Got hidden talents?

With all this exploration of hidden talents I've pursued for the past two weeks, you may be wondering if you've got some yourself. While I've been exploring the challenge of recognizing talents in others, it's also been time to help you to find those within yourself. When our own talents are hidden, we don't know we have them or don't admit the possibility to ourselves. The talents are in our unconscious mind where we cannot think about them logically.

This calls for some detective work. Here are some places to look for your own hidden talents:
  1. Idolizing particular people: Perhaps there are a few people whom you admire greatly. You put them on a pedestal because of traits they possess or skills they use. You may look up to them for the way they treat people or make a difference in the world. You are doing this because of what you're capable of yourself. You're seeing qualities in them that show you what you will aspire to, cultivate and express like them someday. They would not capture your attention or win your admiration if you had nothing in your unconscious to project onto them.
  2. Appearing awesome in dreams: Perhaps you've dreamt of yourself acting differently, playing a new role or handling strange situations. You have have pictured yourself being more competent, respected or relied upon by others. These dreams are revealing a hidden talent of yours in scenarios where your talent has been consciously realized. Awakening from dreams like these may leave feeling unusually confident, optimistic or resourceful. (When we dream of being incompetent, that does not mean we're going to be inept. It's picturing us as the product of systems that undervalue us, invalidate us or exploit us as pawns in their power-trips)
  3. Possessed by unexpected passions: Perhaps there are tasks you do occasionally where you feel out of character. You become more excited, dedicated, industrious or meticulous than usual. You find you are caring more, extra- energized and far more attentive than you typically act. These are signs of a hidden talent ready to burst into consciousness.
  4. Unexpected stretch assignments: Perhaps you've been asked to do something beyond your current abilities. Others may be seeing potential in you that you don't realize you've got. You may be getting asked to help out on a task that will show you something new about yourself, or give you eye-opening experiences. These are indications of a hidden talent that's dropping clues that others can see and help you cultivate.
All these ways that hidden talents become revealed to you suggest approaching this challenge as a mystery. Rather than rely on what you know about yourself, assume your hidden talents are something you have no clue about. Expect to be surprised or challenged by the discoveries. Count on not-knowing what to think about your talents being more helpful than what you already can explain about yourself. Then you'll be open to clues, watching for signs and wise to the revelations when they occur.


Ability to see hidden talents

How is it possible to recognize that another person has some hidden potential? The ability to see what others don't know about themselves may be a talent in itself. Recognizing under-developed traits in others is possibly a sign of maturity that comes with age. Seeing hidden talents may also require several other valuable character traits.

When we've established self-respect, we're in a position of respect others. We will then look for ways they can respect themselves more, admire their accomplishments and expect greater things of their latent abilities. We're on solid ground with ourselves and free to disregard others' caustic opinions of us. We see the harm that comes from pandering for other's approval. We naturally give other's the same permission to be respectful of themselves.

When we understand ourselves deeply, we seem to be several different people inside taking turns at showing up in the world. We realize how we fill different roles without conflict, acting like very different characters in different situations. With this comes a sense of other people we could be and many "right ways to live". We become far more tolerant and understanding of others. We're no longer threatened by differences from us or their deviation from a pretentious norm.

As we get in touch with our feelings, we accept our full range of emotions. We then become more sensitive to others' feelings, moods and vulnerabilities. We become more gracious and considerate of others' feelings. We also then trust our own feelings as a guide of where to make a difference and what to avoid. We give others the sense that their feelings are valuable, informative and essential.

As we tune into other people's world views, we develop multiple perspectives for viewing situations. We can make sense from varied points of view and imagine others doing the same. We can then empathize with ways of seeing a situation unlike our own. We allow others to comprehend their challenges with their own frames of reference for starters. We give validation before education. Stephen Covey advises, we "seek first to understand, then to be understood".

Taking tall this into consideration, it seems that our ability, to see hidden talents in others, emerges with the development of our own talents.


Viral hidden talents?

What if it "takes one to know one" when cultivating hidden talents? Perhaps it requires having refined one's own talents in order to see them in others. It's possible that the basis for recognizing hidden talents in others is those talents that were repressed in us. Then getting mentored, reflected upon by others, or coached in a talent development system will initiate the ability to see talents in others..

What if hidden talents are cyclical? Perhaps the realization of latent traits and abilities conforms to the dynamic of "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer". When we assume we have no hidden talents worth developing, we become less talented and resourceful. We go into a downward spiral. When we appreciate what talents we've found in us, we become more capable, innovative and ingenious. We soar inside a self-reinforcing (positive feedback) loop. Then anyone's task is to start appreciating the talents that are already in play.

What if hidden talents are highly contagious? Perhaps we catch on to realizing our under-developed traits by exposure to people in the same condition. When we're discovering new possibilities and abilities, we give off an impression. It's obvious to others how we are being fulfilled, finding more meaning in our lives, and looking forward to new adventures. It's possible others could get infected by this atmosphere. Then the challenge is to get immersed among colleagues and/or communities who are evolving rapidly now.

What if hidden talents emerge when conditions are ripe? Perhaps they blossom in the warmth of other's respect, admiration, encouragement and validation. It's obvious to me that my efforts to make others' talents develop usually backfires, while they come to fruition on their own schedule. It's possible their latent abilities require a critical mass of favorable conditions before they burst into full realization. Then the blossoming of talents calls for getting out of dramas trafficking in patterns for chronic childishness.


Derailed by chronic childishness

A fully developed talent is a paradox of wisdom and innocence. As the slight inclination toward a possibility becomes a fully realized capability, we become as insightful as tribal elders and as unassuming as children. We approach the gifts we found inside us with a sense of all-knowing insight and not-knowing what the mystery will bring to us next. The talent is not a thing to cling to or show off. It eludes our thinking and deepens our lives.

The cultivation of hidden talents can go awry by getting trapped in chronic childishness. We embody a "wounded inner child" and act out our incessantly, immature impulses. We play the part of the powerless peasant in those under-developed countries ruled by tyrants. Like the problem with a toxic inner voice, there appears to be no escape until we are fully aware of the patterns in the problem.

Here are the seven, most common ways that I've seen childishness interfering with the cultivation of hidden talents:
  1. Infantile grandiosity: Our talents remain under-developed whenever we become over-impressed with ourselves. We over-sell our limited capabilities and over-extend our scarce resources. It appears we are over-compensating for some perceived lack by showing off and acting like royalty before our unruly subjects. We are so full of ourselves we cannot admit to errors, other responsibilities, our effects on others or other potentials to find within ourselves.
  2. Morbid dependency on authority figures: We arrest the cultivation of hidden talents when we act like we need a mommy or daddy figure. We depend on an exalted superior to tell us what to think, decide and choose. We cannot make up our own mind or question their authority. We play it small and keep ourselves in a lowly position out of deference to our adopted parent figure.
  3. Attachment disorder: We make it impossible to develop our talents when we get into toxic relationships. Our lives become overly dramatic. We start throwing tantrums like irate kids. Everything is a crisis requiring frantic thinking and desperate action. We're attracted to people who trash our confidence, commitments or health. We grew fond of these types from earlier experiences with internalizing "tainted love". We learned from primary caregivers to think we're receiving love when we are getting abused, deprived or terrorized. It feels like home to get mistreated that way. We miss it and we want more of it even though we've supposedly grown up. We instinctively know where to get it and then get hooked by it without hesitation.
  4. Persecution complexes: We can make our hidden talents one more thing to feel victimized by. When we've been shocked by persecution, we become vigilant about anything out to get us. We try to avoid feeling powerless again on the basis of profound self-pity. We only succeed at re-enacting an episode of getting persecuted in familiar ways. Our victim story goes into endless reruns while our talents remain in deep denial.
  5. Inferiority complexes: We can unconsciously deprive ourselves of acting talented, resourceful and gifted. We may believe we are not worthy of admiration, respect or recognition. We assume we are inferior, incapable, and powerless to change anything. We live in a state of torment and anxiety that drowns out any inspiration to think better of ourselves. Our wishful thinking and escape fantasies avoid anything as realistic as cultivating our hidden talents.
  6. Negative parent wounds: We're in no shape to shape up or grow up when we've been devastated by a negative father or mother. We experience having an insatiable need to change our mood in a hurry and to escape our perpetual misery with a quick fix. We feel guilty about who we are and apologetic about existing. We cannot justify our existence or stand our ground with any conviction. We fill this chronic, aching emptiness with any of a number of thrill-seeking addictions. All the while, we neglect our potential and dismiss our unique traits.
  7. Hostage situations: When we're desperate for companionship and plagued by loneliness, cultivating hidden talents would ruin everything. We're making a show of neediness that hooks caring people. We're making a play for sympathy that baits others to feel sorry for us. We're taking hostages of others with our neediness and punishing them if they act independently or self-confidently. Developing our own talents would appear like we valued solitude, satisfied our needs with our accomplishments and had no use for sympathy. Our hostages would be set free and we would be left to our own devices.
My numerous run-ins with these forms of childishness have taught me that "cultivating hidden talents" is "too much too soon" for many adults. These patterns are amazingly robust and defiant of the ways my mentoring serves people with more resourcefulness. Rather than keep trying what usually works for me, I've learned that chronic childishness calls for me to provide some clean structure.

Commiseration with childishness fails horribly. Dirty structure comes across as controlling, manipulative and contemptuous. Breaking up any of the patterns succeeds when people are shown the respect implied by open frameworks where they choose how to take action. They can get something done and take pride in their accomplishments. They then can take responsibility for cleaning up their mistakes without getting shamed, blamed or castigated. In the process, they grow up and outgrow their chronic childishness. They become capable of eventually cultivating their hidden talents.


Under-developed talents

Under-developed countries are usually ruled by dictators. The domineering use of power by elite rulers eviscerates the economic and social progress in the country. The peasants remain weak while the big shots in the governmental palace persist in abusing their power. The country lacks paved roads, airports, power grids, fuel storage and water treatment facilities. The guerrilla insurgencies fail to overthrow the oppressive regime. The subsistence-level existence seems inescapable while so much is neglected, antagonistic and oppressed.

A similar dynamic plays out in the minds of all of us with under-developed talents. We fail to live up to our potential for reasons that appear inescapable. We lack the infrastructure to develop those talents. Our desires to change are over-ruled by an inner tyrant. We repeatedly experience being our own worst enemy and harshest critic. We see no way out of this misery even though it's self-imposed at some deeper level. Attempts to change, rebel or escape all fail. The satisfying development of our talents remains a wishful fantasy.

We get trapped in this because our brains are designed to internalize excessive caution at all cost. Early in our lives, we discover we are poor judges of danger. We rely on authority figures to look out for threats to our well being and forewarn us of trouble we might be getting into. Rather than continually needing to ask for their vigilant guidance, we internalize their speech patterns and lines of reasoning. We then have a voice in our heads that guards us against dangers, changes and unknowns. Its fear-based logic cannot handle complex tradeoffs, mind-boggling paradoxes, nuanced issues or gradients between extremes. It's voice berates us for any mistake, embarrassment or risky behavior. It's outlook remains vigilant to meet others' approval, avoid their rejection and maintain a low profile. This voice can go ballistic with fear when we consider doing anything as weird as cultivating a hidden talent.

We don't assess whether the authority, in whom we put so much trust, is really a paranoid, control-freak who misperceives genuine opportunities as imagined threats. We assume his/her evaluation of danger is extremely realistic and reliable. We then sacrifice the development of our talents because our survival is unquestionably in danger when it sounds the alarm. We "know" our control of a situation is "really being" challenged. We embody those instinctual priorities which frame our hidden talents as luxuries to cultivate only when we're basking in safety, abundance of opportunities and freedom from oppression. Otherwise, "desperate times call for desperate measures" which includes following the dictates of a tyrant in our minds.

Different models of therapy offer different names for this voice in our heads: toxic introject, a super-ego, internalized abuse, a negative father complex, unresolved power issues, a top dog, a gremlin, an inner enemy, or toxic shame. Whatever the name, it functions the same and serves the same purpose: keeping us out of danger. Developing hidden talents looks extremely dicey and deviant. The voice inhibits, sabotages or ridicules any of our inclinations, planning or initial attempts at the development of hidden talents.

With so much inner opposition, most tentative explorations of latent possibilities get defeated after a few attempts. Like under-developed countries, we don't develop the infrastructure that makes it possible and easy to develop our hidden talents. We don't read books/blogs/articles about our particular potentials. We don't cultivate friendships or other resources who encourage us with their own experiences and aspirations. We fail to make a conscious effort to deal with the inherent limitations of the voice's intentions. We don't get beyond trying to overthrow the inner tyrant like the imprisoned rebels who oppose an oppressive dictator.

To liberate our minds and unleash our hidden talents, we need to become better judges of danger. This calls for beating the inner tyrant at its game.
  • How dangerous is it really to not meet with others' approval?
  • How perilous would rejection turn out to be?
  • How risky is it to deviate from what others are doing?
  • How important is it to be confined by what others think?
  • Which is more dangerous - not fitting in or not being true to one's own talents?
  • What are the specific dangers in cultivating a particular hidden talent?
When we've formulated confident answers to questions like these, we can disregard the extreme voice -- while watching out for dangers all the same. We will create a context with some safety, abundance of opportunities and freedom from oppression. Our instinctual drive to survive will relax and allow us to development our hidden talents.


Talents hidden by conformity pressures

Most of us are in need of permission to be uniquely ourselves. We have been pressured to conform to other's expectations. We are indoctrinated with the obligation to "be normal", "fit in with everyone else", "not stand out like a sore thumb" or "be more like a particular sibling, parent or other relative". If we yield those these conformity pressures, our unique gifts, talents and traits will go unconscious. We'll deny they exist to avoid the pain of our unlived life and unrealized potential. We won't understand why we're unhappy, unfulfilled or continually resentful when we're trying to simmer down, fit in and act conventionally. We'll assume there is something wrong with us that justifies feeling guilty. We think we should apologize for being defective, deficient, or deviant. We've lost sight of our hidden talents.

Sometimes a phase of conformity is a good thing. During this time we develop trade skills, self confidence and a steady source of income. We seem reliable to others and attract a mate and friends into our lives who expect us to not change. If we go overboard at fitting in, we also saddle ourselves with a bundle of financial obligations on this same premise of how we are going to continually operate with mechanical consistency. We morph into a good machine like everyone else that values conformity. We are embarrassed by our spells of irrationality, emotionality and contrariness. We have no clue that we are experiencing bouts with our hidden talents coming alive.

Sometimes fitting in with the crowd turns out to be a bad thing. We "gain the world and lose our soul". We sacrifice our gifts and talents on the altar of materialism and conformity. We sellout for the sake of the almighty dollar, an obnoxious power trip or the appeasement of parental pressures. We are destined to contribute to the world in deviant ways. Our uniqueness is a source of inner torment until we show it considerable respect. We appear to sabotage great opportunities, self-destruct amidst impressive challenges and act out a fear of success. We are haunted by our destiny. We are paying a price for trying to fit in until we get on our own path and follow it with intense dedication.

There are many metaphors used by therapists, counselors and mentors for picturing this transition from conformity to fulfillment of a unique purpose, talents and contributions:
You appear to have been trapped in a dominant narrative imposed on your life. Yet you've had some sparkling moments that take exception to how you're supposed to be, act, think and feel. There's an opportunity in this to write a preferred narrative of how you see yourself acting, relating, thinking and feeling by you own choice.

You appear to have figured out how to be a good person in other people's eyes. You concocted a private religion that you've expected would get rewarded by fate -- so long as you didn't mess up. Now you're having a crisis of faith because your bad turn of luck has destroyed the meaning of your life and rewarded the wrong doers instead of you. While you've been humbled, shattered and ruined, you're the right size to receive your higher calling. You're in the right frame of mind to submit to your elusive, inner purpose. It's time to not know what to think so as to be given direction from within.

This person you've been proud of being is only a mask that you hide behind. You keep the world from knowing what you're really thinking, feeling and getting urges to do -- with this flimsy facade. Now that your pretentious claim on respectability has been exposed as a fake, the real you is free to come forth. The truth will set you free. The relationships that can handle your honesty will be the ones you treasure the most.

You've keeping your feelings from showing and occasionally flipping your lid. That's an indication of your having a lot to say that has not been admitted to yourself or revealed to others. The time for repression is over. The time for expression has come. You will find your own voice, unique curiosity, particular passions and soulful purpose -- as you write out, speak up or show the world who you are when you're in touch with your deepest feelings.
Whenever we make the switch from conformity to uniqueness, the timing of our transition is close to perfect. A long stretch of fitting in may work out perfectly with our ultimate calling. A brief bout with copping out may be essential to fully develop a complex gift for the world. We cannot be the judge of the timing in our lives. However, we can trust the process and immerse ourselves in the value of our present situations.


Seeing others clearly

Some people have a talent for giving constructive feedback. They see others clearly. They approach others with enough fascination to gain insights that read people below the obvious surface impressions. Their sense of others is complex and considerate of tradeoffs, conflicting ambitions and unconscious motives. This issue came up on Steve Roesler's blog last week in a post titled: Talent, Systems, Change, and Truthful Self-Perception. If you read through the comments, you'll get a comprehensive sense of this issue.

Performance reviews and promotion decisions are plagued by rater bias. One work around this is 360 degree feedback that gathers the perceptions from a circle of superiors, colleagues an underlings. Another solution relies on proprietary psychometric instruments like the Myers Briggs or DISC assessments. I've used the Myers Briggs scale on myself several times over 30 years. I'm very impressed with the Myers Briggs instrument because I get the same result every time (INFP). I was certified in the use of the DISC instrument years ago, but have not had equal success with it. I suspect it only assesses the idealized self and coping mechanisms we all show the world, rather than our deeper, inner nature. The feedback was not taken as constructive by most and did not appear to resonate with many of my clients' sense of authenticity (being real, being true to oneself, etc.)

As I explored the nature of family systems and ecosystems, I realized that "seeing others clearly" and "giving accurate feedback" are likely to be emergent properties of systems. Individuals may demonstrate a talent for giving feedback in the context that supports that conduct. Likewise the feedback they give others will "miss the mark" in situations that are rife with hostilities, power struggles, abuse or fear. The appearance of the talent depends on the situation. Corrupted, biased and destructive feedback are all very common in family, school or workplace dramas predicated on self contempt. The talent for giving accurate feedback is usually scarce and sorely needed because it is not an emergent property of the toxic system in use.

It's human nature to go to extremes when we're afraid. We become extremely productive when we're afraid of being seen as lazy. We get fanatic about getting attention when we're devastated by indifference and neglect. We go crazy about pleasing others when we scared of being rejected, ostracized or dismissed. These over-reactions skew our perceptions of other people. We idealize one extreme and demonize the other. We give feedback on the basis of there being one right answer, a normative standard to adhere to, and an ideal to live up to. We cannot handle deviation, variation and experimentation.

When we have gone to any extreme, the opposite becomes our shadow. We have a dark side that we don't admit to. We pretend it doesn't exist in us, but take offense when we see it in others. Rather than successfully getting it to disappear, we become haunted by our missing half. Our shadow appears in our dreams, shows up as unwanted characters in our lives or in outbursts we regret after we feel like ourselves again. Because we are keeping this opposite extreme in denial, it functions demonically. The only choice of our dark side is to seek the destruction of our false pride, delusional conceit, and arrogant idea of how good we really are. We are our own worst enemy when we fail to accept our own dark side.

The feedback we give while in this state of mind is far from clear. We're keeping a lid on stormy emotions and compensating for our cloudy misperceptions. We cannot handle the truth about ourselves, so we don't see the truth in others. We are lacking insights and intuitions about others because our mind is in turmoil. We think we are giving others feedback when we are actually projecting our own insecurities or superiority on to them. We are effectively blaming them for making us feel unhappy and seeing our own large misgivings in their small shortcomings. We fall into collusion and conflicts with like-minded people. We agree who's at fault, who to make into the enemy and who to guard against. The social system we keep perpetuated and replicated cannot handle seeing others clearly. They need to label, stereotype and diminish others overrides the value of accurate appraisals.

Systems that support constructive feedback are based on mutual respect. Differences between people are valued and balance is found between personally favored extremes. Contributions are non-conformist and insights about others are numerous. Individuals are self aware and accepting of their own dark sides. Unresolved issues get processed as they arise. Extremes presented as desperately necessary get contained by the whole range of valuable options. Everyone has received lots of feedback that seems congruent with how they know themselves to be. There's a shared expectation generated from these experiences that feedback from others will be accurate and useful. Seeing others clearly emerges from the healthy social system in play.


A hidden talent for creativity?

Lots of people characterize themselves as lacking creativity and then feel envious of those who display more talent. Plenty of teachers wish their students demonstrated more creativity. Countless managers want their charges to solve problems with more ingenuity. Most taxpayers wish their government services, legislators and military would think outside the box of worn-out premises. oodles of customers wish their salespeople would apply more creativity providing service and satisfaction. In short, there appears to be a real problem with a talent for creativity getting hidden, repressed or damaged.

It's very tempting to approach this issue as a dichotomy: creativity is either hidden or apparent, repressed or expressed. Either/or diagnoses like these feed the problem and lack creativity in themselves. We are seeing a lack of creativity when we are lacking creativity in our approach to a hidden talent. We get to be right about having a problem to solve while missing out how ways the problem disappears in the wink of an eye. This situation calls for more creativity.

What-if creativity appears with perfect timing? Creativity is inherently destructive to some aspect of the status quo and disruptive to complacency. Assumptions get up-ended and beliefs get contradicted. There's a time for this destruction to occur and a time for stability and order. What-if creativity appears when the time is right for dismantling something, and disappears when it's time for commitments and persistence? Then hidden talents are a sign of the times. The absence of creativity reveals the presence of consistency. A lack of creativity is a lack of mayhem, chaos and disorder. There's no problem, only well-timed solutions and a continual balance between both possibilities.

What-if creativity only appears where it belongs? Creativity is essential to survive and thrive is changing situations. Genetic mutations are creative adaptations to changing habitats. Business innovations evolve with transforming markets. People reinvent themselves when faced with unforeseen opportunities. Creativity appears where it's called for by a discontinuity in more-of-the-same, business-as-usual, tried-and-true circumstances. What-if creativity also disappears in circumstances where it does not belong? When organisms are going extinct, they persist with a flawed survival strategy. When businesses are falling by the wayside, they follow their fears that try harder at what used to succeed. When individuals feel victimized by layoffs or industry-wide job-loss, they feed their misery with mood-altering addictions. There's no problem with creativity, only problem situations where it does not belong.

What-if creativity only comes between a pair of opposites? Creativity comes about when someone wants to give and another wants to receive. Innovations come to mind when we know what needs to be done but not how to do it. Creativity enters a situation where there is a space between opposing stances for reconciliation, forgiveness and win/win solutions. New ideas appear in collaboration where it's "good for us", "what we need to succeed" or "in our best interests". What-if creativity cannot appear when we work in isolation or act selfishly? Creativity cannot come about when aiming to control, fix or diminish other people. Innovations elude the enterprise that has no sense of community, context and connections to countless constituencies. There's no problem with hidden talents, only problems with "holding the tension of opposites".

What-if creativity is always unstoppable? We are always creating our experiences with our selective perceptions and framing them with our subjectivity. We are continually attracting the people and situations that provoke us to think, feel and do things of value. We cannot stop creating something different from the last time we saw this, showed up here or took on this challenge. What-if we creativity only appears stoppable when we're dreaming that physical life is real and life-in-spirit is imaginary? When we're awake to what's real, we see creativity occurring everywhere all-the-time. When we're delusional, distracted or dreaming, we misread the evidence and mistake what appears to be true. There's no problem with creativity, only problems with realizing what's really happening in dimensions that our five senses cannot detect.

If anything of these what-if possibilities fit the facts of your situation, then framing the problem as "a hidden talent for creativity" is a game of pretending. There's no real need to make-believe that creative abilities are hidden when its timing is perfect, it appears where it belongs, it emerges between opposites and stops for no one.


The wonderful 25th Anniversary Whack

Twenty five years ago, I bought a book with a bright red cover that I've treasured ever since: A Whack on the Side of the Head. Twenty years ago in Grand Rapids Michigan, I met the book's author: Roger von Oech. We were both making presentations on creativity to a corporate headquarters there. Last month Roger asked me to write a review of his revised, 25th Anniversary edition of the book. I recently learned that the previous editions have sold nearly 2 million copies while getting translated into 17 different languages. This week, UPS delivered the new version that is pictured next to my first edition.

Writing reviews of books is well within my area of expertise and my comfort zone. I'm delighted and honored to write of review of this wonderful book -- except that would be acting like I had not read the new A Whack on the Side of the Head this week! So first, I'll reverse the problem of writing a review that's already within my expertise and following the rule established by Roger's request of me.
What-if it's not "in my area" to review a book on creativity? What-if I've not added reviews before to this blog? What-if complying with the "rule to write the review as requested" is a block to my creativity? What-if this challenge is really new to me, very curious indeed and likely to be fun for me (and you)?
That leaves my options extremely wide open. I could write anything about the new book. As Roger has explored more extensively in this new edition, added constraints bring out more creativity. I need to limit my possibilities further and take those previous what-if questions as a steppingstone to another set of more confining questions.
What-if this 25th Anniversary book that arrived this week is not really a book to open, read, bookmark, reread, close and shelve? What-if the book is actually therapy for troublesome inhibitions, hang-ups and blocked talents? What-if the book is practicing what it preaches and setting us up to learn by its worthy example? What-if the new book is actually giving away the secret of its huge sales success with the previous editions? What-if the book embodies paradoxical wisdom like the Tao Te Ching or I Ching that can always be contemplated, but not read for literal meaning in a straightforward manner?
Now I've narrowed my options enough that I can get creative and see it differently in essence!

As therapy for hang-ups: This 25th edition is even more therapeutic for any of those ten blocks to creativity Roger identifies. The early versions tempted the reader to go into either/or thinking about ambiguity, following the rules or right answers. The new edition frames each block as both a good and bad thing. Now it depends on the situation. The new edition is more like the healing tradition among Native Americans who tell medicine stories. There's a "time to deviate and a time to replicate" with each block that is explored. The stories hand over the power to discern and choose when, how much and in which way to play around. We're set up to give ourselves advice with the ambiguity we get from the book. Our hang-ups vanish as we abandon our one-sided preconceptions.

As an example to imitate: Lots of books are written by hypocrites who cannot walk their talk, but articulate a good game on paper. We don't learn much from quacks because their incompetent actions speak louder than their impressive words. On the other hand, Roger is acting creative as he whacks his son's seventh birthday dinner or the consequences of a month long closing of his swim team's pool. We can follow his example when he starts using metaphors, changing frames of reference or pondering a paradox. We can see how creative the book is, how creative we look to him, and how easy it appears to get creative ourselves. We get the feeling that creativity is something to do and have fun with every day. It's really something that can be learned by osmosis, imitation and example -- once we realize how creative we've suddenly become right now by rereading a few of these pages.

As success secrets revealed: Only a fool would see this book as a guide to riches. So call me "a real whack job" as I reveal its secrets. Roger quotes Heraclitus: "Every walking animal is driven to its purpose by a whack". Like marketeers who "don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle" or "don't sell perfume, sell hope", every edition of Whack has sold us our own purpose. It's a multi-million seller because we're buying access to our own potential and heartfelt aim. It sells because it's creative in attractiveness, it's offer, and it's positioning. It sells the emotional appeal of using it to get walking again. When we've come to a standstill, we get the whack we need from it to get unstuck in our thinking. The whack "dislodges our presuppositions" about the necessity of being practical, avoiding mistakes, acting foolish and following rules. It's a guide to the riches in us that create the gifts for others to utilize themselves; or so this fool believes.

As paradoxical wisdom to contemplate: Is now the time to do the soft thinking of an artist or the hard thinking of a judge? Is this a situation to anticipate more of the same or to expect the unexpected? Does the problem I'm working on call for the mother (necessity) or the father (playfulness) of invention? Will I get unstuck at this point in my process by reversing the problem, morphing into a fool or seeing the obvious issues as metaphors? Will I discern the real problem by the light of day or in the dark of night? Will the clue I need be revealed by the dog that unexpectedly did bark or the dog that surprisingly didn't bark -- last night? What if I take this situation symbolically, like a dream that's showing me something I cannot discern with my literal objectivity? What if A Whack on the Side of the Head is an oracle to consult with questions like these at any given moment?

So things aren't always as they appear: not book reviews, bloggers, the books themselves or you dear reader. Imagine that!


A talent for relating

Everyone I meet shows signs of some talent for relating to others. For many, their talent is hidden for good reasons. Yet, in the presence of some authentic connection to them, their ability to relate in their own way comes into play. When I'm using my own talent for relating, it's apparent to the others and myself that they have a hidden talent. They discover they have what it takes to relate in a way that's enjoyable, fulfilling and even natural for them.

I've realized that our talents for relating are designed to be unique. We have our own ways of showing how much we care and what we naturally connect to in others. We feel capable of understanding other people in uncommon ways . We get inspired to serve, support and nurture relationships on different bases. We respect and admire others with our own passions, priorities and values. We see others within our own frames of reference that gives us different ways to respond and relate to their concerns. When we actualize our own talents for relating, we are one of a kind and inherently kind to others.

Many of us lose sight of our unique talent for relating. We are not really getting related to and forego our ability to initiate authentic relating. We develop defenses and pretenses to manage our misery and keep interactions superficial. We realize a typical situation calls for getting some control of others and putting some distance into the pseudo-relationship. It seems obvious that acting understanding, caring and respectful will backfire. The entanglement appears to be on the brink of losing control and compromising our own values. We cope with getting blamed, bribed and told what's right for us by people we feel wronged by. We assume our hidden talent for relating is useless while we're getting consistently manipulated, misled and betrayed.

When we've been damaged by pseudo-relating, we're bound to have trust issues. We will not make commitments easily or let our guard down anytime soon. We're living in fear of more mistreatment of our needs, more misunderstanding of what we said and more misconstruing of our intentions. We're prepared for repeats of what we don't want to happen. We soon attract more proof of how right we are about the dangers.

When we utilize our unique talent for relating, others feel understood by us on some level or in some way. They feel safe around us and respected by us. They experience permission from us to be themselves and trust their feelings. Their tolerance for ambiguity increases. They allow the relationship to become more mysterious as they "expect the unexpected" to occur. They welcome us into some private dimensions of their lives because of the feeling they get from our ways of seeing them. We see beyond the mask they show the world and value the resulting depth in our relationship with them.

I've learned, from my experience with mentoring, how bringing out others' talents for relating is a slow process. Most people are disoriented by getting understood and respected. They are accustomed to being taken hostage by other's neediness and dominated by others control needs. They are familiar with commiseration and manipulation, not validation and fascination. It takes time for people to get their bearings in a context where their own talent for relating will emerge. They need to experiment with how they respond to getting someone "in their corner watching their back". They eventually find within themselves their unique talent for relating.


Introduction to hidden talents

This is the first in a new series of posts on our hidden talents. Psychologists have many ways to explain how our talents get hidden and why it's so difficult to bring them into fruition. I use these explanations every day in the mentoring I'm doing. I routinely see people are more resourceful than they realize they are. It's become a frequent challenge of mine to bring out the best in others whenever I get a sense of where they are coming from.

For the past week, Steve Roesler has been exploring the issues of systemic talent development on his blog: All Things Workplace. There are many organizational and leadership issues involved that Steve's talent for framing issues has explored superbly. Few employers realize the benefits from cultivating their employees' under-developed traits. By following the organizational issues in Steve's series of posts and the psychological issues here, you'll gain a full appreciation of the difficulties and rewards of developing others' hidden talents.

For starters, I'll explore many of the metaphors for relating to hidden talents. Each of these redefines the problem and opportunities to explore. Each says any approach to hidden talents is more art than science.
  • Finding hidden talents: It takes a keen eye to spot a hidden talent. Like a detective sniffing about for clues, the awareness of latent potentials involves a focused attention on subtle signs that most overlook. I expect to find gifts that people don't know they have or have dismissed as insignificant. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy where I find what I'm looking for. By regarding someone as "more than meets my eye", some of what's hidden in them becomes revealed to me. I see the trait when I believe it can be seen by me.
  • Unleashing hidden talents: Lots of potential in people appears to be repressed by a layer of defensive rationalizations. People are full of excuses why they cannot consider the possibility of their latent abilities. They are convinced there's no way to explore new potentials or change their ideas about who they are. Their comfort zone is encased like a fortress with thick walls. Their hidden talents are held captive in a dungeon awaiting liberation. They cannot free their themselves from their internalized oppression or find the keys to the prison cell of preconceptions.
  • Refining hidden talents: Under-develop traits usually come out at first as raw urges. They are expressed awkwardly and understood primitively. There is a need to break them down into component issues, to rethink their formulations and to refine their expression. Obnoxious over-simplifications go through arduous complications to emerge as refined talents. The process is like taming wild animals, cooking a savory stew or concocting a potion. There's a unpredictable search to find the right balance, combination and emphasis in the process of refinement.
  • Rooting hidden talents: Lots of latent abilities remain like seeds stored in the dark. They will not sprout into anything useful or fulfilling without a gardener's careful attention. There's an initial process of delving deeper into that darkness. The seeds need to send down roots into negative emotions, painful past episodes and chronic fears. By growing away from one's sunny disposition and favorable "impression management", the hidden talent acquires a new basis to grow tall. Self confidence gets established on solid ground rather than on the shifting sands of people-pleasing rackets and avoidance of pain.
  • Nurturing hidden talents: Latent potentials thrive amidst respect and validation. They grow in a context where mistakes are useful and essential to uncover false assumptions. The development of hidden talents become exploratory, adventurous, and courageous in supportive conditions. Having someone in their corner who's got their back -- brings out the risk-taking that's essential for them to rely more and more on their new abilities.
  • Realizing hidden talents: Under-developed traits are partially realized when someone admits they at least have the potential. The ability becomes further advanced by experimenting with the possibility. There are questions to resolve to one's personal satisfaction: "Do I really have what it takes?", "Is there a desire to be like this as well as the capability to do it?", and "Am I finding the determination in me to pursue this completely?". When talents have become fully realized, they seem to be inherent in one's nature or unconscious competence that can be done without thinking.
Note that each of these approaches are conveyed with metaphors. They make connections that are not literal or objective. They do not define techniques or methods. They invite a kind of playfulness that proves to be very effective in being hidden talents into full fruition (another metaphor!). The psychological explanations we will explore in this series of posts are ways to redefine the problems and realize creative solutions.


Choosing our desires

Once we are aware that we are continually attracting our experiences, we then realize how important it is to immediately choose our desires. When faced with something we don't want to happen, feel, think about or anticipate, it's time to choose differently. The most likely sequel to what is occurring is a persistence or a reoccurrence. We perpetuate what we negate or appreciate by paying attention to it with no choice but to react. Choosing "no more of this" is not a viable option because of the insistence sought by our persistent attention.

When we take our mind off of unwanted things, there are two sources of desire to consider: our left and right brains. Our left brain functions neurotically. It seeks "symbolic gratification" of its unmet needs. It formulate desires that are superficial and impressive. The pseudo satisfaction that results sets up craving bigger acquisitions or more extreme thrills. The pursuit, shopping or search is more gratifying than the acquisition and use. The left brain is the proud sponsor of this shopping frenzy, over-consumption and excessive materialism.

Our right brain has access to the big picture. It's sense of "what to want" is in tune with all that is emerging and transforming in our complexly intertwined situation. The desires delivered by the right brain seem like a higher choice. They regard our needs as illusions because of how we really relate to all-in-all. Our fears are "false evidence appearing real". All is possible and we are creators in this state of mind. Our right brains' felt-sense is serene and purposeful. The satisfaction from the realization of their desires is authentic and significant. The right brain is the proud sponsor of harmony, balance and moderation in our lives.

Our left brains operate on the premise of our mortal existence. They assume we really die after a limited life span. They maintain a sense of fear as if the dangers we face are real. They believe in our past histories and linear conceptions of time. The desires that arise from these misconceptions are destined to be dissatisfying, desperate and problematic.

Our right brains support our eternal existence. They assume we are here for experiences using appearances that seem real. They operate on the premise of safety, freedom and forgiveness. They dismiss our past histories as mere illusions and explore the continual now moment. The desires that arise from these premises are deeply satisfying, spontaneous and compassionate to others.

In my experiences with these two sources of desires, I found it works best for me to be empty on the left side and getting filled by the right side. When I don't know what to want logically, I am inspired with desires via my intuition. By assuming my left brain desires miss the mark, I'm right on target by receiving from my right brain. If I want something based on fear, I lose out on deep satisfaction. When I want something in tune with my eternal spirit, it comes easily and satisfies me deeply in the now moment.


We always get to be right

Another way to explain how the Law of Attraction works is to realize how we always get to be right. No matter what we believe, we get to see that it's true. We continually create a convincing experience of what we think is right. However we change our mind to consider something else to be right, we change our world of evidence of how right we are.

When we make the Law of Attraction into something special, we may think it's not true and there's no proof that it works. We will then produce the evidence that confirms this presupposition, unaware that we attracted proof that "we are not really attracting anything". When we think the Law works for some people, but not for us in particular, we will create evidence of how inferior, unfortunate and powerless we think we are. If we think we succeed at attracting good things when we are giving, generous and caring, but not when we are greedy, selfish and mean-spirited, so it will appear for us to behold.

Once we realize, as I'm conveying right now, that there are many ways to be right, we face new choices. We can select which way to be right -- based on what we choose to experience. If our choice is wallow is self-pity, we will realize how right we are to think that as our thoughts and imagination are filled with convictions and our happenstance delivers some persecution. If our choice is to feel arrogant and superior to others, so it happens that what comes to mind and our world will prove our premise to be true. If we choose to relate to, understand and nurture others, we will attract opportunities to experience that and feedback about how we're succeeding.

With numerous experiences of observing whatever appears both inside and outside us, we realize the Law of Attraction is relentlessly successful. We always get to be right. We endlessly attract evidence of what we believe to be true. We create our experiences by our choice of which way to be right. The world we selectively perceive and frame with our own significance conforms to the command of our assumptions. So be it.


great systems - great people

Great systems attract great people. Likewise, highly effective people are attracted to highly effective systems. The attraction is mutual. They have much in common. The experience seems congruent, validating and meant to be.

Great systems extend beyond the boundaries of the formal infrastructure. They are inclusive of other contexts that unresponsive systems define as "none of our business", "off limits" or "beyond our capabilities. Great people extend their efforts beyond the limits of their job description. They find exceptional ways to serve internal customers, resolve chronic problems, and take initiatives to prevent breakdowns.

Great systems interact with the world as if everything is a system. Things are regarded as cycles and incidents are framed as developmental phases. Likewise, highly effective people are "in process serving other processes". They are immersed in how situations evolve, grow and change. They work with the ways things come back around, revisit the same issues and return to what was partially realized before.

Great systems respond effectively to changing pressures, demands, inputs and constraints. They incorporate enough complexity and receptivity to deal comprehensively with unforeseen stresses. Highly effective people also come up with great ways to handle challenges. The way they see the world and themselves in it gives them better ways to define problems, diagnose symptoms and value happenstance.

The interaction of highly responsive systems and highly effective people appears mutually reinforcing. The two dynamics bring out the best in each other. They effect each other in ways that nurture other contexts and make the world a better place. The spinoff effects from these virtuous cycles energize creativity elsewhere by providing a better example, raising new expectations and recognizing the exceptional contributions. The repercussions of this mutual responsiveness spawns contagious competence in other people and systems. The world finds the combination of great systems and great people to make a desirable difference.


Getting in the clear

When we're in the clear, everything we need right now will appear. If there's something we need to think about, thoughts will come to mind. If there is a scenario it's time to imagine vividly, it will show up when we're free to enjoy it fully. If there's some action we need to take, we'll become inspired to do it in a way that works out perfectly. Whatever we're in the process of attracting will gradually appear in a perfect sequence of a trustworthy process with great timing.

When we're clear that we're already receiving whatever is coming our way, we see what happens differently. We behold whatever falls short of a perfect end result as a wonderful intermediate stage. We welcome "previews of coming attractions" and "practice games" to get good at what we'll be doing before long. We value opportunities to get clear about exactly what we want to be, feel, and experience in the future. We have ways to use anything that comes along in the context of our being clear.

When we're in fear, we have no such luck. Everything we need right now avoids us like the plague. Our vibration attracts troublesome experiences. We think of worries, problems and dangers instead of the good we wish would happen. We imagine how things can go from bad to even worse deprivation, persecution or conflict. We feel frustrated by the evidence whenever fulfillment is taking longer than expected and seeming more difficult to attract. We pass up the opportunities to get more clear because we're not in the clear to receive whatever is next.

To change from being in fear to being in the clear, we need to "stop the world". Our perceptions of our personal history, individual identifies as well as time and space -- are all based on fear. We put a stop to all that by going into the now moment. We lose our awareness of our outer obligations and expectations. We enter our consciousness of inner peace where we find inspirations, intuitions and insights. We trust our being in the dark to see things in a new light. We welcome the mystery to be given a clue of what to do. We dismiss our past history to take this moment with innocence, freshness and a beginner's mind. We enjoy not-knowing what to think, do or foresee about our next move -- so as to get in the knowing that's given to us.

When being in the clear becomes a routine for us, we appear to be spirit-led by others. We follow our own flow of right timing, action and balance. We get a sense of how to proceed upon completion of any task by becoming still, receptive and aware. We simply do whatever comes about with serenity, grace and effortlessness.


Eye of the beholder

There are two ways to see what happens to us. One way works with the Law of Attraction. The other backfires. To create the experiences we want, we need to go one better than observing what happens to us. We need to choose what we see, frame how it appears to us or subject the objective facts to our viewpoint.

Most people appear to get stuck in some kind of misery, or as Thoreau said, living lives of "quiet desperation". This occurs by reacting to evidence and believing in objectivity. There appears to be no choice in the facts that are true or any options for how to feel about it. There is only one frame of reference that is valid: dealing with the objects as they appear at face value. Being a "victim of circumstance" with "feelings hard wired to happenstance" seems to be the right way to live. However, this is a ticket to misery.

Those of us apply The Law of Attraction effectively see everything differently. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though not necessarily in the data of the scientific observer. We create our response to evidence by believing in our own subjectivity. What something becomes in our experience depends on what we make of it. It's our call how we take it to mean and let it in. We choose how we feel by selecting a frame of reference to apply to objective evidence.

Reacting to literal appearances forms a vicious cycle with no apparent escape from the subsequent misfortune. It's obviously not possible to "count your blessings" until some blessings show up to count. The blessings don't happen along because the attention is on the mention of obvious misfortune.

Creating a selective perception of evidence can form a virtuous cycle which attracts even more to delight in. Counting your blessings begins now by seeing the good, beneficial, valuable and responsive turns of events in current happenstance. Unlike vicious cycles, what appears does not mean it's going to stay this way or provide relentless torment. It means it's changing, in process and soon to be taking on a different appearance. It's good for now and getting better too.

There are two ways to take a subjective approach to happenstance. One way takes a shortcut that asks for trouble; the other takes the long road and gets what it really wants. The shortcut is taken by spin doctors and scam artists. The positive attitude is a cover-up for a contemptuous disregard, incessant ambivalence, or profound insecurities. The deep resistance speaks louder than the superficial pleasantries when attracting the next match to one's vibrational offering.

The long road is taken by creators of personal experience. A cleansing process has cleared out the lurking resistance that came into conscious awareness and got resolved in stages. The vibrational offering now signals what is appreciated and validated with "all one's heart". The hesitation, misgivings and fears are gone. All that remains is the now moment of beholding in one's eye -- a bounty of experiences worth living and loving.


Vibration as an explanation

I've been using "The Law of Attraction" as one possible explanation for events during the past year. The release of The Secret DVD familiarized all of my proteges with the basic concepts. It also raised numerous questions in their minds. I've been exploring this outlook on life for over a decade. The premises of the Law of Attraction, as I've integrated it into my outlook, are as follows:
  1. At any given moment, something enters into our experience: a feeling comes over us, an added thought comes to what we're already thinking about, a better idea or question dawns on us or something shows up in our world. We are immersed in happenstance that we do not make happen with our efforts, striving or expenditures.
  2. Whatever happens embodies a particular vibration, waveform, harmonic frequency. These vibrations range from high to low, uplifting to disheartening, or expansive to confining. We are experiencing feelings in our happenstance.
  3. At the given moment, we are also offering a particular vibration or combination of frequencies -- by what we are focusing on and feeling as a result. When we pay attention to something, we put out a broadcast signal that indicates what frequency we are in tune with, ready to receive and predisposed to appreciate more of the same experiences.
  4. What then happens is a vibrational match to the frequency we signaled beyond our physical limitations. We attract whatever is in tune with the tone we set. We set up a closed loop with the frequency of our focus that generates more evidence, confirmation and experience of our particular focus. We cycle round and round with whatever we are paying attention to.
  5. All attention is successful at attracting more of the same feelings supported by something compatible to focus upon. We can be extremely negative and attract more to be negative about. There is no limit to how much we can attract and no restrictions on what we attract with the focus our attention. We are only confined to replicating, reinforcing, reflecting and repeating inside closed loops.
  6. Attracting something different calls for a different focus of attention and resulting feeling. We stop reacting to what we have continually attracted and start creating what we want to attract with a new vibrational offering.
  7. When we attract experiences that we think we don't want, we are nevertheless in tune with the vibration of that happenstance. We called forth what appeared by whatever we continue to hold in denial, baggage, opposing stances and unresolved issues. There's no one else responsible for what shows up in our experience that we can justifiable blame, guilt-trip or denigrate.
When we embrace these premises, we explain our happenstance differently. We can see what shows up as a mirror of what's up for us in our feelings of focus of awareness. We can look within for what is tune with what came about on the outside. We can regard the frequency of a repeat occurrence as an indication of our obsession with it's vibration.


Confined to a composure strategy

We all have composure strategies that we've discovered work for us. We've each found ways to keep our cool and put a lid on lurking outbursts. Our composure strategies get formulated to keep our hot buttons from being pushed. We find ways to placate our critics and neutralize our opponents. While trusting our composure strategies, mentoring poses a major threat.

Composure strategies argue for limitations. They color within the lines of a restrictive comfort zone. They frame what lies beyond as inevitably dangerous to the maintenance of composure. Mentoring argues for possibilities by playing around with what-if's, why-not's, and can-do's. Mentoring anticipates a second comfort zone beyond the confining one in use.

Composure strategies misread situations by trusting their fear-based premises. Opportunities look like real threats. Freedom appears as confining captivity. Taking responsibility looks like getting blamed, rejected or over-burdened. Taking time appears to be wasting time. Mentoring sees situations very differently than this. Threats are opportunities and confinements are freedom. These alternative perceptions disrupt confidence, certainty and convictions. The protege no longer knows what's what, how to think and which inclination to trust. The mentoring must provide a cocoon of safety during this vulnerable stage.

Composure strategies regard mentoring as abuse. The attention paid to expanded possibilities appears dangerous. The intention of mentoring appears adversarial. There's no way to let one's guard down, trust the process or welcome the input. Mentoring expects this reaction and routinely "de-escalates the adversarial context". Mentoring relies on speaking others' minds, acknowledging other's concerns and empathizing with other's feelings. By leading with understanding others, a different impression is created from the way "abusers usually act".

Composure strategies go into crisis when subjected to significant mentoring. The basis gets shattered for getting along with people, for getting good things to happen and for staying out of trouble. Treasured goals suddenly appear as fools' gold. Big plans get portrayed as over-confidence and naiveté. Familiar pleasures get pictured as empty, controlling or indulgent. Mentoring averts this crisis by trusting the protégé's process. Using what happens and learning from emotional outbursts moves through the transition respectfully. Instead of pulling the rug out from underneath the existing strategy, an alternative approach emerges from unexpected breakdowns in composure.

For these reasons, most people are stuck on a stance of "don't mentor me!". They assume they cannot handle it, don't really want it and have no use for it. They get to be right until they kind their composure strategy is no longer working. When they lose their idealism, the mentoring begins.


Prerequisite powerfulness

Mentors are expected to be more aware than their proteges. Those additional perspectives make it possible for the mentoring to happen. Mentors bring added awareness to the troublesome situations to disrupt the perpetual patterns maintained by blinders, assumptions and fears. Mentors are akin to whistle blowers and investigative reporters. Mentors are like the kid in the story who could speak up about the emperor's new clothes while the townsfolk assumed they were personally at fault for failing to see new royal finery.

I often have the experience, while mentoring, of being too aware. I offer too much perspective and move along too quickly. What I bring to the situation seems to be "too much too soon" and poorly timed. I fail to see how much awareness is enough for now.

As a result of my experiences with mentoring, I've developed a better sense of timing. I'm seeing how our awareness develops in stages. I've taken to nurturing the growth of others' awareness slowly rather than imposing my awareness on them "ready or not". I've been learning from my experiences while helping others learn from theirs. I've discovered how much there is to know about gradual processes of human and spiritual development.

When anyone is trafficking in negative emotions, concerns with relating to others and their effects on others are "too much too soon". I've learned to regard them as trapped in a pattern of powerlessness. The next step is to acquire some power in their situation. This usually involves looking forward, making plans and structuring what needs to get done. Anyone feels more powerful as the result of progress, accomplishments and getting organized.

While we are implicitly powerless, we blame others for our unhappiness out of necessity. We lack the power to take responsibility for our circumstances. We imagine that taking responsibility equates with getting blamed by others, accused of wrong doing and burdened with guilt. We cannot imagine responsibility based on self respect and standing our ground until we feel powerful.

We become convinced of our own power from our personal experiences. We succeed at imposing structure on situations that gets some confusion under control. We establish some boundaries that eliminate constant distractions, disruptions and drama. We stick to routine procedures that get the results we want without a lot of worrying.

With this established sense of stability, we can handle some feedback. We can take what happens "back on ourselves" and consider changing our approach. We can reconsider what we were thinking, trying to accomplish and expecting to happen. By standing on solid ground, we can change our stance and commit to working things out in a better way.

All this needs to happen before we can relate to others with empathy. Insights about other people will fall on deaf ears, appear as useless information, or spawn fears of "losing control".


Meme: Passion Quilt

Angela Maiers tagged me in her second round of the Passion Quilt Meme. I took this picture last year as I was growing a lot of new grass from seed and taking great satisfaction with the results. It's a picture of what I am most passionate about kids learning: growing from seed.

Every question is a seed for some significant learning that grows with the more we know. A spark of imagination functions like a seed that blossoms as we explore an initial possibility into other forms, uses and realizations. Every new skill we acquire is a seed of growth that takes off into new results, accomplishments and satisfactions.

Like the parable of the seed, the initial impulse may realize no growth if it falls on the hard ground or gets trampled underfoot of critics and control freaks. The seed can sprout up too quickly in places that do not support rooting into the depth of personal connections and purposes. The growth can get entangled in thorny issues that miss the big picture while debating small details. Or happily, the seed can fall where it grows slowly and fruitfully.


Below every hot button

We all have hot button issues that evoke embarrassing over-reactions. Hot buttons are also called sore points, touchy subjects or sacred cows. When a hot button gets pushed, we lose consciousness and self control. We can be described as getting "thrown for a loop", "losing our cool" or "getting tongue tied". We no longer comprehend what is meant by the words being said to us. We stop feeling compatible, safe and open to the person who pushed our hot button. We even lose our composure that supports our ability to speak coherently and think clearly. We blush, stammer and avoid eye contact.

We acquire hot buttons by internalizing abuse. We get shot down when we speak our mind, express our feelings or see things differently from others. We then "take a bullet" that gets us to feel deviant, defective or deficient. We come under the impression that we don't fit in, meet others' standards or deserve their admiration. We become afraid to cover that ground again, endure mention of the topic or face the consequences of bringing that to others' attention again.

Mentoring goes below these hot buttons to change the wiring. Reactions that have been hard-wired for a long time become new choices to consider. Patterns of over-reacting to provocations change into better questions to ask, issues to consider and conduct to allow. We find it within ourselves to let go of feeling antagonized. We realize new tolerance to live and let others live as they choose. What set us off before becomes something we understand, accept and take philosophically. We complicate what we were over-simplifying. We say things like: "it takes both", "it depends on the situation", "it's not that simple really", or "it's a passing phase".

Any hot button reveals how it will evolve into acceptance. We get so upset because we care so much. We over-react to an issue because it's our destiny to take this issue forward in some way. We get hurt by misunderstanding because we are going to be exceptionally understanding about this idea. Here are some examples:
  • Getting outraged by disrespect reveals a calling to exude self-respect and invite others respect their own feelings, perceptions and sense of purpose.
  • Getting upset by intolerance reveals a passion for diversity, multi-culturalism, or maintenance of inclusive communities.
  • Getting inflamed by arrogance reveals diplomatic abilities to open closed minds, dismantle bigotry and soften partisan stances
  • Getting incensed by passivity reveals the potential for great endurance, determination and conquest of adversity
When seen in this light, mentors bring out the best in others who are getting their hot buttons pushed. We see how the problem has the solution imbedded in it. We anticipate the good that will come of the painful pattern. We go below each hot button to the underlying passion, purpose or trait that awaits fulfillment.


Resolving emotional baggage

Note: This 2008 post is the first in a series of 2009 and 2010 posts on the topic of emotional baggage. The full series is listed below.

The entrepreneurs I mentor are coping with a variety of dysfunctional patterns from their past history. Their hot buttons get pushed and emotions erupt that they cannot control. They attract repeated incidents that make it obvious they harbor unresolved issues. There are many metaphors to get creative about this kind of problem. My favorite is "resolving emotional baggage".

Emotional baggage stores psychological pain in our unconscious minds. When it's been activated, it appears people are making us feel negative in very familiar ways. We cannot stop feeling this way, as far as we have realized by attempts to chill out, move on or change. Our emotions are out of our control and dominating our experience. We appear to be possessed, overtaken or invaded by unwanted energies. We usually act out how bad we're feeling so other people stop making us feel this way. We're get the urge to punish the person who activated our baggage. We're in no mood to forget and forgive, or even understand and empathize with the other's pain.

We are attracted to people with matching luggage. They are attracted to our painful baggage too. The feelings are mutual. So is the torment. We make each other miserable with how it appears the other is making us feel. We may see the pattern but cannot stop repeating it. We may want to be more considerate but keep acting out our baggage.

Baggage puts us under the impression that we need something from the other person in our relationship. We are poised to be upset when we don't perceive this recurring pattern. We fail to question our giving more of the same thing to get a different result. We are certain that we are incomplete and lacking in some way. We are using the other person to fill in for our lack of self sufficiency, self confidence and self respect. We cannot relate to ourselves, but we expect the other to relate to us. Relationships go haywire when our baggage comes into play.

Emotional baggage contains lingering ghosts from our past history. Something overwhelming happened to us that we never put to rest. We couldn't handle it at the time and we assume we cannot resolve it now. It's been off-loaded to our unconscious to take it off our overloaded minds. We try to forget about it and succeed at "getting a grip" until the pain gets stirred up by someone with matching luggage. It then appears as our inescapable fate to face this issue.

In the process of unpacking emotional baggage, we expand our self respect into new territories. We discover new ways to be unique and accept our differences. We find talents, priorities and passions that others have found unacceptable. We get a different feeling about whatever others put in such a bad light. We see the good in what has been held as "really bad" for so long. We integrate what has been separated from our identity. We include in our self-confidence what could not be admired by others. We change our self concept to make this part of who we are.

As we work through this pain, we become more understanding of others. We realize how they were in pain and acted out their frustrations when they shot us down. We see how they could not control their emotions, feel safe under scrutiny or welcome our presence in their pain. We can picture how our uniqueness would inevitably push their hot buttons and get a big reaction out of them. We discover this awareness is essential

Once we can take a longer view of our lives, we see the timing in our baggage. It appears some of our uniqueness has been kept in safe-keeping until it was time to be further explored. Our baggage has kept our gifts from getting trammeled, destroyed or obliterated. We realize how we were not previously ready to express this part of ourselves confidently, maturely and compassionately.

Here's a complete listing of the entire series of posts on emotional baggage:
  1. What is emotional baggage? - For starters, let's explore many different frames of reference for what the metaphor of "emotional baggage" represents.
  2. Irrational bubbles, bursts and bailouts - I utilize many different models to understand irrational behavior.
  3. Encrypted for safekeeping - Its purpose is to minimize the potential harm from other's fear, envy, power trips or other dysfunctional attacks on our innate resourcefulness.
  4. Becoming capable of enjoying solitude - They decided to never again get caught alone when dangers like that appear to be present.
  5. Incapable of really relating- When others bring their baggage from a previous relationship into their relationship with us, we will likely get some additional baggage out of their
    "acting out" ourselves.
  6. Revising your past history - This process does not change the facts of what happened which are already accurate. This framework changes your story about those facts.
  7. Do one thing different from before - Imagine our pieces of emotional baggage are really invisible copy machines that are working perfectly.
  8. Camouflaging our baggage - We know we are succeeding when no one sees through our disguise or suspects our coverup.
  9. Baggage as a partial solution - Partial solutions are problematic, but they set us up to do better, not make things worse for ourselves.
  10. Lured by matching luggage - At some point we'll discover we've bonded with their matching luggage.
  11. Those voices in our heads - Those voices in our minds typically take opposing stances on issues with our personal danger
  12. Snap judgments may become baggage - Snap judgments overreact to dangers and opportunities. We assume it's: "all or nothing", "now or never" and "win the prize or lose out totally"
  13. Two-sided structure of baggage - The two halves of any open piece of luggage are symbolic of the structure of our emotional baggage.
  14. Three wrongs make a right - We can make it right and begin to do right by others and ourselves. We simply need to make a right out of these three wrongs
  15. Humans behaving badly again - Our minds are designed to override this wonderful human intelligence whenever we're in significant danger.
  16. Predicting danger - Part One - We predict what will get us in trouble instantly, after a short while, or only if we provoke it.
  17. Predicting danger - Part Two - We predict that we can escape our cruel fate by appearing different to others.
  18. Keeping your lid from flipping - We act out our unresolved issues when we flip our lid or when we keep a snug lid on them.
  19. Dreadful memories of cruelty - We do not want to keep thinking about these incidents, even though we need to keep them in mind. Our emotional baggage helps us out and takes the load off our minds.
  20. Emotional baggage safety program - We forget why we have baggage and what
    exactly it's doing for us.
  21. Baggage has a mind of its own - We have all learned from countless experiences that our emotional baggage does not listen to reason.
  22. Speaking the language of luggage - Here's some of the ways our baggage picks up on what's going down:
  23. Becoming more aware of our baggage - As we acquire even more awareness of our baggage, we realize it's functionality is a result of what's missing. It's really not a thing or a process, but an absence.
  24. Baggage as a cognitive hierarchy - The baggage in our minds appears a microcosm of the large hierarchies that employ thousands of people as government agencies, public
    utilities and multinational corporations.
  25. This baggage induced recession - Here's how I'd explain how widespread emotional baggage got us into this mess.
  26. Baggage interferes with business modeling - Here's four ways that our baggage interferes with our creativity when considering recent advances in business models:
  27. Reworking our baggage at work - Business models that fail to recognize the drag on success created by everyone's baggage, undermine their own survival
  28. In lieu of going postal - Whenever we get to the other side of a painful setback, our tragic loss is no longer the boss of our lives. We take control of our conduct in ways that change
    what we're feeling.
  29. Learning to solve problems by example - The nature of these problems defy conventional problem solving techniques. They give us emotional baggage, not confidence, efficacy or freedom from our past history.
  30. Baggage as unfinished business - We are typically stressed "out of our gourd" at the moment when we getting burdened with some baggage.
  31. Baggage as set in cement - Messing with what has been "set in cement "will feel like a tragic loss of pride, certainty, convictions, familiarity, meaning, purpose and control.
  32. Stockpiling negative experiences - When we choose to cling to a negative experience, we're usually certain that we have no choice in the matter. It seems like the clinging choses us, not the other way around.
  33. Taking things too personally - When we are taking something too personally, our minds are "outer directed".
  34. Scatterbrained following an explosion - The original negative experience can be imagined as an explosion in our minds. We cannot keep it together because the incident was so alarming, upsetting and disorienting.
  35. 10th Anniversary of the Columbine Tragedy - Of course I was considering the role of emotional baggage as I read the book.
  36. Underdeveloped regions of experience - To put our baggage in its proper perspective, it's helpful to consider three other regions of experience: the future, the present moment and the realm of meaning.
  37. Trapped inside a story - When our baggage has been activated by a dreadfully familiar circumstance, it's helpful to look at this through the lens of storytelling. At that moment, we are trapped inside a very strange story that offers no escape.
  38. Authoring a new story - Our baggage gives us a victim story where we feel powerless or a conquest story where we're driven to act like a bully. In either case, our baggage gives us no
    sense of being free to create a new narrative.
  39. Sabotaging disruptive innovation - What the lens of emotional baggage offers is WHY the incumbents cannot improve their chances of survival.
  40. Derailed by emotional baggage - When a train of thought moves down a line of reasoning, we can get to a better place. We leave the past behind us and feel better right now.
  41. Bozo vs. baggage - Our baggage maintains these incessant inner conflicts. Our conscious desires appear to be conceived by a real idiot.
  42. Making do with a dilemma - When we've let go of our conscious desire as the only right answer, we're in a place to embrace the dilemma.
  43. Transforming desires to eliminate baggage - When our desires get blocked or sabotaged by our emotional baggage, we assume our desires are right.
  44. Picturing baggage as habits - We're trapped by whatever worked in our past history, just like behavior patterns we got into the habit of doing long ago.
  45. If we had no past history - ...Yet, upon deeper reflection, there as many
    disadvantages to having no past history:
  46. Getting beyond past history - Here are some of the conceptual models for getting beyond our past history:
  47. Raising the level of suspense - Baggage kills the suspense in our lives. The pain we've hung onto keeps the same things happening over and over
  48. Sorting out a tangled mess - When two people become a pair with matching luggage, most of what's happening occurs below the surface.
  49. Mind of a control freak - What drives those people to control others
  50. Mind of a control freak -redux - How are we entangled by other closed minds when someone controls others
  51. Rethinking emotional baggage - How we could embrace the complexity of baggage by picturing it in space
  52. Depending on the emotional investment - Three other kinds of emotional investment besides the one that produces PTSD
  53. What's been eating you exactly? - Getting eaten by an experience until some other convincing experiences get to us
  54. Getting out of a stuck place - Dropping down to find the exits
  55. Breaking emotional stalemates - Seen from the sidelines, we can break our habitual reactions to opposing stances
  56. Getting to a better place - Approaching resolution as a far out idea
  57. Pitfalls on the path to resolution - Falling for tempting thinking that gets us nowhere
  58. Changing our minds with ease - Deliberately getting sidetracked
  59. Getting the right impression - Recognizing the wrong impression to find the right one
  60. Coming from a place of wonder - Giving up rigid opinions that no longer serve us
  61. Settling for middle ground - Changing how we spell "relief"
  62. Getting to a panoramic place - Realizing vaster possibilities from understanding others' stories
  63. Leveraging baggage-laden incumbents - Making the world a better place while others are doing the opposite
  64. Internalizing negative experiences - Realizing how we also internalize positive experiences to sort out what's good about internalizing our experiences