Emotional Intelligence / EQ
Diversity of feeling and thought
We frequently believe that the reason for many of life’s discords have to do with how different we are in our emotions and ideas. This overly simplistic explanation that dissent or disagreement alone is the culprit of our suffering is unhelpful because differences will never go away and in fact are important hallmarks of our humanity because they allow for our evolution and growth. In fact, often differences are what attracts, say, romantic couples to each other and perhaps in the beginning when differences served to excite rather than deter they were welcome. 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 not solely due to these differences but also to our stubbornness to entertain other perspectives. We often think acceptance means we have to love or agree or resign but acceptance is none of these things. It is actually much more simple than that.
Like it or not, other truths do exist - like 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 (or accept when acceptance truly isn’t available) 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 express our emotions and ideas through intelligent dialogue, both verbal and non-verbal, without the coercion and manipulation to which we as egoistic humans often digress and without even the expressed purpose of changing someone’s mind.
This is not an easy skill to practice and few of us know how to do it well.
No truth on its own is ever complete. It would behoove us to allow for and encourage freedom of thought and feeling without the accompanying acts of judgement, silencing, shaming, and victimhood. Relationships then could be far more robust, sophisticated, honest, empowered, and truly multifaceted. It is often in the discomfort of confronting self and world perceptions where the most significant learnings about ourselves exist.
EQ requires the skill of deep listening with more than one faculty and to widen our hearts to take in experiences often counter to our own. If cultivating truth-based relationships is our priority, then the flexibility to toggle between ideas and feelings without any which one devolving into calcified dogma becomes critically important. Mindfulness practice may refer to this as allowing thoughts and feelings to pass by without the futile chasing after of each one. Buddhists may refer to this as non-attachment (not the same as non-commitment) to our grasping nature. John Steinbeck, in a letter to his son, 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.”
When dogma is present relationships turn into a courtroom of "right and wrongs,” familial conversations turn sour at the dinner table because varying truths will invariably exist, and our social milieus will become strained with virtue signaling or even worse, ideological echo chambers, where rather than learning how to dialogue through dissent non-violently and express our truths courageously, we instead expertly learn to hide aspects of ourselves for fear of losing group membership.
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.
Our capacity to recognize emotions and thoughts within ourselves and others is fundament to the first steps of navigating our interpersonal and intrapersonal worlds. We may believe we are already quite adept at it but it is often a more difficult endeavor than it appears. So much of our ideas, emotions, ideologies, and spiritual beliefs exist on an unconscious level. Our work together will involve uncovering some of what lies in the unconscious with accuracy but to also respect the necessity for certain things to remain in the unconscious during specific phases of our lives.
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.
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 and thoughts - and therefore speech - in intelligent and loving ways while under distress. Regulation is not suppression. Regulation involves the ability to access our Wise Older Self, the self that holds faith in our lovability and accepts us as we are. This self lets us know we are and will be okay.
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.