Readying myself for emotional learning

It’s past midnight, of the night before what feels like the most exciting conference in my career so far.  I’ve organised a few but it’s not keeping me awake because I’m on the organising committee.  This conference is the most exciting because after the cognitive era and the decade of the brain, finally the importance of emotions is gaining attention. The brave team who crafted Emotion Revolution have shown great courage and put together what promises to be a fantastic event with ripple effects beyond.

As current president of IEDTA, I am proud to represent our organisation here and proud that we have founding members, current members and our past president presenting over the coming three days.  And as an emotion and experiential event organiser myself, I have deep respect for all they have achieved in setting up a cross-model, international, experiential event.   I’m also very excited about sharing emotihealth and our hopes for the future with the attendees at Emotion Revolution, hopeful about being part of the ripple effect here.

But the readying I have been doing this evening is emotional preparation, deliberate practice to ensure I am as receptive as possible to the learning opportunities that will be available.  Just as the presenters ready themselves – as a co-creator of the learning, change and development, surely the preparation I do is equally important.

In the best circumstances, change is possible here internally and interpersonally, from a synaptic to a community level.  The world class presenters have no doubt spent many months preparing for this.  But the responsibility for ensuring this revolutionary shift continues beyond Thursday is shared with every one of the 700 participants.

So my preparation starts by facing this reality.  The reality that I want an emotion revolution to transform health care and beyond – to transform our culture, media, social media, education, the justice and penal system.

I do not know how, I have some ideas, I have some fantasies but this is the second part of preparing – as a participant and a presenter – we need to face our limits.  I know x, I do not know y.  And in facing this, feeling the pain, the grief, the curiosity, the intrigue.

The more I fill the ‘I do not know’ with my answers, the less I can gain from the newness that will be present tomorrow.  So to learn and to gain from new experiences – from micro to macro, I prepare by opening myself up to and readying myself for newness.  This is physical in the body – breathing deeply, opening up the ribs and lungs, and in the mind – weirdly a relaxing, but electrifying experience in my brain, dropping the defenses, loosening the neural networks.

To support this I connect with six neural factors key for learning to be mindful.  In a practice I learned many years ago, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson encouraged that we take a bottom up and top down approach to the position we are trying to cultivate – stating the intention to for instance, ‘be open’ or ‘be mindful’ (bottom up) and to bring to mind a person who embodies this intention (top down).  I practice the intention of ‘allowing myself to be moved’ ‘opening myself up to newness’ and bring Dr. Albert ‘Terry’ Sheldon to mind – my body and mind shift gently as I practice.

Actively activating the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest system, relaxing my tongue to give it a clear message regarding my safety is an additional part of my preparation.  Feeling fundamentally safe is essential for effective conscious emotional learning.  I can learn plenty whilst terrified but associations with fear are not the sort of learning I am aiming for over the coming days.  Yes, feeling momentarily scared when I face the reality of an emotion revolution failing – that is important.  But we need to connect with feeling safe so that we can learn, connect and play together, allowing new, allowing closeness, allowing vulnerability, allowing freedom to express, allowing change and allowing hope.

What this touches on is another factor vital in the preparation – openness to feeling good, to feeling connected, cared for, loving and being loved.   Feeling good guides us forwards to where we need to be, just as much as other feelings guide us away from pain, danger, boundary crossing etc.

The final preparation I have time to mention now is sleep! Rest is as vital as stimulation for change to embed and ideas to be realised.

Goodnight.  More tomorrow.

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