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?
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?
But not because men and women are from different planets. As a recent study showed, in truth, both are from the same planet Earth; they share more in common, at least intellectually, mentally and emotionally, than they are different.
And the differences? Well, let’s just say, “Vive la difference!”
Myths that baffle men and women?
You wouldn’t know how much men and women have in common from what science and other writings have proclaimed for centuries, and in more recent decades, media and entertainment industries (and especially pornography) have reinforced and embellished mythical portrayals of women as potentially dangerous to men, akin to unruly children who must be dominated, not trusted or spoiled (“for their own good”).
Myths of romanticized dominance (eroticized, for men) still prevail. It’s not unusual for male partners to think its their job, on the one hand, to fix or set their partners straight, tell them what to do or think, scold or punish if she doesn’t follow his advice, and then blame her for making him feel inadequate for not allowing him to do his job.
While it may feel he has failed, the real problem largely lies in a set of strategies men are conditioned from boyhood to use in order to deliberately block emotional intimacy.
Despite misconceptions, as discussed in Part 1, expressing anger is a choice between actions that are defensive in nature and thus increase distance between us, and actions that are effective in increasing our understanding of one another, and keeping communication lines open.
Just as the uses and benefits of lemons are more numerous and significant than most can imagine, so are the possibilities of anger, when expressed effectively, to clarify, spark and produce a deepening of our connections with self and other, and emotional intimacy.
Truth be told, the ability to handle (listen to, feel and express, etc.) anger effectively is essential in building strong, mutually enriching and mature relationships. And, because our brain is a relationship organ, our personal wellbeing is all about how we “do” relationships. In the words of top selling author and personal success expert Brian Tracy notes, “relationships are the hallmark of the mature person.”
To learn how to regulate and express anger effectively, however, like any thing else, it’s essential to better understand our anger, its potential benefits as a healthy emotion, its risks and potentially damaging impact.
Also like anger, lemons are balancing agents. They cleanse and set the pH in your body in balance. At the same time, they were never intended by nature to be digested as a main course.
The health benefits of lemons are many, in other words, if you know when and how much to use in proportion to other ingredients, and so on.
Similarly, anger is an emotion that activates, as an agent that helps you regulate and reset the balance of seemingly opposing inner strivings — to stay connected to your self and life around you – yet never meant to be overused as an emotion to hide or to hide behind.
Safe to say, the inability to handle emotional distress is widespread enough to consider it a national pandemic.
The pandemic is connected to anxious ways we have learned to avoid, deny or strongly react to emotions that are uncomfortable or painful.
We learn these desperate ways of dealing with painful emotions in childhood and carry them into our relationships in adulthood. Whether our primary response to distress is a strategy that activates overwhelm, angry outbursts or emotional shutdown, all of these cause reactivity in us that unnecessarily activates our body’s survival system.
This pandemic is related to cultural mores that overall relegate painful emotions as signs of weaknesses, inferiority or defect that need to be fixed, ignored or even eliminated.
To complicate matters, some of these teachings consist of gender taboos; some emotions are considered unmanly for men to express, and other emotions too manly for women.
It’s not rocket science. To be at your very best, you need a set of conscious choices that protect your happiness, and this often means, as explored in Part 1, taking steps to protect your physical and emotional health from blood-sugar imbalances caused by the food and drink you put into your body.
In this post, we’ll look at a few ideas on how to prepare in advance for holiday gatherings, more specifically, to think with the end in mind by planning your choices in advance, and use your brain’s power of imagination to “rehearse” the priorities you set – so that you may enjoy yourself while also making healthy choices.
Actions without conscious thought? Confusion!
Modern brain-scan technology has made what may be the most incredible discovery of all time about you, that: Your brain is capable of amazing feats. It’s ever ready to help you make continuous changes throughout your life.
In fact, it performs these functions automatically without your conscious involvement, continuously rewiring and reshaping itself.