We're all on the journey.
August 11, 2022
Fit to Be Tied: Unknotting Our Emotional Reactivity

Conflict. It often becomes our greatest source of confrontation, yet that which is not addressed, often goes unanswered. Our emotions, at times being influential in this very nature of human struggle, frequently viewing our t...

Conflict. It often becomes our greatest source of confrontation, yet that which is not addressed, often goes unanswered. Our emotions, at times being influential in this very nature of human struggle, frequently viewing our turmoil as arising through our interactions with others. Jungian Psychologist M. Ester Harding Tells us- “Conflict is the beginning of Consciousness.” Yet, as one considers this conundrum of paradigm, perhaps It is not with others that we have the greatest conflicts - instead, feeling our greatest struggles within ourselves. -There is no greater conflict than the one we often feel inside. As we wrestle with our conflicting emotions. This episode we look at unknotting our Emotional Reactivity.

Featured Guest 1: Douglas Knoll Featured Guest 2: Sandy Woznicki JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM: @thelightinsidepodcast SUBSCRIBE: pod.link/thelightinside Credits: Music Score by Epidemic Sound Executive Producer: Jeffrey Besecker Mixing, Engineering, Production and Mastering: Aloft Media Studio Production Manager: Anna Getz --- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/thelightinside/message




Doug Knoll - Episode 117

[00:00:00] Jeffrey: Doug, today, we're looking at the role, our emotions play in our experience of conflict and our greatest relationship, perhaps being the one we have with our personal emotions. We touched on that a little bit as. Leaned in today, let's begin by exploring the role, our emotions play in our experience of conflict.

[00:00:19] Overall, from your perspective, can you share how we discern or differentiate emotions from the action of feeling this is kinda getting in at the basic 1 0 1 level? Well, let's 

[00:00:31] Doug Knoll: start off with a definition of emotions. Awesome. Because everybody talks about emotions and nobody has a good definition, but one person does have a good definition.

[00:00:42] And that's neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett outta Northeastern university. Yes. And her definition is that emotions are biologically based patterns of perception, experience, physiology, action, and communication that are culturally created in our brain. it's that last phrase that's most critical culturally created in our brains.

[00:01:03] the key thing to understand about emotions, especially as it comes around a conflict. And I get to that in a second. is that we are not born with emotions. We're born with something else. We're born with something called affect. Mm, an affect are biophysiological states that arise in our brain. They give us feelings of pleasantness or unpleasantness, depending upon which model you follow.

[00:01:24] There could be as few as two a affect and as many as nine. And I St I use the nine affect model of psychologists, Sylvan Tompkins, because it's the richest. And I love research, the research they did in the 1960s. And it happens to be the model that many neuroscientists are using today, as they try to tease apart how emotions are formed in the.

[00:01:44] so the key is that we are born with affect. We are not born with emotions. All conflict arises from emotion. You you've never seen the conflict that wasn't emotional. right. If it's not emotional, maybe it's an academic debate, but even academic debates can get pretty heated. So there you can't have a human conflict without having a whole litany of emotions arise around.

[00:02:13] And that's the key. 

[00:02:14] Jeffrey: This shows the fundamental difference between feelings and emotions, feelings or experienced consciously while emotions manifest either consciously or subconsciously.

[00:02:24] Rather, sadly, some people may spend yours or even a lifetime not understanding the depths of their emotions from this aspect. 

[00:02:32] Doug Knoll: So what are some of the emotions that come up around conflict? They're OB the negative emotions. It's pretty obvious you can have anger, frustration, irritation, annoyance. You can be disrespected, ignored, non appreciated, not supported. Um, those are what I would call triggering emotions.

[00:02:50] And then underneath that you have more reactive emotions. So you have the fear of emotions, like fear and anxiety and being worried and scared and concerned. And then under, underneath that, you'd have shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and guilt underneath that sadness, grief, unhappiness stress, and then at the bottom, which, and this is the root, I think of most conflict, a feeling of abandonment being betrayed, unloved, and unlove.

[00:03:13] so you can see that you've got all these different layers of emotions and almost all of these emotions that I just named arise in a fight or an argument or a conflict. Most people are not aware of all these emotions that are coming up that are spurring them to reactive behavior. And the secret to peace making is master your emotion.

[00:03:32] Jeffrey: What are the more frequently experienced emotional trigger points, which lead to emotional conflict within ourselves. 

[00:03:40] Doug Knoll: Trigger points, trigger trigger is just a euphemism for. a program they're called cognitive schema that we form in our brains.

[00:03:47] That is basically like a, if you think of a piano player, a script, if you've ever seen one of those things with holes in it, that's a piano player and it plays the tune without a player. And the technical term for that is schema. And we start forming schema as ways of interacting with our environment from the time we're, Action. I gestation. Um, so SCHs are part, a very fundamental part of human behavior. Conflict scheme is developed in, uh, very early in life, starting from really from birth, but probably the real scheme is start to be laid down at about 12 months. And then as we start to develop emotions at around 18 months, the scheme is really start to kick in.

[00:04:26] However we are, whatever we're exposed. As toddlers in terms of conflict and emotions and emotional competency or lack thereof, which is mostly the case is exactly what we're gonna carry into adulthood. Most adults stop emotional maturity between six and eight years old because they are emotionally invalidated by their parents.

[00:04:47] And so they grew up into functioning adults and they put on layers of stuff to make it look like they're functioning. but when they get into conflict or stress, they revert back to that six year old or eight year old. And so the trigger is there's some triggering event from early childhood is deeply embedded in memory it's associated with pain usually, and it get something in the environment and here's the thing that's really wild.

[00:05:10] It can be a smell. It can be a temperature, something, or a degree of moisture on our skin. It doesn't have to be somebody doing something. It can be any kind of physiological , event in the environment that triggers a old memory that then triggers a schema. And now the piano player's rolling and we can't control it.

[00:05:30] And that's what we call a trigger and it's called a trigger because it, bam, it goes like that it's unconscious, it's reactive. And unless you really work at it, It controls you, you don't control it. 

[00:05:41] Jeffrey: That instantly brings to mind that notion of somatic markers, to me, you yep. Ima lead to emotional anchoring or falling into that pattern of that schema that becomes exactly yourself.

[00:05:55] it kicks into that Automic thinking. That's right. That's where we see that intersect between the BI level interaction. Between emotion and thinking? 

[00:06:06] Doug Knoll: Well, yeah, in my, per from my perspective, thinking is sort of. ambiguous word . Yeah, definitely. But, but emotion, emotion is more clearly defined, but we can talk about, I mean, conman really described it well in his book, thinking fast and slow about system one and system two processes.

[00:06:26] And so we can think of emotion as being dominated, a dominant function of what we call system one thinking, which is fast, intuitive, emotional, effortless decision making. that we engage in all the time. And then system two is the slow, methodical, painful type of thinking that we think about when we're doing double digit multiplication without a calculator, , you know, it's laborious and painful.

[00:06:53] And so emotion. our dominant in system. When they, they are dominant in system, they, they are, they are existence system two, but they dominate in system one. And what we have to learn is how to it's called an override function and we have to learn when, when is it appropriate to get out of system one and kick in system?

[00:07:15] Right. And that's part of the developmental process that humans have to go through. so the problem with reactive thinking or reactive behavior is it's all system one. So triggering any kind of reactive behavior. It's, it's all you jump to conclusions, you know, belief, structures, snap into place.

[00:07:32] Belief structures are nothing more than heuristic shortcuts for decision making. Um, they snap in a. all of a sudden you're locked in your override function fails. And when you should be slowing down and really thinking about something, you instead get very emotional and defended and reactive. 

[00:07:47] Jeffrey: It's interesting to look at that relationship between a system one and a system two.

[00:07:53] And as we compare that somatic state of somatic embodiment, how sometimes that energy gets trapped in, what's known as polyvagal theory. Oh yeah. 

[00:08:05] Doug Knoll: where those gorgeous, I know is 

[00:08:07] Jeffrey: work well, competitions or battles of resistance start to play out in our central nervous system. as two sides struggle for a sense of security. Would you say conflict is born out of a need for competition and resistance? 

[00:08:21] Doug Knoll: Well, that's right. I, and you know, you mentioned the polyvagal system, Steven PS.

[00:08:26] Scientist out of the university of Illinois in Chicago has done genius work on this. And as you know, you know, there are two, two systems, the old system meated unmyelinated systems and they can conflict. and one acts as a break on the other. And so, so that's what makes this all so interesting and complex because it's the polyvagal system that really translates what's going on in the brain, into the rest of the body and vagus nerve runs bidirectionally.

[00:08:50] So our organs are at once receiving signals from all the other vis and from the brain. And at the same time, sending signals up and down the, the Vegas system, sending information back and forth, is it. or is it dangerous? And, and then all that is, then that's all information that's processed in the brain through system one system two and our emotional centers.

[00:09:10] And I mean, it's, it's really an interesting complex system that we have. 

[00:09:13] Jeffrey: So as we look at those two side struggling for a sense of security, might we say that conflict is born out of a need for competition or 

[00:09:23] Doug Knoll: resistance? I would say competition, uh, conflict is born out of a need for. Yeah. Yeah. More than anything else.

[00:09:30] Emotional safety. It's sometimes physical, sometimes physical safety, but it's almost, it's all about safety 

[00:09:35] Jeffrey: again. Interesting to me then how that can kind of become stuck in a pattern. Oh, yeah. You look at it from that competitive notion. 

[00:09:44] Doug Knoll: that's right. And if we live with a perspective that the universe is a place of lack, as opposed a place of infinite abundance , then we are gonna have a mindset that we've gotta fight for everything that we get. And we can move into this competitive mode. and then we become very emotional over losing small things.

[00:10:01] You know, I've worked in taught murders to be peacemakers for many years in prisons. And we see this same behavior all the time in a prison environment, a very, what we would consider to be a trivial asset, like a half of a candy bar becomes something that starts a gang riot. 

[00:10:16] Jeffrey: That battle often playing out inside of each of us as a journey for a sense of integration.

[00:10:23] And self-regulation that's right. Share with us a little bit If you will, about that experience with working within the prison system. 

[00:10:33] Doug Knoll: it started as an experiment in 2010, my colleague Laurel carer, and I started prisoner peace in the largest, at that time, the largest, most violent women's prison in the world.

[00:10:44] Um, valley state prison for women in child, Chile, California, and we were invited in, uh, by. well, we were invited in by women serving life sentences. They were all had killed somebody and there were about 150 of them. And , they invited us, but we still had to go through six months of getting permissions to do the project.

[00:11:01] And, and both of us are professors at Pepperdine, adjunct professors at Pepperdine university, the, uh, Straus Institute for dispute resolution and were very experienced mediation trainer. Lawyers peace makers. So we designed a very unique curriculum based on the idea that when you're training somebody who's incarcerated, they have zero skills.

[00:11:20] They don't know anything, which is why they're in prison. So we started and we started with those first 15 women. By the time we were in those days, we did start to finish in 12 weeks, one, one day, a week for 12 weeks, it was exhausting. By the time we were at a third of the way through four weeks into the 12 week course, uh, we had 800 women on a waiting list.

[00:11:42] wanting to take the, the word, got the word got out. So, but basically what we do is we start with the skill building and in the first modules, we teach them the four levels of reflective listing, the most important of which being, learning, how to listen to and reflect emotion. and then we teach them how to do listening circles, form of peace circles.

[00:12:01] Then in the next modules, we teach them basic skills that they're gonna need as a mediator, how to do durable agreements, how to help people solve problems without giving advice. And then we get into how to manage strong emotions, how to morally reengage somebody who's been morally disengaged. And then when they get all.

[00:12:17] Mastered to our satisfaction. And then we invite them into our mediation workshop where we teach them the process of mediation and they did amazing. I mean, they stopped gang rights, they stopped all kinds of prison violence. In fact, it was so dramatic that we got a letter from the warden two years into the project at that prison saying.

[00:12:38] The prison had completely quieted down. It wasn't that there was an absence of violence, but the violence was way, way down as a result of the work that we were doing with these women. So that, that lasted until 2013, the, state shut that prison down, turned into men's prison. And we came back, we did the same thing with the men, train them in that prison.

[00:12:57] and then, finally somebody woke up in Sacramento and decided to fund us. So we expanded and, and before the pandemic, we were in 15 California prisons, 14 prisons in Greece, a prison in Connecticut with startups in Italy and in Kenya with colleagues taking our material and started to teach it. And then during the pandemic we spent all of 20, 20 and 2021.

[00:13:19] filming. We put everything on. And so now we're ready to distribute it. And we, we can, we can offer the prison peace curriculum to anywhere in the world in any language, which is really cool, such a 

[00:13:32] Jeffrey: great program. It strikes me as rather ironic, you know, we're not often historically taught what we're now leaning into as emotional intelligence, not at all.

[00:13:43] And I find that. Deeply eyeopening now to look at why we wait till a human being hits, what we call rock bottom. 

[00:13:52] Doug Knoll: I I've got an answer for that 

[00:13:55] Jeffrey: minute as I finish that thought, why we wait to hit rock bottom? You going down the road of crime addiction, you know, emotional breakdown, mental health issue.

[00:14:09] Before we start to open that door a lot of times I'll just deem it that way. Now let's go back. I know 

[00:14:16] Doug Knoll: it is so it's so frustrating. and your question is so right on. Why do we have to wait? to train a murderer to be emotionally intelligent. And by the way, when we train them, they completely change.

[00:14:29] Yes. I mean, they, they we've had over 8,000 of our inmates. Our, our students released from California prisons, not one report of recidivism, not one person is re-offended. I mean, because we're teaching the foundational skills of life. Why aren't we teaching our kids this? All right. I I've given this a lot of thought three reasons.

[00:14:48] I'll try to keep it short. Number one, we have had a cultural bias for over 4,000 years. That what separates humans from other species is rationality. That we are rational beings. Aristotle, you said that Plato said it. Um, the Augustine who, the Bishop of hippo who constructed the Catholic theology, he was a Neoplatonist by the way, not a Christian.

[00:15:10] the Catholic, all of Christian theology today is based on Neoplatonism. You know, you don't, you find very little of theology in the Bible. Uh, I know people will shoot me for that, but it's the truth. um, well, it's, it's a myth because we have now known for over 20 years, at least 20 years, that what separates humans from other species is, are emotions.

[00:15:31] We're 98% emotional and only 2% rational can't even be rational unless we're emotional first. but we privilege rationality over emotion. So to the extent that emotions are seen as making you vulnerable, making you weak. Uh, making you subject to criticism and judgment. In some cases, be emotions are evil and irrational.

[00:15:52] And we imbue this into our children by emotionally invalidating them at a very young age, rather than teaching them emotional, intelligent. We're teaching them emotional competency. Yeah. Emotional or need to make a distinction. You can't learn emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a, is a form is a measure.

[00:16:09] It's like, it's like the Stanford been a, I Q test. when you talk about emotional intelligence, you're really talking about how well do you do on an assessment of your emotional intelligence. It measures emotional competency and there are three basic emotional competency.

[00:16:21] Self-awareness self-regulation and empathy. All right. So why are we teaching our children this? Well, we do exactly the opposite. Do you remember when you were two years old and you were out running around and you fell over and skinned your. I started to cry, 

[00:16:34] Jeffrey: probably not to a cognitive ability. other 

[00:16:38] Doug Knoll: than respect, somebody would say something like, get up, stop crying.

[00:16:43] Don't don't be a sissy. Don't be a, don't be a girly girl. Be a, be a big boy, big boys. Don't cry. We hear. And the, and the girls get the same thing. , we are constantly put down as children. For having emotional experience. This is why I said earlier that we shut down, we shut down our emotional development at six to eight because it's emotions become emotionally unsafe.

[00:17:04] So that's reason. Number one, we have a cultural bias against emotions. Number two, our educational system is so bought into the myth of rationality. They assume that children are rational beings and need to be trained as rational beings. And so the end, so our entire edifice of education is based on training.

[00:17:22] Part of our brain, the task focus system, but there's another part of our. that's even more important. It's called the default mode for a reason because it's where we default to, or I call it the socialist system. And this is the part of the brain that involves empathy and communication and listening and, and, you know, being able, it's where all our emotion, companies come from education.

[00:17:42] Doesn't spend one minute on developing emotional competency or on the social system. It assumes the family is gonna do that. Well, that gets us to the third level, which is. for psychologists, Virginia. Satera seven in 1980s, 98% of all families are emotionally dysfunctional and produce emotionally dysfunctional adults.

[00:18:00] If you don't have parents who are emotionally competent as a child, you are not going to be emotionally confident. It's impossible because you don't have any good model to work with. And so we, this, this training capacity. To quote, boast and vain, this training capacity that we have in our culture, where we push emotional INCOM from generation to generation persists and we don't break that cycle.

[00:18:22] And the result is horrible. Uh, I dunno if you're familiar with the ACEs study out of C Diego. Yeah. Okay. The adverse childhood experiences study well, nine of the 13 adverse childhood experiences that, Verlee studied and his colleagues studied are emotional, emotional abuse, like emotional, invalid.

[00:18:39] and the people I work with in prison who are mostly lifers and long termers, they're some of the most emotionally destroyed and abused human beings you would ever want to see. There's a reason why they're in prison. We, we don't, I mean, murderers are not born, they're bred. And so we have all these biases from cultural bias to educational bias, to family dysfunction that all pushes against the idea that we should be spending time developing emotional compet.

[00:19:04] you know, we get into the business world and I, I do a lot of work in that, arena. And you're constantly hearing business executives, poo pooing, soft skills. Which just cracks me up because off skills was a term coined by the us army in the 1960s, to talk about the skills that were necessary to command the battle space, 

[00:19:22] Jeffrey: soft skills, pretty, yeah, shitty 

[00:19:26] Doug Knoll: arrival, driving a truck.

[00:19:27] We can teach anybody to do that, but we it's really hard to teach a commander. Who's commanding a, an army in a battle space to have all the other skills. Stuff up here. Yeah. Necessary to win a battle. Those, those, they called soft skills. Well, it got picked up the wrong way. And so now you hear business people using the term soft skills pejoratively.

[00:19:47] And I, so again, it goes back to this fear it's and the last, yeah, the last thing I'll say about this is that because we all grew up in environments where it was not emotionally safe, it wasn't a safe to express emotions. We became highly. And we also carried around a lot of emotional pain. We all carry it around until you process it through.

[00:20:10] You can get rid of it. when you process through your emotional pain, until you do that, you've got all this emotional pain. So the whole idea of developing emotional competency becomes really difficult and painful to consider because that means you have to drop into the CS pool. That's inside yourself and deal with all that muck that's been accumulating for decades.

[00:20:31] And no nobody really wants to do that. 

[00:20:33] Jeffrey: Think it, feel it, process it, release it. That's exactly. We often lean into thanks to our guest, our former guest, Sherry Ann Boyle brought me to that awareness. I'm like, that's a brilliant step. I'm really back a few steps here and looking at how you mentioned.

[00:20:51] Propensity to bias. , we've labeled 188 different ways. We're known to label and experience categorically bias, right? To answer four simple, basic questions of life. What we need to act in order to act fast, what should we remember and what is too much information and not. All to address 27 different emotions.

[00:21:18] You know, which track are we gonna walk down the long track of the 188 or the maybe more productive or efficient, effective track of 27? That's interesting math to me and I'll leave it at that.

[00:21:35] Doug Knoll: so cognitive. Biase. Have always served an evolutionary purpose. Yeah. They, they are hardwired into us and most of the time, unless you're a student of decision making, like I am that you're, you're unaware that these biases exist and what they are is they're they're basically they help us make decisions.

[00:21:53] Yeah. But the dark side is. They, um, in, under some conditions, our cognitive biases can really get in the way and make us do bad decisions. And here's, I, I think the way that I like to think about it is this, our brain is fundamentally unchanged from. 230,000 years ago, about the time that , we gained the ability to speak, to create language that that happened at the same time that our predecessors mastered the technology of fire, because once the fire was mastered, now we could render animal fat animal meat, make it digestible.

[00:22:29] And that created a huge caloric. Which allowed for a gigantic expansion of our brains and our pharyngeal muscles and, and nerves that allowed the larynx to develop in our whole vocal structure to expand. And of course, as when language developed that now allowed for abstraction, because language is all abstract.

[00:22:47] And so that created the ability to do abstract thinking. Um, but up until that time, you have millions and millions of years of, of just barely subsistence living. and cognitive biases had a strong, evolutionary, adaptive effect because it allowed us to process information without having to think about it very hard, which was the difference between life's being, living and dying.

[00:23:12] And, but the problem is that about, uh, it depends on who you talk to. There's some debate about this when civilization began, it was, it could be, it could have been as long as 10 or 13,000 years ago. And we, we moved off of hunter gatherer. Some societies moved away from hunter gatherer to agricultural stuff, and we started having more complex cultures.

[00:23:35] We still had the brain of the hunter gatherer and if today, if you look at how complex our culture is today, our brains are still incredibly primitive. Compared to the culture that we've created, our brains have created the culture, which is amazing, but the, the organ itself has not evolved.

[00:23:50] And so these cognitive biases today in this very complex society that we live in, oftentimes now are maladaptive not adaptive and, and that's the problem we face and they, and they pop up all the time and you see it, you know, you watch how people react on social media or read the news. I mean, The biases are just popping off like popcorn and a popper.

[00:24:13] It's kind of interesting to watch and, you know, it's difficult because they are part of system one. So it's unconscious, and we're not even aware that we, that these biases are getting in the way of, of stuff. And I know I've, seen plenty of examples in my life where I've been, I've been trapped by my cognitive biases, not even aware that it was happening.

[00:24:31] And then I look back and say, oh my God, you. I just, I had five Cove, no wonder that didn't work out. , 

[00:24:39] Jeffrey: it's an interesting exercise to just observe yourself when you engage some of these one helpful practice. I found in acknowledging some of these biases is paying attention to anything in your awareness throughout the day that you might repeat, like in a, a said statement, kind of phrase.

[00:24:59] Or maybe, you know, just a way of expressing your emotion, something as simple as we all do it. Yeah, which itself is a cognitive bias. 

[00:25:10] Doug Knoll: It can be, 

[00:25:11] Jeffrey: yes. it can be, it absolutely can be dive completely down unraveling that, because that becomes a whole nother episode. Right. But simply by saying we can be, we trap ourselves in a limited mode of thinking well, right.

[00:25:27] A thought terminating 

[00:25:28] Doug Knoll: cliche. Right. Exactly. And, and why do we do that to save metabol? . I mean, I mean, what Feldman Barrett talks about is he talks about the brain. The brain's primary function is to balance metabolism. it's a metabolism, budgeting process, and the less metabolism we can use to think the better off we are.

[00:25:49] And so the brain is constantly looking for ways to save on metabolism, save energy, preserve energy. And so when we can create a, what you call a thought terminating. 

[00:26:00] Jeffrey: thought terminating cliche. There you go. A thought termin. The cliche part, importantly know it's kinda cliche. We do it all the time. 

[00:26:07] Doug Knoll: Yeah, exactly.

[00:26:08] You, you do this thought terminating cliche. Now you don't have to think about it anymore. Yeah. Guess what? You just saved a whole bunch of calories 

[00:26:14] Jeffrey: and therefore our emotional reaction response should be the next step. If we slow down, we're not reacting. We're respond. And we start to realize what might be taking more energy from us as we keep repeating those cycles or moving into states of rumination or anxiety where we're burning a lot of those 

[00:26:35] Doug Knoll: calories.

[00:26:36] That's right. And that's the irony of all this is we, we get into these terminating cliches that we've. That we don't. I mean, most people that do this they're of course mostly unconscious about it. Yeah. But the brain is thinking, well, if I engage in this process, I'm gonna save calories. I'm gonna manage, my metabolic budget, but it creates so much anxiety.

[00:26:56] you know, that you're gonna burn up three times as many calories because you're upset about what's going on in politics or something else that, you just, now, you, you work yourself into a total burn. And whereas if, to your point, if you had taken the time at the beginning to really think about it and invest it at the front end, the back end burn won't exist and yet are gonna end up saving calories.

[00:27:18] But that's not the way we function. That's not the way our brains function. Now I will say as a general proposition, that's not how our brains function until we're trained otherwise. And part of a good educational system is to train us, to do the otherwise to step back and. 

[00:27:34] Jeffrey: And therein lives, our ability to develop emotional intelligence.

[00:27:38] There you go. I stumbled upon an interesting learning. I'm gonna determine an interesting learning recently, emotional annotation and response language known as Earl E a R L. You know, uncle Earl. our uncle Earl. How we speak through our emotions by and large, we're gonna simplify that it's probably very simplified, but just simply paying attention to what we're labeling our emotions with and how we're responding at its core often becomes a very pattern language in us, so to speak.

[00:28:14] Doug Knoll: I, I, I haven't heard this before. Tell me more about this. 

[00:28:17] Jeffrey: So we're looking at basically. Your core, what we label positive, negative emotions, anxiety, fear, stress, being more negatively aligned in air quotes and the more positive of joy. Elation happiness, you know, happiness, not necessarily, that's not even a labeled emotion, but moving more toward those states, I don't have 'em right in front of me.

[00:28:39] So I'm gonna be vulnerable in this moment and say, that's okay. I sure was saying, I don't have 'em right there to recall, but balancing those two, if you know, basically what's positive and productive for us or what we feel is add. And those negative and where we fall in kind of that range becoming somewhat our emotional language and our mindset.

[00:29:00] If we look at tying that to mindset of where we fall on that spectrum of human being 

[00:29:06] Doug Knoll: yeah, that's interesting because if you look at the nine affect model of Sylvan Tompkins, there are two positive affect one neutral affect and six negative. and, and he postulates that the reason we predominate negative affect is because of survival potential, and again, evolutionary adaptability, um, that there are far more, there were far more things that were dangerous to Ahamed, you know, millions of years ago than there were things that work, think that that attracted, you know, you would, you, you, we, we are attracted to sex, food, water, and shelter, and we are basically.

[00:29:44] Repulsed by everything else at a very foundational level. But what's interesting. I think what you're saying is that if our mindset is a negative mindset, we're gonna dwell on a negative and see everything through a negative lens, which is a framing problem. And on the other hand, if we are at a neutral or positive.

[00:30:03] Mindset. Then we see the, the same set of facts or the same situation looks completely different. And we would talk about it in a completely the same way. And it's very easy to fall into the negative mindset because if for no other reason that we have more negative affect than we have positive affect, my response to that is label your emotion.

[00:30:26] So if you learn how to do what's called self affect labeling and what that means, and this is all based on brain scanning studies by Matthew Lieberman. if you're in a negative state, rather than wallow in the negative state call out, you're a negative motion. So you could say something like I'm really angry.

[00:30:41] I'm really pissed off. I'm anxious. I'm worried. I feel completely disrespected. I feel like I've been treated really unfairly. I've been completely ignored and unsupported. And I'm sad and I feel betrayed. And just the mere fact of labeling all the different kinds of emotions you've experienced has an amazing effect on the brain.

[00:31:04] It, it automatically, and unconsciously or pre subconsciously inhibits the emotional centers of the brain, primarily the amygdala and related limbic systems. And at the same time, it activates the Vento lateral proof. Onor. So we can start thinking again and we no longer become slaves to this negative thinking.

[00:31:22] It's a simple little thing that I wish every human being knew how to do. And then the challenge of course is okay, so how do I label my emotion? Well, it takes some practice, but you, you guys learn how to structure the data, the emotional data in a way that you can access it. And that now that's what I teach.

[00:31:38] How do you structure the data? Um, and, it's amazing how it. 

[00:31:43] Jeffrey: I wanna thank you for that brilliant insight in tying that all up today. You know, there's an age old adage out there, although cliche, which states the surest way to avoid a conflict is to not start one. That's right. As we label our emotions, think it, feel it process.

[00:32:04] Release it releasing the struggle in the process. 

[00:32:08] Doug Knoll: That's right. Mm-hmm and it's the thinking part that I think is really important because that's where you have to do the labeling. It's not sufficient just to abstractly. Think about an emotion that you're having. You've gotta label it. I am angry. I'm pissed off.

[00:32:22] Then you can feel it and then you can release it and let it. 

[00:32:26] Jeffrey: that reminds me of a great insight. I recently heard on a podcast about Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers neighborhood. Right. Is the television series? Fred was known to teach a technique very much like that, where he would literally do that personal naming speaking in third person, Fred.

[00:32:49] I feel da, da, da, da, Fred. I feel joy. Fred. I feel anxious processing that out. I thought that was, a great way. Each of us could realize that. Oh sure. You can all relate to Mr. Rogers. Right? Most of us, most of us I'll say that there we all, that's kind of a cliche in it, of itself. I'm starting to marginalize and narrow down.

[00:33:11] Well, 

[00:33:11] Doug Knoll: the cool thing is that there's, this is all supported by brain science. And, you know, the studies that are kind Lieberman's lab at UCLA are unbelievable in terms of how they show, how we process emotional information. And this isn't pop psychology that Freud made up with is database of 15. Upper middle class ESE women he didn't study men.

[00:33:34] He only studied women, you know? I mean, he was a genius, but he's polluted psychology, still polluted today from, from his thinking, it was all wrong. He, and, you know, to his credit, he said, you know, I'm probably wrong but I'm just trying to figure things out. And maybe someday the science will advance enough that we'll really understand it.

[00:33:51] But people who jumped onto his bandwagon didn't realize that he was sufficiently humble. He was not a humble man, but he was sufficiently humble to say, Hey, you know, this is my current thinking, but it completely changed. And instead edifices of psychotherapy and were built on models that are just scientifically unsustainable.

[00:34:12] and so how Fred Rogers described as excellent and there's signs to support why it works the way that it does 

[00:34:19] Jeffrey: know at that core awareness, acceptance, compassion, empathy, open. Understanding all essential in maintaining some degree of decorum and equanimity, right within our relationship. And these are 

[00:34:33] Doug Knoll: all, these are all skills that are part of our social system, our brain, that we don't spend time developing.

[00:34:39] , and it, in my, from my perspective, in my experience, it, it all boils down to being able to do one thing. It's called cognitive empathy. It's being able to label either somebody else's emotions. Or label your own emotions and reflect them back with a use statement. So if you were. Really angry, Jeff, I would say, oh man, you are really pissed off.

[00:35:00] You're really angry. And I'd just go through the emotional layers, the data structure. And within 30 to 90 seconds, you'll calm down. You have to calm down because that's the way your brain's hardwired. If I were upset, I would do the same thing. And the way you were talking about Mr. Rogers, um, I'm really upset.

[00:35:16] I'm really angry. Well, here's, what's really cool. That is called cognitive. When you develop this practice of, reflecting emotion, either to yourself or to somebody else, you all of a sudden develop a greater emotional self-awareness. And from that you develop much higher levels of emotional self-regulation.

[00:35:34] Well, uh, you're emotionally intelligent. And it all comes down to learning how to label emotions and compassion is an automatic off. Of that, because once you realize that we're all emotional beings, you start seeing all this look like chaotic, crazy irrational behavior before now makes perfect sense.

[00:35:52] And you say, oh, you're having an emotional moment. Let me label you and help you. you know, that's what you think to yourself and it works. . I mean, this is why, I mean, I know it works, cuz like I said, we've asset tested this for 15 years on maximum security prisons and it, I mean, let me tell you I've been in some pretty dark places.

[00:36:09] There was for three years, I was teaching a hundred feet away from Charles Manson at Orran state prison in California, super max prison. and it works, worked really, really. 

[00:36:21] Jeffrey: And at this core love Doug. I love absolutely that. We got to spend this time together today. I'm so grateful. We had a chance to connect with our community.

[00:36:31] Thank you. You're welcome. I truly appreciated my friend. 

[00:36:35] Doug Knoll: Thank you. I appreciate it. It's been a fun conversation. where that I get to go this deep with this material. So it's fun. Thank you. 


Douglas NollProfile Photo

Douglas Noll

Mediator / Author / Coach / Speaker

Doug Noll speaks about and teaches people how to solve difficult, intractable, and highly emotional problems. He was a business and commercial trial lawyer for 22 years before turning to leadership development, problem-solving, and peacemaking. He is a Senior Consultant with Mobius Executive Leadership and maintains a high-level mediation and arbitration practice.

For his innovative work, Doug Noll has been voted as one of the Best Lawyers in America since 2005, by US News & World Report and has been recognized since 2006 as a Northern California Super Lawyer. He is listed in the Who’s Who of International Commercial Mediators. He has been honored as Lawyer of the Year in 2014 by Best Lawyers in America. In 2014, Doug was honored as a Purpose Prize Fellow by Encore.org. In 2018, Doug was named the Distinguished Neutral of the Year by The National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals.

Along with his colleague Laurel Kaufer, Doug Noll was named California Attorney of the Year in 2012 for their pro bono Prison of Peace project.

Doug Noll is the author of the book De-Escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less (Simon & Schuster, September 2017), which was the winner of the Book Excellence Award for 2017.

Sandy WoznickiProfile Photo

Sandy Woznicki

Stress and Anxiety Coach

Sandy coaches women with high-functioning anxiety to become calm and confident and able to handle anything life throws at them with Graceful Resilience.

Having been fed up of a lifetime of anxiety, Sandy found resilience training work several years ago after trying different forms of therapy, medication (and self medication) without getting the results she wanted. Combining the work with mindfulness and meditation changed her life completely from a state of anxiety, ADHD, self bullying and panic attacks to happy, calm and excitement about life, and a newfound ability to quickly bounce back when life gets challenging.

Trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness and meditation, and as a certified health and life coach and yoga teacher, she's spent the last several years coaching women and teaching workshops both live and online.