Creative Communication workshop, 28th of April 2012

Although interpersonal communication is humanity’s greatest achievement, the average person is having difficulty in communicating well

CREATIVE COMMUNICATION is a one-day workshop to help you discover creative ways of understanding and improving your communication with others

Communication is the lifeblood of every personal and working relationship. Each person grows through enhancing dialogues with others. Our personality development, mental and physical health are linked to the quality of our communication.

Research studies indicate that people of all ages can learn specific communication skills that lead to fulfilling interpersonal relationships and increased vocational competence. It is essential to discover creative ways that will help us develop and maintain a strong positive connection with our friends, family and co-workers.

Four clusters of skills critical to effective communication are taught in the workshop:

Assertion skills: these skills enable you to maintain respect, satisfy your needs and defend your rights without controlling or manipulating others

Active listening skills: they enable you to really understand what another person is saying and involve new ways of responding so that the other person feels understood

Reading body language skills: understanding body language can help you respond better to non verbal signs and improve your understanding of others

Conflict – management skills: these abilities enable you to deal with the emotional turbulence that typically accompanies conflict

The workshop is practical oriented with a lot of exercises in small groups and demonstrations with the facilitators. Proven concepts of Gestalt Therapy will be used to assist the participants in their day – to – day environment and they will be given the possibility to inquire for more personal assistance if needed after the workshop. All participants will receive handouts, guidelines and copies of material presented or used during the training course.

Practical information
Date:                  28 April 2012
Working hours:    10:00 – 17:00
Language:            English
Costs:                  50€ per person, 40€ for students
(including coffee, tea & cookies)
Venue:                 Life in an invitation Centre,
Mathenesserlaan 185, 3014HA Rotterdam
Info & Registration:        info@anastasiachristidou.com,
Tel.: 0641674280

Ioanna Rizou studied Psychology in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and continued her studies in Economics obtaining a Master Degree in Business Administration. She worked in the private sector as career counsellor for four years and continued her training as Gestalt Therapist.
She also has a dissertation on Gestalt in organizations, where she used the principles of Gestalt Therapy in helping companies achieve organization development through enhancing their communication skills, their awareness and the way they handle change management process on all levels.
From September 2011 she works as a gestalt practitioner in her private practice in Athens where she facilitates individual and group sessions on several issues like stress and time management, self awareness, relational issues, vocational guidance, social skills and life changing issues. The approaches she uses are those of Gestalt Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT). These are both humanistic approaches based on the perception that the individuals are able to create new and healthy ways of creating their experience leaving behind all their unhealthy habits and leading to a new way of living according to their needs and values.

Anastasia Christidou studied Counselling and after obtaining her BA in Integrative Counselling from Middlesex University (London, UK) she continued her studies in Psychotherapy by following a 4-year specialization in Gestalt Therapy. She advanced her studies by furthermore training in Crisis Intervention, Communication in the family (Parent Effectiveness Training), Mindfulness Meditation, Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques.
Anastasia worked as a professional cellist for 12 years and obtained as a first degree a BA in Music Performance from CODARTS University for the Arts (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) before choosing to become a full time psychotherapist.
Anastasia has been in private practice since 2008 working with adult expats, couples and multicultural populations in areas such as social skills, life changes, identity issues, stress, emotional intelligence and expat cultural adjustments. In 2010 she joined the team of “Life is an invitation centre” a group practice of Gestalt therapists based in Rotterdam. She has a special interest in creative modalities such as art, music, theatre and employs the use of mindfulness in her practice.
Her main therapeutic base is Gestalt Therapy and she integrates ideas, concepts and methods drawn from various psychotherapy modalities in order to respond appropriately to the needs of each person. She is a registered member of the Dutch Association for Counselling (NAC) and European Association for Counselling (EAC).

 

 

 


 

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How can awareness help us live in the moment

Awareness is a form of experience that can be defined as being in touch with one’s own existence. It involves allowing yourself to be where you already are and to become familiar with your own actual experience moment by moment. Socrates was famous in ancient Athens for saying “Know thyself”. I am not implying that all our problems will magically disappear if we develop awareness. Rather it is that all life’s problems can be seen clearly through the lens of a clear mind. When we start to be more aware, we are simply in the moment, using all our senses to perceive, to learn, to act, to change and to heal. This is why moment to moment awareness is so precious. We may have to teach ourselves how to do it through practicing, but our lives become more real and fulfilling.

Are we really aware?

How can we not be aware…? What we don’t realize is that our awareness is only a fraction of “what is” at every moment. It takes will and effort to remain in a state of full awareness.
*I invite you to a little experiment to experience firsthand the state of your awareness:
Take a walk, like for example walking home from work (driving will also do!) and observe what happens. Are you walking in a hurry? Are you busy thinking what you will cook for dinner? Are you thinking about your job or your boss? Are you aware of people, cars, buildings, images, smells…?

After the completion of the experiment, reflect on how much or how little were you aware of yourself within your environment. Good luck!

Why awareness is so important?

You might ask yourself, so what if I haven’t develop awareness? So what if I am unaware of what I am experiencing? Here‘s the thing:
Unawareness can keep us from being in touch with our needs, feelings, sensations, our body and its signals. Unawareness can dominate the mind, we end up functioning mechanically “on autopilot” and all our decisions and actions are affected by it. Imagine if you are working hard without being aware of your need to rest, tiredness will take its toll on you, at the end you will have a burn out or become physically ill. When the mind is dictated by unawareness and dissatisfaction, it is difficult to feel calm and relaxed. This state of mind affects also our ability to see situations clearly. A chronic state of unawareness can cause us to miss beautiful experiences in our lives and it can create physical problems for us (problems we are not even aware that we generate ourselves).

Awareness is the cornerstone and primary purpose of Gestalt therapy. Awareness of being and doing requires only that we pay attention and see things as they are.
When we are aware of our thoughts, feelings, body sensations and needs, we stay true to ourselves, we have access to a greater potential and more choices are available to us, we take responsibility and step forward into a deeply satisfying and creative life.

 

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Living in the moment

Living in the moment…accepting what is, accepting who you are…how hard can it be?

Being aware of each moment may sound simple but I assure you it is challenging, the distractions are far too many…Even if you try to concentrate on something, you might find it difficult to be in the present for too long. Our mind tends to wander, it drifts easily to thoughts about the past or the future. Our thoughts can be quite distressing and overwhelming especially in times of crisis and emotional turmoil, they can easily cloud our awareness of the present.

If you start paying attention to where your mind wanders throughout the day, you will probably realize that you spend extensive amounts of time and energy on worrying, making plans for the future, anticipating what you want or don’t want to happen, daydreaming, clinging to memories and all sorts of things that deprive you from being in the present. The inner busyness of our mind is constant…Something attracts the attention of the mind, we follow it and get distracted, and as a consequence we may be only partially aware of what is actually happening in the present. We are literally lost in our thoughts and unaware of other sense impressions.

*I invite you to a little experiment to experience firsthand the busyness of your inner mind:
Close your eyes, sit with your back relatively straight but not stiff, and become aware of your breathing. Just observe your breathing, don’t try to control or change it. Let it happen, be aware of the flow of your breath. Try this experiment for 3 minutes.
If at some point you think it is boring or stupid to sit and watch yourself breathing, note to yourself that this is just a thought/judgment your mind is creating. Gently bring back your attention to your breathing.

After the completion of the experiment, reflect on how you felt during it and how much or how little your mind wandered away from your breathing. Good luck!

 

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A suggestion for married couples by the poet K.Gibran

This is a fragment taken from the book “The Prophet” written by Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), a Lebanese poet, philosopher and artist.  It ‘s an inspiring suggestion on how to grow through relationship and marriage.                        The poet compares the couple with the two pillars of a temple. In order for the temple to exist (the relationship), it ‘s necessary that the pillars stand together yet with a distance, if the pillars of the temple stand too close, the temple will fall apart. Just as in a couple, there should be space for each person to grow as an independent entity and at the same time, both partners exist as a union of WE.

The Prophet, who has lived in a foreign city for twelve years, is about to board a ship that will take him back home. At the moment of his departure, he wishes to offer the people gifts but possesses nothing. The people gather round, each asks a question about the mysteries of life and the man’s wisdom is his gift.
Here’s what the Prophet says about marriage.

You were born together,
and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings
of death scatter your days.

Aye, you shall be together even in the
silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between
the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous,
but let each of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together.
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress
grow not in each other’s shadow.


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Why do many relationships fail?

Many people believe that by being in a romantic relationship they are buying their ticket to happiness. Or that by finding “the one”, they automatically will live happily ever after in a problem-free relationship. Maybe it‘s just my skeptic nature and my tendency to question many things, but it seems to me unrealistic to believe that the purpose of a relationship is sheer happiness.

Somehow in our society there is the notion that happiness is found in the form of another person, thing or situation. It becomes a goal to achieve: “I will be happy if I have a relationship with the right person, if I manage to keep my relationship, if I get married, if I earn more money and buy a house, if I have kids etc”.             Many people expect that the achievement of certain goals will guarantee their longed-for happiness. No argue that achieving goals can be rewarding and satisfactory, but it doesn’t automatically bring happiness.

Often, we keep on running around in a vicious circle of finding happiness in a romantic relationship. We work hard to “get” someone, we put all our energy and effort to maintain the relationship and often the relationship “fails” and we are left to deal with a painful break-up.
Relationship is a hard path to follow, a path that one or both parties can abandon with the appearance of the first conflicts and difficulties. Maybe because people enter relationships with unrealistic expectations or for the wrong reasons, many relationships come to an end. People ignore that by using the experiences that arise within the context of a relationship (both happy and painful ones), we can learn more about ourselves, face our demons and grow not only in the relationships area but in every aspect of our life.

Usually people leave a relationship at a certain stage corresponding to the level of maturity that they have obtained so far (that doesn’t apply to abusive relationships
where someone has to walk away for his own good). Many people have a tendency to go in another relationship with the hope or dream of finding “the right person”, this pattern of behavior continues in some cases for life and many people end up without having any fulfilling relationships. That happens because they expect the other person to be a suitable partner for them, not accepting their own share of responsibility in the relationship and without considering how much of a suitable partner they are to others. The truth is that we can’t change anyone else; we can only change ourselves.
A relationship is a way of passing through a lonely type of I to a symbiotic WE and to conclude to a WE where both partners exist as independent and interconnected entities. If we are able to be self-sufficient and independent in a relationship while at the same time we are supported and nurtured by our partner, then those are blissful moments! With awareness, intention and conscious effort, we can benefit from our relationships and allow them to become a vehicle for our personal growth and development.

REFERENCES
Giannakopoulou, L. & Papantriantafyllou, S. (2010), Relationships and Communication in Families (in greek language only)

 

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Romantic relationship: what is it?

romantic relationship

A romantic relationship is the union of two people coming from different families carrying different beliefs, values and needs. It is a union that has physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements.
There are many views and theories over what actually makes people fall in love with each other and form a relationship. Men and women, sometimes consciously and other times unconsciously hope to fulfill their deepest needs through a relationship. Usually they hope to re-live gratifications or experiences that occurred in the past (often the first years of their life) or they want to have corrective experiences to heal the frustrations that they have painfully experienced in the past (again often during their childhood).
Several researches shed light on the various criteria of choosing a mate. One thing I believe is that nothing is a coincidence and physical appearance is not the most important factor.

One of the factors that attracts people to each other is their family histories, especially the painful parts. A couple can share similar family experiences or they replay matching roles that they learned playing in their families. E.g. a man that watched his father to express his anger in a nasty aggressive way, he will often reproduce this behaviour as an adult and find a mate that bears his anger. A woman that is accustomed to accept as normal the aggressiveness of her parent expressing anger, she will chose a mate that will treat her in the same abusive way.           So now the two of them can reproduce their original families environment. Choosing each other is subconscious of course since our psychic/emotional experiences are registered in our body and transmitted with signs related with our body posture, movement, expression etc.        Why on earth should we choose to replay unfulfilling roles? Because we are so used to it, it‘s familiar, we feel safe, we do what we know best. Maybe these “best options” are out of date with our current situation but it‘s scary to leave the familiar no matter how much it hurts us.

Family histories also contribute to attract two people so they could face their unfinished business from the past while being in a loving environment where they can grow (if that was something they missed in their original family).

When an adult forms a romantic relationship, he follows natural phases going from dependency to independence. The experience is similar to the way a person experienced the relationship with “the important other” (a parent) the first 3 years of his life.                                                     If the child’s environment was supporting and encouraging his independence, then as an adult the person will have good self-image, self worth, trust people, feel closeness and approach other people easy.
If that was not the case, then as an adult, the person will face problems in his relationships.

The good news is that our current life is not determined only by the past. Yes indeed the past has an impact, and it‘s difficult to become aware of the ways we can sabotage ourselves and our relationships. A romantic relationship and a lot of our adult relationships can become corrective experiences and help us heal our wounds. This is a mere chance, it‘s not something to be taken for granted. It is a choice we can make and we commit to our personal development with the help and support of our loving partner. Relationships can be wonderful experiences of growth and personal development for both partners if they are up for it!

Giannakopoulou, L. & Papantriantafyllou, S. (2010), Relationships and Communication in Families (in greek language only)

 

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The difficulty of sharing ourselves with others

building walls instead of bridges

I have spent a long period of my life being a lone person. I was so selective with the people I shared myself deeply that at some point it became an obstacle. I also liked to do things on my own (ok sometimes I still do), hesitating to ask for help and support from others. It ‘s not really important why and how did I became like that, the important thing is that I became aware of how I was limiting my life. After all we are social beings, born to connect from birth and to share ourselves, it is in our nature.
Here are some thoughts on why we are so afraid of sharing ourselves aka self disclosure.

-Family background. Many of our present attitudes toward self-disclosure were probably learned at home. Whether we are willing to talk about ourselves deeply with the other members of our family, friends or our loving partners, it depends partly on whether our parents talked personally to one another in front of us or talked personally to us.

Fear of knowing yourself. Self-disclosure is one of the principal ways we have of communicating not only with others but with ourselves. It‘s possible, then, that at times we‘re afraid to disclose ourselves to others because we don’t want to get closer to ourselves. Self-disclosure can put us into contact with parts of ourselves that we’d rather ignore. If we are not feeling comfortable being ourselves, how can we share more of ourselves with others?

Fear of closeness. You can’t reveal yourself on a deep level to another person without creating, by the very act of opening-up, some degree of closeness between you and that other person. If you are fearful of self-disclosure, it may be that what you really fear is getting close to others. Getting closer to others, places some demands and responsibilities on you. For some people getting close to others just seems a scary thing. Being open is difficult, it can make us feel vulnerable, scared and anxious. Being open is also inviting and encouraging others to make contact and be involved with us; that kind of opening up and sharing, it needs courage and places responsibilities on both sides.

Fear of change. If you reveal yourself to another in any deep way, if you talk about the way you ‘re living your life, including your interpersonal life, you may discover that you ‘re not living up to the standards that you ‘ve set for yourself. You may discover that some of your values aren’t really values at all but just good intentions or ideas. E.g. you might find that you tend to ignore people that are less intelligent than you, if you bring it up then you commit yourself to do something about it. Either you change your values and say that being open to all people is not a value for you or you change your behaviour.
If you don’t want to do the required work to change a certain area in your life, most likely you won’t reveal that area and keep it to yourself.

Fear of rejection. Often people don’t reveal themselves very deeply to others because they are afraid of being rejected. We often hide our inner thoughts and feelings because we’re afraid that they’ll be not accepted by other people. At the same time, we also shut out other people from knowing us and we skip the opportunity of meaningful contact that is so vital for our emotional health.

The fear of rejection may also be related to our deeper feelings about ourselves, perhaps we fear that others won’t accept us because deep down we don’t approve and accept ourselves. Another reason of not sharing ourselves is being afraid to speak about our vulnerable sides and our weaknesses. We think that “if I share my vulnerable sides I will be seen as a weak person”.

Fear of being ashamed. Although you may think of shame principally as something you experience when others find out that you ‘ve done something wrong, the experience of shame starts at home. Shame isn’t just about being painfully exposed to someone else, it‘s first of all being painfully exposed to oneself. You can feel shame even though nobody else is around and even though nobody realizes what you‘re feeling. But the feeling of shame is more intense if you feel ashamed in front of others and they know that you are ashamed.
Feelings of shame need to be recognized and faced, not avoided, if faced they can throw unexpected light on who you are and point towards using your potential.

References
Egan,G.(1977)You and Me. Brooks Cole

 

 

 

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Emotional mistakes: a survival guide part II

tired of pretending that everything is fine

Our original family and our environment are the primary sources of teaching us how to understand, manage and express our emotions (aka teaching us emotional intelligence).                                                                   Some families express their emotions by hugging, kissing, and being emotionally supportive or perhaps they give space for the expression of feelings. Other families are emotionally distant and detached, yet supportive in other ways or perhaps there is no space to express feelings and needs.

Sometimes our emotional education -which relies heavily on our family and environment- results in a pseudo-education in order to keep up with social clichés. Do the test yourself.
How would you answer the following questions? :
1. How are you doing?
The socially “correct” answer is: I ‘m fine.

2. What‘s wrong?
The socially “correct” answer is: Nothing, everything is fine.

That’s all you need to know about your emotions: “I ‘m fine, nothing’s wrong”.
Actually it‘s not fine, if this denying of emotions would work, we would be healthy individuals living fulfilling lives. But it‘s difficult to constantly keep emotions buried down…

Our current culture fosters emotional immaturity and illiteracy. Past generations considered emotions a sign of weakness and this point of view is largely maintained till today. I think for most of us, growing up involved suppressing at some amount the expression of our emotions.
Childhood is full of emotional stress and frustrating moments. Often the love and affection we crave is denied or it is used to control our behaviour, if we are “good” we receive love and if we are “bad” we are deprived of it.
Many parents are teaching their kids the “suck it up and move on” mentality. When we are sad we are told to “look on the bright side”, “cheer up”, “think how lucky we are”. Boys are told that if they cry they are “sissies”, “girls”, they have “to take it like a man” or “suck it up”. Girls are told that they are “bitches” or “not ladylike” if they express anger.
We are told not to be “so emotional” not to “take it personally”, not to “be vulnerable”, to “take a broader perspective”, to “be quiet”, to “be a good kid”, “don’t answer back”, “forgive and forget” – anything but acknowledge that we are actually having a real experience called “emotion”.
Some parents not only don’t allow their kids to express their feelings by giving the messages “we don’t act that way here” or “go to your room until you act right”, but also they hardly express their own feelings or discuss about them with their kids.
In the family and in the school, we are silently or verbally urged to hide our emotions and our needs. We are taught that to express our feelings is rude and weak.  Children need to be accepted and loved by their environment (especially their parents), so we learn early on that it is sensible not to express emotions. So why are we surprised that as adults we have become emotionally uneducated?

I believe there is also extra intolerance to the expression of unpleasant emotions. As kids we are not encouraged and supported by our environment to express constructively unpleasant emotions, take for example sadness, shame or fear. The result is that as adults we feel vulnerable and open to criticism when we feel sad, ashamed or afraid, so we might cover up those primary unpleasant emotions with other secondary emotions e.g. anger.

A primary emotion is an immediate emotional response to a pleasant or unpleasant stimulus, it provides us with information about our current situation and motivates us to act in a certain way. A secondary emotion is an emotional reaction to our primary emotion, it begins with cognition and often it is caused by the beliefs we have about experiencing certain emotions. A secondary emotion follows a pathway that has been created by learning; images are associated with emotions, and events triggering these images then trigger the pre-associated emotions.
There are various reasons for not expressing our primary emotions. Perhaps because of our past experiences (emotional blocks from childhood, family, school, society or relationships and emotional wounds of the past) or due to a situation where it is not acceptable to express our primary emotion (work, social etc.).

Unfortunately emotions do not just “go away” if we deny or ignore them.
It is important to realise that just because we are not aware of feeling an emotion or express any emotion outwardly, it does not mean that emotional energy was not created. So the emotional energy gets stuck inside us, very often without our conscious awareness and that’s how emotions that are suppressed or covered up result to have great power over us.

If we don’t have awareness on our emotions, we’re essentially out-of-control. Which makes us also to rely heavily on social convention, instead of listening to our own inner impulses. Social convention is primarily focused on fulfilling the needs of the group, but not the individual. And even though it has been a successful survival strategy for mankind, social convention leaves little room for the individual’s needs and feelings, it limits our own potential and possibilities.

Emotional intelligence is learning how to interact with oneself, and in that context, how to interact with others. When we are better able to handle our own emotions, we can improve our relationships and our own quality of life.

Stay tuned for the 3rd part of this blog post where you can learn about how we seek substitutes for our emotions and what skills are necessary to become emotionally intelligent.

 

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Emotional mistakes: a survival guide part I

Our everyday life is full of emotional mistakes we make. We probably all have to admit that at some point we have been immensely moved by anger, fear, shame, insecurity, jealousy and other emotions. Does it ring any bell? Let me give you some examples of emotional mistakes:

– hurting the people we love, lying to our friends, betraying people who trust us, becoming emotionally numb, suppressing our feelings, avoiding closeness, throwing tantrums like 3 year-olds (no offence to 3 year-olds who are passing through a normal developmental phase), acting on impulse without thinking the consequences, saying awful things and insulting people, apologising when we don’t really mean it, smashing someone or something, choosing friends and partners that don’t respect or love us, not being supportive or comforting with our loved ones (showing no empathy), not expressing our needs in our relationships, avoiding to take necessary action to face a problem…and the list goes on.

What is being emotionally uneducated?

Basically it means to be out of touch with understanding and expressing a wider range of emotions. Lacking the skills to articulate one’s emotions and identifying emotions in others. Having a poor understanding of one’s need for emotional support. Lacking a deep connection to one’s own vulnerable feelings and needs and the feelings and needs of others.

When we are emotionally uneducated, chances are that we spend a lot of time in putting out the fires we started due to emotional immaturity and impulsiveness (nothing to do with spontaneity).  I really wonder how can intelligent people make such a mess of their lives. The answer is simple: It happens because we are intellectually “superior” but emotionally “retarded”. And that ladies and gents doesn’t only apply to men as we conveniently tend to believe, but to women as well.

We all suffered and we continue to suffer from various painful experiences. We ‘ve lost the connection with our feelings, we forget painful situations, we don’t know how we feel about them, we maintain emotionally abusive relationships with people that hurt us continuously, we become physically sick (our organism’s last call to take care of ourselves) and we are ashamed to speak to someone who would listen patiently to us.
All we want is to love and to be loved. Instead we end up wondering around with our frustrated needs and our wounded feelings deeply locked inside of us. We hide our feelings, we lie to ourselves and others, we pretend that we don’t feel. If all this doesn’t work and God forbid we still feel…then we just disconnect from our feelings and become emotionally numb.

Numb in a similar way as when we get a physical wound where our nervous system can protect us with numbness (a temporary feeling of imperviousness to pain), once the shock wears down, then we experience physical pain. There are various researchers such as Geoff MacDonald from University of Toronto or Ethan Kross from the University of Michigan that conducted studies in explaining how physical pain and emotional pain “hurt” in the same way. The body’s response to feelings such as embarrassment, rejection or offense is very similar to the way one’s body responds to physical injuries. It‘s no wonder why there must be literally millions of songs about break-ups; because it damn hurts so much!
In case of an emotional wound, we use a variety of defence mechanisms (psychological walls) that keep us away from painful feelings. Our emotional numbness protects us from having disturbing thoughts, flashbacks or nightmares. Those psychological walls that we erect to separate us from unpleasant feelings may take a more permanent shape and also separate us from kind, loving people and feelings of joy, hope or love. What keeps us from feeling emotional pain can also keep us from feeling pleasure. Because when we block or suppress a feeling such as e.g. anger, we also fail to benefit from it and we block the expression of all feelings. In addition, the emotional walls we erect will on occasion collapse, and flood us with chaotic, sometimes destructively strong emotions.
Since emotions that are suppressed come out with greater intensity, we unleash our emotions without awareness onto others in our relationships.
This could be harm-free if we were half-Vulcan like Mr Spock from the Star Trek TV series. In his worse internal conflict he barely shows emotion and he‘s such a master in suppressing his emotions. We are 100% human, even if we take medications, deny or pretend a certain emotion doesn’t exist for days, months, years; it‘s only a matter of time before it shows up with great intensity. Every emotion that stirs within our unconscious becomes manifest in our behaviour, and affects the people around us. We can hurt those around us without even knowing it.

The good news is that we can educate ourselves in order how to deal constructively with our feelings.

Stay tuned for the following installments of this blog post where you can learn about how we begin from kids to be emotionally uneducated, how we seek substitutes for our emotions and what skills are necessary to become emotionally intelligent.

 

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The power of emotions

emotion

When we think of a powerful person, there is a tendency to imagine a “made of iron” person that can be emotionally detached and cool. Power is often perceived as control over people and money. There is a popular belief that it‘s better to keep emotions under strict control in order to be powerful.
I can understand how for some people (including yours truly) it seems scary at times to let go of our emotional restraints. We are afraid that if we dare to express more freely how we feel, it would result to discomfort, or even “all hell breaks loose”. Oh and those judgemental thoughts we have about what is proper and acceptable in our environment, they awaken feelings of shame and block us from being authentic. In fact we so often block the expression and awareness of our feelings that at the end we lose the contact with our self.

Emotions are an essential part of our human nature. When we are cut from them we lose a fundamental aspect of our human qualities. Our emotions have the potential to serve us as a sophisticated internal guidance system. Perls, Hefferline & Goodman, the founders of Gestalt psychotherapy, describe emotion as “a crucial regulator of action, for it not only furnishes the basis of awareness of what is important but it also energizes appropriate action, or, if this is not at once available, it energizes and directs the search for it”.

Purpose of emotions
E-motions are signals of what is happening in our inner self.
In simple words, emotions serve various essential functions:
-They help us to become aware of our needs, e.g if we are not aware that we feel lonely we will not recognize the need for connection and we will proceed to fulfil another need that we think is genuine while it is not.
– They alert us when our needs are not being met, e.g  when we feel afraid our need for safety is not met.
-They guide us to take decisions. It ‘s difficult to make even simple decisions when we don’t know how we feel about our choices.
– They support us setting our boundaries which are necessary to protect our physical and emotional health e.g when we find disturbing the behaviour of another person  our emotions alert us to protect ourselves in various ways such as expressing how we feel to the other person, taking a distance or other ways.
– They help us to communicate and connect with other people e.g we share our happiness verbally or through our facial expression with another person, a smile can bring us close.
– They motivate us to act. Without emotions we wouldn’t go far, plus when we are emotionally educated , our actions are an authentic representation of our self.

Emotions and rationality
Contrary to what many people think, emotions do not “get in the way of’” rational thinking – emotions are essential to rationality.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has made significant contributions in the integrations of emotions to cognitive neuroscience. Through his extraordinary work, neuroscience is able to integrate mind and heart.
A part of Damasio’s research focused in studying the process of reasoning in people with neurological damage to their emotional systems. The research showed that people with brain damage to the ventro-medial part of the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain where emotions are generated) may be able to perform to a high level on many language and intelligence tests, BUT they display huge defects of planning, judgement and social appropriateness. These defects are caused by the inability of the persons to respond emotionally to the content of their thoughts. The defects go as far as taking simple decisions such as what food to eat.
Damasio says that “humans are not either thinking machines or feeling machines but rather feeling machines that think.”

Emotional Intelligence
What happens if instead of being out of touch with our emotions (in order to be emotionally detached and cool), we are over aware and respond to our emotions that haunt and terrorize us? I ‘m sure most of us experienced moments of being so angry that we would explode. Whether tightly controlled or over expressed, our emotions in these extreme situations fail to empower us. Unfortunately, in today’s world, our interpersonal experience often involves emotional pain, so we do need an armour to protect us.

Emotional intelligence training facilitates harmonious interpersonal relations, dealing creatively with conflicts, developing inner empowerment and a strong sense of identity and it provides the tools for avoiding a cynical view of life. Being emotionally educated doesn’t guarantee material rewards, it is a key to personal power. Emotions are powerful if you can make them work for you rather than against you.

Emotional intelligence is a universally useful ability, but it has to be learned because we aren’t wired that way. The ability of the brain to adapt and change through repeated training and experience (brain plasticity) means we can acquire emotional skills through the course of our life.
Some effective forms of emotional education are: individual and group therapy, workshops of self-awareness, mindfulness meditation, various philosophical systems, books and others. From my personal experience I found the setting of psychotherapy most effective and direct in learning emotional skills and practising them in a supporting environment.

Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence” says “There is a certain amount of intellect that people are born with, but emotional skills you can learn even at an advanced age”. I find it inspiring that emotional skills can be taught because these skills are what we need right now to lead fulfilling lives. It is never too late to improve yourself.

REFERENCES
Damasio, A. (2000). The feeling of what happens.
Steiner, C. (2003). Emotional literacy: intelligence with a heart.

 

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