How Do I Rewrite My Life?

Image by william68 from Pixabay

Image by william68 from Pixabay

Identify Your Thoughts and Emotions

In order to make changes you must first become aware of your automatic thoughts and the associated emotions. Some changes are easy to make just by changing your automatic thoughts. Others are more difficult because the core beliefs are multifaceted and require more work.

Start by making the easier changes first.

The first step is to identify your automatic thoughts, core beliefs, and the accompanying emotions. Identify what you have convinced yourself is true, but in reality may be false.

For example, are you always complaining or quick to place blame? Take notes! Ask yourself why you are feeling this way? The emotions behind these types of comments are the keys to discovering what you believe. When you understand what you believe and why, you will be able to change the belief and the associated emotion .

A simple step, but not an easy step, is to catch the thought before you say it and change it to the opposite. Catch your complaining thought and turn it into a thankful thought.

 

Complaining Comment

“I really wish you’d help with the kids instead of going fishing (whatever) all the time?”

 

The Opposite

“Thank you for helping me do the dishes, yesterday. I really appreciate it.”

When you practice saying The Opposite, you will soon see a difference in your attitude and the other person’s attitude.

Pay attention to the negative things you hear yourself say and the negative thoughts you think. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel that way?” The emotion and feeling behind those thoughts and words are the keys to discovering what you truly believe. This will identify your starting point to begin the change process.

The list of thoughts below will help you begin to identify your negative thoughts, emotions, and feelings that lead to negative behavior.

Read these statements. Have you ever had thoughts like these? If so, put a check by the ones you’ve had.

  • I can’t do this. I’ll never get it right.
  • She’s really going to be upset with me (when there really isn’t a good reason).
  • I know I shouldn’t eat that piece of cake, but I’m fat any way, what difference is it going to make?
  • I can’t stop drinking. The last time I tried I got really sick.
  • I know he’s having an affair.
  • The boss said there was a possibility of a lay-off. I know I’m going to get fired  and I’ll never find another job. My family will leave me. I’ll end up living under a bridge, homeless.
  • I’m not smart enough. I can’t do anything right.
  • It’s his fault we’re in debt. Because of him we’re going to lose everything.
  • It’s not fair. I sit at home alone just so he can go jam with his buddies. It’s just not fair.
  • Why should I try? Life is hopeless. I couldn’t do it anyway.
  • I’ll never find a good job. I’ll never be able to take care of my family.
  • If I didn’t have to work so much, I’d be happier.
  • If I got more sex I’d be more loving. It’s all her fault.
  • We’ve always done it this way, so you should listen to me.
  • If she’d just be nice to me I’d love her more.
  • I’ve given up everything for my kids and now they never come to see me.
  • I’ll never get a promotion. She’ll get it because I know she’s sleeping her way to the top.
  • She will do this or else.
  • If he loved me he’d know what I needed. I shouldn’t have to say anything.
  • They don’t treat me right. I’ll teach them, I’ll leave.
  • I’m too slow. I can’t keep up. I know I’m going to get fired.
  • Things never work out for me.
  • I’m not pretty/handsome enough.

 

Analyze Your Thoughts and Emotions

Now, select the one automatic thought that causes you the most problems or comes up the most often. It may be from the list above or one of your own. Answer these questions about that thought. Write as many details as possible.

  • Describe the event, situation, or memory.
  • What goes through your mind when you read or think about it.
  • Describe any emotions or emotional reactions you get when you read the statement or recall the memory?  
  • List any other thoughts that go through your mind when you recall the event.

Thankfully, you can choose what you think. You can become aware of your automatic thoughts, emotions, and core beliefs. If you question and evaluate them, you can change them.

This will be a journey worth taking.

Identify Changes Needed Using your automatic thought from above or your own list:  

  • Identify destructive feelings and behaviors that you would like to get rid of.  
  • Identify constructive feelings and behaviors that you have or would like to have.

Once you have analyzed your automatic thoughts, emotions, and feelings and you know what you want to change write a letter to yourself.

Include in the letter

  • A complete statement of the information from above.
  • Talk about your emotions (happy, fearful, angry, depressed, etc.) and where you would like to be.
  • Describe where the core belief came from, if possible.
  • Add what you are going to change the thought to – the new thought.
  • Set goals to change your life. Write them out.
  • Identify your downward spirals. List the circumstances that cause them and how you are going to prevent them.

 

Here’s what you are committing to:

  • Learning to be aware when you become emotionally charged and become aware of your negative thoughts and feelings through documenting daily.
  • Restructuring your negative thoughts to positive thoughts which will begin creating positive feelings.
  • Creating a plan of action for other peoples emergencies, or should I say, not taking on other’s emergencies.
  • Being conscious of other people’s atmosphere (moods, attitudes) and not getting sucked in.
  • Eradicating your negative thoughts and emotions and replacing them with positive, constructive thoughts and emotions.
  • Not judging others.
  • Seeking to be a positive influence in other people’s lives.

Draw up a contract with yourself for the above changes. Sign it

Fred’s Destructive Behavior

“Fred, Fred, are you alright?” the supervisor asked again as he walked by for the third time.

“What?”

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine,” Fred said as he leaned back in his chair still keeping his eyes on the floor. He felt as if he was trying to catch his breath after a hard punch to the gut.

The supervisor put his hand on Fred’s shoulder, “I just wanted to give you a head’s up so it won’t be a surprise.”

Fred continued to sit. The supervisor slowly removed his hand from Fred’s shoulder. He bent over slightly and looked into Fred’s face then shaking his head walked out.

Here it goes again. I thought this time I could advance and be able to take care of my family. Maybe my dad was right. I’ll never get a good job. What am I going to tell my wife. She just quit her job because mine was “secure”, yeah right.

Fred slammed his fist down on the desk, closed the lid on his laptop without logging off, grabbed his jacket and walked out of his cubicle headed toward the door.

“Fred, I’ve got a question about… are you leaving now, we’ve got an hour left?” Marty, another employee, said.

Fred walk passed Marty pushing him up against the wall and kept walking without a word. He jumped in his car and revved up the engine. Gravel flew as he fishtailed out of the parking lot. His erratic driving began to calm when he noticed the bar on his left. I haven’t been there for, what, it must be almost a year. I need a drink. If I ever needed one it’s now. He slowed then turned the corner to go around the block. I told Mary I wouldn’t drink any more. She said if I drank any more it was over, but I’ve been so good and I can’t go home like this. She’ll understand. Maybe I should call my sponsor. No, he’s working. What can he do, anyway? I just need to calm down and get my emotions under control. He slowed as he passed the bar. I’ll just have one. I can handle one. It’ll help me get myself under control before I go home. He cranked the steering wheel to the left and turned into the parking lot. Just one!

“Fred, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Where ya been?” the bar tender said.

“I’ve been busy, but today is a really bad day.”

“Do you want the usual?”

“Make it a double.”

“Yeah, I moved clear across the country to take this job because they really wanted me, now the first little hiccup and they’re firing me,” Fred said slurring his words,“ Give me another and this time make it a Triple.”

The bar tender grabbed his arm as he nearly slid off his stool, “No more. You’re over the limit. I’m calling you a cab.”

Fred instantly reached over the counter swiping the glasses and bottles onto the floor, “How dare you cut me off? I haven’t had that many. Every body’s against me.”

He turned and staggered towards the door. The bar tender slammed down the phone and ran around the counter to keep him from leaving until the cab arrived. Fred pulled his left arm free and swung his right arm around but missed the bar tenders head.

“Fred, you need to calm down. This isn’t going to help,” he said as he pulled out a chair and pushed him down. He turned to the bouncer, “Keep him here until the cab comes. Make sure the cabby knows where to take him. Make it clear that he can’t let him out anywhere along the way.”

“Got it boss.”

The bar tender could hear Fred beating on the table spouting profanities as he walked back to the counter.

With every cycle Fred’s thoughts, feelings, and actions escalated. It became a downward spiral until something bad happens. Now, he’s drunk and in real danger of losing his family. If there is no effort made to reverse the destructive thoughts, it is too often a traumatic event that snaps the person back to reality or they go from rage to depression or deeper depression. This can create a “crash and burn” situation. Hopefully, their emotions cool and their automatic thoughts are then, at least, filed back in the drawer until next time and life goes back to normal. The best situation is to recognize them and change them before irrepairable damage is done.

 

Conclusion

Amazingly, you can retrain your brain. You can replace those negative, automatic thoughts and core beliefs, which will have an effect on your emotions. You can make your brain to work for you instead of against you.

We’re not talking about “sheer willpower”, we’re talking about replacing the negative, destructive, automatic thoughts with positive, constructive, automatic thoughts so that you make more constructive choices and perform more constructive behaviors and accomplish more of what you really want to accomplish in your life.

Your automatic thoughts and core beliefs, controlled by the emotional center of your brain, operate similar to the thermostat on your furnace.

Scientists have discovered a control response mechanism that is naturally present in humans and animals. For example, if you are overweight and want to lose weight we know we have to eat right and exercise.

If your brain is conditioned to keep you at a certain weight, your comfort zone, like the furnace keeps the room at a certain temperature, you will get stuck on a gain and loss cycle never getting to your goal weight or if you achieve the weight you won’t be able to maintain it.

In order to successfully change this destructive pattern you must change your automatic thoughts and your core beliefs.

As mentioned above your internal thermostat will raise doubts and fears and even launch sabotaging behaviors any time you step out of that comfort zone.

If you experience any sudden change your will receive an emotional response – red flashing light. Your brain begins to worry and starts maneuvering to bring you back into your comfort zone whether the change is positive or negative. How? Your automatic thoughts kick in.

What do you need to do to change it?

Rewrite the script of your ME- MOVIE.

Fred’s Rewrite

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

“Fred, Fred, are you alright?” the supervisor asked again as he walked by for the third time.

“What?”

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine,” Fred said as he leaned back in his chair still keeping his eyes on the floor. He felt as if he was trying to catch his breath after a hard punch to the gut.

The supervisor put his hand on Fred’s shoulder, “I just wanted to give you a head’s up so it won’t be a surprise.”

Fred continued to sit. The supervisor slowly removed his hand from Fred’s shoulder. He bent over slightly and looked into Fred’s face then shaking his head walked out.

Fred thought to himself, “Here it goes again. I thought this time I could advance and be able to take care of my family. Maybe my dad was right. I’ll never get a good job. What am I going to tell my wife. She just quit her job because mine was ‘secure’. Yeah right.”

Fred stopped. He took several deep breaths to calm himself. He could see the red light flashing in his mind. He said to himself over and over, “My dad is wrong. I am doing great.”

After several minutes of saying the opposite to his automatic thoughts, he walked into the supervisor’s office.

“Excuse me, I have a question,” he said to the supervisor as he looked up.

“Am I being fired?” Fred asked.

“Absolutely not. Actually, we’re giving you 2 maybe 3 days of extra vacation while we get everything ready for the new contract. Fired, no way! You are the best draftsman we’ve ever had. You’ve done such a great job that we decided we’d give you a bonus instead of sitting here for 2 days without much to do.”

“Thank you, sir. I really appreciate it.” Fred said then turned and walked back to his desk.

The supervisor followed him, “Fred, you actually don’t have much to do now, do you?”

“No sir. I finished everything for the last contract.”

“Then, why don’t you take the rest of the week off also. Call me on Tuesday and I’ll tell you where we stand,” the supervisor said.

“Thank you, sir,” Fred said as he began putting his desk in order to leave.

Fred began thinking, ”Wow! Look what I would have missed if I’d had listened to the words in my memory. My wife and kids were going to be so excited. We can actually take a short vacation. Let’s see, where can we go?”

Does The Script of Your Me-Movie Need Rewriting?

What’s a Me-Movie?

We all know that movies are a sequential series of images and sounds that engage the viewers imagination to tell a story or create a perceived experience. Every life is a story. Let’s turn our attention to the perceived experiences of our lives that I will call your ME-MOVIE.

According to the latest scientific evidence, your ME-MOVIE started production one week after conception. Although you rarely, actually view yourself in action, you are the main character in your ME-MOVIE. As you move through time, you record through your senses and your memory every experience you have.

There are a lot of supporting actors and actresses. Your  parents or primary caregivers play a major role in your movie, as well as, siblings and extended family. The relationships and interactions among these leading characters greatly affect the script in your ME-MOVIE.

A recent survey conducted by Hart Research for ZERO TO THREE revealed that most parents are not aware of how deeply babies and toddlers are affected by their early experiences and the events going on around them.

Even though babies don’t understand what is happening, they are like sponges absorbing the emotions of their parents or caregivers. Even before birth, they sense conflict, arguments, sadness, anger, stress, as well as, love, warmth, security, and excitement. All of these experiences are recorded in the child’s ME-MOVIE, in your ME-MOVIE.

Your experiences create your core beliefs or mindset which create your automatic thoughts, which are continually playing in the background of your mind. They direct how you evaluate new events and situations, continuously shaping who you are and what you are capable of.

Even the simplist beliefs have emotional memory at their core and control how you feel, what you say to yourself and others, and dictate how you will behave, consequently, creating new scenes in your ME-MOVIE and forming the qualities of the main character for better or for worse.

 

Your Script

The script of your ME-MOVIE is self-controlled, self-directed, and self-programmed, whether it’s positive or negative. It can program you to fail or to succeed. What you say to yourself can program you to have a happy, productive life or one of failure and unhappiness.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

The Bible tells us to destroy thought distortions, such as worries, fears, self-condemning, critical, or negative thoughts. We are told to test or analyze our thoughts and replace the distortions with thoughts that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. This sounds rather idealistic and, perhaps, impossible. The fact is it can be done. We can retrain our brains.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB) states that “We are destroying speculations (worries, fears, Distorted Thoughts) … and taking every thought captive (Thought Restructuring)”  

Romans 12:2 (NASB) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— meditate on these things.”

This illuminates the process of Rewriting the Script of Your ME- MOVIE.

 

Fred’s Begins His Journey

We will be looking in on a character we will call Fred as he takes the journey of becoming more aware of his negative, automatic thoughts and core beliefs, and how he starts the process of change.

Fred, a engineering draftsman for a mid-sized manufacturing plant in a small mid-western town, is told he MAY BE laid-off his job by the end of the week. His automatic thought was “I’m being fired.” He became very anxious, replaying his automatic thoughts over and over in his mind.

With each cycle he became more anxious, adding more thoughts making a “mountain out of a mole-hill.” During the week his job performance began to lag. He took more breaks.

He became moody and irritable. He said to a co-worker, “Why should I work, Friday’s my last day? I’m being fired.”

When he acted on his thoughts and feelings, his behavior generated new, more intense emotions, thus, beginning another cycle. By Friday Fred felt physically ill, very fearful, and angry.

He went to work, packed up his desk, and started to leave the building without a word to or from his supervisor. He had totally convinced himself that Friday was his last day. He was being fired!

 

Thoughts and Emotions

We discussed emotions in the post How To Regulate Your Emotions So They Don’t Regulate You.

To get a thorough understanding of emotions you have to see how they relate to your thoughts. The relationship between thoughts and emotions is complicated. They can be experienced together or separately and one will trigger the other. Both thoughts and emotions can be triggered by an external event or by memories or core beliefs.

Thoughts, though, are your mental ideas, opinions, and core beliefs about yourself and the world around you.

“It’s only in recent decades that we’ve recognized and validated that emotions are a powerful attention directing system—an amplification device—in our brain. They are responsible for creating the visceral responses regarded as feelings, that in turn are transformed into thoughts and the formation of beliefs to help us make sense of what we experience at the moment and to use for future reference.”  Mary C. Lamia Ph.D.

 

Are you where you want to be in life?

Is there a difference between where you are and where you want to be?

Your life is determined by your emotions and thoughts, which then are reflected in how you feel and how you act. In other words, your life is exactly how you have designed it to be by what you think, feel, and do.

Constructive thoughts usually lead to constructive behaviors. Destructive thoughts usually lead to destructive behaviors.

Destructive thoughts can come from many sources. It may be a statement made by someone that you just can’t get out of your mind or maybe an event from the past that makes you depressed, angry, impulsive, or fearful.

When you allow destructive thoughts to dominate your thinking, they negatively affect your life. But, like the oyster, you can take these thoughts, irritating grains of sand, and turn them into “pearls of great value”.

 

Preparation To Rewrite

The strategies presented below will provide a simple method for change that will significantly improve the quality of every aspect of your life. This is not a clinical resource and is not designed for people who are suffering with chronic depression, anxiety, panic, fear, or any other extreme emotional disorder requiring professional counseling.

However, it could be beneficial used in addition to counseling. You will learn how to use your emotional responses, as a flashing red light on the dashboard of your life, to indicate that you have a potential thought or behavioral problem.

For example, if you become intensely angry at what someone else says or does, you will feel physical changes in your body. These changes are the flashing red light that indicates there could be a problem. Once you become aware of your emotional responses you can identify and analyze your thoughts and restructure them. This will change your feelings and your behavior, thereby, improving the quality of your life.

Is this a quick fix? No. Your troublesome thoughts and behaviors didn’t appear overnight. Likewise, change is going to take time. Your thought patterns, distortions, and quirks are habits that you have been developing or reinforcing since childhood.

Statistically, it takes on the average 66 days of a consistent new behavior to develop a new habit. Brian Tracy states that “the time period can be any length from a single second to several years. The speed of new habit pattern development is largely determined by the intensity of the emotion that accompanies the decision to begin acting in a particular way.”

Steps To Change

Script Rewriting, which is Thought Restructuring in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a tool to help you create new thoughts, which will result in new feelings and new, healthier behaviors. You can begin by simply identifying and documenting your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors using a tool of your choice: smartphones, cameras, recorders, notebooks, computers, tablets, paper, pencils, pens, scrapbooks, crayons, spray paint, sock puppets, flannel graphs… whatever you have available and like to use.

Please, be honest with yourself as you answer these questions and read the examples. Use as much information as necessary to fully process your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some thoughts or events will take more processing than others.

Choose a technique from the suggestions above or be creative and develop your own, as long as it works. Find something that fits your personality. These exercises are to assist you in making changes, not to be a drudgery or busy work. If you don’t like to write, use a recorder or video or another method that will help you rewrite your script. Remember, though, writing usually helps you process your emotions, thoughts, and feelings more effectively.

 

The Feedback Loop

Feedback Loop

In the basic Feedback Loop our automatic thoughts trigger emotional responses to situations or the reverse. The CHECK-SELF light, in the middle of the diagram, represents physical responses like clenched teeth, clenching of the fist, increased heart rate, narrowed or wide eyes, rapid breathing, seeing red, tears, crying, shouting, threatening, sweaty palms, tense muscles, etc.

As our thoughts or emotions become more conscious they affect our feelings and, ultimately, determine our behavior. As you can see from the diagram above, you can experience a chaotic feedback loop where your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can jump from one to another and intensify with each cycle.

At this point, the CHECK-SELF light should be flashing read indicating that your thoughts and/or emotions need attention.They are in danger of going out of control and need to be slowed, evaluated, controlled, and changed.

This is analogous to the check engine light or other alarms or indicators on the dash board of a car. They are not designed to force you to stop and address the problem. They are designed to make you aware of a potentially serious problem in the operation of your vehicle, like running out of gas, overheating the engine, or low oil pressure.

We have all experienced situations where our mind seems to run wild. Our emotional responses spike. We do and say things we wouldn’t normally do or say, creating a frenzy of emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we may later regret.

 

Back To Fred

With each cycle, his thoughts and feelings became more negative and distorted from reality. It has been scientifically proven that we can convince our minds that something is true by repeating it over and over until we believe it. It then becomes part of our core beliefs, true or false.

What have you convinced yourself is true, but in reality may be false? Begin writing about your thoughts, physical response that indicate an emotion, and your feelings? Is it really true or could it possibly be false?

For Fred, it began with an “automatic thought” from his core beliefs, which triggered an emotional response. His automatic thought – “The boss said there was a possibility of a lay-off. I know I’m going to get fired and I’ll never find another job. My family will leave me. I’ll end up living under a bridge, homeless.” His core belief – “I’ll never amount to anything. I’m not smart enough. I can’t do anything right. Things never work out for me.”

In reality – his supervisor was trying to explain that he was only getting a couple of days off until a new contract was approved. Administration didn’t expect it to last more than 2 or 3 days. But, his automatic thoughts and emotions kicked-in and he didn’t hear everything the supervisor said.

When he heard the words “laid-off” his automatic thought, “I’m getting fired,” flew into his mind clouding his ability to think rationally. In fact, his mind was so clouded that he couldn’t hear anything else. The automatic thought caused an emotional reaction. His heart started to race. His breathing became short and erratic. His palms became sweaty and muscles began to tense.

 

Conscious Thoughts

What do you say to yourself that might not be a true or a full statement?

Your automatic thoughts often take on a life of their own. They are familiar. You may have lived with many of these thoughts and core beliefs since childhood. As your automatic thoughts move into your conscious mind you rehearse them, which further reinforces them in your core beliefs, just like Fred did.

 

Fred’s Childhood

As a child, Fred was told that he would never amount to anything. At some point he began to believe it. Consequently, he never excelled in school. He didn’t see any point in going to college because he “just wasn’t smart enough”, until later in life. He never applied for more challenging jobs because he “couldn’t do it anyway, so why try”. These negative thoughts and feelings about himself were very deeply ingrained into his core beliefs about himself.

After his supervisor left his cubicle, Fred leaned forward in his chair and rested his head in his hands. Depression began to descend.

He recalled his father’s words from so many years ago, “You are so stupid. You’ll never amount to anything.” How many jobs have I had. I just can’t do anything right. I have really tried. I’ve taken all the extra training I could find in drafting. I thought I was doing well. I thought my supervisor liked my work, but here we go again. What am I going to tell Mary and the kids? They were all excited about going to Disney World on vacation. Now, we won’t be able to go. We can’t live on my unemployment, if I get unemployment. It’s barely enough to buy food, how are we ever going to make the mortgage payment? There aren’t any other drafting jobs in this little town. We moved here just for this job, now what are we going to do. The kids were upset about moving and now to be laid-off. They’ll never understand. Maybe I shouldn’t tell anyone until Friday.

Fred’s supervisor walked by again and saw Fred still sitting “Are you feeling okay, you don’t look so good?”

“I’m fine.”

How can he ask me if I’m okay? He’s firing me. He acts as if everything is normal. Doesn’t he even care that I’m going to lose my house, my family, everything. Doesn’t he care I’ll be homeless living under a bridge? Maybe I should leave now. Why wait and torture myself for the rest of the week? But, I do need that last paycheck deposited into my account. My last check… my last check, and they seemed very happy to get me just a year ago. They even gave me a good review, now without any warning, they’re letting me go. I just can’t believe it. How dare they fire me? I’m the only one that can do what I do. The owner’s son was going to school, maybe, he’s getting my job. I just can’t believe this.

 

Sound Familiar

Does any of this dialogue sound familiar? If so, write it down.

Your release may not be alcohol, it maybe that piece of chocolate cake, a Snickers bar, an extra-long workout, porn, staying late at work, watching videos for hours, or keeping your nose in a book.

When I was young I would play the piano when I was upset. My mother used to say she could tell I was upset by the way I attacked the keys.

You may say, exercise or playing the piano isn’t bad. You are right it isn’t. But if you are using it as an escape, if you are talking to yourself like Fred did, things are going to get worse.

  • How long did you “churn” on the thoughts going through your mind? An hour?   Half-a-day? Two days?
  • How did you blow it out of perspective?

You need to become aware of what is going through your mind and stop it. Plant and rehearse the opposite thought.

  • Negative Thought: “I’m being fired.”
  • Positive Thought: “That can’t mean I’m being fired. There must be something that I don’t understand. I’ll go ask.”
  • Negative Thought: “They liked me just a year ago. Now, I’m being fired.”
  • Positive Thought: “I know I have performed well and had good reviews. Everything’s going to be just fine.”

 

Conclusion

In a car, if the oil pressure light comes on you don’t put water in the radiator. The same is true with your CHECK-SELF light from the FEEDBACK LOOP above. You must IDENTIFY and INTERPRET the cause of the flashing red light.

The flashing red light may be an automatic thought that pops into you mind, or you body registers a physical change which signifies an emotions, which you then feel as a feeling. For example, somebody says something, your blush, which is caused by an emotions and registers as a feeling, embarrassment.

What is it that got your attention? Become aware. You cannot change anything you are not aware of. Becoming aware is the first step.

The point of this post is to begin the process of becoming aware of the automatic thoughts that go through your mind and create physical reactions that cause the red light to flash.

Often, the physical sensations or symptoms are experienced but not analyzed or evaluated. They are simply felt as feelings and acted on. This would be like seeing a trouble indicator on your car’s dashboard, getting angry with it, and blaming the car.

In the next post How To Rewrite Your ME-MOVIE will go into details about how to begin making changes.

How To Regulate Your Emotions So They Don’t Regulate You

 

Introduction

Emotional self-regulation or emotion regulation is the ability to respond to emotionally intense situations in a manner that is socially acceptable, yet, still remain flexible enough to be spontaneous in your reactions and maintain the ability to delay spontaneous reactions when needed.

As adults, we must all learn to regulate our emotions, especially negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and frustration so they won’t drive our behavior or cause us to overreact in intense situations.  

We all have times when we allow negative emotions to control our thoughts and actions. Later, we often regret the things we say and do, wishing we had been more self-regulated.

In this post, we’ll be discussing negative emotions and how to take steps to improve our responses to emotional situations and conversations.

These steps will help improve your communications with others, as well as, improve mood, increase feelings of self-worth, and increase empathy for others.

 

Robin Overhears An Argument

Do you remember Robin at the Ferry Building Marketplace where she overheard a couple arguing?

Robin was working on a class assignment, observing how individuals interacted with each other using vocal elements and body language.

Robin witnessed and recorded an intense argument between a guy and his wife. She had just discovered that their bank account was overdrawn by $1000 because of gambling by her husband, unbeknownst to her.

Robin walked over to Jerry, after his wife, Hazel, stomped off.

What are emotions?

We often interchange the term emotions with the term feelings, but according to Neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, there is a big difference. Feelings emerge only when our brain registers a physical change in the body. Whereas, emotions are the initial, unconscious reaction to a stimulus.

For example, if someone embarrasses you, you begin to blush, when you get excited your heart beats faster if something scares you, your skin begins to pale. Emotions are strictly subconscious. Something triggers the body to react automatically or unconsciously. It is not something you can control.

On the other hand, according to Damasio, feelings occur only in the brain. When we become aware of the physical changes in our body we experience the feeling of embarrassment, excitement, fear or any other feeling.

 

Role of Emotions

Emotions play a very important role in your body. They stimulate an array of feelings, positive or negative, which allow and assist you in experiencing life. In essence, your emotions are your guidance system, your conscience. They make you who you are.

Your emotions are the reason behind your behavior. They get you moving. They also control your nonverbal communication automatically and unconsciously.

As we have discussed in previous posts, emotions communicate physically rather than verbally, giving you pertinent information about situations and people: affecting word choice, volume, pitch, inflection, the speed that is used, eye movement, facial expression, body movement, gestures, posture, eye contact.  

Emotions can give you erroneous information if they are connected to negative core beliefs.

Primary Emotions

My research has revealed an inconsistency in how psychologists view primary and secondary emotions. Dr. Neel Burton M.D. in Psychology Today states, “In the 20th century, Paul Ekman identified six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise) and Robert Plutchik eight, which he grouped into four pairs of polar opposites (joy-sadness, anger-fear, trust-distrust, surprise-anticipation).”

A study by the University of Glasgow states that there are only four basic emotions that make up the primary emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted. According to the documentation, they are still working on definitive proof to back up their premise.

My research has shown that most of the literature on emotions adheres to Paul Ekman’s definition of six basic or primary emotions. In Ekman’s book Emotions Revealed, he tells about his collaboration with the late Silvan Tomkins, who stated that we often react to an initial emotional (primary emotion) reaction, which gives us a secondary emotion. For example, we may become angry because of the helpless feelings associated with the pain of being emotionally or physically hurt.

Primary emotions are easy to understand. Basically, they are your initial reactions to external events. Sudden events may cause you to experience an emotion. For example, You may feel sad when you hear about someone being hurt or you are anxious about a presentation you have to give at work or school.

Secondary emotions are more complex because they are triggered by your reactions to and interpretations of your primary emotions. It is when you feel something about the feeling itself. Example: You may feel angry about being hurt or shame about your anxiety. Your secondary reaction or emotion is more intense.

Primary and Secondary Emotions
http://changingminds.org/explanations/emotions/basic%20emotions.htm

Benefits of Handling Negative Emotions

Most experts use the “down-regulation or self-regulation” method of emotion regulation. It is a process of willfully reducing the intensity of your emotions.

When you “self-regulate” your emotions you can communicate more effectively, which allows for both parties to get their needs met. When you are able to regulate your emotions you decrease conflict and increase intimacy in your relationships, which also improves your interactions with others.

When you experience a secondary emotion, it may feel overwhelming. Sometimes you feel like you want to hit someone or do something to get the feelings to stop.

The feelings themselves are not dangerous or destructive, but the action you take could be. Often you feel like you are fixing the situation, but actually, all you are doing is alleviating your intense feelings. The action you take just make things worse. People often lash out then justify their actions or blame the other person for making them feel the intense emotion.

Remember, the other person didn’t ’cause’ your feelings; they are yours, and they are triggered by your own interpretation.

Repressing your emotions is also not a good idea. Repressed emotions make it more likely that you will act on them later at which time they may be more intense because of the build-up of the emotions.

Self-Regulation

Allow yourself to feel all your emotions, but resist acting on them while you’re upset.Laura Markham Ph.D.

    1. Feel The Emotion. Accept that you have them and you’re feeling them.
    2. Choose The Opposite Action.  Choose to do the opposite of what your impulses are telling you to do. This robs your anger or other emotion of power.
    3. Don’t Get Attached. You aren’t angry, you are feeling angry. The feelings will go away. Notice them. Acknowledge them. Let them go.
    4. Don’t take it personally. The feeling it created will go away.
    5. Anger is Defensive. Get in touch with the initial emotion underneath, then the anger will melt.
    6. Don’t Act. If it’s not an emergency, resist the urge to act. If you feel an urgent need to take action you are in fight or flight mode.
    7. Stop!! Breathe!! Sit and breathe. As you do the feelings will begin to evaporate.
    8. Don’t Jump To Conclusions. Don’t draw any conclusions when you’re angry. Do the opposite. Think about something restful and relaxing.
    9. Identify. When your emotions are hijacked don’t try to work on the real problem. Wait. Breathe. Identify the underlying primary emotion.
    10. Assess the information. Use the emotions as information to be able to resolve the real problem.

 

Robin and Jerry

Jerry continued to sit with his head down ignoring Robin.

“Sir, I’m sorry, but I overheard your argument with the woman you were with. Is there anything I can do to help you?” Robin asked.

He shook his head but didn’t say anything.

Robin sat on the bench across from him, remaining quiet. Eventually, he raised his head and looked at her, “You’re still here? I figured you’d left also. Everybody does sooner or later.”

“Why do you say that?” Robin asked looking at Jerry who was looking at the floor again.

“I’m just a big screw-up,” he said. “I’m a throw-away.”

“No you aren’t,” another voice said.

Jerry looked up, “What are you doing here? I thought you were gone.”

Robin looked at Hazel and got up and slowly walked away, leaving Hazel and Jerry to work things out.

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t follow my self-regulation procedure. It really took me by surprise. I’m also sorry I broke your phone. That one’s on me,” she said.

Hazel sat down on the bench where Robin had been.

“I’ve been trying to follow my self-regulation procedure before I do something like throwing your phone. I was instantly so angry that I couldn’t self-regulate soon enough. I walked through the Marketplace which helped me get ahold of myself. A thousand dollars is a lot of money and now your phone.

Hazel paused taking Jerry’s hand, “I’m really scared. I know what the guys at the game are capable of. I saw, what was his name, Sam, wasn’t it, after they worked him over. It took him months to recover. I’m surprised they didn’t kill him”

“They wouldn’t kill him. They wanted him to hurt,” Jerry said. “I’ve already taken care of the money. I got it from my dad, but I just put it in the bank. If you check now, you’ll see it’s okay. I was so afraid to tell you. I know how angry you get. I’m so sorry. I made a deal with my dad. I will have to work it off, plus go to Gambler’s Anonymous, plus counseling. I guess he figures I won’t have time to gamble.”

“Is that all?”

“No, he won’t ever bail me out again. That’s almost worse. To have my dad just walk away.”

“I’m so sorry,” Hazel said. “Now we have a phone to pay for too. I thought I could learn to self-regulate my anger, but I guess I can’t, not when it’s really tough. Maybe I need to go to a group that will hold me accountable also,” she said.

Conclusion

Emotional self-regulation is not easy. It is a learning process. If you are a person who stuffs your emotions down inside, like many of us are, at some point they explode so much force you may not be able to regulate them.

Some people may need therapy to help them be able to learn self-regulation. Meditation, mindfulness, stress management, and anger management may also be options to consider. These other techniques can also help to improve your mood, increase your feelings of self-worth, and increase your ability to extend empathy.

There are many techniques in helping to regulate your emotions. Most experts advise “self-regulation” or “down-regulation”, which is willfully reducing the intensity of your emotions. A person who is grieving can down-regulate his sadness by intentionally thinking of happy or amusing thoughts. If a person was anxious about a situation she could think about something totally different.

If a person suffers from depression, she could “up-regulate” her emotions to keep from crashing with an anxiety or depression attack.  

Also, the Bible warns us to guard our hearts against emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, grief, guilt, and more.

John 8:31-32 ESV Jesus said, “If you abide in my word…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Psalms 34:14 “…seek peace and pursue it.” 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

We don’t always see our emotional responses or notice our feelings until they explode. I know, I for one, have a habit of stuffing my feelings until something triggers them.

I am learning to prayerfully turn situations over to God, to abide in His Word and receive a generous helping of His peace, forgiveness, mercy, grace, joy, and love. I’m seeking God’s help to share these with others using His wisdom to approach situations and reach constructive solutions, thereby, making positive changes to help me regulate my own emotions.

How To Speak Up With Intention

Introduction

Have any of you ever, for one reason or another, been afraid to speak up and say what is on your mind, to give someone your opinion or thoughts about a certain subject? Are you afraid of the consequences of speaking up?

In this post, I will explain ways to speak up even if you are afraid or apprehensive about addressing an issue or exposing your feelings. It’s important to set your intention before entering into a conversation that could create conflict or hurt feelings.

Many times if you notice someone is upset by what you have said you respond, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” When you make a similar statement you are shifting the focus from the person who is upset to yourself. You are not asking for forgiveness or trying to make amends. You are actually shifting the focus so you don’t have to offer a sincere apology. Also, the person who is upset does not feel heard and nothing has been done to ease the pain. I will also cover how to set your intentions for the best possible outcome.

I will also go through the information needed to create a clear and effective message.

Jenny & Frank

Frank a very opinionated, middle-aged, slightly overweight man working as a paralegal in Jenny’s law office. He always wore a short-sleeved, usually white, dress shirt that always needed ironing.

As Jenny walked into the lunch room where Frank was eating his lunch she noticed his shirttail hung out on one side, with a dribble of sauce down the front.

He always seemed to be a source of irritation to Jenny, so she tried, on a regular basis, to avoid him as often as possible, but she was late to lunch today.

Still trying to maintain her good intentions and cheery attitude. She tried to ignore him until he said, “Honey, you really should wear fall colors, which bring out the green in your eyes instead of the lighter colors which make you look washed-out.” (toxic message)

Jenny had been practicing “Living with Intention.” She gave Frank a smile. She could feel that it was forced, but it was a smile.

She took several deep breaths trying to calm her emotions and her thoughts and hoping that her voice and body language would show good intent. She finally managed to say with a soft voice, “Thank You,” all-the-while wanting to “knock his block off” but not wanting to show her negative intention.

 

What is Speaking Up with Intention?

We have all heard the saying, “Think Before You Speak? Have your parents or teacher told you to choose your words wisely because they might come back to bite you? Speaking impulsively, speaking whatever pops into your mind, before you think is a bad habit that can get you in trouble and hurt others. Impulsive words can damage your relationships and your career. You can apologize but you can never take your words back. Your words are always in the other person’s memory.

If you are a person with an impulsive disorder, like ADHD, create a habit of counting to 10 before you speak. That slows your brain down so you can think. Build a new habit.

Intention is defined as the purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct. In other words, you set your intention before beginning to speak. You determine the effect you want to have on the situation or other person.

An intention is a guiding principle of how you want to live your life. It’s not a goal. Intentions come from the heart. They are emotion driven and evoke feeling and purpose.

 

Why is it important to speak up with intent?

When you express yourself clearly with intent you reap several benefits. You stand a better chance of being understood, which leads to cooperation from others.

On a personal level, you get your needs meet. In relationships speaking up with intent clearly helps to establish closer connections and enhance intimacy.

If you want cooperation from others, either personal or professional, it’s important for them to understand what you are saying or asking for.

If you are one that is afraid to speak up, you run the risk of allowing your emotions to build up on the inside until you explode or say something at the wrong time with the wrong intentions and pay the price. In some cases, the price may be just the loss of a potential friend. Another case may be the loss of a job or a personal relationship.

 

Giving A Complete Message with Intention

Speaking up with intent also means giving clear and concise information. When you extend the full message you are giving clear information about what you have observed, your opinion, the conclusions you have drawn, your feelings, and what you need[1] :

  • Observations: You report only what your senses tell you, what you have personally observed – facts you have experienced, heard about, or read.
  • Opinions: The conclusions you personally have drawn based on what you have heard, read and observed about what you feel is really going on and why.
  • Conclusions: Your personal value judgments, beliefs, and theories based on your personal observations.
  • Feelings: You give your emotional response to the event or situation based on your personal observation. When you allow others to know what saddens, pleases, anger, and frightens you, they develop greater empathy for and understanding of you, and they are more apt to modify their behavior to meet your needs.

Remember, feeling statements are not observations or opinions.

  • Needs: You speak up about what you want or think you must have in a given situation. Needs are not judgemental or derogatory or blaming. Needs are simple statements about what you want and need.

You are the expert in what you have observed, your opinion, feelings, and definitely what you need. Nobody can read your mind. If you don’t speak up nobody will know. No two people have the same wants and needs. It’s very important to speak up clearly. Other people care.

 

Toxic Messages

It is a message that is expressed with part of the information missing out of negative feelings for revenge or to hurt the other person, intentionally or unintentionally or out of fear or lack of planning.

There are times when a speaker is not prepared and only gives, perhaps, his or her feelings or needs, but does not fill in the observations, opinions, or conclusions. In this case, much of the pertinent information is missing and can result in a failure to communicate.

For example:

“Honey, you really should wear fall colors, which bring out the green in your eyes instead of the lighter colors which make you look washed-out,” Frank said to Jenny out of the blue with no other information.

Franks comment was one of several that felt very much like the bullying she had received in school. They did not share any other conversation. His comment was one of many she had received from him: you’re late, you’re going to miss your opportunity if you don’t hurry up, I can’t believe you forgot the meeting this morning. All these statements contained a toxic element criticism.

 

Jenny Sets Her Intentions and Talks To Frank

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Jenny had been working on “Setting Her Intentions” for a while. She found it difficult to speak up for herself, but she was beginning to see the need.

In every school she attended from Kindergarten on, there was always, at least, one guy that gave her a hard time. Today, they would call it bullying. Her mother used to tell her it was because they liked her, but she didn’t really buy that scenario.

Now, a junior attorney in a prestigious law firm, here was Frank, not a friend, mentor, or peer always telling her what she was doing wrong or what she needed to do differently.

“Is it ever going to stop,” she wondered. Then she thought of the class she was attending about how to be more assertive. One of the first classes was on “Setting Intentions.” She had been working on setting her intentions through prayer and meditation. She was beginning to feel more confident, but she had not tried setting her intentions for a personal conversation.

“Well, I guess it’s time. I need to talk to Frank. Sometimes I’d prefer to “knock his block off,” but then I’d be doing just what he accuses me of. No, I’m going to do this the right way. I’m going to set my intentions for good. She thought about the verse that she prayed every morning.”

Psalm 19:14. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

She found a quiet place to sit and meditate. She went through the questions on her list to decide what she wanted her intention to be. She decides on three questions.

What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?

She wanted to create and nurture peace and self-confidence. She knew that she would have to confront Frank, calmly and appropriately in order to build her confidence. She would like to have a good working relationship with Frank without fearing his sarcastic comments.

What would you like to let go of?

She knew she had to let go of the fear of confronting people, for her career and for her personal peace and self-confidence. She couldn’t allow “bullies” to push her around anymore.

Who would you like to forgive in your life?

Jenny also knew she had to forgive Frank and all the other guys who had bullied her over the years. She could feel that the unforgiveness was eating away at any peace she had.

The Intentions she set were “peace” and “courage.”

She began writing out what she was going to say. She also decided to ask him out for coffee after work so they could talk some place other than work. There was a sidewalk coffee shop on the walking mall outside their office building. She tentatively set the date for the next night. She knew if she waited too long she’d talk herself out of it.

As she began writing out what she would say to Frank, she emailed him asking him to meet her for coffee the next afternoon. She got an immediate reply back confirming the day, time, and place.

As she read the email, fear began to instantly rise on the inside. Her chest began to tighten up, her stomach began to hurt and she suddenly became dizzy with an internal sense that something horrible was going to happen. She feared he might misinterpret the nature of her invitation.

She sat quietly for a few moments, breathing in deeply and letting the air out slowly as she rehearsed in her mind, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

She repeated the breathing and the verse over and over until she felt the fear lessen.

She wrote out what she intended to say to Frank.

“Frank, I asked you here for a particular reason,” she said with as much confidence as she could muster.

“Oh really. I thought you asked me because you found me so attractive,” he said sarcastically.

Jenny paused briefly, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

“I experience comments, like the one you just made, on almost a daily basis, comments about my clothes, my work, whether I’m late, on time, or early. You always have a comment,” she continued.

“Oh, you actually noticed?” he commented.

Again Jenny paused for a deep breath.

“The comment you made to me the other day about the color of my clothes really hurt.”

He looked at her quizzically but didn’t comment.

“Not that it is any of your business what clothes I wear, but this is the way my mother taught me to dress. She was the head litigator in this office until she died suddenly of a heart attack a couple of years before I started (observation). I was still in college finishing my degree. She prepared me to follow in her footsteps as an attorney. We had different last names so I don’t make reference to her being my mother. She has left some very big shoes to fill and I would like to fill them without using the fact that she was my mother (opinion). The one thing I do follow her in is her dress. If you were around when she was her you would notice I dress pretty much as she did. That is one tradition that she left me that I can do now (conclusion),” Jenny said in a confident voice.

Frank squirmed in his seat like he was a little uncomfortable, but he did not say anything.

Jenny continued, “Your comments are very hurtful, especially when it refers to the way I dress. My intention is to make my mother proud of me in every way I can, which includes my dress (feelings).

Frank looked down at his coffee cup but didn’t say anything.

“I need you to refrain from making the cutting, sarcastic comments to me at work. I know you are one of the best paralegals we have at the firm and I would like to have a good working relationship with you (good intent),” Jenny said looking into Frank’s eyes as he raised his head.

Frank cleared his throat, “I know who you are. I worked with your mother. She would be so proud of you.”

“Then, why the comments?” Jenny asked.

“I’ve wanted to talk to you, I mean really talk to you, since the first day you started with the firm, but I’ve been afraid to say anything (contaminated message). So, I guess, I just threw out sarcastic comments. Please forgive me for hurting you, that was not my intention.”

“So what was your intention,” Jenny asked.

“I guess I was hoping you’d call a meeting just like this so we could talk. I was afraid you’d think I was just a stupid old man. Several times I went to work with the intent of asking you to meet me here to talk, but every time I chickened out. Your mother and I had a relationship. I was going to ask her to marry me, but convinced myself that she wouldn’t want a man who was just a paralegal so I broke off the relationship  (fear of speaking up).

“And I thought I was the only one who was afraid of speaking up,” Jenny said with a softer expression on her face as she reached out and touched his hand.

Conclusion

Jenny’s talk with Frank is an example of how to  “Set Your Intentions” and carry them out. Yes, Jenny was very nervous, to the point of being sick at one point. But, with prayer and meditation, she gained the strength to answer the questions that would help her set her intentions.

Jenny gained self-confidence as she engaged Frank in a conversation following her plan. She also gained information that she never expected, which helped to establish a closer working relationship.

 

References:

[1] Davis, Martha, Ph.D. Fanning, Paleg, Kim, Ph.D., and Fanning, Patrick How To Communicate Workbook: Powerful Strategies for Effective Communication at Work and Home. 2nd ed. New York: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2004

How To Set Your Intentions For Good

 

Prologue

In addressing the subject of intentions, I have found it to be rather nebulous and imprecise, but there are several important aspects of it that I feel need to be addressed in regards to communication.

 

What is an intention?

An intention is an idea that you plan (or intend) to carry out. It is something you “want to do” or something you “don’t want to do.” An intention is your purpose, aim, something you want to align with. It is different than a goal, which is something you want to achieve. It’s something you mean to do, whether you pull it off or not. Intentions are emotion driven and evoke feeling and purpose.

Since intentions are nonphysical and emotion-driven they can be stuffed so far back in your mind that you may not know they are there. Yet, when the right set of circumstances arise, they surface. Similar to an old memory that you haven’t thought about for years, maybe even, decades, but the right trigger pulls it to the forefront of your mind.

 

Jenny’s Hidden Intention

Jenny works in a law office on the fifth floor of a downtown office building close to the courthouse. As a young girl, her mother was always on her case about how she dressed to go out the front door. Her mother was an attorney and from an early age impressed on Jenny how to ‘dress for success.’ Years later, when she thought about it, she always smiled and got a warm feeling when she remembered her mother’s voice.

“Now, Jenny, you can wear either a dress, pants or skirt and a nice top, but the skirt or dress must be in the middle of your knee. Make sure your clothes are not too tight or revealing. You need to stick to white, blue, navy or gray. Never, I mean, never walk out of the house in crazy patterns or shocking fashions, never!”

From that early age, it became Jenny’s intention to always ‘dress for success.’ She didn’t have to think about it because it had become automatic. When she went clothes shopping she could tell the intent was emotion-driven. She just didn’t like clothes that fell onto her mother’s ‘never list.’

 

Thoughts and Emotions Build Intents

Emotions are basically a flow, of feelings and at the same time, an experience of them, such as joy, sadness, anger, fear. Thoughts trigger different emotions and emotions trigger different thoughts. They work hand in hand.

Thoughts and emotions have a profound effect on each other. Intentions are formed as a result of that effect.

 

Jenny’s Thoughts and Emotions

When Jenny thinks about her mother, she gets a feeling of sadness because her mother is no longer with her. The feeling then changes to warmth and love as she remembers her mother’s arms going around her. These are all thought driven emotions.

Once while shopping, a store clerk said, “I think you would look great in this,” as she handed a dress to Jenny try on. It was pink with big flowers. Jenny instantly felt disgust, “I would never wear that,” she said out loud, throwing up her hands as if she needed to protect herself and backed away from the dress with a sour look on her face like the clerk was trying to give her a dirty rag. This triggered an emotion-driven intent.

An Intention Is Revealed

Jenny’s intention is to honor her mother and never to buy or wear a pink dress with big flowers or a crazy pattern.

 

Defensive Communication

Are you aware of your thoughts, emotions, and intentions, on a moment by moment basis? Are you actually aware of how they, affect your vocal elements and body language in your communication?

I have to say that I haven’t been very aware. There’s also a good chance, most of you are not, either.

If you say or do something that affects another person and they comment on it, are you too busy defending your intentions – “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” – that you don’t see the effect it has had on them?

Again, I can’t say that I’m always aware of the effect my communication has on people. As I have written these posts, I’ve become much more aware of my communication and the communication of those around me.

When you say, “I didn’t mean…” you are NOT allowing the other person to feel heard. You are discounting the other person’s feelings and changing the focus back to yourself, where you can justify and defend your intentions, thoughts, emotions, and actions., demonstrating no empathy, understanding or remorse.

I have to say for me personally, too many times I have said something like, “I didn’t mean…” but never gave it another thought. I didn’t hear the person out or even consider their feelings.

It’s very easy to launch into defensiveness if what you hear sounds like it may be a criticism. I haven’t always checked the person’s intentions or if they meant what it sounded like.

I have jumped to an erroneous assumption with my husband only to discover what I thought he said or was implying wasn’t what he meant at all. Once we’ve gone defensive, it’s very hard to back out.

Becoming Aware

Intentions are nonphysical and cannot be detected by our five senses. Yet, they are as real as anything physical.

Becoming aware of your intentions is key because they precede and set the direction and tone of your communication, which in turn, results in action. Your action can take several different forms:

  • Words flavored with verbal elements, such as tone, pitch, volume.
  • Body language, body movement or posture, gesture, facial expression, eye contact, touch, adding space.
  • Physically leaving.

Both our thoughts and emotions are a continuous flow which creates our intentions. They are always flowing, therefore, we often need to slow the process down and become aware of our thoughts, emotions and the intentions they create.

This morning as I prepared for the day I noticed my mind rushing from one item to the next, things that had to be done today. As I entered into prayer I was able to consciously slow the flow of thoughts and emotions and then determine my intention.

Many people worldwide begin each day with prayer or meditations to set their overall intentions for good, like the prayer in Psalm 19:14.

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

That’s a good start, but what about the curve balls life throws during the day. A boss that is unhappy with the work you turned in, kids who are just being kids, problems you face. Are you able to slow your mind and emotions down to create an intention that says what you really want it to say, which then affects every part of your communication?

Live With Intention

Loretta G. Breuning, Ph.D. in “Living With Intention” states that “we run on automatic for routine tasks with little or no thought to our intentions.” In automatic mode, we do not give thought to our emotions, words, body language, or actions while interacting with others. What pops into our mind often comes out of our mouth without any thought.

In comparison, when we live with intention, we are aware of our thoughts and emotions. We notice the effect our words and body language have on others. We think before we speak or act.

We can become aware of our intentions. But it does take more mental energy and thought that running on automatic.

Living with intention will create different results in our life.

 

Jenny and Frank

Jenny had spent time praying before starting her day and had had a fantastic day. She was late going to lunch because she was wrapping everything up on a major project that her boss seemed to really like.

She walked down the hall toward the lunch room, oblivious to everything around her, basking in the success of her project.

She was dressed as usual, in a gray pantsuit with a soft white silk shirt. As she walked into the lunch room she saw Frank sitting at the far end on the only table in the room.

He sat eating a burger that he had gotten at the corner hamburger stand. The sauce dripped down his hand and arm and onto the hamburger wrapper on the table.

When Jenny walked in he said ‘hi’ to her with a mouth full of food.

Frank a very opinionated, middle-aged, slightly overweight, man who worked as a paralegal in Jenny’s law office. He always wore a short-sleeved, usually white, dress shirt that always needed ironing. His shirttail hung out on one side, with a dribble of sauce down the front.

He always seemed to be a source of irritation to Jenny, so she tried, on a regular basis, to avoid him as often as possible, but she was late to lunch today.

Still trying to maintain her good intentions and cheery attitude, she tried to ignore him until he said, “Honey, you really should wear fall colors, which bring out the green in your eyes instead of the lighter colors which make you look washed-out.”

Jenny had been practicing “Living with Intention.” She gave Frank a smile. She could feel that it was forced, but it was a smile.

She took several deep breaths trying to calm her emotions and her thoughts and hoping that her voice and body language would show a good intent. She finally managed to say with a soft voice, “Thank You,” all-the-while wanting to “knock his block off” but not wanting to show her negative intention.

Jenny got her lunch out of the frig and headed back to her desk to eat. She rarely ate at her desk because she want a break from her office, but not today.

Instead, she decided to work on what she called “Setting Her Intentions.”

 

Set Your Intentions

Setting your intentions allows you to focus on who you are in the moment. It helps you work toward achieving your dreams and gives your purpose. It is something you need to work on daily to achieve.

According to Marla Tabaka “Many entrepreneurs are excellent at identifying their values and know that living within their interpretation of them is a powerful way to achieve success, and more importantly, happiness. Daily intentions can help you do that.”

Many of our thoughts, emotions, and intentions aren’t that easy to determine. Many times, we just don’t like the direction of our life. We don’t have the loving attitude that we’d like or we seem to be operating on automatic all the time. Sometimes there is a particular situation that needs attention. Try this.

Find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts and emotions. Make sure you have a notebook, journal, something, and a pen to answer questions and take notes about your personal discoveries.

Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths and relax. Focus on your breathing. Don’t change it, just become aware of it. After a few minutes, become aware of your physical body. Start with your core, around your abdomen. Focus on how you feel. After a few minutes move outward toward your arms and legs. Notice any tension, stress or pain. Relax. The purpose of the exercise is to learn how to be aware of your thoughts and emotions to set your intentions.

Start in the center, around your abdomen and concentrate on how you are feeling. Move outward toward your arms and legs noticing any tension or pain. The purpose of this exercise is to get our mind to systematically focus on individual parts of our body. In doing so we are able to direct our mind as a discipline.

Melissa Eisler in Intention Setting 101, states that “your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values, and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like ‘open your mind and heart,’ ‘love,’ ‘softness,’ ‘strength,’ ‘compassion for myself and others,’ ‘peace,’ or ‘freedom.’”

Make sure you chose an intention that is positive, not negative. Our mind picks up, as reality, what we say and repeat.

Proverbs 23:7 “For as ‘a man’ thinketh in his heart, so is he…”  

Questions by Melissa Eisler:

  1. What matters most to you?
  2. What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?
  3. What would you like to let go of?
  4. Who would you like to forgive in your life?
  5. How do you feel when you are your happiest self?
  6. What makes you proud?
  7. What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?
  8. What fears would you like to release?
  9. What are you grateful for?

10 Intentions You Can Borrow

By Melissa Eisler

You can borrow one of these if it resonates with you, but try to create something personal for yourself.

  1. Find balance
  2. Open your mind and heart
  3. Peace
  4. Stay steady, calm and focused
  5. Act with courage
  6. Embrace change
  7. Give and receive love
  8. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
  9. Connect with others
  10. Love

 

Conclusion

If you don’t consciously choose your intentions then your unconscious thoughts, emotions, and intentions will take over. You have to consciously choose!

We can choose intentions that will change the course of our lives, take you to a different destination.

In addition to choosing long-range intentions, you must also be aware of the intentions you are choosing on a moment by moment basis. Set intentions for yourself for each day to eliminate some of the automatic intentions, like an off the cuff remark that may be hurtful to someone else. The automatic intentions or responses will lessen.

You are used to setting goals of things to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis, but most of us don’t set intentions at all.

When was the last time you looked at what you wanted to change in the way you communicate with coworkers, significant others, children, or friends? Have you thought about who you need to forgive or make amends with? Do you feel balanced and at peace? What fears do you need to release? Have you made a list of things and people you are grateful for?

If you can’t answer these questions, perhaps it’s time to Set Your Intentions.

You can train yourself to become, aware of your thoughts, your emotions, and set your intentions to become more of the person you have always desired to be.