Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Self and The Expression of Emotion

Today by way of something different, I have some of Annie's counselling notes from 2010, which deal with how people express emotions, and how to cope with listening to someone when they find something boring.

There is also an interesting biographical sketch in which she illustrates how past patterns of reacting can be set up, and we behave in such a way without realising that we are following a learnt strategy which may need to be overcome.

This also comes into her discussion of how people argue, and the defensive patterns of behaviour that can come to the fore. When there is an emotional investment in a belief, or an argument, the reactions may well be bordering on the obsessive. To look at the other point of view is something that is extremely difficult to do, and when one has an emotional attachment, anything that smacks of criticism will be sees as offensive. Patterns of reaction come into play. As David Hume observed, we are more motivated by our passions than we think.

And personally, I find discussions of football boring, but in my case I'd plead that is a rational reaction!

The Self and The Expression of Emotion
by Annie Parmeter

This evening's three-way discussion was about developing an understanding of the self with specific focus on the expression of emotion.

The first question raised was, how do we show when we are bored with what is going on?

My two other classmates stated that they usually started yawning and distracting themselves by turning their attention towards more interesting concerns.

My own reaction often includes sighing and fidgeting, eventually becoming quite stroppy. This probably relates to old fears of 'being held back' and sometimes physically oppressed by previous partners who resented my attention being turned away from them and their needs towards 'books and talking and stuff', so I can now be quite determined only to be involved in matters that hold sufficient interest for me and to be fairly focused when seeking them out. This is underlined by owning class patterns relating to arrogance and issues of control.

We also discussed the types of emotions that flag up when we are asked to do something that we don't feel confident doing. It was suggested that humour was one way of dealing with the situation, not only is this a discharge of light fears but it can create the illusion of confidence. 'Ha! I laugh in the face of fear!' (some of the old sayings really do run deepest!) One classmate said he would want to be honest and in a fit of congruence say with openness that he didn't know what to do and would someone help him.

When rationality and congruence have lost the battle, I tend to react in either of two ways, the first by becoming straight faced whilst the rest of me starts to squirm, the second by adopting a fixed and determined expression as I am overcome by feelings of defiance, both finding theirorigins in the owning class oppression of children-being raised to be superior in all things.

The first reaction is to do with the way my father used to make me feel deeply academically inadequate, I used to dread not getting full marks in school tests because of his anger at my being 'lazy' or just generally 'a waste of space'. The pattern associated with this distress can now make me internalise the oppression and feel fearful of my ignorance being 'found out' so I usually want to dodge the request entirely or run away.

The second reaction of defiance speaks at my anger towards my father (and the underlying fear that I would be emotionally crushed by him) and as I feel overwhelmed by almost manic feelings of 'there is nothing I cannot do!', reckless behaviour can ensue. Whilst on such a mission I can sometimes be seen by others as bossy, controlling, bullying, scary, intimidating and even dangerous.

What about when someone does something to me that hurts my feelings?

One classmate said she tends to withdraw and remain silent under these circumstances, blanking out the other person perhaps in an attempt to shut out the hurt. The other person said that he goes either for sulking or dismisses the remark in trying to rise above it.

My own reaction can also be one of arrogant dismissal or I can become defensive and cynical, anger would certainly feature. Once again I would seem to be imagining that my emotional survival is on the line, that my abilities and judgement are being questioned; fearful of being discovered to be inadequate I will seek to defend myself either by explaining or justifying my words or actions, or if it's a remark directed at me personally I would find myself attempting to transfer the feelings of inadequacy to the other person by making cynical or dismissive remarks in return.

Whilst giving in to fear I fail to remember that pointing the finger is a powerless act, but it would seem that I buy in to this victim mode and forget that being offended by the acts of another is to imbue those acts with importance; from an objective standpoint one should merely be considering what can be learned from the situation.

And of course... 'Self-importance is man's greatest enemy. What weakens him is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of his fellow men. Self-importance requires that one spend most of one's life offended by something or someone...(we) have unmasked self-importance and found that it is self-pity masquerading as something else.' (Juan Matus). Recognising the other person's words or deeds as expressions of their own patterns, as a result of old hurts in a detached and mindful way would be a far more useful strategy.

What if I am feeling annoyed with someone with whom I want to build a relationship? Withdrawal was again offered as one coping mechanism. For my own part owning class patterns and issues around control can lead me to become aggressive and bullying.

Perhaps a more appropriate way of dealing with the situation would be to hear the other person and communicate with them in terms of Observation (strictly factual and objective), Feelings (I feel not I think), Needs (preferably rational human needs), Requests/Strategy (specific and if possible relatively immediate and easy to achieve).

We then discussed feeling angry about prejudices expressed by someone in the group.

One classmate said he would feel curious as to why and how that person had come to hold those beliefs and would seek debate with them. We all said that we would probably buy into feelings of self-righteousness with the patronising idea that the person's beliefs were founded in ignorance, we soon decided that this judgemental approach was nothing more than the expression of our own prejudices, but because they were our own prejudices we had been deluding ourselves that is was somehow OK.

No comments: