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Archive for June, 2009

Background Information

Humans universally express emotion.  Emotions are evident in human children from infancy, while our more sophisticated logical operations are long in forming.  Logical functions such as moral reasoning and abstract mathematical thinking often wait till after puberty to fully develop, and we are are highly dependent on others to teach us these skills.  A mark of maturity is the ability to make a large range of reasoned and appropriate responses, not just emotional ones.  Still, many of us are aware that even the most strategic decisions may rest on an emotional response to a person or a situation.

Nico Fridja is a psychologist who focuses on emotions as adaptive responses, or reactions to events that have consistently been important parts of a human environment. He believes that emotions generate action tendencies, and that action tendencies are our ability to appraise and respond to specific situations.   Some situational responses may be hard-wired: e.g. a fearful fight or flight response to a threat such as an angry dog or speeding automobile.  Some are not as hard-wired, allowing for a more subtle range of response.  For instance, in a social situation where someone appears to insult you, your response can range from physical retaliation (potentially expensive or fatal behavior; increases emotional intensity), to a polite inquiry as to the source of the problem (allows for a much wider range of options; reduces emotional intensity).   Developing a wide and appropriate range of response to other humans is important to us, and a life-long learning process as we adapt to different people and places.  Humans who cannot respond appropriately to subtle cues from other people are considered so damaged or dangerous that we isolate and ostracize people who cannot or will not “act normally”, as in the case of the mentally ill or criminal.

As early as 1844, William James speculated that emotions and body are inextricably entwined.  You can change an emotional state, in many circumstances, simply by changing physical posture or expression. This course will use physical activities such as role-playing, songs, and games to alter people’s emotional perceptions of a situation.  Presentation feedback will help clarify and refine your ability to effectively communicate context and content. Increasing emotional awareness and getting realistic feedback from team members and coaches enhances our ability to deal creatively with any problem. But does a physical expression of an emotion really change anything?

In 1983, Ekman, Levenson, and Friesen studied the effect of different facial expressions on such bodily indices as heart rate and blood flow to the extremities. They found some significant differences in the way that the body responds to an emotional state, even an “acted” one. For instance, facial expressions of fear, anger, and happiness all produced increases in heart rate, but the expressions for fear and anger produced much larger differences than the rate for happiness.  The expression for disgust, on the other hand, produced a greatly reduced heart rate.

Imagine what it does when we ask for whole body participation!  Acting out the emotions of other people allows us to feel empathy for them. Empathy allows us to see their point of view, and communicate directly to their interests.  The best ideas can be difficult to communicate if you cannot get on the proper wavelength, and we communicate a great deal of information physically.   A good actor can embody a character by skillfully evoking their physical characteristics and movement mannerisms, without a word being said.

When we tell stories we will be asked to get up and gesture because it provides important emotional information that may enhance or detract from your message.

Role-playing allows the mind-body connection to become a conscious part of our communication as we practice.  Many of us have tried sports or dance and realize that skill only comes with effort allied with desire for improvement.  We can train our bodies to flow into a stance of relaxation and confidence, and our minds will follow. As we incorporate a new emotional stance into our awareness (e.g., I now feel able to cope more calmly with new situations when I step back, smile, and breathe), we often increase our self-esteem.  Increased self-esteem enhances our ability to approach new tasks and persevere to a successful endpoint.  In a learning economy, this is a valuable commodity

Enlightenment but not success

Hi Bijan,   Ok, this is just needing to happen now, regardless of my work load. This keeps popping into my head, to the point where I feel I can’t breathe until I write it down. Please feel free to edit as you see fit. So here goes….   I’m not sure that my story after last week is one of success, as much as one of a re-awakening. How many people remember the adage “We are our own worst critic”? Well, last week’s seminar reminded me of that.   There I was, walking into a room full of confident, assured, professional, happy people. What in the world was I doing, thinking that I belonged with this group? Then we did the exercise about what our main goals for the program were. I was amazed by the people who stood up and explained why self-confidence was their main goal. I couldn’t believe it! How could this be? These were people that showed so much confidence, it made me squirm and want to hide in a corner. And here they were, proclaiming their lack of confidence.   Then the lightening bolt struck. Not only are we our own worst critics. For some reason, we all seem to wear glasses that refuse to allow us to see in ourselves what others see in us. In my case at least, when people said I show confidence, I laughed to myself and thought they were either being kind, or were just plain crazy. Little do they know. Yet, somehow, for some reason, they see confidence. Is it really there and I am just not seeing it because of the glasses I am wearing?   After the session, I set myself a task. I would not just laugh to myself when someone said something about me that I did not see in myself. I would try to take off my glasses and see if I could find that something in myself. I must admit, I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew here. However, this task is at least forcing me to realize that maybe I’m not as bad as I really think. Maybe there is something there, and I should learn to embrace it and let it become a part of the “real” me.   Cindy

Let the games begin!

We have all read a self-help book, seen a slogan, or listened to a speaker that offers motivational as well as inspirational tidbits to create a more successful, happier, you. We get energized and begin making plans of change filled with the best of intentions. We know what we have to do. But do we truly know the most appropriate way to go about it? Moreover, there is a huge difference between thinking about change and actually acting on those thoughts. For that reason, Bijan’s Drive to the Prize program has been crucial in getting the ball rolling in my life by compelling me to take action by way of his contagious enthusiasm and particularized instruction. I trust his expertise and have chosen to give my all to this program and I commit to do what it takes to get what I want for my life. Let the games begin!

Memories… As we were gently pulled away from the safety of our comfort zones by combining our left and right brain hemispheres through the use of verbal and visual cues while acting out a number of objects in the room through gestures, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude that we were allowed to remain seated. While attempting to commit those fifteen objects to memory, the gentleman next to me kept saying “garage” instead of “rock”. I wanted to correct him, but instead I chose to let him figure it out on his own. A few minutes later he asked what the first word was. I politely stated, “rock” and felt proud of myself for not acting on my urge to tell him he was wrong. It is not my place to fix everyone and everything. I found it quite sweet and comical actually, like when I realize I’ve been singing the wrong words to a song all my life. What’s more I will now think garage and rock when considering that exercise, recalling sixteen instead of fifteen words. I am one up on everyone already!

The walls came tumbling down… While evaluating the questionnaire that was intended to offer insight into possible areas of inadequacy, I quickly realized that I was deficient to some degree in virtually all four categories. In order to select just one of my incompetence’s to share with the group, I chose the one I had the most difficulty owning: my successful ability to persuade others not to view me as a leader. And then I silently agonized while anticipating my turn.

Each member of the group stood before the room and stated their name, the area in which the greatest transformation was needed, and what had brought them to that realization. As each person humbly revealed their imperfections to a room full of near strangers, a compassionate energy filled our space and we began to see one another for the truths that hid behind the masks we had all adorned that day. Our disclosures bonded us together as a group and instilled trust among the members. I gained a greater respect and understanding for my fellows as a result of their honesty. As for me, I left with my dignity still intact and perhaps a little integrity.