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Gillian Sanger

How can mindfulness help to bridge our perceived divides?

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10 hours ago, David Weiskopf said:

But, in my experience people pursuing effective communication often confuse it with effective emotional regulation.

 

10 hours ago, David Weiskopf said:

Judging difficult emotions, like anger, or labeling them as being "negative" or "bad" encourages this result. Repressing emotions has been shown to be unhealthy and often counterproductive for effective communication. Moreover, being judgmental and repressive toward expressions of difficult emotions in others can be hurtful and harmful to those others.

Absolutely @David Weiskopf. I completely agree with you. I highlighted these two passages that really stood out to me. 

Years ago I was seeing a therapist and, though I can't remember the exact conversation we were having, I do remember her saying, "So you think anger is a bad thing?" Those words really sparked something in me that made me reflect upon my judgment of particular emotions - specifically anger. Raised to be 'good' (as so many of us were), I was incapable of honouring my anger and listening to what it was telling me.

So I agree that there can be confusion between effective communication and effective emotional regulation. I also feel as though 'effective communication' looks so very different from moment to moment, situation to situation.

Thank you for your thoughtful response!!

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18 hours ago, David Weiskopf said:

But, in my experience people pursuing effective communication often confuse it with effective emotional regulation. (Perhaps this is an unfair projection of distrust or some other bias on my part.) In order to achieve both, they often seem to skip over important steps in acknowledging difficult emotions and what those emotions are trying to tell us, something that always should be honored. Essentially they end up repressing the emotions, even after acknowledging them. LOL, but their features and posture often communicate those emotions anyway.

Hi David,

I think this point that you raise is significant to understanding the subtext behind our current political divide. It is hard to separate effective communication from emotional regulation. I wonder sometimes about people who gravitate towards extremism in any form. Are they profoundly unaware? How does this lack of awareness affect their thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviors, and world view?  How does this make them more vulnerable to being manipulated?  And how does this lack of awareness fuel conflict? It is difficult for someone to exercise effective communication when they have not truly processed their emotional reactions to life. 

I do recommend reading Radical Acceptance by Tarah Brach. She offers some good insight in this area as a trained therapist who has a Buddhist perspective. 

Thank you for sharing your insight David. I do agree that people are complicated and not just one thing. I think that if people can become more self aware, they are more likely to apply critical thinking and be less susceptible to manipulation. 

Kind Regards,

Gene

 

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15 hours ago, David Weiskopf said:

Excuse me if I am becoming burdensome, but I really felt invigorated and inspired by this conversation, particularly Gillian's positive attitude, but also all the nuances the other contributors offered. It actually helped me feel freer for a time. I was so inspired I went searching on the internet for an article from a teacher or counselor that expressed what I was trying to say better than I could. This was the second article that popped up and it was near perfect. https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/freeing-the-mind/ May we all live with ease.

Thank you David! What a great resource!

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8 hours ago, Gillian Sanger said:

 

Absolutely @David Weiskopf. I completely agree with you. I highlighted these two passages that really stood out to me. 

Years ago I was seeing a therapist and, though I can't remember the exact conversation we were having, I do remember her saying, "So you think anger is a bad thing?" Those words really sparked something in me that made me reflect upon my judgment of particular emotions - specifically anger. Raised to be 'good' (as so many of us were), I was incapable of honouring my anger and listening to what it was telling me.

So I agree that there can be confusion between effective communication and effective emotional regulation. I also feel as though 'effective communication' looks so very different from moment to moment, situation to situation.

Thank you for your thoughtful response!!

I completely agree about emotions and thoughts not being good or bad- after all, we cannot control what we think or feel. And, it's a total set up for feeling shame and guilt. For example, and I think I said on here somewhere else, I grew up Catholic so of course was taught that thoughts were "bad" and were monitored by God. So, when I 'thought' a swear word or a negative or 'sinful' thing about wanting to 'hurt' my sister when I was mad at her, I was immediately ashamed and thought I needed to repent for my sins. Actually, I was simply a human child with typical thoughts. It matters what we do with our thoughts and feelings and how we express them. I agree that repressing feelings is unhealthy- they always come out- in veiled sarcasm or internalized depression. There are healthy ways to express all out emotions. Anger is a protective emotion- it alerts us to possible danger and harm. We can channel it appropriately and learn to express assertively . 

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34 minutes ago, Jo L said:

Thank you David! What a great resource!

Hello @David Weiskopfand @Jo L, This is an excellent article.

I am reading this right now and want to share a quote by Joseph Goldstein which speaks to me about the impact of reacting vs. responding to emotional content.

“Acceptance of the emotion is not the end point in our relationship to it; rather, it is the key step in getting free within ourselves. From that place of openness and non-contraction, we can then make whatever response feels appropriate. At that point we are responding to a situation instead of reacting. In my experience, the inner freedom or spaciousness that comes from acceptance of the emotion makes subsequent communication easier and more effective”

https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/freeing-the-mind/

I plan to bookmark and re-read this.

Thanks again @David Weiskopf

Kind Regards,

Gene

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15 hours ago, Jo L said:

So, when I 'thought' a swear word or a negative or 'sinful' thing about wanting to 'hurt' my sister when I was mad at her, I was immediately ashamed and thought I needed to repent for my sins. Actually, I was simply a human child with typical thoughts.

@Jo L - This reminds me so much of something that was said between Gabor Maté and Russell Brand in a podcast I once listened to (shared below). It was a while ago that I listened to this, but I remember Russell telling a story about his children, something about his older child being unkind to the youngest one. Gabor explained how natural it was for the older child to feel resentment towards the younger, saying something like, "She didn't ask for this person to come take attention away from her." (Not an exact quote, but it was something along those lines from my memory). And then it was all about how to effectively manage the situation without making the child 'wrong' for feeling how they feel.

I remember absolutely loving this episode! Highly, highly recommended.

Thank you for sharing your story!

 

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On 5/11/2020 at 1:47 PM, David Weiskopf said:

I have no expertise in these areas. But, in my experience people pursuing effective communication often confuse it with effective emotional regulation. (Perhaps this is an unfair projection of distrust or some other bias on my part.) In order to achieve both, they often seem to skip over important steps in acknowledging difficult emotions and what those emotions are trying to tell us, something that always should be honored. Essentially they end up repressing the emotions, even after acknowledging them. LOL, but their features and posture often communicate those emotions anyway.

Judging difficult emotions, like anger, or labeling them as being "negative" or "bad" encourages this result. Repressing emotions has been shown to be unhealthy and often counterproductive for effective communication. Moreover, being judgmental and repressive toward expressions of difficult emotions in others can be hurtful and harmful to those others. I think this sort of activity has a way of desensitizing us to actual people in the flesh, of inhibiting emotional intelligence, and causing us to align with groups, causes, or leaders that we find alluring but often display significant amounts of rigidity and intolerance. In my mind, this tendency is similar to the "awestruck effect." https://ideas.ted.com/the-dark-side-of-charisma/  It helps to remember that even inspirational figures like Gandhi and Mandela had their dark sides, particularly Gandhi. It is reported that both displayed insensitivity to their families.

This is not to negate anything Gillian and Gene have said. My hope is to place what was said in a fuller perspective about how we move beyond anger. I think Buddhism is often misunderstood, in my view, to encourage the repression of certain "negative" or "bad" emotions. I do not recall the precise quotation, but the Buddha denied teaching that one should pursue any practice always; what he taught was pursuing whatever practice leads to wholesome, skillful, or beautiful results. For beginners at meditation, this might mean trying to subdue difficult emotions temporarily in order to gain greater stability and spaciousness of mind, but later it might mean sensing into those very same emotions and exploring them as naturally occurring phenomena to learn their conditions and effects more fully. I don't say this to invoke the Buddha as an authority but to attribute and repeat what I think is very sound advice. A natural consequence of following this advice might be greater care and compassion for self and others and a lessening of any tendency to feel hostility or irritation. LOL, I'm still working on that, but these things happen gradually over time, not in some incredible epiphany.

I like your comments David. I just watched a meditation session with Jon Kabat-Zinn and he said something interesting-  that when meditating uncomfortable emotions like fear or anger may arise, and rather than trying to rid your mind of them, know that there is a spaciousness to allow them. He said something about laying down a welcome mat for these emotions. I thought it was lovely.  

Edited by Jo L
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On 5/12/2020 at 9:07 AM, Gene Williams said:

Hello @David Weiskopfand @Jo L, This is an excellent article.

I am reading this right now and want to share a quote by Joseph Goldstein which speaks to me about the impact of reacting vs. responding to emotional content.

“Acceptance of the emotion is not the end point in our relationship to it; rather, it is the key step in getting free within ourselves. From that place of openness and non-contraction, we can then make whatever response feels appropriate. At that point we are responding to a situation instead of reacting. In my experience, the inner freedom or spaciousness that comes from acceptance of the emotion makes subsequent communication easier and more effective”

https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/freeing-the-mind/

I plan to bookmark and re-read this.

Thanks again @David Weiskopf

Kind Regards,

Gene

I love the quote you used and agree.  The has to be empty space in order to have room to be able to think everything over and respond appropriately.  We are to not have attachments to emotions as well.  In the Taoist teachings this attachments brings an unwanted response.  

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Hello everyone,

This morning, I started my day with the "Just Like Me" practice https://mindfulnessexercises.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Just-Like-Me.mp3  which is related to building empathy., https://mindfulnessexercises.com/building-empathy/

After the meditation, I started to think about the question about how to find a bridge within political divisions.  I really like Mark Coleman's approach:

"Rather than get caught up in the difference in the ideologies, we actually come back to the fundamental idea: just like me, this person on the opposite political spectrum wants to be happy, wants to be safe, wants to thrive, wants to be healthy, wants to find peace of mind."  https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/ethical-wisdom/201701/make-peace-your-mind-conversation-mark-coleman

 

 

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It’s important that we start to see each others humanness, while at the same time not losing sight of those differences, views and speeches and actions that do cause harm, that we’re clearly taking a stand against....

"[F]orgiving is not about condoning an action that causes harm. That’s really a key distinction. There’s a lot of critique of the spiritual, meditative, Buddhist world, that it can lend itself to too much passivity. It’s important that we see clearly with wisdom and awareness, but also take action. We don’t just sit quietly on the side line: that’s not necessarily what’s going to be useful at this time. We need to forgive—but mindfully. We need compassion that powered by wisdom. That's the way to address our bullies." From the Mark Coleman article Gene linked.

Good morning, Gene. Yes, the "Just Like Me" practice can help build empathy and compassion and thereby help bridge gaps that exist because people hold conflicting views. Thanks for bringing that into the conversation. When I was trying to understand the lay of the land in Buddhist ideology, I recognized an emphasis on loving kindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy that I certainly did not feel in the ways the writers related. So, I tried reading Sharon Salzberg's book Lovingkindness. Although I rationally understood what she was saying, I did not relate well to it. I think I was too self-absorbed. So, I picked up a copy of Jeffrey Hopkins' A Truthful Heart. As I recall, there were a lot of "Just Like Me" practices. Whatever the number or style of presentation, they made a huge impression on me and ever since I have repeated that reflection on a very frequent basis, at least daily.

As I read your post, I was both nodding in agreement and at the same time thinking, "No, there is the aspect of harming that sometimes cannot be bridged!" Then I read the interview with Mark Coleman you cited and I was so gratified to see that I did not have to say a word. Mark spoke well to the dilemma often posed by wanting to bridge gaps when people are wedded to actions and views that contribute to great harm. Thanks for the article. I bookmarked it.

Thinking we all were getting close to leaving this topic for awhile, I looked back and had one reflection. Implicit in Gillian's question and so many of the responses was something so important--the intention to bridge the gap, to not cause enmity, harm, and separation through bitterness and stubbornness. This sort of aspiration, intention, and resolve is so important. When we become self-absorbed it is usual to lose sight of those good intentions or to distort them into rationalizations for our self-righteousness.

It was just like me to respond by casting light on the usual impediments to carrying through on our best and noble intentions. I have a tendency to skip over our best qualities and to point out people's hypocrisy. You know what they say about "good intentions?" "The road to hell is paved" with them. But, those good intentions are extremely important. Oftentimes, they simply are not sufficient. Moreover, there is a need for equanimity and keeping balance when the gaps cannot be bridged by even the most skillful efforts on our parts. When intentions are held and conveyed from a place of sincere concern and balance, they have at the very least subtle effects on others. They certainly are beneficial to the holder. So, I thank all who in some way, expressed such good intentions.

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@Gene Williams  @Gillian SangerYes, you are very open Gene about the fact that humanity has such issues with anger and being able to accept those that are being their true nature which is anger and neglect; wrong-doing.  Agenda's seem to become conflict when survival is apparent.  I, even though I think I have a handle on it, I find I do not.  I sit next person not as, spiritually developed and sink into their world of road-rage and disdain on the internet.  Ego driven by (past habit)not understanding that that is why it happens.  Once in my environment, it goes well and loving and passionate; but then life of the mundane creeps in.  

THIS, will be the mission for the rest of my life i am assured.  

Gillian-  I also agree that there is an in-between. I feel we all reach it and accomplish it more and more.  Once again interruptions of the mundane, unconscious living that is ingrained in us from birth.  I too, feel so much more accustomed to recognizing and actually voicing my emotions to let others know where I am.  If a grown up tempts me in anger for too long i voice, "I do not anger well, it is not pretty" in voicing this out loud I can recognize it and decide where it should go.  It helps me tremendously.  

With my practice, I recognize and can feel when others are about to go in that direction of unknown control with emotions and try to ward it off a different direction.   This is intuition practiced.  

Thank you both for being so insightful and expressing things openly.  This makes a great conversation.  

Edited by Paige PIlege
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@David Weiskopf  There is mention of beginner meditation possibly repressing emotions that is felt too much to process and shift emotionally through.  By sensing back to the physical process, perhaps the brain is not ready to process such emotions.  I know some are deeply hidden until others are processed.  Like the shedding of the onion layers.  Unfortunately, some people never process the deepest ones.  

I am taught that Buddhism is not a religion.  Is this your understanding?  I see it as a culture and way of living.  A seeker of the self.  Of the power within.  Each saying being a person close to the truth of being.  How to live in the physical world and still be in self.  Yet learn how to carry our soul and spirit at the same time in the present.  

We all come from love and pleasant humor.  Wanting all the good for everyone.  Blessings.  

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Hi, Paige. I liked what you said about responding to anger. As for whether I view Buddhism as a religion, I will not presume to give a definitive answer, but will speak only about how I relate to it. I relate to the Buddha as having been an extremely accomplished and wise person who left us very practical advice. The Buddha is often compared to a doctor who prescribed a course of medication and practice to cure suffering. No secret formulas, no magic bullets, just very practical and practicable advice. We can follow it or not, as we chose so to speak. Best wishes.

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