Sometimes I hear people talk about leaders casting a shadow, how their approach affects and has an impact on other people. I like the analogy and will steal and adapt it as I think the shadow is cast an awful lot closer to home before it gets to others. Why?
Emotions cast a shadow over us when we are in an emotional episode.
We need to remember that emotions are short and brief in duration. Some emotions are less than a second and some a few minutes. Emotions are different to moods because mood is much more enduring and can last for hours or maybe a day. Emotions are shorter because they are there to protect us, they are there to keep us alive. If we were consistently emotional for long periods of time (hours or days) the physiological effects would take a huge toll on us, which is a blog for another day.
The thing with emotions is that when we are in the grip of a particular emotion (let’s say happiness):
>> we can only take in information that reinforces the emotion that we are experiencing (happiness)
>> this casts a (happiness) shadow that hides any data and any information that might challenge or may take us out of that emotional state
>> we only filter in information that reinforces the emotion (happiness) because emotions focus our attention.
Each emotion is there to help us survive and thrive and has a specific purpose and part of this purpose is to keep our attention on things linked to that emotion. This is the shadow I am referring to. Sometimes it will save our life and others…. be a huge hindrance.
For example; if you are sharing a project update or an idea to a group, or you are talking to your line manager about an idea and they do something that triggers the emotion of anger in you. This is perfectly plausible as you have a goal that you want to achieve and an obstacle may well have been put in your way.
The shadow I am referring to may well mean that when other people are interacting with you, you are more likely to interpret those actions as ones that are obstructing your goal rather than actions to help and support you, thereby reinforcing the anger you are feeling.
Let me bring this to life with an example. Have you have ever witnessed two people arguing and they are saying the same thing? Let’s work that through using my shadow analogy:
>> Something happened that was seen as an obstruction to a goal; anger triggered and shadow begins to be cast.
>> Hearing raised voice(s), seeing angry expression(s); shadow gets darker or stronger.
>> Anger shadow being cast means only filtering information that reinforces their angry emotion.
>> Don’t hear that other person is agreeing with what I am saying as that doesn’t reinforce the emotion I am experiencing.
To give a real life example; there are times when I am talking to my daughter and she is upset and sad because she can’t master the ballet move or because she can’t get the swimming stroke correct and I will say:
>> “Remember you are very good at front crawl and butterfly,” but of course she can’t see this.
>> The shadow that she is casting is limiting her ability to take in information that challenges the emotion she is experiencing.
>> This is because she has not developed her emotional awareness on this area (yet).
>> I have to remember this and adjust my approach or wait until the emotion has passed before we can talk about it rationally.
Whether it is anger, sadness, disgust or fear; when you are in the grip of emotion and you are not aware the emotion is happening and you will only filter that reinforces that emotion you are experiencing. This is the same of happiness, you maybe blissfully happy and in euphoria and there might be other situations that are going on around you that actually might be a reason for you not to be happy but you don’t take them in.
So why am I sharing this?
There will be times and there are times, each and every day where you will experience emotions.
You will experience many different emotions (sometimes at the same time) during the course of the day.
Unless you are aware of the emotion(s) you are experiencing and the impact on you, you run the risk when interacting with others that you will only take in information that reinforces the emotion you are experiencing.
That has a big impact on your ability to make good decisions and choices.
Some questions for you to think about…
Which shadows hang over you the longest?
Which emotions do you experience that cast those shadows for the longest period of time?
Which are the darkest shadows that appear for you?
Which are the shadows that really hide away anything and everything else that could challenge the emotion you are experiencing?
What can you do to lighten those shadows or to lessen the duration of which the shadows cast over you?