Emotional Intelligence / EQ
Diversity of feeling and thought
We often believe the reason for life’s ruptures and tears is due to how different we are - in our thinking, belief systems, expression of emotions and the like. This explanation that dissent or disagreement alone can be the culprit of our suffering is unhelpful because differences are inherent to us all and are important hallmarks of our humanity in that it allows for evolution and growth. In fact, differences are what often attracts people to each other in the very beginning when differences excited rather than deterred. Blaming only the differences when things get tough is not only an unfair characterization of the real problem it is also inaccurate and disempowering.
Most of our challenges arise due to our own egoic stubbornness to entertain other perspectives. Like it or not, other truths do exist - such as those of our partner’s, co-worker’s, parent’s, etc. - and we have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to accept this fact even and especially if other truths run counter to our own. Should we be invited to talk it out - and I hope we all receive that invitation - we then have a responsibility to courageously voice our perspective through intelligent dialogue, both verbal and non-verbal, without the coercion and manipulation to which we so often digress and without even the expressed purpose of changing minds.
This is not an easy skill to practice and few of us know how to do it well. It often feels as if only one truth can exist at a time; and that truth should be our own. This, is what gets us into trouble.
No truth on its own is ever complete. It benefits all of us when we allow for and encourage freedom of thought and feeling without the often accompanying acts of judgement, silencing, shaming, and victimhood. Relationships will feel more robust and truly diverse, which begets the opportunity for true acceptance of one another in the glory of all your idiosyncratic quirks and the fortifying of the bond through truthful sturdiness. It is often in the discomfort of confronting our self and world perceptions where the most significant learnings about ourselves and others exist.
EQ requires the skill of deep listening with more than one faculty and to widen our hearts to take in experiences counter to our own. If cultivating truth-based relationships (as opposed to feel-good-relationships) is our priority - which it need not by the way - then the flexibility to toggle between ideas and feelings without any which one devolving into calcified dogma becomes critically important.
Mindfulness practice refers to this as the allowance of all experiences to surface and pass without becoming entangled in each story. Buddhists refer to this as a non-attachment (not to be confused with non-commitment) to our grasping nature; “nature” refers to our habitual clinging to people, things, and concepts. John Steinbeck, in a letter to his son who had fallen in love for the first time, called this practice “not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable.” The love we give to others can be “a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance” or it can “release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.”
The message is clear: make lots of space for lots of different stories.
In a culture like ours, however, where the conversation often hovers above feeling safe and creating safe spaces, we may sometimes confuse safety from actual harm with safety from self-examination. We have a duty to be awake to the different types of safety we retreat to; at the very least let’s not fool ourselves.
When we aren’t able to make space for other stories, relationships quickly turn into a courtroom of "right and wrongs,” battlefields where no one really wins, family dinners inevitably turn sour before dessert, and our social milieus become strained with virtue signaling and ideological echo chambers, an incredible formula for emotional servitude and intellectual stagnation. Rather than learning how to dialogue through dissent non-violently and truthfully, we instead learn to hide aspects of ourselves in fear of losing group membership. These lies we tell ourselves begin to build and there is nothing that creates more complex illness than a chamber of lies.
This is frightening and not the way many of us wish to live - however, it is often what we live with and feel resigned to.
“We came to Michelle because while we didn't lack for love, several years into our steadily "enseriousing" relationship we continued to have periodic hurts/fights. They would seem to arise out of left field, then leave almost as quickly, leaving us bruised and shaken.
We were given the option of shorter or longer appointments. I highly recommend the longer sessions, at least to start. There's no price efficiency gained, but particularly early on while everyone is still getting to know each other, it can take time to open up and explore the roots of a topic.
Over the months that we have been seeing her, Michelle has been kind and willing to adjust our session lengths with some frequency, though that flexibility may be due to the fact that we are her last clients of the evening.
Sessions are a mix of talking, and doing thought exercises. Right from the first sessions, it was really impressive how the two play together to bring out more insight than I would have thought possible. Sometimes a session is devoted more to one of us, other times we're both exploring a topic.
Occasionally, we've met with Michelle separately. We have learned so much about ourselves, and about each other. At first we went to therapy because we were having troubles, but knowing what I do now, I think we would choose to meet with Michelle even if our relationship had been less tumultuous. It has been a fabulous journey we have taken together, one I would recommend to any and every couple.
Michelle is so clearly on our side as individuals, and as a pair. A thoughtful, considerate listener and observer, she is careful to extract the full meaning of both our words and our silences. Over time, as she has gotten to know us, she has been able have us draw connections between old scars and current sensitivities, recognize subtle lead ups to what had previously seemed, even to ourselves, sudden, inexplicable flares of emotion.
With this knowledge, we're able to help each other at a much deeper level. We're uncovering ourselves as if we were undergoing individual therapy, but together we refine those revelations with the fuller comprehension that comes from having our partner sharing with us. Our fraught loops and triggers take rational form amidst a clarified and better understood history. As a result, we're learning to respond instead of react. Fights still happen. but starting to squabble and catching yourself midfight to both acknowledge how you got there and apologizing is SO much better than inflicting deeper wounds and taking days to make up.
Michelle is helping us rewire our neuro/emotional pathways to allow ourselves to be our best selves. We've accumulated too much baggage, both familial and romantic, to be completely free of our patterns just yet, but we have a deeper trust than we did before. As ruts are unworn and layers of understanding intuition built, our bonds are strengthened. Our future together is bright; this is an investment well worth making.
We have a personal & moral responsibility to ourselves and others to:
Recognize our supremely complex and awful selves
Our capacity to recognize our inner landscape is fundament to navigating this journey. This is the first step, the step where we admit openly and courageously, even if a bit abashedly, that finally, we can see what haughty and reluctant participants we’ve been in our own productions. How lazy we’ve been, opting for comfortable lies over difficult truths when we have the luxury to choose the better option. We may believe we are adept at self-recognition but it is often a more difficult endeavor than it appears. Lies are sneaky and lies from ourselves have to be even sneakier. Don’t be so sure you know all the lies you’ve told about yourself and to yourself.
Realize the depths and breadths of our patterns
Becoming conscious beings will also involve an exploration of what lies at the root of how we exist in the world. We may see ourselves as lone trees but under what is visible lies a complex web of historical roots. A tapestry woven not only of our own roots but those of our ancestors, communities, and those we cannot perceive. These systems have been weaving since our birth and are steeped in these interwoven memories. This is what makes the work endlessly fascinating if we are able to tolerate a certain degree of squirming. The revealing of these root emotions and ideas are not always comfortable, although they will result in valuable growth.
Regulate our difficult experiences intelligently and compassionately
This refers to our capacity to self-soothe emotions and ideas that activate our sense of threat. As children, we quickly learn what happens when we express distress. Sometimes we are soothed, sometimes neglected, and other times an inconsistent and unpredictable mix of both. As we grow, we often realize that we do not actually possess the skills to regulate our feelings, thoughts, and speech in intelligent and loving ways, and especially not while under distress. Regulation is not suppression. Regulation involves the ability to access a wiser version of ourselves; the self that holds faith in our lovability and accepts us as we are while simultaneously capable of shaming us into submission and action if all else fails. This self lets us know we are okay and we are resilient.
Restore faith, trust, & confidence in ourselves and in life
Our faith in self-regeneration is often obscured by self-doubt and the belief that repair doesn’t always follow rupture, and certainly not on our timeline. People come and go, things begin and end, love changes shape, we don’t get everything we want and need. The difficulty accepting impermanence and suffering can manifest in a preoccupation with collecting, storing, and keeping as much love, affection, and attention we can from others (sometimes at the cost of quality and integrity) - our happiness forever at the mercy of others. Instead, we can ask the more empowering question, “How can I deepen my practice of self-acceptance and commitment? How can I learn to accept the impermanence of life and all the suffering that comes with it, and why is acceptance particularly difficult for me?”
Michelle is a wonderful coach. For the past 3 years, she has coached me through different stages of my life. Our journey started together during my divorce and continued beyond that. She helped me connect with myself and grow both professionally as well as personally. What I really like about her is her ability to understand the range of my emotions and make acute insight into my behaviours. I always walk out of her office feeling heard, having more clarity about my thought process, and have the tools to face the next set of problems.
What I also liked about her is her flexibility in meeting different types of my needs. There are periods of time where we primarily worked on my personal life, and times where the focus shifted to my professional work. Regardless of career coaching or life coaching, she was able to keep things fluid and offer the best supports depending what I need at the moment.
I think of her as a trusted coach as well as a friend, even though our relationship has remained professional. I never felt that she was preaching, or giving me cookie cutter solutions for my problems. She encouraged me to view things in different perspectives and helped me build capabilities to better manage fear, anxiety that hindered my growth.
I would say that without her coaching, I would not have had this tremendous growth I experienced. I value her teaching dearly. Under her coaching, I have made decisions that I would otherwise have not considered and that had made lasting positive impact on my life. My experience with Michelle has been 100% positive. I highly recommend her service to anyone looking for professional or personal growth in their lives.