I was once invited to give a workshop to a team of educational psychologists. One of them was not happy to be there; ‘I don’t need this,’ she grumbled, ‘I leave my emotions at home!’ I hope by the end of the training she’d had a change of heart. You can’t leave your emotions at home any more than you can leave your head, (much as we all might sometimes wish to!) Of course we would all like to think we can control our emotions, put them on hold, suppress them or even avoid them altogether. But no matter how good we get at this, if our words and actions are not congruent with how we actually feel, we are inauthentic and we risk being perceived as such. Even if you’ve practiced your body language and facial expressions down to a T, even if you have blocked your emotion from your own awareness, you will emanate what you are really feeling – and it’s going to be picked up. This is evidenced by research, both on the heart’s electromagnetic field (see HeartMath.org - Research) and on the brain’s mirror-neuron system using fMRI and other analysis (Siegel 2010), as well as in a plethora of other research studies – not that we need research to know it; I imagine many of you reading this have had personal experiences with this phenomena.
Human beings are like an iceberg that is 90% submerged under water, with only 10% being visible. If a storm comes through from east to west you might be forgiven for believing that the iceberg will move west with the storm. However, if there is an undercurrent going in another direction, the iceberg will move with the current, because the current controls 90% of it. The same is true of us humans. The only difference being that we like to think we can control everything with our 10% and discount the power of our undercurrent – our emotions.
Knowing and being with our true emotions, daring to fully look ‘underneath’ so we can discover what our emotions are telling us, is the work of emotional mastery. It is also, ultimately, to develop the self-regulatory skills that, when we choose to use them, generate a feeling that is aligned with our actions (rather than feigning an emotion or control). We all have the ability to do just that – even in these times of distraction, over-stimulation, anxiety and chaos. Your ability to both understand your emotions and to manage them so you can generate a coherent, centred state when you need to, -to manage that undercurrent- is also a part of human nature and when you use that ability, it will positively affect everyone around you; “your field effect” can give you more authenticity and believability than anything else you do. In all my years of working on myself, and with parents, executives, teachers, management teams, and all those who are not in charge of anyone but themselves, I have found this to be a universal truth.
Suggestion: Post something by your front door to remind yourself of the impact you have – with your words as well as your 'field effect'- as you walk out into the world. Take a deep breath with a long exhale - and smile :-) Throughout your day, check yourself and your feelings in your body: ask yourself Am I congruent?
I used to post a quote by General Lee by my front door; “If you do not enjoy what you’re doing, you will be found out.”
Happy summer everyone!