What sort of “emotional weather system” do you carry with you?
When you come home from work, do you bring in clouds or sunshine to your family?
Do you complain, berate, act belligerently, fuss about, tell people what they’re doing (or have done) wrong today, or tell everyone how exhausted and frustrated you are?
Or do you restrain some of these things and focus on being present NOW with your family (including your spouse) at home?
Each of us has the power to bring the people around us down, or, on the other hand, to lift them up and help them feel connected and alive; it all depends on the emotional weather system we carry with us.
If, when I’m with my family, I allow myself to “let loose” on them all of my pain and conflict for that day or that week, then I’m coloring their sky with dark clouds. And because of this, I’m also losing Emotional Credibility with them (which equals trust + them liking me around.)
That’s because a funny thing about we human beings is that we absolutely “reference” each other before we even realize consciously that we’re doing it.
What do I mean by referencing each other?
Let me explain.
In other words, when I think of Sally, my subconscious mind will, automatically and before I even have a chance to realize it consciously, make a quick overall assessment of her Emotional Credibility. My subconscious will then either “reference her to the good” or it will “reference her to the bad” depending on the result.
You can think of it as my immediate gut reaction to Sally.
Now it’s true that sometimes we form a gut reaction to someone without even knowing them, and this is called a “transference reaction”; i.e. they trigger something in us on a subconscious level from past people we’ve known or experiences we’ve had even if it has nothing to actually do with they themselves.
However, we are talking about something different here.
The idea of coloring someone’s sky with darkness or sunshine with our emotional weather system is a more controllable, CONSCIOUS phenomenon because it involves learning to recognize and modify our BEHAVIOR.
We can actually CHOOSE to restrain our momentary misery or upset instead of letting it immediately, and often inappropriately, bleed all over everyone else around us (excuse the blood reference; once a physician always a physician.)
And the most powerful part of this concept is that it’s contagious.
In other words, if I act out my pain by being miserable around you, you will then, in turn, most likely take on my emotional weather system and pass it along to the next person, project, or situation in your life.
Or even if you don’t take it on and pass it along directly, you might at least absorb it and it will affect your mood, self-esteem, sense of tranquility and focus, etc.
On the other hand, if I present to you with some degree of control over myself and, at least for the moment, restrain myself, then you’ll feel differently in my presence since the emotional weather system over us will be brighter.
Maybe you’ll actually have a chance to tell me about how YOU’RE feeling.
Or maybe you can tell me something about your day, or about the kids, your project, etc.
The point is, I won’t have ruined any chance of connecting with you and building Emotional Credibility with you by casting a dark emotional weather system over our heads with negativity, anger, hopelessness, or criticism.
Something I call the “Spirit of LVAC” (LVAC = Listen, Validate, Ask, Comment), means that we approach other people in our lives with a sense of restraint so that we can learn more about THEM.
The LVAC stance is a position of inquiry, not of Comments. We learn to Listen, then Validate peoples’ feelings, before we might Ask some questions, holding our Comments for last.
When we come in all negative or angry, with guns a-blazin’, we are Commenting FIRST instead of Listening first. We are in an aggressive, controlling, dark stance instead of an LVAC stance or spirit (see my previous posts for more on LVAC and Spirit of LVAC, or read my book LVAC Nation! available on amazon.com.)
We are telling the other person that WE are the center of attention, not them, and not anybody or anything else.
We are insecure, unsettled, agitated.
And we are coloring their sky and their emotional weather system with dark clouds.
Try to practice checking in with yourself and your emotional weather system BEFORE you go home from work or, in any case, before you engage your loved ones (you can use my “One Minute Trick” from my prior post of the same name.)
We have to try to keep in mind that it’s ultimately up to us how people reference us when they think of us; will it be dark clouds and doom and gloom or sunshine, competence, and hope?
Good luck and be well,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.