Voodoo in the family

A frog by any other name

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I’ve not posted for a while. To be honest, I’ve been struggling to find the words.

So much has changed in my life. I feel a bit like I fell under a spell and woke up a frog. (No disrespect to frogs!) I don’t expect a fairy tale kiss to return me to normal, so after a few months away I’m embracing that ‘frog’ is my new normal and it’s time to hop back into action and put some text into my blog.

As demonstrated by my recent absence, life events really can give you an identity shake-up, regardless of whether the event was long planned and hoped for or catches you square in the ribs when you least expect it. If your experience of this is anything like mine, then you’ll remember times in your life when you just brushed yourself down and carried on and other times when you knew you’d have managed better with a few months in a remote cabin.

With that at the forefront of my mind and spring now properly ‘sprung’ outdoors, it feels instinctively right to spend some time identity spring cleaning. In People Voodoo terms that means dumping the judgement, ripping out the dead and decaying beliefs that no longer serve you and making space for the stuff that really matters and deserves some space to breathe.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Activity 1 – Who am I?

This exercise is very simple. It’s one of those, ‘you get out what you put in’ situations.

Just take a few minutes to quickly and instinctively finish the phrase below a minimum of 10 times. If you’re tempted to stop at 8, do 12, some of the most interesting stuff happens after we hit resistance!

I am …

Now reflect on what came up for you.

Was it about…

  • gender?
  • race?
  • religion?
  • nationality?
  • colour?
  • ethnicity?
  • sexual orientation?
  • age?
  • marital status?

Or was it about…

  • personality traits?
  • physical features?
  • health status?
  • hobbies?
  • political beliefs?
  • achievements?
  • talents?
  • your job?

How we describe ourselves can tell us a lot about our priorities, our state of mind, or even the messages and priorities from those influential in our past or present.

Is that really you? Are you happy with that description? If not, then why are you giving that trait, feature, or ‘box’ so much power? Now is as good a time as any to refresh what matters most in your life. Get your ‘self ‘in order. Literally!  Yes, it’s your job but if it’s not your life purpose and the most important thing in your life, then why is it at the top? It’s your list, you decide what matters right now. It’s not for life, it’s for now. Life will give you reasons to reshuffle soon enough.

Activity 2 – What do “I “really think?

Social media alone throws 100’s of messages your way every day. How often do you comment or react to something on instinct? Do you ever give your view without having any idea why you hold that view or where it came from?

‘It’s what I think!’ I hear  you cry.

Yes, but why? and not every opinon is for life either. Let’s tidy up a bit.

  • Do you really, honestly, believe that?
  • Where does that belief/opinion come from?
  • What does holding that view say about you?
  • Is that who you want to be?

Pick some opinions you hold and give them a good brush down to check if their for keeps or for the bin.

Activity 3 – Go on Go on Go on (best said in an Irish accent)

We are, mostly, creatures of habit.

If you know you don’t like getting your feet wet you’re unlikely to take your shoes off and jump in a puddle. The only problem is, when did you last check to see if it’s still true?

When is the last time you actually ran barefoot across the grass in the rain?

Yes, you may be a closet barefoot puddle jumper!

This week, test yourself on some foods, some conversation topics, some shops you don’t normally go into. Maybe even some puddles. (You too may have some frog in you.)

Oh and if you disagree with anything here, please tell me about it. I’m spring cleaning my views of the world too.

Um… I think maybe I need help

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A few days ago I was asked some challenging questions. One of them was this:

What do you do to support yourself during difficult times?

I knew the answer.

Do you?

I know, not because I am somehow emotionally more robust or superior than other people, but because I’ve had practice, LOTS of practice.  My husband and I are currently blinking into the light at the end of the adoption tunnel, where these sorts of questions are the norm rather than the exception. When you get asked often enough, and are expected to know the answer, it focuses the mind.

Although there is no perfect, one size fits all, answer to this question, some answers are definitely more People Voodoo than others. “I don’t do emotions, thanks” doesn’t cut the mustard, nor does, “I just eat chocolate”, “I hide under the duvet” or “I take the next flight out of here”. Not that there is anything wrong with self control, chocolate, a nap or a holiday, but not for every size of problem. None of those are a healthy longer term strategy when the issues are emotionally overwhelming, complex or multiple and others are relying on you.

Life does like to offer up surprises, and not always in the form of a chocolate egg with a toy inside, (note to self about the second reference to chocolate) so it’s good to know if your support mechanisms are robust before the storm strikes.

As today is as good a day as any to mull it over, I thought this week I’d pose 3 questions you could ask yourself about your own needs and support systems.

Question 1: Do you know what your emotional needs are?

If you are lucky, your emotional needs have mostly been met in your life and you’ve not had to give this much thought. Do you know for example if you need regular hugs to feel loved and supported, or time alone, or time together, or to be told you are loved, or to be made cups of tea? If you could only have one of those, what would you prioritise? If you were suddenly forced to choose, could you live without the hug or the being told you are loved?

If you don’t know what you need or you instinctively know but you can’t quite explain it, I recommend the 5 love languages, as a good starting point. This is also great for trying to work out the needs of others you care about so that you can support them.

Question 2: Do you express or suppress emotion?

When emotion strikes, do you go with the emotion or try to contain it? I went to boarding school, where at that time, the solution to homesickness or upset was to be strong and keep busy. It has taken me many years as an adult to break this habit of suppressing emotion by denial and distraction; the pretending I’m fine, working late or cleaning the house rather than just getting angry or upset. Emotions are definitely better out than in and serve a stress relieving purpose (yes, there’s evidence).  20 Things To Say To Your Child Instead Of “Don’t Cry” is a great way to make sure children learn to accept and manage emotions. This article might be aimed at parents but I’ve tested it on adults and it works just as well on us too.

Question 3: Do you put all your eggs in one basket?

Now think about the last 3 emotional challenges you’ve faced (relationship break-up, bereavement, badly delivered feedback, job loss, health issue etc) and how you handled them.

  • How soon if at all did you ask for help to process feelings or thoughts?

If you did ask for help:

  • Who did you ask?
  • How did you make your choice? Did you have choices?
  • If that person wasn’t available suddenly, where would you go?
  • How big would it need to be, or how bad would it need to get before you seek professional help? and then do you know where to look?

It was only a few days ago but I can’t remember exactly what answer I gave to What do you do to support yourself during difficult times? I imagine that acknowledging and expressing feelings rather than letting things build up was in there somewhere. Sharing with others and getting professional advice as early as possible also featured, as did accepting help.

Oh, and chocolate!

 

 

Have you felt an electric touch?

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When is the last time you were touched by someone? Was it powerful?

How much ‘being touched’ by people you hardly know would you say is acceptable? necessary? or even desirable?

Does the idea of being touched at work, electric or not, make you feel just a little bit uncomfortable or do you secretly hope that this blog is your ticket to becoming electric?

I wonder if your view changes when I define ‘being touched’ like this;

‘When something happens that moves you to emotion; when you feel affected or emotionally stirred’

Touch can be physical. It can be wonderful, especially the romantic variety, but rightly gets some pretty bad press if it’s inappropriately used or is non consensual.

Touching people emotionally is just as powerful and can be much longer lasting than physical touch. It can trigger passionate anger or deep compassion. It can be the making or breaking of a great relationship, creating the intimacy needed to build trust or demolishing years of hard work.

I can remember so many occasions in my life where a word or a gesture stirred extremely powerful emotions in me.

As Maya Angelou so beautifully put it;

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

How do you make people feel?

NEWS FLASH!!! If your ‘anti-fluff’ alarm has gone off, then let me reassure you that this may be about emotion but it’s not at all fluffy. It’s actually rock solid. It’s about emotionally intelligence; the capacity to acknowledge, manage and express emotion in your relationships with others appropriately, and it is critical to relationship success.

Practicing People Voodoo is about being an opportunist; seizing big and small opportunities to connect with others in an authentic and meaningful way, so emotional intelligence is very close to my heart.

If you’ve been told that you have a natural ability to connect with people then you have a real gift. Congratulations, use it well! If not, then don’t worry, because emotional intelligence is something you can learn and develop. You just need to work out a bit, to build your emotional muscle.

So today, let’s start at the beginning – with the senses!

One of the biggest barriers to connecting with others is being unable to connect with yourself; acknowledging your own emotions and what stirs them.

I know that when I feel hurt, it’s a if someone has grabbed my heart and squeezed it and for a split second I can’t breathe. Then a red hot surge in my chest, like a ball of hot lava, rushes from my chest up my neck and to my eyes, whilst the rest of my body feels heavy and numb like it’s encased in concrete.

Even though I can feel anger and love just as strongly, they feel physically very different.

Your turn.

  • What do emotions feel like in your body? Can you describe them?
    • Does your breathing become faster and more shallow or slower and deeper
    • What is your heart doing?
    • Do you feel any heat anywhere? or any tension?
    • Is it more of a thud or a whooshing?
  • How do the sensations change between being excited or angry, proud or frustrated, happy or afraid?
  • What situations stir emotion in you?
    • Do you know the triggers?
  • Who do you know who has an electric touch?

People Voodoo is about being kind to yourself, so please resist the temptation to judge what you find. Every sensation is an important message to be listened to. Anger and fear serve a purpose, it’s what you do next that matters.

For the next few days why not spend some time fully experiencing your emotions in all their electric glory.

I’ll be back for more about reading emotions in others another day. Remember to sign up to get People Voodoo via email if you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

Get on the fence

person-915604_960_720Recently a new Facebook group popped up in my news feed. A reunion.

For many of us, milestones like reunions and birthdays can spark a whole host of memories and emotions.  Luckily for those who practice People Voodoo, this is a perfect opportunity for some emotional self-reflection.

Today I’m taking things back to basics and sharing with you one of my favourite self awareness activities.

‘Getting on the fence’

You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘to get off the fence’, meaning to take a stand on an issue, or a side in an argument.

When it comes to our emotions we can be a bit too quick to jump off the fence and take a stand on which emotions are positive or negative. Fear, guilt, shame and anger tend to attract a negative label, whereas excitement, hope, joy and love a positive one.

All emotions tell us something important about ourselves and our story. If we can consciously get back on the fence and take a more objective look at our emotional responses, we can learn a lot about, and be kinder to, ourselves and others.

Let’s take guilt for example. 

We feel guilt when we have done something wrong. Or we could look at it another way. We feel guilt because we believe, or have been told, that we have done something wrong.

To feel guilty when you have done nothing wrong causes unnecessary suffering!

So who decides what is right and wrong? Do you decide the rules?

Are you sure?

For most of us, the rules about right and wrong, good and bad were put in place many, many years ago. We were introduced to them from an early age and take them as read until we come across someone who has been raised on different rules. Those of you who are parents will recognise the differences of opinion that can surface when you and your partner want to apply different rules to your children.

The next time an emotion strikes you, why not get on the emotional fence and ask yourself:

  • What triggered the emotion?
  • What is this emotion telling me about the rules I live by?
  • Do I respect the person or people who gave me the rules?
  • Do I agree with this rule?
  • Am I applying a rule that is outdated or no longer serves me?
  • Do I agree, looking at all the facts objectively, that this is the most appropriate response?
  • When I consider what triggered this emotion, does the size of the reaction seem in proportion?
    • If not, why do I feel so strongly?
  • Does this rule fit with the sort of person I want to be or do I need to adapt it?

If you are unsure which side of the fence to get off on, good or bad, then why not get some feedback. The best people to ask are those who have no emotion invested in the situation; those who are already on the fence.

Some of your rules and resulting emotions will serve you well and others won’t. The ones that don’t will require some effort to change. You might not be able to switch off an emotional reaction to a rule you learned when you were 3 years old on the first attempt, but the more you practice, the easier it will become. If you practise People Voodoo just remember to acknowledge that it is all about making progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mind the gap

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Do you think others  find you worthy of trust?

How easily do you trust others?

If you practice People Voodoo, the issue of trust is probably as close to your heart as it is to mine. A relationship without trust can be a very lonely and uncomfortable one. To reduce that suffering we need to understand how trust works and how to bridge the gaps in trust.

Charles H. Green’s  Trust Equation is a brilliant starting point.

 

Trust = (credibility   x  reliability   x  intimacy) / self-orientation.

 

Let’s take a closer look.

  • Credibility is all about words; what we say.
    • Do you sound like you know what we are talking about? Are you knowledgeable and consistent in what you say? or do you wing it?
  • Reliability is all about our actions. 
    • Do you do what you say you’ll do? Can you be depended upon? or do you fail to follow through?
  • Intimacy is about security and emotion.
    • Are you confidential? Do others find it comfortable to share information with you? or are you known to embarrass others or leak information?
  • Self-orientation is about focus.
    • When you are focused on achieving your own goals do you still consider those around you? or does it appear to be all about you?

What is most humbling is the power of self-orientation to win or damage trust. Even if you scored 10 out of 10 on credibility, reliability and intimacy  (10 x 10 x 10 = 1000),  a reputation for having high self-orientation (10) can wipe out 90% of your good work. (1000/10 = 100).

Mathematics to one side, we intuitively know that it is easier to trust those who have our best interests at heart, even if they are occasionally late, or pretend to know more than they really do in the pub quiz.

This week, to practice some People Voodoo, why not focus your attention on closing some trust gaps.

  1. Be open and honest about what you know and consistent in the input you give.
  2. Check what you are committing to, ensuring you do not over-commit and under deliver, with deadlines or offers of time.
  3. Consider how you invite and treat information offered to you, whether that’s the way you handle paperwork or how loudly you speak in a public place.
  4. Ensure that you are demonstrating a genuine interest and concern for others.

And last but not least, if you are able to do so humanely, why not let someone else know what they could be doing to earn your trust.