Chatting with Phyllis Serene on Emotional Fitness

I had a wonderful time chatting with Phyllis here at Mestizo in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. We discussed a wide range of applications, all grounded in healthy emotional fitness.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this talk. Can you relate? Am I missing anything? Do you agree with how relevant I think this is for all of us?

How quickly can I learn to NOT take things personally?

It can take an instant, if you’re willing; it took me a couple years because I wasn’t. When I finally became willing, things shifted very quickly.

For me, it had everything to do with the two-sided coin of: 1) self acceptance, and 2) unknowingly needing something from someone else, that being “acceptance”. When I came to understand that it was my job to accept myself, the opinions of others just didn’t matter.

I’ll use a crude, oversimplified, yet common, example on purpose: I feel insecure about how sexy I am. There are two people in front of me that have an opinion; one I feel attracted to, and another I don’t. With the latter, the one I don’t care about, they can say whatever they want, but I’m not putting my acceptance of myself in their hands, simply because they don’t mean as much to me. I have the ability to not take their comments personally, because I don’t value their opinion. For the other who I _want_ to like me, if they say “ew, you’re ugly”, I could take that personally because I’m giving them some authority over my sexiness.

If I’m in a healthy place of acceptance about myself, they could say I’m ugly, and I could easily not take it personally. Instead, I could joke about it towards having a good time together, I could ask them about it towards learning about their aesthetics, I could agree with them towards more vulnerability, etc…

Of course, as I change and come to know myself more and more, I find more of myself to accept. It’s a process and an attitude. We can’t just say, “as of today, I accept myself and will never have to do so again.”

Nowadays, if I get a twinge of feeling like something is a personal “attack”, I’m pretty quick to realize that it’s more (if not completely) about them, and/or it’s an indication of something I can own more of, take more full responsibility for.

Make sense?

Trying to make sense of crazy? Are you nuts?…

When I coach people struggling in difficult relationships, I often say that trying to make sense of crazy is crazy. If you’re talking to an irrational person, the challenge isn’t whether you can get them to make sense, but to stop yourself from trying to find reason in their thinking.

If a cat’s inclination is to tangle a ball of string, isn’t it a Fool’s Errand to keep detangling it? It’s not because the cat doesn’t want an untangled ball of string; tangling string is simply what a cat’s brain wants to do.

For some people, such as Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), codependents, and other addicts, the progression can look like this:

  1. As children, or impressionable humans, we get educated, and then we verify our knowledge against our experience. This becomes our “frame of reference”, our world view.
  2. When the education is poorly informed or misguided, or when our experiences don’t jibe with our knowledge, we feel insecure. This can cause confusion.
  3. If we base our actions on confusion, we become dysfunctional.

When this type of thinking doesn’t get a rational “reality check” against healthy, functional thinking and behavior, it gets “hardwired” into the psyche, and becomes more difficult to change. In fact, because it becomes the de factor world view, a person can’t even recognize that they are struggling with dysfunctional thinking. They are in denial, or as a handy acronym states: I “Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying”.

If you, or a loved one, finds themselves frequently struggling to make sense of conversations/arguments or difficult relationships, I encourage getting a consultation to get an objective and informed “reality check”.