Archive for the ‘emotions’ Category

Fighting Hate From Within

May 4, 2023

I may have mentioned before that I’ve been receiving the Pump newsletter from Arnold Schwarzenegger. He sucked me in with the phrase “a positive corner of the Internet.” Don’t know about you, but I could use more positivity.

People who study these things have told us that anger often comes from insecurities and fear. Hate, also, has deep roots within our own emotional construction. Here is a story from Arnold from a recent event.

Last week, I had an event at the Schwarzenegger Institute at USC on fighting the rising hate we’ve seen all over the world. We had a panel about how to communicate to pull people away from a path of hate, and a former neo-Nazi who now helps other extremists out of their movements shared his perspective. Something he shared stuck with me, and I wanted to share it with all of you. Because it is wisdom that can help anyone — not just people who are consumed by hate. He said that the further he got away from his old beliefs, the more he realized that in the days when he carried that hateful flag and shouted racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, the person he really hated was himself. He believes he was projecting that hate onto other groups because it was a lot harder to turn inward and work on his own insecurities. 

Many of us meditate hoping for experiences and visions of the divine. The meditative experience that most influenced me was when I was shown every form of evil and sin revealing that these are all buried within me. The realization that I was capable of all sin (see the first chapters of Paul’s Letter to the Romans for example) provided insights and tools for dealing with that. And the empathy for others who also struggle with that same whether they know it or not. It, by the way, is a life-long struggle. Just like the realization of this man quoted above. 

That Point Between Urge and Action

January 17, 2023

There are wonderful pictures in the Proverbs:

Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs than to confront a fool immersed in folly. (Chapter 17)

You are scanning your social media feed. As unlikely as this sounds, you see a post from someone that is completely wrong. Using emotion-laden language, they describe an event totally made up. You feel a surge of righteous emotion, even anger. “I’ll set this right” you say to yourself as you begin to type.

Maybe you’ve forgotten about the she-bear. Maybe you remember what the writer of the Proverbs says shortly thereafter:

The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so stop before the quarrel breaks out.

TS Eliot wrote about the point, the still point, where the dance is. He didn’t mean this, exactly, but it fits. There is a moment between typing the response or speaking to the friend and clicking send or giving voice to the thought.

It is that moment that we must become sensitive to. That still point. There, we must become observers of ourselves. Recognizing that we are about to meet folly with folly, we stop.

We cannot control the genesis of our emotions. We must control the response. That is where awareness and tranquility of mind becomes the most important thing. At that moment, we breathe, we see, we become tranquil and quiet. Let it pass.

Raising The Volume of Your Voice

November 18, 2022

When people raise the volume of their voice, one of two emotions are in play. Uncertainty or lying.

People telling the truth speak softly. People with assurance also speak softly.

Perhaps we should tune our ears to ourselves for immediate feedback. We can catch ourselves before being foolish.

On Anger

September 12, 2022

Marcus Aurelius, “How much more harmful are the consequences of anger…than the circumstances that aroused them in us.”

Anger erupted from within me usually when I felt threatened. The source was fear of loss of something–job, status, relationship.

Vitaliy Katsenelsen says in his book Soul in the Game, “The venom generated by anger, when allowed to spill into others, is always followed by regret.”

And yes, even to this day I have deep regret for some outbursts from anger.

John Climacus the abbot of St. Catherine’s at the foot of Mt. Sinai writing in the early 600s said that “anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.”

John counsels, “The fist step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.”

It’s that moment between thought and action when you have an opportunity to take a breath, perhaps count 3, 7, 10, 100. That pause is the freedom–the freedom to choose our best response. It is in breath that silence and calm have the opportunity to prevail.

I have learned this the hard way.

Lonely People

September 8, 2022

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Elenor Rigby, Lennon/McCartney

Not being lonely constitutes one path to longevity.

Have you friends? A friend? Someone?

I think of Jesus and how he was at times alone among friends. Have you ever been in a room full of people and still feel alone? Have you called that room a church sometimes?

Maybe a family? I have memories of being a child at home and being alone even with three brothers. My mom probably wished for alone time.

Being alone does not equal being lonely. I like times to be alone. I like times to be with others. I am both extrovert and introvert—like most of us.

But lonely? When that visits, we hope it intends a short stay hotel not an extended stay residence.

I wish I could advise you on being unlonely. If I knew, I’d practice it. Go to a coffee house, see someone and ask a question, I guess. Questions are your friend.

That Complex Relationship With Emotions

August 26, 2022

Once when somewhat stressed and flooded with email requests of my time and energy, I responded to one with some extra comments. I don’t remember the exact topic or words or the exact response from the woman who sent the original–someone I’d known for several years–but her response pricked at a sore point. She said something like, “I know how you are…”

That stung. And 15 years later, I still feel it.

And, god bless electronic media. It’s so easy to delete 2/3rds of your response to an email or entire Twitter or Facebook posts!

I am emotional. I try to keep the emotions in check. I hate emotional movies–I tear up.

This thought from Pema Chodron came my way:

“If you open to all your emotions,

to all the people, to all situations,

staying present and trusting,

that trust will take you as far as you can go,

and you will understand all the teachings

anyone has ever taught.”

– Pema Chodron 

If you pause to consider this little poem, you’ll find complexity and compassion.

Try “open to” as a key word. And then “trust”.

So much of Jesus’s “blessed’s” that I’ve been pondering lately contain these. Open to God, open to yourself, open to others. Trust God.

I need this. How about you?

Personality

August 4, 2022

The woman next door dressed most of the summer in the back yard in very skimpy bikini swim suits. Yet, she did not exude sensuality–that special personality.

A teenage girl talked with me about a career in entertainment. She possessed a marvelous singing voice. Her posture, however, portrayed defeat. I tried to guide the discussion into the areas of self-assurance, personality,

I was a nerd as a teenager with no particular personality until I was almost 30.

Listening to Guy Kawasaki’s podcast interview with Abraham Paskowitz about surfing brought out a key component of personality–that inner joy with being and with doing what you love.

I think Jesus had that characteristic–doing what he was meant to do and enjoying it immensely (well, except for those three days).

The Apostle Paul’s preaching was so bad that once he put a young man to sleep. He was unfortunately sitting in an open second floor window, fell out, died, and had to be revived by Paul–who went on preaching. But he must have exuded that inner joy of doing what he was meant to do.

Having a personality infused with the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, and so forth–shines through the personality. People can tell. We can tell. It’s quite a way to live.

Equanimity

July 7, 2022

I found a new word to learn and apply. Equanimity.

This appeared in a book describing characteristics of the various Enneagram types. Evaluations I’ve taken are somewhat conflicting sometimes typing me as a 4 and sometimes a 5. Reading through this latest book, The Road Back To You, I’ve settled on typing myself as a 4 with a strong 5 wing. That may not mean much, but 4s tend to have more mood swings. You can’t always tell mine from the outside, but sometimes this writing reveals them.

So the author, Ian Morgan Cron, brings out this word for 4s–equanimity. “Fours need to cultivate what’s called equanimity, a sorely ignored virtue in the Christian tradition. Equanimity refers to the ability to remain emotionally composed and steady regardless of what’s going on around us.”

People almost everywhere in the world live on a diet of social media and biased TV news specifically designed to unbalance us emotionally. We too easily get sucked into the vortex of hyped up emotions. Some people thrive (emotionally and financially) on being perpetrators.

We, the recipients, must cultivate this virtue called equanimity. We need a daily (hourly?) reminder.

Motives

June 24, 2022

People who lived prior to 1890 or so described emotional/psychological issues as caused by spirits. Or demons. In “Discernment of the Spirits,” the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing describes someone driven by the spirits of wrath, malice, and wickedness.

“For that wicked accursed wretch will sometimes change his likeness into that of an angel of light, in order that, under the color of virtue, he may do more mischief. He leads them on…always under the pretext of devotion and charity, not because he takes any delight in works of devotion or of charity, but because he loves dissension and scandal.”

Does that describe anyone you know? Church leader? Politician? Neighbor? Yourself?

Discern carefully the spirit of those you meet. Some will be genuinely full of the spirits of love (charity) or devotion. Others may be masking anger, anxiety, fear, or just plain wickedness.

Always be aware.

Why Worry

February 3, 2022

My mom was a worrier. She suffered from anxiety, depression. Even was temporarily hospitalized. She passed that on to her four children. We all dealt with it in our own ways.

If I try, I can remember lying in bed before sleep worrying about tomorrow and next week and next month.

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

Mark Twain

I soon discovered a truth that Viktor Frankl had uncovered. We humans have the power of choice. We can choose what to think about. While still in my 20s, I discovered the antidote. When thoughts began to dwell on what could go wrong, I would intentionally direct my thoughts to something pleasurable. It works. Between that and a lifetime of meditation, I have almost cut worry and anxiety from my life.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus taught that we can zoom out on our focus.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus gives similar advice. Focus our attention on the kingdom of God. That is more profitable than focus on what can go wrong.