Why do certain intelligent people behave like they have overused some of their intellectual gifts when faced with crises, tension or conflict? Where you and I live, we are not short of incidents where IQ smart adults perform in the exam hall but forget to apply some of it in their work/personal lives. Knowledge and technical competence do not equal intelligence many a time. What constitutes intelligence is applying the wisdom of your feelings and experiences to your daily experiences to achieve intended productive outcomes.
History will reveal a lot when digging deeper into why your own brother or sister behaves so differently from you sometimes. While we are all too familiar with the fact that no two human beings are the same (even twins), why is it that someone living in the same household and coming from the same parents can behave so differently from his/her other siblings even though all the kids were brought by the same parents?
Trail of “Trashy” Thoughts
Perhaps if we just revisit the fact that each of us would have dealt differently with life’s circumstances based on our inherited abilities/learning/conditioning, we’d accept that each of our capacities to handle and dismantle challenges is different. As kids, we often feel rejected and rebuffed by parents, teachers or friends. We are told that we didn’t try hard enough when we gave it our best shot and rebuked for being a ‘little devil’ when we were just acting our age. Teachers may mirror the sentiments of our parents occasionally that we are incorrigible, failures, potential bummers at the raw age of 5 and lasting till about 17 in school for a few unfortunate ones. Such messages are compounded till adulthood in a number of cases. Their beliefs start to reflect the exact “messages” told, manifested by a self-fulfilling internal prophecy told to oneself repeatedly.
Can you imagine the self esteem and confidence levels of anyone who had to suffer through persistent emotional onslaught and criticism? Since the tender age 3 to 5, can you recall what you heard being said to you by your caregivers? Was it the mimicry, babble and baby talk or shouts, screams, threats and curses that caused you shame and fear? If it’s the latter, then you can’t be blamed for believing everything your caregivers repeated to you, even if they were nasty and untrue and intended as a scare tactic. Those who are unfortunate and have taken on the burden that they deserved it for not being a good enough person usually suffer from guilt and shame and if left unchecked, results in unhealthy emotional states throughout their life, e.g. lacking confidence, fear and low esteem.
How Numbing Happens
When one is made to feel small and continues to suffer the onslaught from the same victimizers or even new one’s, their emotional systems shut down. Claude Steiner Phd explains in his book Achieving Emotional Literacy that this is likened to physical pain. In an excruciating mishap where someone’s fingers get chopped off, the victim initially feels nothing and may not even notice the dangling digits when the nervous system goes into shock. The body’s response to such pain prevents one from being overwhelmed. But shortly after, the numbness is replaced by agonizing pain after the victim has had time to think rationally about the next critical move.
Similarly, if someone has been constantly attacked verbally, mentally and emotionally, made to feel guilty, stupid and unimportant, the person learns to protect themselves over time by blocking out the mental and emotional attacks through just absorbing and frequently passively deflecting whatever comes their way. In the meantime, they put up defense mechanisms or protection walls to insulate against the onslaught. This can range from eating sweets and chocolates to heighten the feel good feelings or drinking alcohol to numb the memories. Other common ones are turning to activity like reading something happy to distract themselves from the pain. Unfortunately, over time, our incredible subconscious mind is able to suppress and store so that we can go on living a seemingly normal life. However, these walls of separation not only shield us from pain but they deny us from feeling love and joy. The act of suppressing not only keeps away the bad but the good as well. Our minds just get used to blocking emotional experiences, healthy and unhealthy.
Uncapping The Lid
Why is it recommended to feel the full extent of an emotion rather than sleeping it off or canning it? Why continue to feel pain when you can choose to reduce it and shut the lid on it? Afterall, a distraction from reality is a common practice. Just sleep it off, get yourself a treat, sweep it under the carpet and forget about it. It’s is all about optimism isn’t it? I am not recommending a masochistic approach of submerging yourself in the fold of darkness and staying there.
Just staying with your feelings allows you to feel and experience life’s joys, pain, pleasure, excitement, sadness, frustration, anger, happiness, anticipation and the range of a multitude of emotions that makes life a journey of a countless experiences. We need to wake up from eternal slumber by asking ourselves,
- What am I feeling?
- What was the main cause of this?
- Which of my values have been violated?
- What is it that I really am still upset about?
- What did I learn from this whole episode?
- Do I still need to hold on to this? What if I didn’t? Who would I be?
- Is there another way to look at this situation?
- What other perspective can I hold on to that will allow me to see the gifts of this experience?
- What would I not have gained if this did not happen?
Asking Good Questions
Renowned life coach Tony Robbins says, “Your questions are your answers”. When we ask questions of ourselves, our minds start to search for answers and a deeper meaning is sought from that which is existing. It’s pointless to ask questions like “Why must this happen to me?” and “Why did God do this to me?” because you can’t get answers to these. The mind remains shut as the incident can’t be undone. Instead, we should ask solution based questions where answers come from our inner wisdom. The minute you ask a question, your mind starts the search and throws up possibilities to match potential reasons to let go and move on or get a breakthrough.