Freedom and Love

Dear ones,

a gate in Capri by JoshTomorrow the Jewish holiday of Passover begins, so I’ve been thinking about freedom and about love.

Passover commemorates the time when Jews were enslaved in Egypt and then Gd, through Moses, led them to forge a path toward freedom. Moses didn’t want the job — he felt unqualified, incapable… uncertain and hopeless, but he chose to say yes.

It was a terrible journey — both the journey of enslavement, the journey of release, and then the period of cleansing in the desert. At Passover we do not celebrate a defeat of Pharaoh and his people, instead we express our sorrow at the suffering and our gratitude that so many before us have accepted the struggle for freedom.

Freedom does not mean getting to do whatever you want. Patty and I were talking about what our kids would say — they seem to think freedom would be growing up so no one would tell you what to do. And we might imagine freedom as being eight and getting to come home from school and play ’till dinner. But neither is true or possible.

Freedom means taking responsibility to walk in the path of what is right. It a process of ongoing effort and care. It is a terrible burden, but also a joyful one. It is terrible because when you accept freedom, you can no longer take the easy path of blame. You can not ride along and then be mad when someone takes you to a destination that isn’t what you wanted!

There are so many ways to give up freedom. Being on “autopilot” and blindly following patterns. Being a victim. Being a dictator. Deluding yourself. Breaking your own integrity. Letting yourself be seduced by superficial wants — or maybe confusing “wants” and “needs.” Compromising your values, or devaluing yourself to seek approval, status, affirmation, or power from the outside.

But at the same time there are so many gifts. Not just gifts of freedom itself, but gifts from the struggle to be free. Perhaps without the struggle there is no real freedom — or at least none of the heady bliss of finding it. In the struggle we have the opportunity to confront ourselves and one another. To question what truly matters. To challenge assumptions and the status quo, not changing for change’s sake, but changing for the sake of liberating our highest and best selves.

stairs in Montreal by JoshIn the struggles there are an abundance of difficult feelings. My dad (stepfather) is struggling w cancer and it’s brutal. On one hand I am feeling so sad and afraid and hopeless — and on the other hand these terrible emotions feel good. They feel “right-but-hard” and are reminding me of our love and the gifts he’s given me and our whole family. So the pain is really love in disguise.

Recently Max was in struggle because he left his “best Pokemon cards” in his pocket then put his jeans in the laundry — they did not fare well. On the one hand he was helpless, a victim of bad fortune. On the other it was an opportunity to receive loving support from us, and to take action, to take ownership of the future. To be free.

While I was in the midst of struggle post-emergency-knee-surgery I was feeling pretty low. I felt helpless, powerless, dependent, stuck. But at the same time I was able to receive so much love and care. I thought a lot then about what it meant to be free. Did it mean being able to put socks on myself? (that felt like great liberation!) Or did it mean being able to choose to be grateful for the care? Even grateful for the pain? (because it was a sign of the process of recovery)

I’m struck that freedom is so much about feeling. About feeling despair versus hope. About feeling unworthy of and unable to love versus abundant in it. So many people are afraid to love and to be loved. They are so hurt that the hurt itself becomes a kind of shelter. They make walls of rage to barricade their fear, they keep their hurt close at hand in a desperate attempt to prevent it from overwhelming them. Maybe this is the ultimate slavery, the self-imposed slavery of denying that we are worthy and capable of love.

This is a prison whose wall grow thicker each day. The more we see ourselves as unworthy of and unable to love, the more depleted we become. We become more and more closed to love from all around, and less and less able to love others. Paradoxically the door opens by giving; it swings open outward from self acceptance.

The good news is that no matter how thick we make these walls, freedom can come in the blink of an eye. So impossible, then so simple. It can feel like betrayal of a promise, though, because we do not stay free.

Max in ItalyWe must choose again. Each time it feels impossibly hard, then suddenly, miraculously, easy. Then we find another challenge; this is the journey of freedom. Without the opposition we go back to autopilot, back to coasting. So the walk toward freedom is embedded in struggle — we find jewels among life’s travails. While there will be struggle, there is also choice — a balance that is a process.

Freedom, then, is decision made over an over; a string of choices. Not choices of circumstance and power, but choices of heart and will. Love and effort. Made over and over, strung together on a necklace, each bead buffed to luster by the challenge inherent in the decision to be free.

Does this perpetual struggle sound grim and dark? I don’t see life that way. I see it as beautiful, part of the abundance and wonder of our world. Each time we choose freedom we become stronger, deeper, and brighter — contributing, as have so many before us, to the vast pool of liberation.

With love,
– Josh

Jasmine, Insecurity, and Being Stuck

jasmineIt feels like summertime here – glorious, peaceful, and relaxed. The scent of jasmine is pouring in through my office windows along with the gently cooling evening air.

Yesterday I was talking with a client/friend about where he needs to put energy in his business. Hands down: “relationships.” Reaching out and connecting, mostly externally and also internally. He admitted he wasn’t doing it the way he wanted, and part of me wanted to say, “but that’s so easy!”

Then I realized that his reason for not doing this is much the same as my reason for not exercising (something he’s great at, by the way): In two completely different challenges, we each feel inadequate – incompetent – and without real hope that our efforts will work.

And we each find it incredibly difficult to persevere… and all too easy to slide that task to the bottom of the pile. I am sure there is value and insight in this feeling, some clarity to be found, but even in this quite jasmine gentleness of evening, the wisdom is beyond me.

“Keeping Emotions in Check” on NBC’s Today Show

Well I had an absolute blast appearing on the Today Show. It was literally a circus there (the circus was on the show before me…) and the energy was amazing.

The five minute discussion went by so fast. When I got off set, I actually had no idea what I’d said, it was such a blur! Fortunately I could watch online, here’s the clip from MSNBC.

So after watching and finding out what I said… I’m pretty thrilled with it. This was my first live TV appearance, and first time on National TV, so I was pretty anxious… especially right before, standing on the set watching the process.

These folks do FOUR hours of live TV every morning! I was amazed at the level of focus the team showed – for example, before our segment on emotions, Natalie Morales was reading latest news, while crew was rapidly moving to set up our piece… and she was just in the zone reading as the text flowed by (I was watching the teleprompter and imagining trying to read it!)

I now have about eight more key ideas I’d really like to add… such as using appreciation as a transformational tool for shifting out of those AHHHH moments.  I used it there – as I was starting to get anxious I thought about what a great gift it is to get to do this work – and to talk about something so valuable to so many people. 🙂

Next time I’d like to post a web article with some of the practical strategies we teach plus links to additional articles and resources. So here’s a mini-story on about the piece, with some additional thoughts: All About Emotional Intelligence from Six Seconds – EQ on NBC’s Today Show

All in all – I’m looking forward to the next time!!

Intelligent About Emotions

After finishing the “Emotoscope” ap for Facebook I was shaking dust from my brain to come up w/ another fun way for people to learn about feelings. Said to Patty (my wife), “How about a cool online EQ jeopardy game?”

istock_000002420436xsmall.jpg“Boring” – she said it more delicately. “I mean, what would you ask?” **

Emma (8) is listening in (as usual – big ears!!) and pipes up, “jealousy?”

Right on! “What is jealousy?” I continue to Patty, “Or how about ‘ a little anger + sadness’?” Blank look from Patty, Emma again:


Whoa! Emotional literacy in action.

And not enough. Maybe being intelligent about emotions is the foundation. Then the graduate course: to be intelligent with emotions.

** in defense of Patty: her point was that this game has only “right/wrong” answers and our learning philosophy commits us to deeper forms of reflection

Emotional intelligence for health

Intriguing study – more evidence that being smart with feelings is key to success in life. In this case – recovery from illness.

Those with low anger control produced higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which was in turn, associated with delayed healing.

Source: BBC NEWS | Health | Anger control key to recovery

While I’m not crazy about the phrase “anger control” (because “control” is the most superficial form of self-management – kind of like someone saying you should “control your wife”), the concept makes so much sense. Feelings tied to danger (ie, stress response) focus our body on short-term problems (fight the lion).

Likely one reason feelings like hope, courage, and compassion speed healing is that they reverse stress.

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This…

Yesterday morning that song kept running through my head. Family and I were walking on the beach, a glorious, amazing January-I-am-so-lucky- to-live-in-California kind of day, watching my kids collecting sea glass… and thinking about my dad in the hospital.

We don’t quite know what’s wrong, it seems most likely to be lung cancer, we will know in a couple of days. He just had an incredibly amazing surgery to remove a tumor and 1 vertebrae, and today he’s been able to sit in a chair and will be out of ICU. istock_lighthouse.jpg

It’s hard to hold onto how miraculous that is — while also thinking about the fact that he’ll start the “real” battle with this cancer in another week.  These emotional paradoxes amaze me.  How at once I can feel this incredible sense of blessing and concurrently feel a looming abyss of loss.

I don’t want to “go there” until we get the oncology report, and I keep slipping into the shadows of grief – into thinking how much we’ll miss him, how much I’ll miss him, about how there are so many things we’d saved for someday.

Hilary’s tears: weakness or strength?

Challenging questions for Hilary Clinton and our society in an emotional intelligence meets politics moment — a Newsweek article (Hillary Tears Up: A Muskie moment, or a helpful glimpse of ‘the real Hillary’?) asks if Hilary’s display of emotion will be seen as a sign of weakness, or of honesty?  And in any case, the emotion trumps the facts:

No one will remember the hour of detailed policy talk that preceded Clinton’s emotional moment

Will Americans confirm that:

anyone who needed to carry Kleenex in her purse was unfit for the highest office in the land

or will the conclusion come that emotion helps

a candidate who is seen as aloof and too tightly scripted appear more vulnerable, more human and more appealing

What do we really want in a leader?  This brings up so many questions about trust and emotion — do we trust people who hide their emotions or show them?  Do we prefer “false strength” to authenticity?  I suspect that genuineness+moderate strength goes further than appearance of big strength.
I also enjoyed reading comments on this video on youtube – which raise the question: Was it real anyway?

What do you think? Fake or real tears? Weak or strong?

Investing with EQ

Emotional Intelligence

by Joe Citarrella

It is better for an investor to know why he or she feels some way about a stock than simply to know that he or she feels this way and that this is patently “bad”. In some cases, the emotion may be maladaptive, but in others it may be telling you something important about a company in which you’ve invested. Yet, the only way to know is not to ignore the emotions.

Great point! Emotions are data (and energy). The worst way to understand data is to ignore it.

How Emotional Is Too Emotional?

This is an excellent article:

How Emotional Is Too Emotional?
Nan Mooney, Inc

Mooney says women frequently ask what to do about “being too emotional” at work — I get this question a lot too, and have worried that, as a man, my response might miss the point… so I was glad to read this!
“Professional women are frequently tagged “emotional,” as if it’s a flaw they should learn to overcome. But emotion in the workplace isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

In my varied career history, I haven’t found that women are more emotional than men on the job. We may be more comfortable expressing those emotions, since we live in a society that encourages women to be the feelers and men the thinkers and doers. But being quicker to key into the emotional aspects of a situation largely works to our benefit. It means we may pick up on a client’s or colleague’s unhappiness, make subtle adjustments in a plan or project to please everyone involved, and — best of all — form more trusting and respectful professional relationships.

The place where I think Mooney misses the mark is recommendations of what to DO about emotions. The central premise of emotional intelligence is that emotions are a resource to help us understand and manage the world — inside and outside. Emotions are information and energy — data and commitment. Emotional intelligence helps us access the data and tap the energy. When we DON’T do that, emotions well up and spiral out of control. Women and men are socialized to cope with “out of control” emotions differently (as Mooney suggests, bursting into tears vs pounding the steering wheel and cursing) — but it’s the same reaction.

The real secret is to access the information of the emotions – tune in, gain insight – and then use that data to make a better decision. When we do so, the energy of the emotions automatically transforms into a motive force toward resolution – that’s the power of emotional intelligence!