Handling the Extremes

Smoke exploding from the mouth of a mountain that is a person's head.

Finding balance when feelings take control

There are some repeating themes I am hearing from my family, friends, and business associates and they center on stress and the emotional reactions that bubble up from what we are experiencing. Many of these responses are extreme and some are damaging.

Why are we feeling this way, and what can we do to find a better path through the extreme times we are living in?

“Emotions can be a positive or negative force. Many people struggle to find a balance between too little (or suppressed) and too much (or overwhelming) emotion.”

-Juli Geske Peer, 5 Senses for Success

Where is this coming from?

The following are samples of the many factors leading to the extremes we are experiencing.

1. We are dealing with data overload and our amazing brains are taking the brunt of a sensory onslaught 

“Scientists have measured the amount of data that enter the brain and found that an average person living today processes as much as 74 GB in information a day (that is as much as watching 16 movies), through TV, computers, cell phones, tablets, billboards, and many other gadgets. Every year it is about 5% more than the previous year. Only 500 years ago, 74 GB of information would be what a highly educated person consumed in a lifetime, through books and stories.” –Too Much Information, Too Little Time: How the Brain Separates Important from Unimportant Things in Our Fast-Paced Media World, kids.frontiersin.org

That is an astonishing amount of information we are processing! If you look around you right now I bet you will see multiple data devices. It may be a smartphone, TV, tablet, etc., and we move from one to the other throughout our days. How much time are we spending actually absorbing and reflecting on all that we hear and see? 

2. We seem to be extremely divided in our opinions

So many topics have us polarized these days – war vs. peace, women vs. men, right vs. left. No two people see the world in exactly the same way. Our opinions on the ‘big and small ticket’ topics are formed though our environment and experiences. And, that overload of data on top of our personal experiences is something our ancestors did not have to deal with.

The current response to the Afghan War withdrawal is a good example of quick and polarized response. We may be deeply affected by the images we see and the stories we read. We may have opinions that stem from the origination of this situation, and throughout its life. We may know someone impacted. But have we taken the time to research all the facts? I am not trying to change anyone’s opinions here; I am only asking that we examine the foundations of our own opinions and test the ground they are built on.

I also suggest we learn to understand and empathize that others may have quite different opinions on things than we do—and they are allowed! None of us should determine what everyone’s beliefs must be.

3. Multiple high-stress events

These are unique times for major world crises. Two that stand out daily are the pandemic and global warming. We are in a place where answers are not easy to come by but the urgency to find them is constant. Our fight-flight mode is in high gear. We make decisions quickly in this mode as a means of protection.

“Many different experiences in our lives will incite different emotional reactions, to differing degrees of intensity. As a human being, you will experience a full range of emotions throughout your lifetime in response to rapidly changing situations.”

What are Negative Emotions and How to Control Them?, positivepsychology.com

We certainly don’t have to wait until everything gets to the extreme before we try a different path and give ourselves and those around us more consideration. While we cannot avoid all the stressors we face in life, we can work to navigate extreme situations with poise and tolerance. Consider the tips outlined below.

Value yourself and others

“We rarely take the time to think about and examine our feelings until they’ve reached an extreme level.”

– Juli Geske Peer, 5 Senses for Success

We are all guilty of periodically judging too quickly or reacting before we understand a subject. Automatic thoughts lead to automatic responses. Taming our automatic thoughts will take time to learn but it is a crucial step in moving from reaction to interaction. In moving from making judgments to finding value. Thankfully, we all have the ability to change this auto-pilot thinking into mindful communication.

Time is key

Do you know anyone who has lost a job because they spoke out of turn or before they realized how what they were saying could be interpreted? Do you have friends or family members who rarely talk at all anymore because an emotional response set off a chain reaction that damaged relationships?

No one wants to “walk on eggshells” during a conversation. Yet, emotions are necessary to make day-to-day decisions and to get close to another human being.  Emotions can be overwhelming or a positive force.

When you notice the urge to respond coming quickly and negatively you can rely on our friend time to help you sort things out. Putting a little space between the emotion and the physical response will help to show you what is beneath that reaction. Taking a pause by saying something like, “Do you mind if I think about this a while?” can give you both time to reflect and defuse emotional situations.

The magic of active listening

Those of us who have children of any age know that we can be hit with our child’s very emotional response to a comment or suggestion we make to them. A thought like, “Whoa, where did that come from?” often pops into our head or out of our mouths. Many times the child or young adult doesn’t have an answer for that, and that is okay. You have just paused the narrative. This is a great time to enage active listening.

“Active listeningis a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker. In this form of listening, we listen to understand the other person. “We pay attention not only to the words being said, but also to the context of the conversation and the visual cues that key us in to the speaker’s emotional state.” – 5 Senses for Success: Strategies to Thrive in Any Arena, Juli Geske Peer

In active listening we defer judgment. Instead, we give another our undivided attention (no interruptions), focus in on what they are saying, and then, when the appropriate time comes, we can summarize something we heard or ask very specific questions to be sure we understood them correctly.

Look inward

Your personal identity and the experiences you’ve had are unique to you and only you. They shape who you are and your views of the world. However, your view of the world and experience is not the only one that ever happened.

If you are struggling with someone else’s point of view, here are some starter questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this idea or opinion really new, or just new to me?
  • Am I considering the context to which this is referring?
  • What can I learn from this differing perspective?
  • Are there other approaches than mine to addressing this issue?
  • Why does she/he feel (or think) that way?

What each one of these questions does is allow us to pause before reacting. The more often we practice reflecting on our differences in a constructive manner, the more we improve at it and it becomes a habit.

Here are 3 points to remember when you feel emotional about another viewpoint.

  • Emotions help us navigate an ever-changing world
  • Feelings are the reactions to our emotions
  • Take a moment to examine the underlying emotion before you present your feelings to someone

Let’s start now to shake off those patterns that do not serve us. I propose we approach the extremes we see, hear or feel with a new awareness. It will take time to adjust to a new way of processing and reacting in our lives. Give yourself the grace to think through what you feel and give others that same grace to share where they are coming from.

Oh, and one more thing.

Remember: despite how open, peaceful, and loving you attempt to be, people can only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves.

– Matt Kahn

#JuliGeskepeer, #5SensesforSuccess, #HandlingtheExtremes, #relationshipsandsuccess, #activelistening, #localauthor, #successinanyarena, #successdfulleaders, #empathy, #mindset, #humanconnection, #juligeskepeerauthor, #emotionalhealing, #emotionalintelligence


Now Available!

For more about engaging all the senses that can provide support for your journey to success, please take a moment to explore my newly published book, 5 Senses for Success: Strategies to Thrive in Any Arena. I am very proud to share these approaches and truly achievable practices that were born out of my own life and career experiences and strategic research. Each of us has it within us to achieve success and create healthier relationships within ourselves and with others.

Here is a link for more information. https://juligeskepeer.com/5-senses-for-success

Juli Geske Peer is a leadership and relationship practitioner whose professional credentials include two academic degrees, mediator training, train-the-trainer certification, two coaching certifications, numerous other learning and certification accomplishments, and now, author!

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