No Exceptions


We have come approximately seventy-five blog posts and you might be seriously questioning your emotional motivations, asking yourself if it is indeed true that your emotions are a product of your experiences and thinking.

If you are, that’s a good sign.

Your emotional thinking is, for the most part, a product of your experiences.  You spend the first twenty-five years of your life learning from your caregivers, your culture and from various other sources how to respond to nearly anything that is likely to occur in that particular culture over a lifetime.  Your full appreciation for the rules of cooperation, congregation and copulation take shape during these formative years.

You are a member of society.

“When someone dies, this is how you behave. No exceptions.”

“When you are in love, this is how you should express it. No exceptions.”

“When someone shows you disrespect, this is what you do. No exceptions.”

And you repeat that thinking and its corresponding behavior over and over, to the approval and applause of your teachers, until your thinking becomes indistinguishable from your emotional response. And you come to believe that your emotions are just natural responses to stimuli and that everyone responds (or is expected to respond) the same way to the same or similar stimuli.

“OK, now run along.  You’re ready for the world.”

Your thoughts become your emotions.

From then on, preventing damage to established beliefs seems to take precedence over everything else.

“You said this, and it means that. No exceptions.”

“You shouldn’t act this way, you should act that way. No exceptions.”

“I am a rotten, good-for-nothing scoundrel because I failed. No exceptions.”

“I am good and you are bad. No exceptions.”

The tricky part is, when you begin to think twice, and settle on a new emotional response, you are, essentially, compromising your learned response. In essence, you are questioning the lessons taught to you by your grandfathers, your mother, your respected neighbors on how to behave with others.

“If someone does this, you should punch them in the eye. No exceptions.”

“If you do that, people should always do this. No exceptions.”

“People must say please and thank you or they are rude and should be punished. No exceptions.”

You might find yourself, now, second-guessing everything you believed to be true and factual about yourself and others.  “I know I wasn’t taught to behave that way, but this person apparently wasn’t.  Before I learned to think twice, I would have just pulled this person’s spine out through their eye socket.  Now, although I would like it more if I were treated nicer, I know I can live without this person’s respect and courtesy.  I may not be as content as I would be if s/he were showing me courtesy and respect – but I can live contentedly, nonetheless, without it.  Instead of being angry, I think I will be sad that this person seems to be acting so carelessly toward me.”

****

I would like to emphasize that whatever alternative emotional response you settle on, that emotion MUST BE an alternative you are willing to accept.  If forgiveness isn’t something you, at this point in your learning, are willing or capable of  exchanging for anger, you might think twice about setting forgiveness as an emotional goal.  You might seek, instead, something YOU ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT AS A REPLACEMENT.

It isn’t that you couldn’t express forgiveness in the face of disrespectful or discourteous behavior.  Like I said, you may not, at this point in your learning, be capable at this stage in your learning.  So, if you’re not capable or willing to set forgiveness as an ALTERNATIVE emotional goal, you may look elsewhere for other emotional options.  You just may have to settle on sadness, pardoning the behavior, viewing the person as emotionally handicapped or just being less angry.

The key is that if your goal is to improve your emotional intelligence, you must take steps to express some alternative emotional response, other than the one you are accustomed to expressing.  ANYTHING! For now, it truly doesn’t matter what emotion you settle on in exchange for your traditional response.  It just matters that you take an active role in managing your unmanageable emotions.

Remember, without some adjustment in your definition of happiness, as you endeavor to evolve your emotions, it may not be possible to set happiness as an alternative to anger or rage.  In fact, happiness may even be, at this point in your learning, out of reach in instances where you are experiencing annoyance or irritation.  You may just have to set your mind to achieving less anger, decreased annoyance, reduced irritation or some form of contentment. Happiness as an emotional response to adversity is a possibility for you.  It will just take a lot of time and practice to replace strong, noxious learned emotional responses with any definition of happiness.

Finally, as you progress toward EI improvement, you might, at times, even miss the target altogether.  You may simply respond to adversity in your old, familiar way.  There is still an opportunity for EI improvement. You can forgive yourself for responding contrary to your EI goals. You can plan to do better next time.  You can use this time for practice and rehearsal.

Incremental change, as long as it is self-enhancing and likely to lead to a better emotional result at some point in your goal for improved EI is a magnificent sign of progress.

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7 responses

  1. Nice post. I have come to learn that my emotions are a product of my perceptions and consequently thoughts. I find that I’m able to change how I feel, especially if i’m down, if I reason / argue with myself why I shouldn’t be. Yes, I can seem crazy doing this (!) but I feel it helps especially when, logically thinking, my feelings aren’t justified.

    • i’m not sure how to interpret “my feelings are not justified.” of course your feelings are justified. they are justified through your nutty thinking 🙂 i am thrilled that you are learning from the blog. it is this kind of encouragement that keeps it all worth it. please continue to comment. cheers!

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