The new film from Pixar: “Inside Out” illustrates how our emotions are really in control. And it’s interesting that many people don’t understand this they believe they are rational logical creatures. Yet having worked for nearly 20 years as a therapist it’s obvious how emotions are unconscious to most people. Back to the Feeling Thinking Loop™ we were talking about last time - Most people live in their feelings but are unaware of this they believe they are their thinking.
They believe they are thinking rationally, correctly, logically, that what they think makes sense, that this is how reality is, so make good positive correct choices in their life.
But it’s interesting how so much of those “good positive correct choices” don’t work out…
I’ve been a long term fan and student of Paul Ekman’s work - and interestingly he consulted with Pixar on this film. (If you haven’t watched the TV series “Lie To Me” this would be a great introduction to Paul’s work).
What is beautifully illustrated by Pixar’s new film is the emotions being in control.
This is true of you and the more you realise your emotions are in control the more power you have over yourself because you are not giving that power away to other people. You are not letting them “push your buttons” - not letting them control you.
It’s interesting that Emotional Intelligence which has been considered a critical business success skill for probably around ten years now is still so poorly implemented or better said poorly understood in business. It's still probably the most common criticism I hear about managers and senior leaders and also from those managers and senior leaders I work with when they start to see what they literally couldn't see before not only their life changes but those they relate to in both their business and personal lives.
And of course the critical marketing and sales success skill is understanding your customers and what their needs are - and that means emotionally understanding not just intellectually understanding. So if you don’t have the capacity to understand your own emotions you literally won’t be able to see your customers emotions.
It’s also THE critical interpersonal relationship skill to work on - many of the clients I’ve worked with who have had relationship problems - from getting into a relationship they want to be in, to wanting to get out of the relationship they are in… Or making the relationship they are in be viable and somewhere they want to be long term they make the shifts they need to make by becoming more emotionally aware, more emotionally intelligent.
We are evolutionary biased to be more sensitive to negativity - your and my great great caveman ancestors survived to pass their genes down to us by responding to fear and so not getting eaten by the sabre-toothed tiger. So it’s natural that the emotion Fear has a strong say in our lives - but we can’t let it stay in control.
Emotions often run automatically as emotional scripts - for example you respond to your wife or a potential partner as you learned to respond to your mother. And people who are abused by their parents often repeat that pattern of abuse with their own children. But with mindfulness you can learn to write your own script.
This is a skill you can develop - you can correct the focus of your attention to focus on what you do want rather than on what you don’t want. It’s like a car where the wheels (the tracking) are out of alignment so when you try to go forward you end up going off to the side and never get to where you are intending, never get to the success you want but end up crashing into that tree of failure.
The state of mind you are in affects how you respond to situations so you need to choose what state, what emotion you want to be in control. It’s not enough to just say I was in a poor quality state of mind as an excuse for your bad behaviour - you want to identify what emotion was in control because then you realise that you shouldn’t have let that emotion take control - and the more awareness you can bring to your habitual responses the more mindful you can become, the more choice you can begin to have.
Being mindless isn’t helpful - you are living in reaction without thought. So you are being controlled by the other person, by other people.
Being mindful is having the ability to respond. This is the skilful development of the focus of your attention.
For example when you are experiencing anger you become mindless and lose your ability to respond depending upon the intensity of the anger. But when you add in mindfulness you can decide how you want to respond. You can choose a response that will get you where you want to be going. Towards what you do want not what you don’t want.
It’s about focussing on what you do want not on what you don’t want.
Another example is when you are experiencing arousal - you meet the woman or man of your dreams and you are profoundly attracted yet you find yourself unable to respond or respond poorly. You go mindless.
The mindful response is even though you feel the overwhelm of the arousal knocking you off balance you’ve cultivated the ability to recover that balance so are able to respond from a position of being present, being you and get the result you want.
In the Pixar film Inside Out you see the emotions (as animated characters) at the control panel in the ‘Head’quarters - things go wrong when Anger, Fear and Disgust are left in charge and Joy and Sadness go on their adventure.
What emotion is currently in charge of your “control panel”?
The more mindful or conscious you are the more you can become aware of what emotion is in charge and choose whether you want to continue with that emotion being in charge of you? Or you can make the intelligent choice and choose for the experience you want to be having.
What emotion would you want to be in charge? What would be useful?
These are design questions which we'll explore next time in:
Your Inner Coach - Building a Relationship with the Future You That You Want To Be Becoming with Teleological Design™ in Understanding Future Reality™ - The Secret of Making your Dreams into Reality part 7.