Managing Those GRRRR Moments of Frustration – turning heat into light

Please bring to mind one thing that’s been preoccupying you. For instance, I am beleaguered by thoughts about a syllabus I need to revise for Fall. It pops into my head, unbidden. It can tighten me up, or get me in its grip. I can plan to get to working on it, but then somehow not! Or start, then get distracted….and later feel frustrated.  I’d like to share a metaphor and strategy for such gripping, gnarly blockages.

Again, this blog will make the most sense if you let yourself acknowledge your top preoccupation these days. What’s got you? Got it in mind?
Here is my metaphoric invitation: Look for how to convert your energetic involvement or preoccupation from heat to light.

Heat is from the friction, the grating of inner conflicts. The grating sounds like these clashing voices: “I should but I can’t…” “I could, but then what if…” “I want to, but what will he (she, they) think?” “I want to, but something feels wrong, scary, too aggressive, too timid, too naive, too arrogant, etc.” Is this descriptively true for you? Can you feel the inner rub, the resistance? For me, with respect to the inner friction around my syllabus, I might write, “I want to re-do it, but (a) I don’t know if I have time, (b) I don’t know if I know how, and (b1) I don’t know whom to turn to, and (b2) If I ask for help will they think I’m not smart enough to figure it out on my own? (c) what if I try and really mess it up?”

So, what I’m doing by revealing these “I want to, but…” statements is pouring light into the friction. I am taking apart the different pieces of resistance that are locking up my engine. The first great benefit of this approach is that instead of a lump in the throat, or the stomach, or a headache, I am opening up the mechanisms to see just why I’m hung up. The light shines into the resistance, so instead of the conflicting voices locking me up, they are each, in turn, sharing their often helpful concerns. So I can logically ask in response to the resistant voices: Well, how much time do I need to set aside? Who can help me? Who can help me who won’t judge me as “not smart enough to figure it out myself?” I’m slowly and patiently listening to each big, “I could, BUT…” voice.  Try it.

One critical tip in the light-shining process: Resist the urge to run roughshod over your voices of resistance. For example,when one of my inner, resistant voices says, “you might not look smart enough,” it would be highly unhelpful for me to say to that voice-in-myself, “well, how stupid of you (me!) to think you’ll be seen as stupid!” See the trap?  Such an attitude – of resisting-the-resistance – will likely only matters worse. Instead, use light to learn what can be learned and to respect your resistance. (Note: This happens also to be the best long-run strategy in dealing with outside-resisters in your life and organizations: Respect them, learn and listen, rather than using force and pressure, for the latter are likely to only heighten long term resistance.

Love to hear what happens if and when you try this technique. And I’d love to hear if it would be helpful for me to suggest a more detailed, concrete strategy for engaging the gnarly resistance within, as you

Lead with your best self!

  • Managing Those GRRRR Moments of Frustration – turning heat into light
    Hi Dan,

    How appropriate and timely is this topic. I am living the very thing that is highlighted in your post. I will try your suggestions to move past the ruminating thoughts, but in the meantime please provide a more detailed and concrete strategy as you have stated. I believe it would be helpful.

    Thank you, and I look forward to the next post!

  • This technique looks also applicable to organization or business decision making and action road blocks, along with individual use you describe.

  • Hello Dan! This topic is apropos, more than you know. Everyone I know is flocking to find the latest gadget that promises to organize your life, track your activities, and help you meet your goals. In all the smoke and shadows of gimmick hype, they are hoping that a new toy will help them see what is going wrong. Truth is, they need to take a low tech approach, grab a (metaphorical) flashlight, and take a good long look at the sources of their problem. When I am facing a blank page and it seems hopeless that anything of value will spill out upon its virgin whiteness, I’ve found that a fancier page is just as empty and fancy new tools are just an expensive way to procrastinate. If I can’t find something to write about, then I write about not being able to find something to write about. That often reveals possible answers. Good luck on the syllabus — Note: When I worked with faculty at MTU who faced that same problem, I advised them to start writing the final exam — start with what you expect them to know! (It helped a couple of times, I swear it did!) Mick McKellar

  • Good Afternoon, Dan, I hope that you had a wonderful Father’s Day and were able to spend it with your kids. I hope that you are enjoying your summer.

    I’ll be having those GRRRR moments all of the time lately about so much including not able to keep up writing my book fast enough. I know I have to but then I can’t because it brings up too many painful memories as well as wonderful memories that are no more. I will try your technique. And when I get my book finished and published I will give you a free copy, Dan.

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