Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Does Intelligence Have to Do With It?

Watching my dog resist the veterinarian’s efforts to open his mouth and try to bite him when he was insisting, reminded me of the article I had read somewhere about dog intelligence. The author claimed that the smarter the dogs, the easier they are to train and the less stubborn. Our pug, is a bit stubborn and now that he has been hurt, he will not easily trust the veterinarian. I guess that makes him not too smart. Does that also mean that stubborn people are not being smart? I don’t know about that generalization, but I do know that hanging on to old wounds and not being open to change does end up hurting us, so in that sense, it is not intelligent behavior.

Taking this concept further, it seems not only emotionally important to forgive and move on when we have been wronged, but also intelligent behavior. I hear so many people complain about how they’re never going to forget or forgive someone. In some manner they justify their lack of forgiveness as a form of self-defense or lesson for the future because they are compelled to never make the same mistake again. In this way by looking at it as self-preservation, they justify their anger and withholding of their forgiveness. This so called “lesson” ends up being more of a grudge, an emotional and mental block in their experience of life. Inevitably something will happen, someone will mistreat them, and the story comes back, the lesson is alive and they usually choose to repeat the same old understanding, further proving that they are “right”. This type of deepening of a belief is what I think of as hard-wiring and that is what most of us coaches work with clients on undoing. And depending on how old and how deep the wiring is, the more challenging is the dismantling of the belief.

What’s interesting is that most people do not consider themselves as being stupid or want to act unintelligently in their lives. This fear or the belief (I do not want to be stupid) is what pushes them to hold on to those grievances (I’ll never let anyone do that to me again) in the first place. So, the emotional grievance is really the emotional response to something that has happened. The more emotionally sensitized we are, the more we try to not feel the pain again, and this drives us to respond to the belief that we want to be smart by acting in ways that may not get us there. In other words, it has nothing to do with the brain or our intelligence, but the degree and depth to which we “feel”. Our brain uses our emotional experience to come up with a solution that can be rationalized. And our brain can rationalize anything!

I am not suggesting that in order to act intelligently, we have to stop feeling. It does mean though that once we recognize that our feelings have gotten us to believe in whatever it is we are believing, we can choose to think about it in any way we want. The choice is ours. For example, if I was cheated on, I can ignore or deny the depth of my feelings of betrayal and choose not to trust again thinking I did some wrong by trusting in the first place. Or I can first recognize and heal my emotional wounds and then choose to believe that the past is just that, and not everyone is going to cheat on me just because someone did. This is not that easy, and that is why we go to coaches and facilitators to help us release the past and move forward in life.

I have to remember this conversation the next time I take my pug in to the veterinarian. I have to remember that he is not stubborn or stupid, he just needs to heal his emotional wounds and choose to believe that the veterinarian is just trying to help him out! Yikes! I am sure glad I don’t have dogs as clients…

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