By Michael A. Melton, Psy.D.
Compass Morainn Journal
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In the talks and discussions you read on this blog you frequently come across many references to being “in control,” and “maintaining neutrality,” and “knowing one’s self,” and the like. All of these are so very vital to the task at hand, whether it be negotiations, research, or investigations into phenomena. I might even allude to the fact that successful grocery shopping, for example, is only accomplished by employing the above conditions of the self. So, the question posed in this discussion concerns how to conceive, achieve, and maintain a relaxed, centered and effective stance, and thus, project this stance into the situation it is applied to. I will give the reader a simple primer. The concepts are all one might need to begin building their own defense against stress and anxiety.
The first concept I want you to understand is “incompatibility.” Simply put, incompatibility is when two of anything simply will not go together. Think of oil and water. The absolute best you can do to get these two substances together (in everyday applications) is to shake vigorously, and even then, separation, or their incompatibility, shows itself almost immediately. They separate. Now, let’s think of emotions for a moment. When we are nervous and excited, or unsure, we feel stressed, we act stressed, we are, in fact, stressed. However, what if we learned how to behave in such a way as to thwart that anxiety? What if our thoughts, attitude and behavior reflect incompatibility with the onslaught of a stressful situation? Exactly – just like the oil and water, stress slides off our backs, and we remain cool, calm, and collected, ready to accomplish the great things we set out to do.
The second concept is “breathing.” Controlled breathing is essential to maintaining a cool head. Begin by allowing yourself to empty your lungs of stale air, and inhale deeply. Hold for a count of five, and release completely. Repeat this a few more times, and you are ready to tackle a stressful situation. The extra boost of oxygen energizes your brain, and assists you in making critical decisions, educated choices, and the like. Practice breathing awareness. Notice how, when you are under duress your respiration increases, depending on the stress. Using the “incompatible behavior concept, and integrating “breathing” in a controlled manner, you are already ahead of the game.
The third concept is “thinking.” To coin an old, time warn phrase, “don’t get caught up in stinkin’ thinkin’!” We set ourselves up at times by predisposing our situation to the realm of negative thoughts. Adding the concept of positive thinking to the mix is vital to maintaining calm. We give those automatic thoughts such power at times, that they literally drive us into an anxious state. Additionally, if you notice, all of these little functions are beginning to work in harmony. Knowing that staying relaxed is incompatible with feeling stressed, adding breathing awareness, controlling our breathing, and thinking positively, we are well on our way now to success.
The fourth concept is “staying loose,” in a muscular sense. For just a moment, clench your fists. Pay particular attention to just how far up your arms, into your chest, and so on, that tension spreads. Notice your thought pattern. You might complain that your wrists hurt. You have a pain in your neck, or even how you might use one of these fists to settle some dispute that is still on your mind, even though you’re not aware of it. Remaining loose and flexible is another way, added to the above, we can thwart anxiety and stress from overtaking us. Our musculature becomes stiff, and motor memory kicks in – we are feeling stressed, and tight, and irritable. “Shaking it off,” literally, is one way to stay relaxed and to prevent stressful muscle memory from kicking in.
The fifth concept is simply “being.” Awareness of being is perhaps the most important concept. I don’t want you to think of it as being applied in a grandiose and overinflated concept of self. I simply mean to maintain a high level of confidence in your skills and abilities. As a mediator, you are an important cog in a massive system of wheels and gears that have to turn in order to meet a mutually beneficial resolution. As a mediator, you are the cog that unites the two systems to run in harmony. Your role is vital and important in the outcome, and taking pride in the importance of your functioning in this complex system is in no way a boast or an overzealous gesture of self importance. You are needed in this process by both sides. So, it helps one to stay loose, and harbor positive self affirmations and thoughts, and to breathe easy.
The result is a competent, confident interface for negotiations – an impartial mediator who is well aware of self, and ready to meet the challenge that lay ahead. The complex role that exopolitical mediators will face in the future demands a relaxed and confident stance. We might find it hard to imagine the possibilities we will face! And it is good, prudent and timely to “be ready!”