In the Buddhist philosophy, the color blue represents a pure and uncluttered mind. In The Detect Chair, we develop SELF-AWARENESS, practice SELF-MASTERY and aspire to authentic SELF-EXPRESSION. Managing emotions is an integral part of this development.
Our guiding belief in this chair is: ‘I know enough and I am enough.’
Our nudge metaphor in the Detect Chair is the much beloved Dolphin.
Apart from being playful, self-assured, communicative, exuberant, fearless and extremely social, the dolphin is one of the very few mammals that displays self-awareness by responding to itself in a mirror. It also displays a high level of intelligence and collaborative problem-solving skills. It is the ideal metaphor for our journey towards self-realization.
Self-awareness is the most important building block for any personal growth and the only way to achieve this is through self-reflection. We must be willing to step back and take a good look at ourselves—which can be scary. It’s much easier to blame the rest of the world for our pain rather than take personal responsibility for it.
In the Detect Chair, we learn to reconnect with our emotions.
‘We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines who think.’
This quote from an article by Richard Restak, Professor of Neurology at George Washington Hospital University School of Medicine and Health, puts our emotions clearly into perspective and reminds us of their importance. Our emotions, unlike our thoughts, are universal. They transcend culture, race, social class and age and they define our similarity as human beings. And yet, for the most part, we are either disconnected from them, controlling them or hiding them.
The Emoticons Experiment
A Brazilian client had a powerful story to tell about how his factory workers found an effective way to manage their emotions and keep emotional outbursts in their workplace at a minimum. Every morning the workers adopted a routine of silently declaring their emotional state to one another. As they entered the factory they posted one of three emoticons next to their names on a billboard – a smiley face, a miserable face or a neutral face.
When I enquired how this ritual had helped them, they replied that by asking themselves, ‘How am I feeling today?’ they became much more aware of what they were bringing into the workplace every morning. When they noticed they were feeling negative they tried to take more responsibility for their emotions by not dumping them on their colleagues. They learned to become much more sensitive to one another’s emotional needs.
I asked them what they did when they saw a miserable face posted. Initially, they admitted to avoiding the person in question. The VUCA world is tough enough already without having to deal with other people’s problems as well, was their reasoning. Funny how we tend to flee from negative emotions in others even though we have all experienced them ourselves.
Slowly, as time passed, however, they learned to respond with empathy to the miserable faces and proactively approached the person, asking them if they needed support. They even prepared themselves for an eventual rejection – ‘I just want to be left alone’ – and learned not to take it personally. They learned to respond with true empathy. ‘I can understand you want to be alone considering the way you’re feeling. I just want to let you know that if you need someone to talk to I’m here for you.’
This conscious act of silently declaring feelings created a profound bond between these workers. They became more conscious and caring towards one another over time. They felt they could go to work without a mask because they trusted it was safe to share their real selves.
Practice: Responsible Expression of Feelings
There is a deep responsibility attached to the expression of our feelings. We must be careful not to dump them on to others with accusatory language such as ‘You made me angry’, ‘They made me confused’, ‘I feel misunderstood’, ‘I feel ignored’, or ‘It’s your fault if I’m not happy.’
Real ownership of our feelings looks more like this:
‘I got confused when they spoke so fast‘ (instead of ‘They made me confused’).
‘I got angry when you talked to the boss about …’ (instead of ‘You made me angry’).
‘I feel frustrated when no one asks for my opinion’ (instead of ‘I feel ignored’).
A word of caution: We always need to check that our intentions are sincere when sharing our feelings with others. If there is any note of manipulation involved, people usually pick it up and trust will be broken.
Practice – Name the Feeling
Practice sharing your feelings more with people around you. Begin at home. When you feel the emotions rising declare them transparently rather than hiding them. Don’t expect your family to read your mind. Let them know how you’re feeling in a sincere way. Always check there is no hint of punishment or complaint in your voice as you do so. Take full responsibility for the feelings you are experiencing rather than blaming others. Observe the results. See if people open up more to you. Then try it at work.