Enhancing Emotional Intelligence – Part II

Separation vs Isolation

Emotionally intelligent people engage in separation instead of isolation. By age two children begin the process of separating from their parents. By age twelve they are fully engaged in the process; unless the parents did not experience healthy separation from their parents, in which case they will tend to cling and limit their adolescence’s ability to move away from them in a healthy manner. This limiting, hovering, or clinging creates the tendency for teens and later adults to move more and more towards isolating when they need time to themselves, space and awareness, they need to renew and regenerate their energy to be with lovers, friends, children, or parents.

Separation generates closeness and intimacy because men and women can learn to detach instead of disconnecting when tired, overwhelmed, drained or exhausted by too much contact and stimulation. They get to pull away in a functional way and then return ready for more communication, commitment and caring.

Isolation leaves everyone in the dark because no one knows when the person is coming back or if they ever will come back, which very often triggers people’s unexposed, unexplored abandonment issues.  The “Isolator” closes themselves off to intimacy and can result in everything from feeling distant to contemplating divorce and ultimately to depression.

There are many forms the “Isolator” can employ, but the main one the emotionally challenged person tends to favor is to become a “Distancer.”  This is the person, who during conflict or confrontation, tends to say things like, “fine, I’m out of here,” or “whatever,” before walking or running away to work, alcohol, drugs, affairs, or other mind numbing, body numbing, emotion numbing behaviors. Luckily we can continue to become increasingly aware of the strategies that don’t serve us and learn new ones that do.

The Flying Boy Letters: Responses and Replies 30 Years Later

This an excerpt from my forthcoming book written with Kat Hrdina.

…I think that an addiction to a person is much worse than an addiction to a drug. My relationship with this man was like a roller coaster ride all the time. We would get close emotionally, so I thought, only to be dumped then taken back over and over again. My self-esteem would hit rock bottom every time… I know you mentioned in your book about letting go, how did you get Lucy [Flying Boy II] and Laurel [The Flying Boy] out of your head, as well as out of your heart? How do you really let go?

Dear Ms. Roller Coaster Rider:

You’re absolutely right! Addiction to a person is much harder for some people to deal with than drugs or alcohol. I know it was for me. We NEED people, love, affection, tenderness, and someone to talk to. We don’t NEED drugs or alcohol, but we want and crave them to numb the pain of having needed people in our past like mothers, fathers, mentors, and teachers to show us how to do things like face our fears of intimacy with people we love who don’t turn away from us.

So what do we do if we are in love with the backs of people who keep walking away from us but then make an emotional and physical U-Turn and come back for a little while?

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I used to be in love with love and with those beautiful backs. I wanted them back, pursued them to come back, or I’d push them away when intimacy became more than I could handle at the time. Sometimes though – I hate to say it – I would push them away, like I did Laurel in The Flying Boy, just to see if I could manipulate them into coming back for another round of our emotional come-here-go away dance.

Occasionally, I was the back that a few women watched walking out the relationship door (including Laurel). I was always hoping, as I headed for the hills, that they would come after me and ask me to come back.

One woman, my former wife, was the only one that came after me after I pushed her away, and I’m so thankful she did. We had about seventeen years of togetherness – not perfect – but we at least met each other face to face, and I felt really loved and wanted.

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Now if you asked me thirty years ago, how did I let go of Laurel – the woman who changed my life and who I wrote about in The Flying Boy, and how did I let go of Lucy, the woman in my book, I Don’t Want to Be Alone (later there was a title change to Flying Boy Book II: The Journey Continues), I’ll tell you the truth – now thirty years later – in a way I wouldn’t have at the time you wrote your beautiful letter.

I did a radio interview years ago and the host said, “How would you describe the central message of your books and lectures?”

Without a moment’s hesitation I answered, “I can sum it up in two words – Let Go.”

He quickly responded, “Let go of what?”

To which I replied:

Everything and everyone that you need more than love. Let go of everything we were taught that wasn’t right or true, and that’s a whole lot. We let go, as adults, of mothers and fathers so we can see and interact with them as flawed people just like we are. We let go of the last stage of life so we can enter the next stage, and the let that one go, and on and on. We let go of searching for happiness outside ourselves, and instead, search for meaning inside ourselves, knowing that it too will have to be let go the more we grow and heal. We let go of all our false selves. All our masks are thrown into the garbage along with all our vanities and needs to be right, important, and famous. We let go of our greed for more and more stuff like houses, cars, and illusions of grandeur, because they are all going to turn to “dust in the wind,” as one of my favorite rock groups, Kansas, said dozens of years ago.

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You see the more we let go, the more we can enjoy everything we have to a fuller and greater degree. I have several great friends, and I try to let them go every day so I can be with them cleaned out and present with them in ways I can’t if my goal is to hold on to them. Letting go leads us into a more eternal now than holding on does because holding on constantly forces us to stay in the future or in the past.

Now, going back to your question, which is substantially harder, “How do we let go?” Well the truth is, I don’t know how either, even though I’ve been working on it for thirty-something years since you first wrote. I think of Laurel every day for a few moments, and Lucy and I are friends who still talk to each other and hang out twenty-eight years later.

I still talk about, and teach people, how to let go of the pain they hold in their bodies from the grief and anger they have swallowed, stuffed and bottled up – sometimes for decades. Yes, I teach about Romance, Love, and relationship addiction – because we only teach what we need to learn. So honestly, letting go is not my strong suit, but I’ve gotten better over the years, and I bet you have to by now.

So, I will let you go and send blessings on you for writing.

John

And now for a break from psychology and into the realm of fairy tales

“We must let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

…The King then decided to find his ugly snake son a bride and get him married so his golden haired son could get married and inherit the kingdom. So he looked all around his kingdom for a suitable bride. He put an ad in the classifieds saying, “Single, slithery snake seeking life-long partner, not very good table manners and too many other bad habits to mention.” You’d be surprised how many takers there were. Passive women come out in droves. Some women love snakes it seems, especially the tall, dark and handsome, wounded ones, with lots of intensity and potential.

A beautiful bride was selected and they had a wedding, and on the wedding night the snake ate his bride. Why? Because she was so poorly mothered that she didn’t know what to do. She passively gave in to the snake’s demands.

The King ran another ad and an unbelievable number responded, and there was a wedding, and again the snake ate his bride on the wedding night. And so it went with the third, fourth and fifth. The women of the kingdom began hearing about the snake’s taste in women and they were getting a little harder to find.

However, there was a woodcutter’s daughter who was extremely in touch with her own emotions, and anything but passive, decided to go for it. Unlike her predecessors she went to find The Wise Old Woman, which in fairy stories is code for “Good Mother.” She lived in the woods – the same one who helped the Queen get pregnant – and asked her for advice. She gladly gave it but insisted that, unlike the Queen, she must follow her instructions to the letter or she could also become snake food like.

The Old Wise Woman told her to take her time and not rush into anything. The old woman told her to make seven beautiful wedding blouses (code for activeness and creativity) and wear them on her wedding night, and to take a bucket of sweet milk and a steel brush with her to the bedroom.

So she took about a year making these blouses. Waiting makes impatient snakes hungry. Finally, on the wedding night the snake closed the door and was ready to have some wife food. But first he wanted a little pre-dinner show so he said, “Take off your blouse.”

“I’ll take off my blouse if you will take off one of your skins,” she replied.

“Do what? You got to be kidding. That would hurt like hell. Besides, no one has ever asked me to do this before.” So due to his hidden desire for real love he began taking off his skin and you should have heard the shrieks, cries and yelling. You know it hurts to shed a skin. It also hurts to learn how to love. This snake had a lot to learn about how poorly he had loved in the past.

The woodcutter’s daughter took off the blouse only to reveal another one under it. The snake looked perplexed and was beginning to get a little frustrated.

“Take off the blouse,” He growled.

“I’ll take off my blouse if you will take off your skin.”

“I can’t believe you’re asking me to do all this stuff. Every woman I’ve eaten, I mean, loved has never asked me to do this before. What do you want from me? Emotional honesty, availability? What next? I suppose you want me to open up and tell you what I really feel?”

So once again you should have heard the moaning and groaning of the snake shedding another layer of skin. The woman removed a blouse only to reveal another one. Well the snake was getting pretty irritated to say the least and was beginning to get the picture that this woman was not going to be as easy as the other brides, and that she knew how to take care of herself and ask for what she wanted and wouldn’t settle for anything less than what she deserved.

How many times have we all settled for less than we truly wanted or even deserved?

Well to make an already long story short, this went on for seven times until finally there was nothing left of the snake except a little puddle of a former self lying on the floor.

That’s what grieving and learning to really love will do to a snake or a man – reduce him to nothing and show him he knows nothing about mature relationships.

The bride took her bucket of sweet milk out from under the bed and dipped her steel brush into it and scrubbed what remained of the snake for about an hour or so. She loved him well. She prepared herself to love him well, and in so doing, prepared herself to be well loved.

The next morning the wedding chamber doors opened and out stepped a beautiful, stunning, Prince with his smart, respected bride, and they got the family together and had a great feast and lived happily ever after.

The snake didn’t know the previous women he married and then ate. Carl Jung referred to these women as the “False Brides.” The “True Bride” is the maiden with the seven blouses who took her time, who took care of herself, had great boundaries, and knew her limits, and demanded that the Snake/man mourn his losses, and that way he would truly know himself and her. The snake thought that he was simply a giant snake but there was so much more to him, and while the bride to be knew this, she was prudent and patient enough with him so that he found out just who his true self really was.person-110303_1920

 

Fair Fighting: 7 Steps

Jenny and her husband George both said, “we never fight,” like it was a good thing. We explored further why they didn’t fight and found out that they didn’t really know how to fight fair, so they all but gave themselves an emotional hernia trying not to. However, what they did do on the rare occasion they met with disagreement is give in immediately to the other’s point of view and resented it silently for days, weeks, and even years.

Fair fighting is a must for a healthy relationship to exist, and those who do it well and employ the following guidelines, will increase their chances greatly of having a long and loving time together.

  1. No laundry list. The past must stay in the past. Fighting in a functional way consists of staying current with our issues and conflicts. Confrontations must be about what is happening in the present, i.e. what you are upset, angry, frustrated or hurt by what was said or done, not said or done yesterday, last night, this morning, etc. When people fight and keep referencing the past hurts, slights, a wound there is no way out of this verbal, emotional, and damaging cul-de-sac.
  2. Abusive language must never be used. No one has the right to curse another regardless of the issue at hand. While writing a letter expressing your anger and rage is acceptable, it must never be sent. Telling a friend or therapist about your issues and using strong language can even be advisable, but face to face, the language must not be abusive.
  3. Putting agreed-upon limits on the fair fight is highly advisable. Example: Let’s talk about this for thirty minutes, and if we have not reached an acceptable resolution, then we will take it back up tomorrow, and then following through with the agreement.
  4. Getting rid of the word, “You.” When most people disagree or argue they often pull out this word, cock it, and fire it straight at the heart of their loved one. “You” should, “You” ought to, why didn’t “You?” “You” can’t handle the truth, etc. The word “you” always creates defensiveness in the listener.
  5. Use the word, “I”. As I said before, “Intimacy begins with ‘I’.” In fair fighting I am going to tell you how I feel, what I think, what I need to change, what I want to happen.
  6. Fair fighters never bring the other person’s parents and their childhood into the discussion. This is off limits. I can tell my partner about my dysfunctional childhood, but I am to never tell her about her’s unless she specifically asks for my take on them.
  7. If you recognize that you are regressed and catch yourself before doing too much damage, you take a time out and “grow yourself backup” (see my book Growing Yourself Back Up: Understanding Emotional Regression), and then come back to the subject at hand thinking, speaking, and acting like a mature adult.Many men and women are conflict-avoidant because they do not know how to express anger and hurt in a functional way so they gunny-sack, stuff, swallow, or repress until they explode or implode. Learning how to express anger appropriately increases the likelihood you will be heard and thus arrive at a solution to the distress.

 

For more information on expressing anger appropriately, see The Anger Solution: The Proven Method for Achieving Calm and Developing Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships or Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately.

Announcement – I will be offering 2-Day Intensive Sessions in Austin, Texas beginning September 1, 2016

I’m pleased to announce that after a break from offering my 2-day Intensives in Austin, Texas, I am now making those available again starting September 1, 2016 at the Austin Men’s Center, thanks to Director Bill Bruzy.

As most of you know Austin is not only charming and beautiful, it is a convenient location for clients especially from the Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast.

I will continue to offer the Intensives at my Mentone Cottage in the mountains of Northeast Alabama.

I hope you will pass the word along to clients or friends who would like to engage in my nontraditional approach to coaching, counseling, and teaching.

HOW to Tell the Difference Between Anger and Rage

A woman called me the other day for help. When I asked her what the problem was, she didn’t hesitate. “I am living with the angriest man in the world.” I said, “Tell me how he expresses his anger?”

After four or five descriptive sentences I said, “I hate to interrupt, but everything you’ve said so far is rage.” And she said, “What’s the difference?”

Anger is about the “Here and Now;” it is an active response to issues and situations occurring at the present time. You feel anger because of what your boss said to you this morning or because your spouse incorrectly balanced the checkbook this week.

Rage is about the “There and Then;” it is about our past. Rage is a reaction to what your boss has said to you every morning for the last year. What you’ve stuffed and bottled-up all this time, suddenly comes gushing out like a geyser. Likewise, rage occurs because the checkbook has gone unbalanced for two years; seemingly warranting a deafening silence to correct or punish your spouse’s behavior.

WHAT IS HEALTHY ANGER? WHAT IS RAGE/UNHEALTHY ANGER?
A feeling A reaction
A primary emotion Stuffs or masks emotions
It is neither positive or negative It is negative and inappropriate
Anger is energy Rage is exhausting
Meant to be given away Meant to be given up
It doesn’t hurt anyone Hurts everyone involved
Anger clears the air Clouds communication
It increases understanding Adds to confusion
Helps communication Increases conflicts and misunderstandings
Rights injustices and wrongs Is an injustice and wrongs people further
It increases energy, intimacy, and peace of mind Decreases energy in people, increases the distance between them and causes discord
Healing Damaging
Contained and controlled until proper time, place and person Pervasive, out of control, and misdirected
About the present About the past
About “Me” About “You”

Anger lives in the present and so takes minutes to be felt and expressed. Rage sticks around because it is grounded in the past. Because anger lives in the present, it takes moments or minutes at the most to be felt and expressed. When Jerome’s wife was late for a special luncheon they’d planned, Jerome said, “I’m angry. Now, I only have forty-five minutes left for lunch before I have to return for work. Let’s eat and make the most of our time.”

Rage lives in the past and takes a very long time because it is grounded in our personal life history, and once unleashed, the result is that no one wants to eat with anyone because no one has an appetite left. Sandy’s now ex-boyfriend was chronically late; Sandy’s response was, “I’m tired of you always putting everything before me. Didn’t your mother teach you it is rude to keep people waiting? I got here on time. I can’t see why you can’t!” …And she was just getting warmed up. Clearly, there was more than anger going on.

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Rage is what constitutes most marathon arguments. You know the ones that begin at eight o’ clock after dinner after the kids are put to bed and is still going strong at one in the morning until someone cries, “Uncle,” and says, “Does anyone know the original point of this?” or attempts to just share some feelings.

Anger is about me and rage is about you. If I express anger, I am telling you about me. Anger is revealing. If I am raging, I’m telling the other person about them and thus I am concealing what I am really feeling and going through. What many people do when they rage is this: They tell the other person about them. What they didn’t do and shouldn’t have done; why what they said is wrong, crazy, sick, and messed up. When they finally finish their diatribe, then it’s the other person’s turn to tell the first person about them and how what they said doesn’t apply, and that if they’d said it differently, maybe they could be heard, and if they’d only read more self-help books they wouldn’t have said it at all. After that, then it’s the first speaker’s turn again, and then the second, and we affectionately call this marriage, and then very often we call it adversity and grounds for divorce.

Rage has moved more people out of relationships than U-Haul. It shoves everyone out the door, out of lives, or out of business. Rage pushes everyone away because no one wants to be around it.

On the other hand, anger expressed in present time and in an appropriate manner, actually draws people to you. If a man says to his wife, “I’m angry and I need to talk,” nine times out of ten the wife will respond with something like, “Okay, tell me more,” or “I’m listening,” or “What’s going on?”

If an employee says to a fellow worker, “I’m angry about what went on in the staff meeting this morning,” most fellow employees will say, “Tell me more,” or “Let’s talk about it this afternoon over a beer.” In other words, if I do not rage at you, you have no reason to run—indeed anger can create the beginning of many productive dialogues and initiate problem solving. 887697_73689303

Rage engenders defensiveness, distance, and the feeling of being in some kind of danger; it shows disrespect and disregard for both the speaker and the one pretending to listen. Anger shows appreciation and respect. If one’s boss is angry and says so and follows that statement with something like, “…and I’d like for you to meet me for lunch so we can discuss the issue,”—this says I value you and our relationship enough to make some time and request that you make some time to resolve the issue at hand.

Rage basically says —in no uncertain terms— I do not value you or this relationship enough to warrant an expenditure of my time or energy to try to achieve resolution.

Anger is a response to injustice, rudeness, impoliteness, impoverishment, impudence, and abuse. Rage is a reaction to situations, circumstances, people, processes, and problems. Responses are generated by present stimuli. Reactions are a re-activation of one’s history and memories about people, processes, and problems.

These rage reactions are almost always disproportionate to what is being said or done or not done or said to one’s satisfaction. Angry responses are proportional to what is coming towards us or being taken away from us.

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These reactive behaviors and actions warrant these types of reactions from others: “Where is all of this coming from…?” or “Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” In other words, the person might be angry at a pounds’ worth, but is dumping a tons’ worth of rage on them.

Rage incorporates statements like “You always,” or, “You never.” They often include ultimatums and threats. The one raging believes in a black and white mentality, all or nothing, or my way or the highway.

Anger uses words like, “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “every now and then.” Anger is comfortable with some gray areas.

Anger engages conflict and rage runs from it. The angry men or women are in essence saying I have a problem and I am seeking a solution. Rage says you have a problem and that’s the problem—no solution in sight.

Anger says let’s confront these divisive issues; rage says let’s further divide. A CEO who attended one of my corporate anger presentations, stood up during my talk and said, “I never run from confrontations. I stand toe to toe with anyone. I get in their face no matter what I have to do or say to get my point across.” The sturdy, sixty-year-old with a crew-cut haircut sat down with a satisfied look on his face.

I responded, “Does that include yelling, calling people names, and other like behaviors or actions?”

“Whatever it takes!” he replied.

These actions and behaviors often employed in conflicted situations are self-defeating. One reason is that many people (including the aforementioned CEO) are avoiding conflict, in spite of how things may appear on the surface. They hate confrontations because in the past this meant they felt defeated by their parents, coaches, teachers, ex-wives or husbands.

But perhaps a more significant explanation for so much avoidance is that most people have not been taught how to do it with a win-win attitude. Instead we’re taught there can only be one winner or one loser; an approach grounded in rage.

When we realize that it is inappropriate actions and reactions that cover our emotions, a new freedom is developed to speak out our feelings without fear of retaliation and retribution. And now that our responses are proportional to people and circumstances, neither the speaker nor listener has anything to fear.

PASSIVE WORDS USED BY THE RAGING PERSON:

  • You always _____.
  • You never _____.
  • Why can’t you _____?
  • If only you _____.
  • It’s all your fault.
  • Shame on you.
  • You’re lying.
  • When are you going to _____?

For more information and insight, please visit the bookstore:

the anger solution book by john lee

and

facingthefire_bk

 

Boundaries

WE HAVE TO WATCH OUT WHERE WE’RE GOING: Boundary Errors and Boundary Violations

First, a boundary is “This is how close you can come to me:” physically, spiritually, in conversations about love or money, etc.

A “boundary error” is when someone, whether friend or foe, has crossed over into my space, my yard, my soul, or my pasture because they didn’t notice the “No Trespassing” sign or signal. As the poet William Stafford says, “The signals we give should be clear. The darkness around us is deep.” Or, as Robert Frost less dramatically put it, “Good fences make good neighbors.” A boundary error is simply a mistake, made, more or less, innocently. When informed, the perpetrators can see or hear their errors and can apologize and vow to be respectful in the future.

On the other hand is the “boundary violation.” This is committed when a person has been informed and warned, often numerous times, what your particular boundaries are in a certain situation, but keeps pushing and pressing in on the boundaries you have communicated. This is when the person will not respect those boundaries and, to some lesser or greater degree, knows that it irritates you, frustrates you, or makes you angry. This person might justify and rationalize their unwanted behavior and say that they are just “teasing,” “playing,” or “kidding” while telling you to “lighten up.” In truth, the above behaviors are just passive-aggressive pebbles in your shoe as you walk through the relationship. Or, worse violations feel like boulders on your head or stabs to the heart.

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What to do and what to say depends on who it is and in what context you feel those errors or violations are committed. Generally, boundary errors get committed once and are willingly corrected. Boundary violators get two warnings, and on the third time you may have to start rethinking your relationship to the violator, whether a boss, friend, family, lover, or spouse.

The really sad thing is that many people don’t know what boundaries are, don’t have very good boundaries themselves, and often confuse boundaries with walls. Where good boundaries exist, walls are not necessary. Boundaries—done appropriately—increase intimacy and communication, and reduce conflict and confrontations.

Here are a few common examples. People think that it is okay to talk about other peoples’ bodies. I have a beautiful friend who gets told by complete strangers, “You’re too thin!” or, “Are you eating enough?” Pregnant women get their bellies touched by complete strangers. Babies get pinched on the cheek. One friend had to stop a woman he’d never even seen before from putting a sock back on his very young son.

The real remedy? Ask before touching. Get information. Don’t assume—you know what that does. Tell folks your boundaries and tell them when they’ve committed errors so they won’t turn into violations, and get really acquainted with your own boundaries.

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