This quote is my favourite. Joseph Le Doux is a neuroscientist who wrote a great book ‘The Emotional Brain’.
I’ve recently been running training for the Samaritans in resilience and wellbeing.It really struck me just how capable all the participants were and yet how their strong emotions got in the way of their logic and lead to poor decision-making driven by emotional reasoning which can created problems for individuals at work and at home.
One senior manager was ranting about a domestic problem with an ex partner- a really difficult situation for her that was very stressful. The more she talked about it, the angrier and more upset she got. Her colleagues, over sympathising with her, made it even worse. I asked her three questions which completely shifted her focus from problem to solution.
First question- what would be the best case scenario? She painted a completely unrealistic picture of what she wanted.
Second question- is that realistic? No, was the response
Third question -so what is possible? She calmed down instantly and found a whole range of options for the things she could control. She also accepted that she couldn’t control everything. For the first time she saw the ex partner’s perspective and let go of all that anger and started to smile.
So very quickly she took the emotion out of the situation, and was able to problem solve again.
So what’s going on here? Well I think the answer is how we manage our relationship with ourselves and the world around us and in particular how we manage our emotions. We like to think we are always in control and, most of the time we are. However we can only control ourselves and not other people. We can seek to influence but we can’t control someone else. Focussing on the problem usually makes it worse. When you focus on a solution and calm down there are usually more options than you think.
In a nutshell resilience and wellbeing is something we already have. It is an inside out process rather than an outside in. Nothing was different for this woman in he outside world but her approach to it was different and that made all the difference.
What does this mean?
Have you ever noticed how children have a natural ability to be happy? They live in the moment, enjoy being in the moment and are at one with themselves? The truth is that as human beings this is our natural resting state so we all have this ability. If you’re not sure, remember how relaxed you feel when you are on holiday, when all that clutter of life seems to clear itself and you rediscover what’s important to you. I describe this ability as having an inbuilt, innate compass that knows exactly what’s right for you in any given moment. Using this you can understand and navigate emotions effectively, activate the amazing problem solving skills we all have and find a solution or a way forward for most things.
My primary goal in all my work with clients and workshops on resilience and wellbeing, is to put people back in touch with this ability. It’s always been there but it gets lost in the turbulence of negative thoughts and feelings which is a factor for every client I see, every individual that attends one of my day programmes.
When you begin to realise that you can experience and manage your reality in a very different way, that can open up a wealth of possibilities, new horizons, new ways of making sense of the world and a way to use and manage your feelings constructively. Could you just begin to imagine how powerful that could be?
The road to resilience and wellbeing leads you right back to your own front door!!