Archive for September, 2011

Petty Tyrants: Is their tyranny really petty?

Ms. Petit-Tyrant

I’ve run into a few petty tyrants recently. I know they are tyrants, but why do we call them petty? It seems petty tyrants tyrannize over petty issues, but their tyranny has results that are anything but petty.

Yesterday I called the…um… Franklin Avenue Baptist Church (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) and spoke to their secretary. I told her I was calling from the Lithuanian American Society (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) and that our club wanted to donate to the St.Josephat (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) celebration next month, and how my club could do that.

Now keep in mind that Franklin Avenue’s congregation is elderly and the church is not finding it easy to keep its doors open, when I tell you that the secretary told me, “Your club cannot contribute.” The St. Josephat celebration is run by the Serbo-Croatian Club (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) and others are not really welcome to participate. I assured her that our Lithuanian club is non profit, peace loving, has never donated to terrorist organizations, etc., and discovered that Ms. Tyrant was aware of all that.

After I forced my mouth shut and resumed ability to speak, I verified that I was indeed speaking with the representative of a church, that the St. Josephat celebration is public, that the church does not have unlimited funds, and that she was, in fact, a secretary and not the senior minster of Franklin Baptist (name made up to protect the petty tyrant- you know that by now.) Ms Petit-Tyrant closed the conversation by saying, I’ll speak to Reverend Jones (name also made up) but it really just isn’t going to happen.

Ms. Tyrant usurped her boss’s authority and turned down an annual income of several hundred dollars for the institution that employs her. Why? Best I can figure is Ms. T is a member of the Serbo-Croatian Club and doesn’t want to run the risk of it being upstaged. Or perhaps the Serbo-Croats have a wealthy donor who would object to the Lithuanian involvement, in which case she made a financially sound decision but a questionable application of Christian values.

Was it petty? Yes. And yet, petty tyranny is more hurtful because it seems to be power for power’s sake and is usually exercised by someone who really has very little legitimate power. Ms. Tyrant showed me who was boss, but the result will be that many Lithuanians who used to put money in the collection plate, will celebrate St. Josephat at a different church this year.

Interaction with the Enlightened

The 1st Dalai Lama

When I coach people, I tend to learn only about their interactions with people who are aggressive, abusive, or just plain weird.   But there are those who have enlightened interactions with others and we can cheer and encourage ourselves by appreciating such people and modeling ourselves after them.  Most of us can cite someone who has made us feel singularly special and understood.

At the very pinnacle of enlightened interaction, in my book, is the Dalai Lama.  Do a Google search on images of “Dalai Lama with…” and see him with various important people.   Of course, there’s his beaming, joyful face, but what’s really fun is the looks on the faces of those around him.

Here is George W. who looks solemn and uncomfortable even at baseball games, for heaven’s sake.  But this is a different George W.  He is grinning from ear to ear and the smile extends to his eyes and body language.  He’s very much enlightened by the Dalai Lama’s interactions.  These photos give me great hope.

Now see His Holiness with the Prince of Wales.  Charlie’s British aristocracy has slipped askew like an ill fitting hat.  He is as red in the face as a newborn and his smile is broad enough to show his molars!

Oh, my goodness! The Dalai Lama is holding Charlie’s hand! What is going on here?  Something in these interactions seems to cheer these people and cut through the B.S. in short order, so we see them as their mothers probably saw them.

After half a century of keeping a stiff upper lip, the Prince of Wales would not completely thaw within fifteen minutes unless … well … unless he felt safe;  unless he felt respected; unless he felt that someone was relating to him on a profoundly personal level!

Clearly, the enlightened interaction occurs in the present moment and the other person must be feeling accepted and loved or he wouldn’t be grinning like that.  But I accept and love people all the time and they rarely react so positively! What is the difference?

Consider what the Dalai Lama is not doing in his interactions.  I’m just making a guess here but I’m willing to bet my IRA that His Holiness is not even a little bit concerned about what other people think of him.  (He’s wearing an orange flowing outfit in the land of somber business suits, after all.  And he’s not wearing a two foot high mitre to make himself look imposing, either.)

If an important state leader flinched when the lama reached out to hold his hand with interlaced fingers, I’m willing to bet the lama did not take it personally any more that you would take it personally when a child resists your overtures.

If a head of state looked grumpy when first meeting the Dalai Lama, I’m quite sure the lama did not think, “Oh no!  I can tell he doesn’t like me.”

I believe the joy in these interactions results from one person being totally present for another.  This presence precludes self consciousness and allows one to truly see who the other person is.  When I am able to practice really being here in the moment with another, my interactions are  much more rewarding.  To what little degree I have learned to be present, I experience a bit of the magic of an enlightened interaction.

I’m hardly in a position to fully understand someone like the Dalai Lama.  But I think that being  profoundly present with another person, in the moment, allows a connection with the essence of that person.  Connecting in that way is love and it feels wonderful, I know!  Just look at George grin!

You’ve Got the Power

Is it really a dog eat dog world?

Do you consider yourself a powerful person? Let me assure you that you are – or you could be. What most of us have been taught about power is either that some people have power over us or that we can or should have power over them. It’s a dog eat dog world!

Is it really? I have never in my long life seen a dog eat dog. In fact, it seems to me that generally, dogs get along pretty effectively together. The hierarchy serves the pack, not an individual dog.

There are those people who would have power over you, and control you for their own ends. There is a good chance you work with or for one of these people who lack empathy. If you are in an intimate relationship with one of them, then you have probably been convinced that you have no personal power.

It is extremely important that those of us who are complete human beings – with the full complement of traits like a soul and a conscience – learn to exercise our personal power. I am not talking about having power over those who would over power you. I am talking about having your own, native, god-given power.

Consider that one in 25 of us is a psychopath; a person with no empathy. That’s 4%. Consider also, that one in 10 business managers is a psychopath. That’s 10%, which is two and a half times the incidence of these people in the general public. Who is in control, then, if ten percent of the managers of companies, who take our lawmakers out to dinner, are self serving people? Just look at the banking crisis if you don’t know the answer.

Those of us who have consciences and empathy do not need to lie down and let the other 4% rule us. Owning our power is a good defense against the dark arts strategy. But, owning your power is really about you, not others. It will not knock the petty tyrants out of power in the short run. Owning your power will, however, make you less likely to be a sitting duck for their machinations and make it easier for you to recover if you are on the receiving end of a controlling relationship.

Your inner power is an astounding force that you probably take for granted. The power of your thoughts and feelings is huge, but you have probably been taught to stuff your feelings and downplay your thoughts. Many of us who are aware of using our intuition, can sense free flowing energy that the body takes in much as it breathes in air. Of course, most of us have been taught that this energy does not exist. But it does, and you can test it out yourself.

Much like breathing oxygen, your body takes in energy in various ways whether you are aware of it or not. But, like breathing oxygen, you can also control how much energy you take in just as you can control your breathing.

The simplest approach is to become present to your life force. Bring your consciousness fully into your body by feeling your hands and feet. Imaging you have your head in the heavens and your feet are rooted to the earth. Be aware of looking out of your eyes. Straighten your spine and feel or imagine the warm tingle of your life force running up and down your spine. Feel this force build up in the center of your body and be here now.

Enter a room full of people after doing this exercise. You will sense a huge difference in the way they respond to you.

Why assertiveness training does not work very well

Assertiveness training usually focuses on ways of expressing yourself through language; speaking in ways that are assertive without being aggressive. It may give you helpful strategies for certain situations, but it will not make you an assertive person.

Assertiveness training involves learning a communication pattern that expresses your feelings without disrespecting the other person. So, when you want to say something like, “Jack, you idiot! You left the headlights on and my battery is dead. Drive me to work so I won’t be late!” Instead you would say, “Jack. When you leave the headlights on in my car, it drains the battery and leaves me with no way to get to work on time. I’d like you to give me a ride to work.”

This is a far superior way to verbally communicate to Jack. He will be more likely to give you a ride to work than to become angry at you for calling him an idiot. However, using language in this way will not, in itself, make you assertive.

On the other hand, if you are an assertive (not aggressive) person; that is you are in an assertive and powerful state of being, you will automatically use forms of language that are respectful rather than hurling undue blame at others. And, you won’t have to think about it, read about it, or practice it.

If you are not really in an assertive and powerful state, you will fool no one with your assertive language. If you are not truly assertive, you will have a tendency to set limits and yet not follow through on them. Then when others take advantage of this, you may get angry and aggressive or be passive aggressive.

Anger is not assertiveness. The powerful may get angry, but anger will not make you powerful. If a pedestrian angrily stomps his foot and yells at you for exceeding the limit as you fly past him…who cares? He has no power. But a policeman has been given power by your locality. He doesn’t have to get angry because you broke the law. He or she simply climbs in the cruiser and pulls you over to receive a citation and a bill for the appropriate fine to be paid.

Power comes from within. The bad news is you cannot convince anyone by pretending or using a certain means of speaking. The good news is that we all have power we can call forth if we learn how. And practicing a powerful state will, eventually call it forth. This power is more physical than intellectual and cultivating it will make it easy to assert yourself.
See my page with tips for encouraging respect for some easy ways to cultivate your personal power in ways that are respectful of others and encourage others to be respectful as well.

Check out this related article

See Martha Beck’s related article here:

The emotions you are feeling may not even be your own!

We reflect those around us

Those of us with porous boundaries tend to feel that we may be super emotional, temperamental or even crazy, when we feel profound shifts and changes in our thoughts and emotions.

In fact, we all “catch” emotions and moods from each other, though some of us are better at it than others. We tend to mirror each other’s body language and this can make you feel the emotional tone of a person with whom you are speaking. But on a more subtle level, we have mirror neurons in our brains that keep us in emotional sync with the people around us, even when we are not actively engaged with them.

Those who are capable of empathy with others, learn early on to “feel” their way around their environments. It seems those of us who grew up in chaotic times or in chaotic households or with explosive or moody caretakers, learned to do an especially good job of picking up others’ emotions.

It took me years to discover that I was an empath and not emotionally disturbed, though I was certainly disturbed emotionally! But once I saw that not all of the emotional winds blowing through my space belonged to me alone, I was able to learn what feelings were really mine. What a relief! I discovered I am way more stable…and positive… than I had always assumed.

How can you cope if you are emotionally absorbent?

The obvious, but not always practical, solution is to be careful of the company you keep. Notice if bad moods are triggered in particular environments or by certain people and avoid those if possible.
You can create more solid mental and emotional boundaries with your imagination. If you picture yourself surrounded by a clear, protective bubble, your thoughts and feelings actually affect the energy field around your body. This mental distinction is remarkably effective for keeping other people’s “stuff” at arm’s length.

We are not as separate from each other as we think. Though being empathic can be troublesome, being able to identify with the feelings of others is what makes you a fully functioning human being!

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