EQ Reflection:  London, Feb 22, 1999

First of all, THANK YOU to all of you who wrote in response to the last newsletter. Many of you said the news from the SWF was inspiring — and the dozens (hundreds?) of responses to that message clarified two lessons: that I have a tremendous privilege to “act as a conduit” to share this kind of hope (and hereby promise to do so), and that feelings speak louder than ideas.

We just returned from London, we were there facilitating another international EQ seminar — this one for 5 days with about 20 people from six countries. I was struggling with an old issue.

When I was a classroom teacher, I used to get so upset when my students and I were in conflict. I got upset when there was palpable tension, when people where sad, angry, frustrated, when there were strong emotions… and I am glad that I was emotionally present for my students, but I am sorry that I “rode the rollercoaster of adolescence” with them. What I learned was that there is a certain level of emotionallity and even conflict that is essential to learning. I never was comfortable with a room full of students frustrated with me, but it became less catastrophic.

And, every year around this time, my students were at a particular stage of group development where they were resistant to taking individual responsibility for themselves as group members, and I always felt that somehow I had failed.

Last week in the seminar, I found myself in the same situation, knowing that the rising sense of frustration is an inherent and important part of a group’s development, (the “storming” that leads to “norming”), yet saddened and frustrated myself. Why do people have to snap at _me_?

And I realized that it is not _me_ that is the target of frustration. It is the old learning that must be unlearned. The preconceptions, the expectations that gradually are replaced by real communication and understanding. Not only is the “storming” an important part of the process, it is evidence of a high level of commitment. It is a demonstration that we, as a group, are willing to learn. As is the laughter, the tears, the openness, the contemplative listening, or the excitement.

Likewise, today you will walk into the world and you will choose to “go with the flow” or to “be a rock in the river” — and if you choose to stand for change, there will be resistance. And while I do not suggest you step out an incite conflict, I do suggest that you look it lovingly in the eyes.

For those of you left wondering about London last week, at a break I took a short walk and remembered the reasons I do this work. I came back, and afterwards my own “negative” feelings evaporated — I was excited to be in a room full of learners. Pretty soon group members from across the world were taking the risk to speak from their hearts. I know that we 20 will support one another in this work. I also know that facing my own fears may help, in some small way, children in those six countries learn that their emotions are an essential part of learning.

– Josh

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