your responses to the following questions:
1. Anger is…
2. When you were growing up, what did your mother do with her anger? Your anger?
3. When you were growing up, what did your father do with his anger? Your anger?
4. As a child, what did you decide about expressing your angry feelings?
5. Who taught you “how” to express or not express anger?
6. In what situations did you learn to express anger or silence anger?
7. In the present, what do you do when you are angry at your partner? Child? Parent?
8. How long does it take you to let go of angry feelings or stewing inside (days, hours, minutes etc.)?
9. Are you satisfied with how you resolve your anger with your partner? Child? Parent?
10. What do you want to change so you will feel good about how you resolve anger?
Rarely the primary focus, codependency issues are often identified in connection to the treatment of a family member with an addiction. A person in a significant relationship with someone addicted to a substance or activity is at risk of developing a set of behaviors (also an addictive pattern) from which they too need healing to restore life balance, integrity and peace of mind.
Codependent persons have a developed ability to “read” the moods of others, and take pleasure in “knowing” what others want, how to pacify or appease. Pleasing others, however, is rooted in fear, and a wishful fantasy or expectation that, somehow or someday, the ones they seek to please will recognize, appreciate, and value them for the efforts they make.
This set of behaviors, sometimes referred to as “enabling,” is known as “codependency” or “co-addiction.”
Most understand the links between our thoughts or self-talk and our emotions and feelings — not so with emotion-drives. How can they be as as real as our physical needs for food and water? In Part 1 emotion-drives were described as action-motivating factors that propel us to take action from within to matter and meaningfully connect to life within and around us.
The concept of “emotion-drives” as life shaping and connected to our health and survival is more challenging to understand. And, we rarely think of or explain our own or other’s behaviors in terms of these powerful universal strivings.
This is surprising when we consider that several top psychological theorists in the 20th century, among others, Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May and William Glasser, viewed human behavior as primarily motivated or purpose-driven to meet social needs, such as love, belonging, contribution, all of which are emotional in nature.
Why the disconnect?
Emotion mastery, or the ability to regulate our emotions, is essential to our personal and relational health and happiness. It is a built-in capacity that must be cultivated, yet often ignored. No easy task, this inner work requires an ongoing willingness to develop awareness of our emotions and feelings, and an openness to feeling and understanding them.
Like gauges, emotions are status checks, personal messages our body-mind (subconscious) sends at any given moment to keep us (conscious-mind) informed on what most concerns us.
Essentially, emotions tell us where we are or how well we’re doing, so to speak, in relation to what and where we most aspire to be in life, with regard to the following:
Emotions may be triggered by what’s going on around us, however, our emotion-responses are primarily activated by a combination of internal factors, that:
When it comes your body or life, not much happens without emotion. To your brain, emotions are essential chemical signals that connect all the systems of your body 24/7, in a complex and sophisticated communication network like no other.
To your mind, or conscious and subconscious self, your body’s ability to transmit signals of emotion and physical sensations help you survive and thrive the myriad of social, intellectual and emotional (spiritual?) challenges of life, which are natural to your own unique growth and development patterns.
How vital is this communication? Quite. As it is impossible not to communicate or to relate, it’s a quality of life matter.
Like it or not, you are a walking-talking communication system. To be alive is to communicate, to relate, and to connect with the world within and around you. Your brain is a relationship organ, which makes you a social being at heart.
Conscious communication is a window into the world of our heart and mind – and another’s from their vantage point.
As a tool, it’a a way to manage the energies we bring to our communications, so that we remain consciously aware of what is going on inside of us, our feelings, thoughts, what we want and need, and so on, without getting triggered.
In Part 1 we described eight attributes of a conscious way of talking. In this post, the focus is on attributes of conscious-listening.
Conscious-listening is a way of being intentionally present to see, to know and to recognize our own and another’s felt presence and unique value in the relationship. Safe to say, it’s not possible to authentically love another, without being willing to freely give the essential gift of listening. In other words, if we’re not genuinely listening to another, sooner or later, they will stop listening to us. (They have no choice, it’s physics.)
Listening as critical to healthy relationships?
Listening is perhaps the most critical component of effective communication. That’s because we are hardwired with emotion-drives that propel us to feel known, heard, understood, valued, and so on, aspects of our overarching drive to do more than merely survive life, to also thrive, to matter and meaningfully connect in relation to life around us. In fact, our drive to thrive in life is also critical to our physical health and survival, as stress directly impacts our health, emotional, mental and physical, in negative ways.
As important as it is to resolve past or present problems, for example, when one or both parties lack empathic listening skills, problems quickly rise to the level of seeming “impossible” to solve. Why?
Since most relationship problems are rooted in communications that are either avoided, forced or misinterpreted, the purpose is to provide an emotional experience that allows each person to feel safe enough to grow a quality relationship in which key emotional needs (not wants…) are expressed, mutually valued – and met through natural giving.
(To give naturally, by the way, is to give from a place of overall love or joy, as opposed to fear or guilt or shame.)
When you express your self in ways that stretch you, particularly in moments where you may not “feel” like doing so, you exercise your ability to stretch and courageously develop the capacity to authentically love your self and another.