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?

Differences between fast and gourmet, nutritious and empty

With regard to food, you can get fast and convenient foods versus gourmet meals that take careful and timely preparation. You can also eat nutritious ingredients compared to things with empty calories. Then there’s the realm of things that are simply unhealthy for you.

All of these qualities can be quite independent of cost. More important, these analogies can be applied to other aspects of life.

Is your physical fitness narrowly focused, just treading water, and injurious in the long run, or are you engaged in progressive exercises, honing specific skills and abilities, and moderating your efforts to not compromise your future?

Are your relationships convenient, nutritious, or toxic? Or do you have deep acceptance and respect, attentive and compassionate, people that are nurturing and encouraging?

What about your sex life? Are you simply having the equivalence of fast food?

These are personal choices, certainly. My hope for you is that they are conscious choices, and that you’re fully aware of the potential ramifications.

There’s more work to be done

I’m torn… I’ve just read several articles of horrendously unfathomable behavior, and I feel compelled to share, yet I don’t want to forward them directly.

It’s not that I want to share the behaviors, but rather I want to expose the “illness” that we, as a race, still struggle with. Yet, I know I can’t cure the world, thus I look to be available for those people that want to improve their lives.

Well, that’s my aim for now.

It’s an extraordinary thing to me, a person ready to make a change. As I’ve mentioned before, there are three things required: H-O-W — Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness.

I could argue that everyone is already skilled at using “willingness” each day. We comfortably choose our clothes and food using those elements; we make countless choices that are effortless because we’re so willing.

Honesty with ourselves can be tricky. We give ourselves “guilty pleasures”, so there’s honesty in that. We are often truthful with others, yet we’re biologically wired to be dishonest. We tell lies, some of them “white”, for various reasons. People will most likely call themselves honest, yet there’s often an internal dialog that considers just how honest they need to be in various circumstances.

People often deny fleeting thoughts and emotions for higher values; while there’s honesty in living with integrity, we sometimes turn away from parts of ourselves without full acceptance of what they are and what they represent in us. Some refer to that as our “shadow selves”, our “dark side”.

How open-minded are people usually? Trying a new kind of food can be distasteful, or simple out of the question. What’s it like to consider a new political view, or reframe a spiritual belief?

And willingness? I’ve been wondering lately about “the gift of desperation”. I’ve dreamt of finding a way to instill the willingness that people get when “reaching bottom”. Funny, I see it often portrayed in TV, characters absolutely willing to turn on a dime and do such outrageous things. Since shows are scripted, it’s easy to put a character in dire circumstances, easy to show them make ruthless choices, easy to avoid any costly consequences. Does that work against people watching? Does that set up a challenging inner dialog when real life comes up; knowing that things can’t ever be as carefree as they are in the movies, does that keep people from being willing to dare?

Like I said, my mind’s reeling at the moment. The articles I read were as of this date, so if you’re feeling macabre, you can look at some headlines from today. You might want to reach for your comfort food or teddy bear first, though.

Time for work.

We are “Children of the Lie”

Precinct Commander Steven Mauriello “failed to meet [his] responsibility.” As a result, “an atmosphere was created discouraging members of the command to accurately report index crimes.” — from the Village Voice

Whoa.

When I read this, I wonder what my part is, in maintaining and encouraging the demands and expectations of people in these positions of authority. Clearly, what’s going on is wrong and against my values. Have I been ignorantly promoting the pressures that the police management have bowed under?

This is another example of the third(?) level of evil that is described in “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck. I imagine this behavior is against everyone’s values, at least the people I know, yet our society has enabled and allowed this, so we are responsible.

Here’s a succinct summary of some of the points from the book, from a review at Amazon:

  1. The evil hide their motives with lies.
  2. Evil people want to appear to be good.
  3. When confronted by evil, the wisest and most secure adult will usually experience confusion.
  4. Evil seeks to discourage others to think for themselves (fosters dependency).
  5. To oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality at all cost.

That all seems to apply here. So, now that we are aware of what’s going on, we have a choice, don’t we? What is within our realm of influence that we can choose in order to make a difference?

Postscript: I’ve categorized this with “Clinical Depression” (among other things), per point 3 above which names “the wisest and most secure adult”, but what about the rest of us?

Insatiable

An insatiable thirst […] will eventually lead to failure.” — Seth Godin

Hey, friends, sound familiar? That need to fill an emptiness isn’t just a human shortcoming, it shows up in business, too. This dynamic of “organizations suffering from an insatiable thirst” can be described by some as “driven by personality rather than principle”.

Longing and hunger can be slippery, and can be addressed with discernment. Having the drive and determination to pursue things can be very beneficial and productive, but where’s that urgency coming from; urgency doesn’t always come from the same needs or reasons. Knowing where it comes from for yourself is powerful.

Get help to figure this out if you’re not crystal clear within yourself. It’s absolutely possible, easier than you think, and necessary if you don’t want to be driven by unconscious and subconscious impulses.