Emotions and Decision-making

April 29, 2010

Did you know that even mild sadness can make you pay more for something? Recent research carried out by social psychologist Jennifer Lerner at Harvard University, subjected test groups to sad movie clips then assessed the price the subject was willing to pay for a simple item like a water bottle. Even when the level of sadness was so low that it was unconscious (measured  by physiological changes) the same pattern was followed. Anger had a very different impact. It would result in subjects tasking more risk.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/money/decisions.html

Calming the emotions is an important aspect of making better decisions. Frequently our feelings and fears can cause significant conflict as well resulting in potential errors of judgment. The way financial markets can build on a flood of positive feelings then crash on a wave of fear is a perfect example. Working with a conscious decision-making process can help you get beyond the battleground of thoughts and feelings to a place of inner clarity.

The DecisionClarity model helps you follow a simple four-step process to access your own deeper wisdom and activate your intuitive faculties. Life’s Little Book for Big Decisions – the CD offers a guided step-by-step guide using meditation and visualization to create your own intuitive guidance kit. For more information contact http://www.decisionclarity.com/buy.html

Developing Inner Clarity

April 27, 2010

“I have this sense I am to completely change my life and spend twelve years studying psychology.”  The caller began to explain how conflicted she felt; she was a successful individual and team coach; she had spent seven years living a completely balanced life between work, family, personal space and home; suddenly she sensed this call to give it all up to study psychology. On the surface it seemed a crazy idea. At 43 years old she lived a balanced existence with a thriving coaching practice, a full family life, sufficient time for personal space and now she was considering a change that in many ways would shake the foundation of her existence.  We agreed to work together using the DecisionClarity model to access her deeper wisdom, for a resolution to this confusion. It involved a week of conscious decision focus and four simple steps: setting the question, going within for guidance, letting go and finally checking in for the answer.

So one week later we are back on the phone to conclude the process. I guided her into a calm, contemplative state and suggested she bring the question to mind. There was a pause before she began to reflect her feelings. “I am surprised to feel such a calmness” she told me, “I feel at peace, the drama of the decision is behind me. I know this is my soul’s desire. It is about trust, taking the first step and starting down this path.” She expressed her wonder that she could move from the drama of only a few days ago into a space of such clarity. (I helped her associate her decision with this clarity as it is one of the gifts of conscious decision-making.)

During the process she had asked for a dream. This in itself would be unusual as she rarely if ever recalls her dreams but her unconscious responded with a fascinating performance. ‘I am riding this large unwieldy motorbike. I am trying to park it in an underground parking lot but it feels quite unmanageable I realize someone is there helping me find a good space.” She sensed the bike represented this huge undertaking and that she would be supported through it. Then quite unexpectedly an e-mail arrived. It seemed uncanny how it related to her current situation. “Your next heroic task may be to have a baby or change jobs or stand up for yourself. The key is to follow the call – the impulse to do something extraordinarily inconvenient and demanding. You’ll regret accepting the call a thousand times. Only when it’s over will you truly realize how grand your adventure felt, and what an awesome story you have to tell.” Finally she decided to check an external oracle to see what was revealed. She pulled the rune stone Dagaz or Breakthrough. “Drawing Dagaz can signal a major shift or breakthrough in the process of self-change, a complete transformation in attitude – a 180-degree turn.” What an amazing affirmation.

Let My Vehicle Appear part 3

April 21, 2010

The Sebring

I still don’t own a car however I am driving a lovely Sebring convertible loaned by a friend for seven weeks as a result of a remarkable series of synchronicities. (see http://wp.me/phAyS-69 ) This was part of a new strategy that the car should come to me rather than me finding the car. For sheer joy of driving it is a delight yet as far as the more practical aspects of owning a vehicle, for example moving stuff up to my place on Cortes and going skiing, it is less than desirable. In addition my friend returns in less than three weeks and is unlikely to sell me the Sebring for at least another couple of months even if I wanted to buy it. So the possibility of being without a car at a time when it would most inconvenient is looming into my consciousness like an unwelcome gatecrasher at a party. I wonder if the Sebring had arrived in my life not as a prospective permanent realtionship but rather to provide me with the transportation to buy a car more suited to my lifestyle. However each time I consider pursuing an alternative I get guidance that I am to wait for a sign. But of course the longer the sign takes the more anxiety I begin to feel. My friend comes back on May 8th. Last Wednesday at my meditation group I drew a card that clearly supported waiting for a sign. As of today, no sign has appeared. Every time I go out, I scan prospective possibilities, hoping beyond hope that I will encounter a Suburu Outback with a “For sale” on it. I am starting to wonder if the degree of surrender required to manifest my next car is beyond my personality’s patience. With only seventeen days left, I draw a rune asking the question, “Should I seek out my next car?” I stare dismally at what appears to be an upside down arrow. Warrior reversed – “The danger is that through hasty or ill-timed action, life force leaks out or is spilled away.”  Then “Are you lusting after outcomes or are you focused on the task for its own sake.” I can’t help but smile as I recall my own advice to my clients. “Remember the soul craves experience not outcomes. It is always about the journey not the destination.” Oh well, seventeen days is a long time.

The Empire Strikes Back

April 20, 2010

My life this year has been bereft of personal drama, something for which I have felt quite grateful. It has been filled with wonderful experiences including Mexico, the amazing Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, some excellent skiing, fulfilling spiritual coaching and even a workshop. However I observed that my inclination to write had dissipated. Yes I had kept up with my morning pages but not with much enthusiasm and as far as writing a blog I had written only two in almost seven weeks. So I put out to the universe “I will write if you provide the inspiration.” I am not sure if I fully understood the implications of that intention; the result has been a dramatic shift in my peaceful existence; drama has returned with a vengeance!

It started with a simple forwarding of the details of a workshop that I thought may be of interest to a friend. The response was a personal critique of an unintended error on my part that caused me to feel my wound of being unfairly judged. I let it go. It was familiar; I sensed the limbic body reaction that warns me I will be tempted to respond aggressively; I was able to move into my adult and decided that no response was the best response. A couple of weeks later I sent out an e-mail to some members of a spiritual community of which I am part, offering rooms in my property on Cortes at a time that some relevant workshops were being held at Hollyhock. I immediately received an e-mail from one of the recipients chastising me for communicating with him in this way and taking advantage of my connections to the community for personal gain. I felt an immediate sense of shame exacerbated by a sense of being misjudged as he had made an assumption that just was not true. Once again I felt the body reaction. (It feels like a giant blush that encompasses my whole body.) It was followed by a desire to strike back particularly as he had copied the whole community on his e-mail. However as the energy subsided, I decided the right thing to do was to apologize for upsetting him and not go into any justification of my behaviour or involving the community.

A similar event occurred a few days later over the same incident and caused a greater reaction. I was challenged this time not only for mailing to the community but also on the basis that my attempt to encourage friends to stay with me was contrary to the interests of our leader who was teaching the two courses. Once again I felt this acute sense that this was so unfair, even unreasonable and my generous intention was completely lost. This criticism was not only copied to the community but also to the teacher. My reaction paralleled the first “shaming” but was deeper. This time I felt it was necessary to respond to the criticism but I decided not to involve the group as a whole however I did write to our teacher to ensure he did not think I had compromised my relationship with him. It was so fascinating observing the battle between the child and the adult. The child wanting to respond like the scorpion when it is threatened; the adult able to empathize with the child but make a different decision.

In fact I was feeling pretty good about the way I was handling it; I concluded the universe was testing me and I was responding well; I was taking the higher ground. Then the fourth incident hit. It was entirely unexpected; once again an inaccurate assumption had been made; again I was shocked by the response. A friend had taken offense at what he deemed to be a breach of our relationship and criticized my lack of sensitivity. Once again I felt the sense of shame compounded by feeling misunderstood. However this time I felt a need to make things right between us and called to reverse the activity that had precipitate the rift. I followed it up with an e-mail demonstrating that I had not broken trust and in hindsight felt good about my adult response.

It was the next morning that a new chapter in this particular saga took place. His reply was not what I expected. The words like “odd and inappropriate” triggered a familiar response. Once again I felt misunderstood and in the wrong. I think I was expecting an apology, perhaps some shared responsibility but this did not seem the case. I sat and explored my feelings. Obviously this episode was far from over. As often happens when I am deeply immersed in my unfolding journey I was reading a book that seemed profoundly relevant. I had picked up one of James Hollis’s earlier books The Eden Project. In Search of the Magical Other and that same morning had read these words “activating these charged clusters of energy, transfers the experiences of other times and places to the present, undermining our capacity for conscious choice and holding us hostage to the past.” I knew intuitively that my reaction was connected to the past not the present. I knew this was no time to engage in a dialogue with my friend, I needed some time to explore my own deeper meaning from these recent events. I resolved to go to the gym and hope that some clarity may emerge.

It was while riding my bike en route that I began to review previous events in my life when I had encountered this energy. I knew my relationship with my father had frequently led to this sense of feeling misjudged but this was not new information. I could recall as a teenager feeling badly treated by a schoolmaster who insisted moving me to from centre to the wing in our school rugby team despite my protestations. My reaction to this unfairness was to never play competitive rugby again, thus punishing myself even further. But I sensed there was something new in this current dilemma. Then the next piece of the puzzle slipped into place. I was looking for something that I could never get. I wanted affirmation from the “other” I craved a sense of being understood and when it did not come, it tapped into the deepest wound of all; the fact that my father had never given me understanding. And of course never could because he was no longer living.

I felt a combined sense of sadness and relief. I could clearly understand my own pain and anger at my friend. I had projected on the “other” a need that was permanently incomplete – or was it? As I moved to a weight machine I imagined a conversation with James Hollis. I asked him “Do I assume that I just learn to live with this wound while making better choices now I have unearthed the core issue?” The reply that came stemmed from some work I had done previously with my father image in therapy. I had forgiven my father and seen him in a new light. I realized that using active imagination I could go back and receive his blessing. I sit here humbled. Sixty-five years of age and still learning so much about myself. James Hollis once suggested that he found happiness much overrated. Sometimes it takes the empire to strike back to create an opportunity for new meaning and growth in my life.

Body Wisdom

April 8, 2010

Recently I worked with a client who was struggling with her continued participation in a new venture. It was not an easy process due to a sense of commitment and a passion for the idea, yet something was not sitting right. It was a perfect example of the battleground of thoughts, feelings and fears that create confusion and lead to the two dissenting voices that make decision-making so challenging. The two voices perform like debaters on opposing teams; one gets the upper hand but invariably after a night’s sleep the opposition strikes back causing doubt and second-guessing to emerge again. This particular DecisionClarity process contained a seminal moment that in the end made all the difference. Awakening unusually in the middle of the night my client experienced the painful sensations of what felt like a bladder infection. After a trip to the washroom she returned to bed reflecting on the symptoms that had not dissipated at all. “then I remembered the part on your CD where you talked about body symptoms sometimes speaking to the question. I thought, “What does this feeling mean?” After about 30 seconds, the phrase, “I have to go”, came up.”  Even more remarkable her discomfort eased and five minutes later had completely disappeared. When we seek guidance from our own deeper wisdom, the body can occasionally bring its own unique clarity to the decision.