Are you fearful or surrounded by people who are fearful of so many things—terrorists, bullies, losing your job, etc.? Are you tired of letting your emotions dictate how you behave, sometimes hurting other people? Are you tired of being angry because certain people are trying to hurt you? The key to ridding ourselves of destructive emotions and maintaining positive emotions, in spite of our surroundings, is emotional intelligence.
Why Is This Happening to Me? will teach you the following:
—aspects of our society that influence our emotions
—what emotional intelligence means and how it can have a positive effect on your life
—how to recognize destructive emotions and what to do about them
—the tools to use for emotional intelligence and how to implement them
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Read an Excerpt
Why is This Happening to Me?
A Guide to Learning Emotional Intelligence
By Kathleen Kelly
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Kathleen Kelly
All rights reserved.
Any understanding of ourselves or human nature has to begin with a discussion of ego. The ego is comprised of what we think of ourselves and our stream of conscious thoughts about how we relate to our surroundings. A certain amount of acting on our ego is necessary for our survival, but when our ego is in control, we run the risk of losing sight of reality and inflating (or deflating) our view of ourselves. We run the risk of becoming narcissistic and exclusive. This, in turn, can result in paranoia and fear — fear that someone will take away what you consider to be yours and fear that someone different from you will harm you in some way. Eckhart Tolle says in his book The Power of Now: "As long as you are identified with your mind, the ego runs your life." And, "Identification with the mind ... creates a false self, the ego, as a substitute for your true self rooted in Being ... The ego's needs are endless. It feels vulnerable and threatened and so lives in a state of fear and want." From what Tolle said, you can deduce that one can control his/her mind (thoughts) and, therefore, his/her ego.
I know we have all encountered someone who thinks more highly of himself/herself than others do of him/her. We label such people as egotistical or egomaniacs. We have all seen that the people with big egos are usually too busy promoting themselves to learn about and understand others. They spend an inordinate amount of time promoting themselves rather than listening to others' success stories. In the workplace, these people don't make the effort to consider the value of others and include them in decision making or problem solving. Deep down, though, those people are usually afraid of something. You will never get to know what because their behavior drives you away.
I think I have caused problems for myself because I am not impressed by braggadocios. To me, their words say nothing. People gain my respect when they act out of character and emotional intelligence. At work, people can sense when I don't buy into the façade they are projecting. That will cause them to either go on the attack or avoid me. I understand they are acting out of fear. My response is to always be the best I can be and to try to understand the other's point of view.
At one time, I worked for a large federal agency Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO was quite a braggadocio. He claimed to have invented the Internet and told his story whenever he had a new audience. No one believed him; instead they were quite amused at his fantasy. Although he knew very little about how to manage an Information Technology (IT) organization, he knew very well how to manipulate the new politicals at the highest level in the agency and win their favor. The career IT personnel, including me, had a hard time accepting his uninformed management style since we all had been there, faithfully doing our jobs and doing them well, before he came in. This man did little to win the respect of his subordinates, who found it hard to take him seriously. I would think that when a new manager comes into a preexisting organization, he/she would try to win the trust and respect of the organization employees. Promoting himself/herself with exaggerated stories is not the way to go about it.
Marianne Williamson quotes A Course in Miracles in her book Return to Love: "We think that without the ego, all would be chaos; the opposite is true. Without the ego, all would be love." These words provide a lot to think about. Imagine what would happen if bosses who are obviously egotistical stopped acting out of their ego. They might start supporting their employees and the mission at hand. They might start showing compassion and understanding. This would create a culture in the workplace of respect for one another. We might all start enjoying working together!
The following quote from A Course in Miracles in Marianne Williamson's book, A Return to Love, describes why honoring the ego restricts our growth and openness to understanding others:
The ego bases its perception of reality on what has happened in the past, carries those perceptions into the present and thus creates a future like the past. Past, present, and future are not continuous, unless you force continuity upon them.
You can see why this seems to go against what we take for granted — that we learn from the past and apply the lessons learned in the future. I would say that we need to balance learning and applying wisdom and keeping an open mind. For example, I never knew how my mother would react to something that I did or that happened to me. When I assumed she would act the same way as she did the last time I told her something about me, she acted the opposite way. When I told her, one time, I was changing jobs, she said, "Again? Why do you have to keep moving?" The next time I told her, she said, "I am happy for you." When I braced myself to hear the worst — condemnation, I was pleasantly surprised. When I was excited to tell her the good news, I faced judgment. So I could never predict how my mother would respond to what I told her. I could never assume that I knew her or totally understood her thinking.
When I was a program manager and hired a young African-American woman to be my program coordinator, it turned out to be a disaster. She had no interest in the job. She spent much of her day on the phone with personal calls and e-mailing her friends. When I asked her to do something, it might or might not get done. If I had let that experience influence me, I would not have hired another African-American woman in her place. But I did, and she turned out to be a good friend to this day. My first husband was an electrical engineer. He seemed so clueless and out of touch with life and reality. He constantly read science-fiction books to escape. He seemed unable to connect with another person on a deep, soulful level. I worked with predominantly clueless engineers during my career. They seemed so caught up in matters of the ego and were disinterested in matters of the souls of their subordinates or co-workers. I swore never to date or marry an engineer again. Then I met John. He had toured all over Europe after college, had spent a lot of time with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi learning Transcendental Meditation (TM) in India, and practiced and taught TM. When I met him, I told him, "I never knew an enlightened engineer before!" He was proof that not all engineers were clueless to matters of the soul.
The government is making training in hidden biases available for federal employees. Hidden biases are a result of what Marianne Williamson described in her quote above — projecting the ego's perceptions of reality into the future. Preventing our ego from forming biases based on past experiences or generalizations is part of the work necessary for emotional intelligence. It is interesting and admirable that the federal government is including training related to this aspect of emotional intelligence as part of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs. But that training only reaches a small contingency of the total working population.
Steve Hagen said in Buddhism Plan and Simple:
It's imperative that our dissatisfaction originates within us. It arises out of our own ignorance, out of our blindness to what our situation actually is, out of wanting reality to be something other than what it is. Our longing, our craving, our thirsting for something other than reality is what dissatisfies us.
So the expression, "You are your worst enemy," is true. We cause many of our own problems by wanting and not letting go.
I have an old picture of a woman, probably from the twenties, that I inherited from my grandmother. The saying under the picture says, "A woman wants for little here below and wants that little long." It is a clever play on words that means we are always wanting for something; when we get that, we immediately want something else. Wanting and dissatisfaction are products of the ego.
There are many books on the ego and how it can make trouble for you. Many of them are spiritual books on different Asian spiritual philosophies. Others are self-help books on relationships and how to suppress the ego when trying to develop and maintain a relationship. A book whose title caught my eye in the local library catalog was a book by the Dalai Lama entitled How to See Yourself as You Really Are. I think that would be a good book to read next.
The main thing is that we need to ignore the subconscious stream of thought that tells us that we are better or more right than others — or less and can't do anything right. We need to ignore the internal tapes that tell us that we aren't good enough. We need to overcome the thoughts that are harmful to us and others, such as fear, selfishness, paranoia, and so on. We need to, instead, embrace the openness and thoughtfulness that allows us to feel respect and compassion for all people. After all, we are all connected, imperfect human beings. We can use meditation as a means of controlling the thoughts of the mind and opening it up to love.
In The Gift of Change, Marianne Williamson said, "As we humble ourselves and step back with our ego, allowing God to lead the way, miracles occur naturally. No stress, no strain."CHAPTER 2
Know and Understand Your Cultural Influences (United States)
I learned a lot about society and culture in the United States from experience, of course, but also from authors like Erich Fromm, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore. I really enjoyed Al Franken's books, which educated me on politics in the United States using humor. All of these books had powerful messages that I won't forget.
To understand who and what you are, you must first understand your cultural influences. Many of these influences we take for granted. For example, I grew up in a middle-class homogeneously white neighborhood. I attended a Catholic parish grade school and an all-girl Catholic high school. I was taught at these schools to keep growing and be the best you can be. When I got out in the work world, I assumed everyone thought like I did. Big mistake! Not all people strive to keep growing and be the best they can be. In fact, many people resent people who keep growing and feel they are shown up by them. Many are content with mediocrity or behave as if they stopped maturing when they were in their early twenties.
The human being is such a complex entity because his/her personality is determined by inherited genes, character learned from his/her family and developed from life's experiences, education, and influences of his/ her environments from local to national. Whether you are conscious of it or not, each of these things makes you the unique person that you are. A person's growth is either encouraged or inhibited by his/her environments and the number of different environments s/he experiences. For example, educational environments such as colleges can stimulate growth in not just subject knowledge but in emotions and in reasoning. At St. Louis University, a private Jesuit college where I got my bachelor's degree, two religion courses were mandatory. In one of them, the Jesuit priest made reading a book on atheism mandatory for the course. Some of the premises of the book made sense to me, and I stopped going to church for a long time after reading the book. A person's growth living in a ghetto with little chances of experiencing other environments will be limited and can be stunted so that his/her behavior changes little from the time s/he is a teen. Some people choose to overcome a lot of the growth-limiting factors in their environment and become the person they want to be. My friend Mary moved from South Carolina to Washington, DC, for a higher paying job. She left a family environment that discouraged her growth and, in fact, suppressed her. She overcame a lot to escape that environment and has grown tremendously since making the move.
It has been said that the people today carry the burden of what happened to their ancestors in the past. For example, Jewish-Americans carry the burden of their slave predecessors who endured emotional trauma and physical abuse. Jewish-Americans carry the burden of the atrocities committed against the Jews by Hitler. There is no escaping the influence that such major historical events have on people as a group. This means that if your people's history tends to limit your growth, you must identify and overcome these factors to reach your full potential.
One of the keys to happiness and contentment is that, once you understand what made you what you are, you must accept and work with those things. You must use your experiences as a means of learning and growing. You must turn negative experiences into opportunities for growth, making lemonade from lemons. Maybe your parents told you that difficult experiences teach you character, like my mother used to tell me.
During the summer in the evenings, I binge-watched Mad Men on Netflix. I see why it was so popular. To me, it illustrates all the pressures a person experiences from his/her culture in each of his/her roles: spouse, parent, child, sibling, employee, manager, citizen, group member, caretaker, and so on. In society, we are usually juggling several different roles. Sometimes one or more roles place huge pressures on us that we don't even realize. We just keep playing our roles, trying to keep our heads above water. Sometimes we fail. Hopefully, then, it isn't too late to change something in our lives to understand what happened, determine a resolution, and fix any damage we did. Sometimes we want to escape our situation and do something new and different. Sometimes we make a bad choice and hurt ourselves or someone else. Don Draper was under tremendous pressure to perform as a husband, father, and manager in a demanding job. Sometimes he coped with that pressure by seeking solace in different women. Sometimes he made bad choices. Don's wife, Betty, was also under tremendous pressure to run the household, raise her children, serve as a citizen of good standing, and serve and be faithful to her husband. The series is also a good depiction of life and philosophies of the late fifties and early sixties. It makes the viewer realize the advancements or changes in philosophies that have occurred since then. While Betty was pregnant with her third child, she never stopped smoking and drinking wine. A woman's place was in the home; if she worked outside the home, she was usually in a position that served a man or men. Professional women had to constantly prove themselves worthy of their positions. The series is a great illustration of human nature and cultural influences. Betty tried to fit in activities that fed her soul, such as horseback riding. Don, on the other hand, more often suppressed the needs of his soul except when he disappeared for several weeks to visit people in his past in California and take time to do some soul searching and find answers. He came out of that experience with renewed appreciation for his wife and family. After Don and Betty's divorce, Don hit rock bottom before he started back on his way up. He wrote and organized his thoughts in a journal. Neither Don nor Betty was happy when they suppressed the needs of their souls. When they suppressed the needs of their souls, they usually sought solace in people outside their family. Emotional intelligence helps us live a happier life and keep ourselves on more of an even keel. It helps us to accept reality and then make the best of it. In season 4, episode 7, Don Draper was writing in his journal and narrated: "People tell us who they are, but we ignore them because we want them to be who we want them to be."
Remember the book I'm OK — You're OK? It was an attempt in the setting of the progressive sixties to tell people they should accept themselves and others. To understand your cultural influences, you must start at the highest level of US society and work your way down to personal influences such as family and friends and where you grew up. This book does not address biological makeup, inherited genes, or ethnicity. You must get to know and understand their influences from family interactions.
Excerpted from Why is This Happening to Me? by Kathleen Kelly. Copyright © 2016 Kathleen Kelly. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Ego, 1,
Know and Understand Your Cultural Influences (United States), 6,
Population Growth, 22,
US Politics, 27,
The Media, 36,
The Times We Live In, 44,
Family Influences, 48,
Influence of Friends and Acquaintances, 51,
The Effects of Culture on Individuals, 53,
Destructive Emotions/Behavior, 64,
Mental or Physical Abuse, 82,
Managing Self, 104,
Accepting Differences, 140,
Dealing with Emotions, 155,
Connecting/Fitting In, 169,
Help from Other People, 180,