“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” – Epictetus (Ancient Greece)

What’s your view?

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Picture the scene. Husband comes home from a long day at the office. He’s hot and bothered from a lousy journey home. As soon as he enters the house, he goes straight to the fridge, grabs a beer and slumps down in front of the TV. All of which happened without a word to his wife.

Wife – “Why does he ignore me? Doesn’t he care I’ve been slaving away looking after the kids and with no adult conversation? Don’t I matter any more?” And she storms upstairs with, “You look after the kids!”

Husband – “What did I do? I’ve had a long day at the office, I’m tired and I just wanted a beer to unwind. It’s not easy being the only bread-winner. I’m doing the best that I can. She doesn’t respect me.”

I’m sure that this role play has occurred thousands of times before and no doubt will occur thousands of times again in the future. Each person is feeling the effects of a pressurising, challenging day. The only difference is where the day occurs. Each of us has an Emotional Brain. It’s a powerful force within us but it is by definition emotional. It’s also irrational and selfish. Look back at what each of them said and count how many “I”s are in their words. “I” in the context of perceived injustice is the buzzword of the Emotional Brain. The focus is directed towards the person feeling the injustice and powerful feelings erupt.

It’s not that feeling those things isn’t understandable, however. It’s very understandable. Look at each person’s situation once again. The wife is starved of adult conversation, is at home with the kids providing for their every need and feels unloved and unappreciated by her husband. He, however, is working hard and commuting in difficult circumstances. He’s tired and needs to unwind.

Understandable isn’t acceptable, however. It isn’t acceptable for either of them to react in the way that they did even though it’s understandable. Within both the husband and the wife in this story – and in all of us – is the powerful Emotional Brain and all the feelings stem from its centre. We must learn to manage the Emotional Brain within all of us. How different could it have been? Let’s see:

Picture the scene. Husband comes home from a long day at the office. He’s hot and bothered from a lousy journey home. Before getting out of the car he takes a few deep breaths to help relax. He walks towards the front door breathing deeply. He enters the house and greets his wife with a hug and a kiss. He apologises that he’s hot and bothered and says that he just needs a few moments to get over the day. His children call. “Daddy, come and look what we’ve done!” and he replies, “Just a minutes, kids. Daddy will be in soon. I want a few moments with mummy first.”

Wife – “He really loves and cares for me! He wants to be with me and talk to me. I matter!”

Husband – “I’m hot and tired out from the day. But I need to spend time with my wife first. We need to connect again. She’s had just as hard a day as I have. I’ll be in to see the kids soon.”

If you want to change how the other person reacts towards you, you must look in the mirror. You must see yourself for how you really are. So often, we seek to change the other person when we must seek to change ourselves. We can only change ourselves. Seeking to change ourselves means getting a hold of our Emotional Brain. Instead of the focus being on I need you to the focus is how can I change for you? The Emotional Brain’s selfishness focuses on what it needs. Looking in the mirror helps us see what we need to change to make the situation that we are in better.

Imagine if, in conversations with others (whether in the home, at work and in any situation involving communion with people), we sought to change ourselves and serve them rather seek to change them and get them to serve us? Find a way, today, to change your attitude or thinking in some way for someone else’s benefit.

Do it unconditionally, however. The ‘I will if they will’ won’t get you or them anywhere positive. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Hopefully, they will make a change in their attitude and thinking too. But if they don’t change, that’s their choice. It’s your choice too. You don’t have to change yourself. But doing so just might be the catalyst to bring about something quite wonderful. So, go look in the mirror. What can you change about yourself? And remember these excellent words from Eleanor Roosevelt:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Stuck knowing how to change? Use the contact details to get in touch with me and I can help you.

 

There are some quotes, but certainly not all, that I agree with from the brilliant-minded scientist, Steven Hawkins. Here’s one for starters:

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

I think that the quote above is a fabulous quote. Being curious about what makes people, as well as the universe, ‘tick’ sets you on a voyage of discovery. I believe we are made to explore, to wonder and to discover. Our brains thrive on these any many more curiosities. So I echo again, Hawkins’s last sentence, “Be curious.”

Why the title of this post then? The words that are the title of this post are taken from Jane Hawkins quoting what her husband, Steven had said to her. In other words, Steven Hawkins was reported as saying to Jayne that her emotions were her fatal, irrational flaw in her character.

What makes this even more sad is that fact that Jane bore the brunt of her husband’s anger and frustration. She was his nurse and constant support, self-sacrificing her life in full support of his. Steven could devote his extraordinary mind to exploring the wonders of the universe and not the wonders of his wife.

It wasn’t just Hawkins who was frustrated with his wife’s ‘flaw’. Jane’s parents-in-law are quoted as saying:

We don’t really like you, Jane. You do not fit into our family.

 

Hawkins’s family would sit around the dinner table and not talk. It seems that it was a cold, emotionless family. A ‘Mr Spock’ family that saw emotions in a negative way and had to be repressed. Repression is a very dangerous, damaging practice and it will eat you away from the inside the more you are unwilling to deal with it or denying it’s happened.

The irony of Hawkins expressing that Jane’s emotion was a flaw in her character (remember, that emotional ‘flaw’ meant that she was his nurse and constant carer both at home and when he toured the world, as a much sought after speaker) is that he often demonstrated uncontrolled anger in his awful treatment of Jane. He couldn’t manage his emotions because he’d never learnt to helpfully manage his emotions. He’d never learnt to helpfully manage his emotions because his family had never learnt to effectively manage their emotions. He had no effective role model, as a child and when growing up. He was ‘taught’ to repress his emotions. Repression isn’t effective management: it’s destructive and it invariably leads to explosive expression in teenage or adult life.

I am writing a book that explains that you must learn to mange your emotions, otherwise they will control you. You can’t control your emotions because they are vastly more powerful. They are creative and they powerful. Too powerful for the brain to control. It can, however, manage the emotion. If you want to know how to learn to manage your emotion, and why trying to control or repress them is both pointless and deeply damaging, please contact me.

Steven Hawkins was right about one thing in the quote, though. Emotions are irrational. Emotions stem from the Emotional Brain and its role is to keep you safe and secure and give creativity and spontaneity in abundance. Its role is not to think and make sense. That is the role of the Thinking Brain. The Emotional Brain is irrational. It is emotional. It is, however, vital for living a healthy, happy life. Without the Emotional Brain making decisions just don’t feel right. Creative brilliance is beyond our reach since creativity is the realm of the Emotional Brain. Without the Emotional Brain there would simply be no joy in eating a gourmet meal, there would be no awe when gazing on a stunning sunset, and there would be no true wonder at all. There is a world of difference between watching a stunning sunset and being physically moved by it. I want to be physically moved by the wonders of our planet and universe. I hope you do too.

Your emotions are part of you. They give the “Yes!” feel that cannot come from the Thinking Brain. By the way, your emotions aren’t you. They are not who you are. Emotions are expressions. Emotions are outcomes to stimuli if you’d like, although I realise that sounds somewhat cold. Put simply, you are not an emotional person; you are a person who expresses emotion. Or not.

I wonder what amazing discoveries in the universe Steven Hawkins would have discovered if his emotions had been in partnership with his incredible Thinking Brain? I think it’s worth noting too that Jane is no longer his wife.

Now, depending upon your level of interest in Pop Idol, cricket or psychology you might have been drawn to an article published this week in various papers that English cricket has gone all-Jung-Meyers-Briggs-psychology-fied.

The article in The Times newspaper reports the following:

Carl Jung’s theories of personality types underpin a system widely used in the corporate world and adopted by the ECB to help 11 wildly different individuals to coalesce into a team.
Developed from Jung’s work in the early 1960s by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a rough guide to a person’s personality traits and how they interact with others. The daunting task of fitting the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Ian Bell into a coherent unit and helping each player to play to the best of their ability has been smoothed by these simple tests.

To be honest I’m not a great fan of profiling. I have regularly tweeted a wonderful quote by the American artist, Andy Warhol, who said:

Labels are for tins.

The issue I have with profiling is this. Having labelled someone’s personality as dominant, introverted, intuition means what exactly? What difference is that actually going to make? Presumably, KP and Broad won’t share a room while touring ‘Down Under’ this winter to avoid disharmony and enviable fall-out, as their powerful egos clash!

Perhaps, but perhaps not either. Correlation doesn’t mean causation. In layman’s terms: Just because… Just because two giants of the game in terms of personality and talent are in the same team doesn’t mean they will need careful managing to avoid fall-out and disharmony with each other and anyone else. If you support the determinist/behaviourist theories of ‘it’s your genes’ then there’s no hope for changing your mind. But I don’t. I believe that we can change our mind. More on that later.

Further, just because there is disharmony, doesn’t mean that two of the stars of English cricket were the instigators. Disharmony can manifest itself for many complex reasons, probably with a great deal of overlap with other events. Assuming ‘Just because’ thinking will get you nowhere constructive very quickly. It will result in a great many ‘jumping to conclusions’ for which there is questionable evidence. Finally, a team focusing on the goal: winning can ultimately bring about harmony. We like to stay the same. Ask any sports team what they most like about their chosen sport and it may well be ‘Winning!’ that is their answer. A winning team wants to keep winning and disharmony has a nasty habit of culling victory. For ‘The sake of the team’ and ‘To keep winning’, people will put jeopardising egos aside. It doesn’t take a personality test to set up that point – just common sense.

The Australian Team are in disarray at the moment. There have been some very silly behaviours but that is all. Australia are suffering from something very rare in Australian sport: the team isn’t very good and, worse, Australian attitude and ‘never say die’ is AWOL. Is personality at fault here? I don’t think so.

You see, it’s not about personality at all. It’s about character. Building character in terms of determination. Applying wilful attention to bring efficacy in the brain (in other words, you can rewire your brain to think and therefore behave differently: positively. It requires the self-belief and determination that you can).

Carl Jung wrote famously about the collective unconscious. My take on this is that a team full of positive character traits will adopt a collective that unconsciously performs at the top of its game. It doesn’t have to think how to positively behave when the pressure’s on. It just behaves positively, every one of them, naturally performing to a high level whatever the circumstance, whatever the pressure.   

The England Cricket Board has used Carl Jung’s thinking, upon which the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiling is based, to identify personality traits and has used these traits to mould a team where the desired mix of personality styles exist. I not only believe that personality styles are ‘labels’, as Warhol stated, but also as ‘boxed in’ outcomes. ‘Boxed in’ says that I am this; I’m not that. ‘Boxing in’ limits my flexibility to meet people ‘where they are’, for I am ‘boxed in’ here at ESTJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment) and you are ‘boxed in’ there at INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment). ‘Never the twain shall meet’ for we are on opposite sides of the grid. For me, it’s a ‘Can’t do’ view and not a ‘Can do’ view.

Simply put, labels label us. And labels, limit us. I intend to stay label-free. After all, it’s not what I do, or indeed the personality I show, that matters but who I am. Personality is no clear indicator of performance. Nor is it a conclusive indicator how well, or not, I will ‘get on’ in a team. Remember, there’s no ‘I’ in team. There’s no ‘I’ in character either. There is ‘I’ in MBTI.

At the moment there’s plenty of self-belief in the England Cricket Team and they are winning, if not necessarily ‘firing on all cylinders’. Success will return to the Australian team – when they put their mind to it. For that, they need to read the brilliant Victorian psychologist, William James’s Principles of Psychology. Nothing there about personality type. Plenty there about habit, attention and will. To the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) I say this: Forget MBTI profiling and attend to William James’s habit, attention and will if you want to keep winning. So, not so much ‘Will Jung’ but ‘Will(iam) James win it for England?’

What did you learn today, John?

I learnt to be helpless.

It might come as a surprise to discover that helplessness can be learnt. It was certainly an accidental discovery by the father of the branch of psychology called Positive Psychology (something that I regularly study) Martin Seligman and his associate psychologist, Steven F Maier. In an experiment involving dogs, Seligman and Maier discovered that the dogs adopted a helpless response when conditioned to expect an electric shock after hearing a noise. In an experiment where the dogs received an electric shock on one side of the box that they were kept in but not on the other side that they could reach, the dogs made no attempt to move to the other side and avoid the shock. They had, in effect, learnt that they were in a helpless situation – with no chance of changing the outcome. Incidentally, all the dogs had to do was jump over a small barrier to reach the non-electrified side. But they didn’t.

This experiment has been repeated countless times with animals and with humans. In a famous human experiment two groups of people were subjected to a loud noise that could only be turned off by working out the pattern of switches to press on the panel before them. Unbeknown to this group, they couldn’t turn the loud noise off no matter what sequence they tried whereas in the case of the second group, a simple sequence of button pressing was all that it took to silence the loud noise. In stage two of the experiment, each of the two groups were put into a new room, again with a loud noise. The group who had been unable to silence the loud noise the first time never bothered to try to silence the loud noise this time whereas the group who had silenced it the first time immediately set out to silence it this time. Simply, the first group had learnt helplessness.

Implications
There are many implications from these findings for not only does learnt helplessness lead to, literally, a giving up in the circumstance that we find ourselves in but it’s a transferable condition meaning that other situations that we face, completely unconnected to the one we just faced, is met with a learnt helplessness response. I failed last time there so I’ll fail this time here.

How does this happen?
The principal reason this occurs is because the emotional part of the brain: the limbic system receives the sensory information first, long before the cognitive part of the mind (prefrontal cortex, in particular) gets a look in. The limbic system is irrational, emotional and much more powerful than the rational, logical and weaker prefrontal cortex. The limbic system is programmed to freeze, flight or fight and is very, very quick to form irrational judgements. Helplessness is not a cognitively deduced decision for it is too heavily tainted with the weight of emotion. Given uncontrolled judgement, the limbic system will conclude the situation is helpless and the freeze, flight or fight response will be initiated. Notice, as I’ve said many times in my blog, it’s freeze, flight or fight. Learned helplessness shows no flight or fight response in my opinion. Rather, a modified freeze response. We simply don’t know what to do and freezein our response waiting our inevitable demise.

What can we do about it?
Thank goodness psychology today teaches us the efficacy of the mind. In other words, we can transform our thinking: literally, rewire our minds to think and behave differently. But how?
It requires us to learn to control the limbic system. Left to run wild, the limbic system will run us ragged with irrational, emotional responses.

There are many powerful techniques that have been scientifically proven to work. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one such therapy that utilises the proven techniques. I have my version of psychiatrist Jeffery Schwartz’s 4-stage process that I call the 4CC’s. It involves regaining control of the limbic response so that the rational mind can make decisions and move us forward in an altogether more helpful way. It works for overcoming everything from losing our temper to overcoming obsessive compulsive disorders, commonly known as OCD.

If you’ve ever found yourself saying, why did I do that? (Or keep doing that?) Or, why did I say that?, then there will be something there to help you understand what’s going on and how you can change your response. Do contact me for a free, informal 15-minute chat using the form in this blog post.

The learnt helplessness can be changed to learnt helpfulness by a different way of thinking: not with rose-coloured glasses but, as Shawn Achor writes in The Happiness Advantage, through rose-tinted glasses. Rose-tinted glasses don’t naïvely see the world, as a bundle of joy wherever we look but see the world filtered with the rose-tint of positivity and belief. Research after research concludes that looking for solutions, maintaining a can do attitude and a determination to succeed leads to greater health, contentment and success in an abundance of ways. What’s needed is a controlling of the limbic system resulting in a rewiring of the mind. And the good news is that this doesn’t take months but can be immediate or in just few coaching/therapy sessions. Want to know more? Contact me.

Today, I biked to my favourite coffee shop in town only to find out that I’d left my wallet at home. I had no means of buying my favourite drink: a cappuccino . How might you have responded to this situation? You might be interested to know that I’m writing this blog post in said coffee shop.

What did you learn today?