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Tag: diversity

If our words for happiness and sadness were different, we wouldn’t feel muddled

I want to follow up Gaye’s comment

“ I’ve not seen happiness or sadness as fixed points. My own experience told me long ago that both come and go. While I’m not that good at going with the flow, I remind myself of that old Quaker saying “this too shall pass”.

However, I find it hard to be so accepting of grief and hurt and sadness and pain, and I am surprised at the anger I feel in the cold-blooded way that many casually brush all those feelings aside with this quote from Gibran, as if one compensated for the other. Contrast yes, but compensate no.”

I don’t disagree with Gaye. I would like to extend the thinking.

Empathy

Discussions about happiness become complicated when we are entangle questions about the nature of happiness and sadness with our ability to understand the happiness and sadness of others.

We vary a lot in our ability to empathize with others. We are also more empathetic in some situations and less in others. I suspect that we find it easier to be empathetic when we have been in a similar situation to the one we are observing.

Quite often we look for empathy from people who are simply don’t understand. They are out of their depth.

Belonging

If someone does not have experience to understand our distress, it does not really matter. What matters is that guiding them may be an extra task when we are already strained.

What really matters is when they are in power in some way. Their lack of empathy denies our reality and we experience rejection on top of grief. In theory, the two together could be sufficient to spin us out of the natural butterfly loop of life and out of the natural recovery from grief as time passes.

Appreciation

Almost in contradiction, but not completely so, close relationships such as marriage are more likely to flourish when one partner helps the other partner elaborate good times. Yes, listening in bad times is important. But of more importance is drawing out positive stories in positive times. Recounting good stories deepens our understanding of how good things work and our capacity to come back into the butterfly loop of flourishing when we have spun out of the orbit is widened.

In plain language, when we are struggling with the awfulness of life, we need the good times as a map to find our way back into the natural cycle of happiness and sadness. Becoming trapped in either is illness.

Semantics of happiness

The real issue is the ‘theory’ that we brought to the discussion. When we define happiness and sadness as separate and different, then we ask how much of one should we have and how much of the other should we have.

If we had a word in English to define happiness and sadness and the seasons of our life as one thing, stretching in a straight line or in that looping butterfly shape, we would ask different questions.

If someone is sad, then we act accordingly knowing that there will also be a time when they are happy and we will act accordingly them too.

I like Khalil Gibran’s words because he illustrated this notion of oneness. We find it hard to grasp the idea because of the words that we begin with.

If we had started with a different kind of word, we would have a totally different understanding. What that word should be, I don’t know, but flourishing and thriving are good starts. Languishing is the opposite of flourishing.

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Anger: I am angry so that I am important?

Active listening

I thought I had a post somewhere on basic active listening.  It seems not.

Active listening is often required when we least expect it

Active listening isn’t hard.  Provided we remember to do it!  When we are needed to listen, simply listen, we are often in a rush ourselves and it is the hardest ever to slow down and pay attention.

Three situations require active listening

There are three classical situations when we must pay attention and listen

  • Requests: Please may I have .   .  .!
  • Help:  Everything is going wrong!
  • Anger:  Life is unfair!

We rarely miss anger!

The third, anger, is the one we don’t miss.  Angry people get in our face.  They are bristling with rage.  They want something to change now and they’ve decided that it is all our fault!  Can’t miss it 🙂

It can be hard to react with applomb

Sadly, because other people’s anger often takes us by surprise, we don’t react well.

If we have a moment to catch our breath, we are probably OK.  We give the person the attention they crave so desperately and reassure them of their importance in the world.  They calm down and feeling a little sheepish, become our new best friend.

But what of our anger. What we we are angry?

It strikes me that England is an angry country.  And people enjoy being angry.

Anger in Britain is a treasured state

Anger in England isn’t an unpleasant temporary state that people want to get away from. It is a treasured state to be sought.  People even seem to feel important when they are angry.  “There!”, they seem to be saying, “I am angry too!” It is almost as if their status is restored by being angry.

I get angry so that I can be important enough to be insulted?

It’s a perversion.  Usually we are angry when our status is diminished, and we want it restored.  When an angry person also has a triumphant gleam in their eye, I wonder whether they are also delighted to have found a situation where they are important enough to have been insulted?

Someone needs some deep respect

If I am right, and there is no reason that I should be, then a way to reduce anger is to help people feel valued.  Courtesy and politeness do this in part – but they avoid “dissing” the other person.  Courtesy and politeness isn’t respect.

If we want to help people find status without resorting to some bizarre form of tantrums, then we need to take the trouble to find out what about them is deeply valuable to us ~ and tell them.  I found a great quotation from E E Cummings yesterday ~ we have to mirror to people what is so wonderful and why we would be so much poorer without them!

Extreme experiments in life

Try that as you are next on a commuter train and your neighbour is annoying you.  Pay them some attention. Yes, I know you are English, but try.  It will be a fun experiment, won’t it?

What will happen when you pick on the one point that is so important to them and that you would really miss if they weren’t part of your life?

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To be a good manager, teacher or psychologist, I must believe in you fully

I know that learning is social

I teach.  I know that people learn dramatically more when they feel part of a common venture.

We understand a little about social learning

Social learning has barely been researched but we know a little.

  • We know we can stop people learning very effectively by excluding them – even inadvertently ~by loss of eye contact and they way we tell stories.
  • We know the Pymaglion effect is a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy.   My students will be as good as I think they are.

But the process of learnin begins when I show deep respect for who my students are and what they bring to my life.

E E Cummings on recognition

American poet E. E. Cummings puts it well:

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

To be an effective teacher, to be an effective manager, to be an effective psychologist ~ I must believe in you, 100%, without reservation.



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