Archive for the 'enlightened interaction' Category

Through the Portal from Avoidance to Attraction

DSC00860Those of us who have experienced power plays, bullying, narcissistic abuse and just plain awful relationships find we are much better off when we learn to identify and avoid toxic people.  Being consciously aware and cautious of the red flags which signal unhealthy interactions is critical for anyone who has been entangled with a wolf in a sheep suit.  Developing discernment is the first step to freedom.

Getting too focused on problem behaviors and red flags, however, has a downside.  It is not enough to avoid difficult people.  At some point, we want to actively attract healthy, supportive people and have easy, loving relationships.  Avoidance is not attractive.

The metaphysical minded tell us that what we focus on expands; that we attract what we think of the most according to habitual feelings.  This makes avoidance a bad strategy for finding new and better relationships.  And, indeed, avoidance is only a part of the process.

When avoiding problem people, it’s a good idea to ask, “What do I want instead?”  In this way, we move away from the competitive and move toward the collaborative.  Rather than moving randomly away from the problem, and perhaps toward another problem, we can set a course away from the problem and directly toward the solution.  The solution is the relationship we wanted in the first place, or maybe even better than that.  This is to be found in a different territory altogether.

Simple steps through this portal;

  • Believe that there exist wonderful relationships with delightful people.  Find an example of a wonderful relationship, to prove to yourself it exists.
  • Know you are worthy of great relationships.  If you have been targeted by a low-empathy type, chances are very good that you value relationships, have a great deal of empathy, and are a socially savvy person.  Your matches, personally and professionally, are others who empathize and collaborate.
  • List the behaviors and traits you avoid as red flags.
  • For each red flag, define what you want instead.  For example:  My last manager made me feel criticized.  I want a manager with whom I feel accepted and supported.
  • Seek out people with whom you feel consistently good.

Set aside any cynicism.  (It doesn’t really protect you.)  See what happens after a couple of weeks of redirecting your attention in this way.

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Chains of Command

chains are joined together by a padlock. isolated on white.

What are you required to do to earn your paycheck?  If you work in the typical organization, you may be taking orders to which you did not agree.

Sure, you agreed to perform your duties, support your manager and team to accomplish given objectives.  There are hours you must work, behaviors required on the job.  You have priorities, strategies and tactics.  This is all straightforward and usually explicit.

There are probably also unofficial agreements for getting along, such as:  Don’t swear around that VP.  You may notice cultural norms such as:   Don’t share personal information.  Often, someone has tipped you off about these rules.

You may also encounter unofficial rules which are largely unspoken and unacknowledged.  These are the ones which should concern you.  Such rules are usually designed to control more of your behavior than your work-for-money agreement would have you believe.  They may be silly or sinister, define your problem solving style, whose opinions you can support, whether you can make friends at work, and who those friends should be.

In a healthy culture, such rules are few and benign.  But, in many organizations fear and uncertainty surround these off-the-books rules.  Often the rules enforce a pecking order;  who gets to be an insider, who is an outsider.  They can also severely limit the available options for solving problems and being productive, through fear or through favoring the aggressive rather than the competent.

Those in service to a psychopathic leader or culture find themselves going along more and more with such inappropriate control and experiencing more and more fear about failing to comply.  The source of the prescribed behavior may be the manager or the coworker mob.  The punishment for not complying is subtle but painful.  This is how bullying cultures reinforce abusive behavior.

You know it’s wrong to thwart Smith’s attempts to do her job, but you also know the boss doesn’t like Smith and doesn’t want you to like her, so you can get away with hindering Smith in her work.  You rationalize that you are too busy to get Smith information she requested.  You tell yourself that Smith is probably a bad employee and that’s why the boss treats her badly.  When she speaks in meetings, you discredit her ideas.  When Smith cracks under pressure, everyone pities her weakness and claims to have had no malice toward her whatsoever.

These are the chains of command, the inappropriate control, which seems to exist in most if not all organizations.  You may be unconscious of it or you may think this is just the way it is.   Once acknowledged, it can look frighteningly like a police state, especially in an economy with a huger-than-ever disparity between the haves and have nots.

Take a new look at Smith this week.  Is she really weak?  Question whether she really has a performance problem.  After all, her boss should be dealing privately with such issues.   If you have the bandwidth, you may give some thought to whether Smith has been made ineffective by all the blocks and diversions of coworkers.

It can be scary to consider that you have been coerced into being one of the bullying mob.  It might be easier to consider being secretly and subversively kind to Smith.  Quietly get her the information she needs.  Refuse to roll your eyes when she speaks in a staff meeting.  If she cracks under pressure, don’t say a darn thing!

What is Power Over Behavior?

babsPower over behavior is hostile behavior which is considered acceptable in most parts of our society. It is one-up-manship that assumes that in an interaction one person must be superior and the other inferior. It considers sensitivity a weakness.
This mentality is so prevalent on sitcoms, in schools, locker rooms and conference rooms that we hardly even notice it. We may wonder why we feel so tattered and torn after interactions with so many others.

Power over is a mentality in which I win and you lose and sharing power is a poor second to scoring power. I can insult or disrespect you and hurt you. If you complain, that shows you can’t take it. You are too sensitive. To a bully sensitivity is not strength but a weakness.

This model of power is typical among many middle school students, insurance company offices, and tribes of baboons. This mode of behavior is widely accepted, though to a discerning eye, bullies seem no more than knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
The various forms of power over behavior listed below (and more) constitute verbal abuse. Oh, and by the way, the effects of verbal abuse are widely known to be more severe than the effects of physical battering; causing intrusive thoughts and interfering with the freedom to express one’s self.

So if you are dealing with power over at work, at home or at school, don’t be surprised if you have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and reactions that seem like they are out of proportion. Your reactions are not out of proportion. This form of abuse is subtle and insidious. It creeps into the cracks of your self esteem and can highjack your ability to see your own flaws, making you consider yourself at fault when you are not.

Cut yourself a lot of slack. Consider trauma therapy.

Here are forms of power over behavior.
• Not listening
• Failing to make eye contact
• Forgetting your name
• Interrupting you
• Using you statements to blame, shame or define.
• Acting superior with eye rolling, sighs, repeating things slowly as if you were incapable of understanding.
• Withholding – not speaking or failing to greet you.
• Not allowing you into a casual conversation by ignoring you or physically closing you out of the circle.
• Contradicting
• Diminishing or dismissing your feelings or your opinions
• Finding minute fault with what you have said and derailing your message.
• Chronic criticism
• Blame and often shame
• Defining you, for example, “You always have to be right,” or “You think you know everything.”

If you hear these, do not be deceived, you are dealing with controlling, one-up behavior.  I am not trying to be flippant, but the best thing to do is find another playground if you can.  Take it from me.  There are better ones where others play nice.

Meeting my Anonymous Friend

In my post, Gifts from an Unknown Artist, I described the artful arrangement of natural items along a wooded path I like to walk.  Each time I walk along the river, someone has come before me, arranging limbs artistically, ornamenting a bare branch with pine cones or petals, or draping a flower or branch of berries over a stump.

On a recent walk, I stopped to photograph a red rosebud on a stump surrounded by a heart shaped arrangement of bark.  A passing dog walker said he had just seen the woman who creates this art.  Later, while noticing another of her creations, a different dog walker said the artist was up ahead on the path, and,  “If you hurry, you might catch up with her.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to catch up with her.  Over the past year, I had intuited a great deal about this person and her work.  What if I didn’t like her?  What if she turned out to be shallow and was doing these things for a joke?  I didn’t want to risk disappointment.

Well, now I knew this artist was indeed a woman, and I had been certain of that. Although I thought it could be a hormonal teenager, I was sure most of the time that the artist was a woman in her forties.  I saw her as someone who had design in her blood; she couldn’t help arranging beautiful things wherever she went.  Did I want to know if I was mistaken?

I wanted to slow down to avoid meeting this person, but I was walking with a friend who was anxious to meet the artist.  We came around a stand of trees to find a woman in her forties.  We greeted her and spoke for a bit.  Except for looking far different than I had imagined, her personality was pretty much as I had imagined.  Meeting her turned out to be a good experience and I was able to express appreciation for her creations.

As she talked to us, her gaze was drawn here and there to the trees, stumps, leaves and branches.  She seemed to be sizing up design elements.  As soon as we left her, she was arranging branches and pinecones.  I guess she is a compulsive designer.

I was not so happy to learn that one of the dog walkers in the area enjoys knocking over this woman’s artistic arrangements.  He thinks they are a menace to his dog.  Really?  I wonder what kind of dog’s well being is threatened by a rosebud on a stump.

Asked about this, the woodland design artist shrugged as if to say, “Not my concern.”   Obviously the anti-artist is not keeping up with her creations, as something new is revealed each time I walk that path.

Can you reason with a predator?

If you want someone to comply with your wishes you can ask them and perhaps negotiate a compromise with them.  In an enlightened interaction, this can work beautifully.  But if you have tried it in a less-than-enlightened relationship with, say a teenager or a domineering coworker, then you are probably still seething about their failure to respond to reason.

Amy Sutherland has written a wisdom-packed book called What Shamu Taught Me About Life Love and Marriage. Sutherland applied what she learned from animal trainers at SeaWorld and other places to her close relationships.  She found their conditioning methods effective in influencing others without nagging or arguing.

Conditioning is considered manipulative in human relationships, but humans are animals, after all.  We assume that language is the most straightforward way to communicate with others, but it is my experience (and Sutherland’s) that people are far more responsive to physical cues.

The lessons Sutherland learned are worth considering in any relationship, and can be very powerfully applied to relationships with difficult, dominating or controlling people.

Animal trainers working with elephants or giant killer whales cannot simply dominate the animals without serious danger of paybacks.  This is similar to relationships with people who have power over you.  The intelligent person does not beat an elephant; neither does she push the company CEO aside to get on the elevator first.  Influence is achieved by positive reinforcement only.

Not surprisingly, this sort of enlightened approach to training has been found to work with all animals, even those we could easily dominate.  All respond best when not dominated but influenced with positive reinforcement.  The enlightened animal trainer neither dominates nor allows himself to be dominated.

A critical rule for safety in influencing animal behavior is: do not act like prey around predators.  Certain behaviors register in a big cat’s mind as prey behavior; such as falling or stooping.  An animal trainer learns never to engage in these behaviors in close proximity to a big cat.

This is the direction my coaching often takes and is also a strategy of martial arts and self defense training.  Do not act weak or vulnerable around those who are waiting to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable.  Develop a strong state of being that makes you appear to be a lot of work for anyone who would attack you.

Unfortunately, it is not always obvious which humans are predatory.  Be watchful of anyone whose interactions with you leave you confused or give you a stomach ache.  And you can avoid dating people with violent criminal histories or protection orders filed against them.   But most people you meet don’t share their criminal histories or regale you with stories about how they manipulated their friends and coworkers.

The human animal can also dissemble and follow attacks with disclaimers, like the husband who follows violence with flowers.  We often give this behavior the benefit of the doubt for a while.  Many of us naively believe in, and appeal to, the predator’s better nature for awhile before we discover that she doesn’t have one.

Rather than identifying predators, my lion tamer advice would be to avoid acting like prey in all situations.  Develop and maintain strong posture. Stay centered and grounded and aware of your physical body.  Confide only in people who have proven trustworthy.

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Emotional Freedom is a Physical Pursuit

Emotional freedom and personal power can be found through a practice of feeling emotions, rather than denying them, repressing them, or escaping them.

Some experts claim that the experience of a single emotion lasts about 90 seconds.  My experiments bear this out.   But, most of us have been trained to avoid feeling emotions because they are often messy and unpleasant.  Besides, emotions might taint your intellectual knowing and cause out-of-control behavior.  We think of scientific types as pointy-eared Vulcans, but scientific study actually concludes that without the involvement of emotions, people make consistently lousy decisions (Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens, October, 2000.)

Nevertheless, most of us carry around resistance to feelings that is far worse than the actual feeling would ever be, and we send our consciousness to dwell in the past or future so we don’t have to feel unpleasant things now.  We try to solve problem emotions in our heads, exert influence with our intellects – and it just doesn’t work.  The brain has far less electromagnetic power than the heart which is the seat of emotions.

If you will simply feel your next emotion, in your body, without resistance, I can promise you that life will be incrementally easier.  A way to do this is to time your next feeling – especially if it is an unpleasant one. You will find, as I did, that it lasts oh, about 90 seconds.  While you experiment with simply feeling a less-than-thrilling feeling, notice where you feel it in your body and then, consciously relax that part of your body.  Ahhhh.  That’s better yet.

When the feeling has passed, you will find it is…gone!  You can unload whole piles of emotional baggage, in this way, far faster than any airport employee.  In fact, this is exactly what a number of high end self help methods do to help people be more successful and happy.

Feeling emotions and letting them go has huge benefits. You may have thought people respond to your outfit, your dental work or the quality of your face or figure.  Actually they respond to how you feel or your vibe.  When you carry less tension in the body you feel better to yourself and others.  When you let go of your resistance to emotions, you are able to stay in the present moment.

It may not seem that way, but in the present moment is the only place you can be, really, and it is a place of immense personal power.

The Single Most Enlightened Interaction of Them All

Self love is something that never made any sense to me at all.  Until last year, I understood the concept only intellectually, but didn’t really know what the big deal was.  Suddenly I saw that a lack of self love was affecting all my endeavors.  I didn’t really think that I was not good enough, but I didn’t feel a lot of love for myself.  I put my needs second, third or even last, and if someone had an issue with me, I assumed I was at least 90% responsible.

One day last year, I read that a person who has never experienced unconditional love or brilliant success, can have those feelings downloaded, using Theta Healing®.   Once the person has experienced those feelings, he or she can attract experiences that resonate with the feelings.  I decided I needed to know what it felt like to receive unconditional love, so I booked a Theta Healing® session to “download” this feeling.   What a difference it made!

All my interactions were changed.  I felt more love for and from others.  I also saw very clearly how all love in my life; given or received, originated in me.  Self love is a keystone for enlightened interactions. Most importantly, self love helps you follow your life’s true path.

Long before I experienced unconditional love through Theta Healing®, I had experienced an inner force which, while small, was totally invincible.  I could drown out its message for a while, but not for long.  I could ignore this force for a week, but not a month.  This force was the drive to be authentically me.

I drowned out the small soft voice of this inner force with intellectual chatter.  (I spent many years of my life training my intellectual chatter.)  I could talk myself into this or that course of action, but could not make them work because the force of this inner force made me feel bad if I did things were not in line with my authentic desires.

This force speaks to us in feelings.  You can tell in your body whether you are going the correct direction.  You will feel free and easy if you are.  You will feel resistance and irritation if you are not.  Martha Beck calls this a sense of “shackles off” and “shackles on.”  If you want to understand this concept better, just take a look at your list of things to do right now.  See how each item makes you feel.

I recently had a session with Jeannette Maw, who calls herself the Good Vibe Coach.  Jeannette is full of good vibes and I felt better just hearing her laugh.  After a long and detailed session, she said, “It’s easy.  Decide what you want and then do what feels good.”  My first thought was, “She’s insane!”  But, since what I had been doing hadn’t been working too well, and Jeannette seemed to be happy and successful, I chose to think shw was taking her own advice.

The first result of doing what felt good was a lot of free time.  I was shocked at how many things on my “to do” list did not feel good at all.  All the marketing activities I thought I must do to get business, made me feel like throwing up.  I let them go, thinking I would never get clients, but strangely, feeling hopeful.   Interestingly, the activities I did feel like pursuing resulted in four new clients who are very well suited to me.

Oddly, slacking off like this, I’m getting better results in many areas of life.  I was forcing myself to exercise, but I find that if I listen to my feelings, I will desire to get out and get moving on a fairly regular basis.  Once, I forced myself to eat salads, following my feelings seems to result in a beautifully balanced diet over time, eating salad only when I really want to.

Strangely, my feelings have led me to do some things that no one else understands and I’m trusting that those actions will also bring good results in the long run.  If nothing else, they have created a “shackles off” feeling in the short run.

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Emotional Alchemy Transforms Fear into Freedom

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photo pin cc

Fear seems to be one of the least helpful feelings when you are doing something new.  If that something new involves alligator wrestling, fixing a gas leak, or dating a notorious gangster, then your fear will help you stay alive.Most of us experience a different sort of fear that seems attached to unlikely events or events that do not really threaten us.  We worry enough about saying the wrong thing at a meeting that we don’t notice the mugger in the alley.  I laugh when I think of the driven students at my university during exam time, who were so afraid of failing, they would read their note cards while crossing State Street in front of Mack trucks.

When we examine this sort of fear, we tend to dismiss it as groundless.  The trouble is, it doesn’t stay dismissed.  It often has a message that is just as valid as more obvious seeming fears.  Finding the message can be the solution.  For months I woke up with a feeling of fear I didn’t understand.  After my teacher advised me to meditate on it and ask it what it wanted, I discovered that I was afraid I would never find the courage to pursue a cherished goal.  After I got the message, the messenger finally went away.

Getting the message can take a while.  Meantime, you can energetically transmute fear and feel better right now.  Fear is an energy in your body.  You can change the energy in your body by simply thinking about it in a different way.  Imagine your body is surrounded by a bubble of light.  Now imagine that because you are fearful, you make the outer wall of that bubble extra strong and thick, so nothing can get to you.  Also imagine that the bubble is big enough to enclose your body comfortably.

You have now effectively channeled fear energy out of your body into protective but not restrictive boundaries.

What is an Enlightened Interaction?

A friend recently questioned my term Enlightened Interaction.  “I don’t know what it means,” she said, “what does enlightened really mean?  Doesn’t every new ager consider herself enlightened?” she asked.I suppose there is a connotation of spirituality associated with the word “enlightened,” which could be construed as superior.  But when I use the term “enlightened,” I refer to awareness – spiritual or otherwise.

Dictionary definitions of enlightened suggest it is a state of being knowledgeable. Definitions include, “…freed from ignorance and misinformation,” and, “…based on full comprehension of the problems involved.”   Spiritual enlightenment, then, is the ability to understand from a spiritual perspective.

Coming at our interactions in an enlightened state, means we are aware.  This awareness of others requires listening and seeing the other person without projecting our beliefs and motives onto them.

Spiritual enlightenment creates an awareness of spiritual truth.  In most traditions, this means seeing another as an equal and a unique and valuable individual.  The interaction based on this enlightenment is respectful and kind.

Intellectual enlightenment, “…based on full comprehension of the problems involved,” creates an interaction grounded in awareness of reality.  This implies acceptance of others as they truly are and not getting confused by our fantasies and desires for the interaction.

An enlightened interaction, then, precludes any abuse, control or manipulation.  It is an honest interaction between people who are presumed to be equals, who strive to perceive and accept each other as they truly are.

This interaction is not the norm for most of us, but I’d like to think the next stage in our evolution would make it the norm.  Compared to dishonest or controlling interactions, enlightened interaction is satisfying and pain free.  If you cannot achieve enlightened interaction in a voluntary relationship, it is probably a relationship you should walk away from.

I hope this is…well…enlightening.

Deal with Difficult People Without Being One – Interview on Body Mind Spirit Radio, August 21 at 7 p.m.

Learn about enlightened interaction.  How to deal with office bullies, controlling spouses, manipulative family in ways that are respectful and invite respect.  Even when you feel you must interact with difficult people, you can do so while staying in your power and without being difficult yourself . When you change the way you think, people around you behave differently.  Interview with Ruth Wilson on Body Mind Spirit Radio   (Blogtalk Radio) Tuesday, 8/21/12, 7 p.m.