The Emotional Hostage
by Leslie Cameron-Bandler and Michael Lebeau
DESCRIPTION: Often we feel trapped and at the mercy of emotions that we don’t want. This book teaches how to gain control over our emotional lives by discovering the many factors that together arouse our feelings. For instance, realizing that our emotions are the results of our memories of the past and our anticipation of the future as well as our perceptions in the moment, allows us to shift time frames in order to feel differently. Slowing the intensity and tempo of an unpleasant experience can change rage to dissatisfaction, and increasing the intensity and tempo of a pleasant one can change satisfaction into excitement. These are just a few of the elements of our experiencing that we can learn to modify to solve the problems caused by emotions and have a more satisfying life.
EXCERPT: Leslie glanced up from her magazine to check the time. She felt concerned about our son, Mark. It was a quarter past ten and he was still not home from the show. It was only fifteen minutes past the time Mark had promised to be home, but Leslie’s mind was already straying to the consideration of some of the more unpleasant reasons why he might be late. When fifteen minutes later Mark still had not returned, Leslie began thinking about some of the dire possibilities, and soon her imagination had her feeling quite upset. As the minutes ticked by, Leslie began running the awful scenes in her head faster and faster, coming up with new twists, and adding more and more detail, until soon she was feeling quite anxious. She tossed her magazine aside and began pacing the room. As the awful images became more and more real, Leslie found herself peering out the window for approaching headlights and repeatedly glancing at the phone, willing it to ring. Unable to restrain herself any longer, she lunged for the telephone to call the police, the movie theater, Mark’s friends, anyone! Then the front door opened.
Leslie’s emotional journey from concern to hysterical desperation was powered almost solely by one component of her experience, that of intensity. Accompanying each emotional step she took was an increase in the intensity of the images she was making, including more images, enhanced detail, increased depth of colors, more accompanying sounds; an increase in the intensity of her movements, such as pacing the floor; and an increase in the intensity of the sensations she was feeling. As in the case of Leslie’s emotional progression from concern to upset to anxiety to desperation, the distinct qualities of many emotions are due to their characteristic intensities. The intensity we are talking about here is not absolute, but subjective and relative. Although anger and disapproval are structurally very similar emotions, they are obviously of different intensities, anger being more intense than disapproval.
It is often possible to move from one emotion to another simply by changing the intensity of the experiences you are having at the time. For instance, find an example of some outcome that you recently attained about which you feel satisfied. When you are again feeling that satisfaction, increase the intensity of the emotion by making your internal images of what you did brighter and more colorful, making your feelings stronger, and changing your internal dialogue to include such praise as, “Wow, I did it, that’s great! Look at all it does for me, and it means I’m such a great person!” For most people, increasing the intensity of feeling satisfied in this way takes them to feeling thrilled, or even ecstatic.
Of course, intensity is a continuum that covers not only more, but less as well. You can take the emotion of ecstasy and dull your images, sensations and feelings, and internal dialogue to the point that it becomes titillation or satisfaction. As straightforward and effective as changing intensity is, it rarely occurs to people to do it in order to have the kinds of emotional experiences they need or would like to have. For instance, if you take a moment to search through your own experiences you will probably find examples of situations in which you short-changed yourself by feeling only satisfied when you really deserved to feel ecstatic. Or there may have been times when you were thrilled or ecstatic when it would have been more appropriate to feel merely satisfied–for example, getting ecstatic over a dollar-an-hour raise, when what you actually needed and wanted was considerably more.
The steady hand with which our friend Katy had answered the telephone was shaking when she dropped the receiver back into its cradle a few minutes later. When her secretary asked what was the matter, Katy explained that the boss wanted her to report at the next meeting on one of the big accounts she was developing. Katy’s secretary tried to reassure her, saying, “You’ve been on that account for a year now. You know it backward and forward.” Katy collapsed back into her chair muttering, “Forget it. The meeting’s been pushed up to tomorrow. There’s no way I can have all that material down pat.” For the next three hours Katy worked on her presentation, but she knew that she would need at least a week to prepare adequately. As the hours passed, her anxiety grew. She became so panic-stricken, in fact, that she was on the verge of taking a tranquilizer to calm herself down, when the telephone rang again. The hand that set the receiver down this time was rock steady. It had been her boss again, this time apologizing because he had been called away and would not be there for her presentation. Katy smiled at her secretary. “With just the department heads there, I only need the highlights. Tomorrow will be a piece of cake,” she said languidly.
It may have occurred to you that, of course, you do not just throw together any old time frame, modality, intensity, tempo, etc., and get an emotion. Emotions always occur within a particular context or situation–although you may be unaware of the context, as when you feel anxious but have not recognized that your anxiety relates to an upcoming presentation you must give. Situations change; and when they do, what is important to you changes as well. For instance, when she thought her boss was going to be present for her report, it was important to Katy that she have her material “down pat,” and she felt anxious. But when she found out that her boss would not be there, it became important only to be able to “hit the highlights,” and she felt confident. The term we use to refer to those things that you think are important is criteria.
Criteria are the standards that you are applying in a certain situation. In Katy’s case, the criterion that she initially applied to her presentation was that of having it “down pat.” That criterion and what she believed to be her actual level of preparedness combined to make her feel anxious. If she had thought that she did have it down pat then she would have felt excited or confident, rather than anxious. When her boss’s absence made it possible for Katy to change her criterion to having her presentation “hit the highlights,” her emotional response to the presentation changed as well.
The Emotional Hostage
A World of Emotional Choice
Emotions Are the Source
The Structure of Emotions
The Pieces of the Puzzle
Orienting to Your Emotions
Selecting Your Emotions
Accessing Your Emotions
Expressing Your Emotions
Employing Your Emotions
If, as Shakespeare said, all the world is a stage and we are the players, then learning to control one’s emotions is like having the ability to choose exactly which roles we will play. I have found this book to be an owner’s manual for the human psyche.
Stephanie Craig, The Arizona Daily Star
This is a provocative and incredibly-detailed analysis of human emotions. It tells you how and why emotions occur, how you can control them, even how to use them to your advantage.
Cleve Twitchell, Lifestyles Editor of the Medford Mall Tribune
The authors have taken a user-friendly scientific approach to a crucial human problem.
Marilyn Ferguson, Publisher of Brain Mind Bulletin and Author of The Aquarian Conspiracy
Leslie Cameron-Bandler and Michael Lebeau have created an obvious work of care and quality with The Emotional Hostage. If you read anything at all in the self-help/self-improvement genre this year, make it The Emotional Hostage.
James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review
Combining a lucidly-articulated position with carefully-sequenced practice exercises, the authors provide us with the opportunity to learn to use our emotions in a satisfying and productive manner.
Anthony T. Pallisi, Ed.D. and Mary D. Kelly, Ph.D., Editors, The Family Letter
BACKCOVER: We lived storybook lives. At least it seemed that way to our families, friends, colleagues, and students. As evidence they pointed to our professional success, our lovely home and happy child, and our romantic and passionate love for each other. But behind the trappings of professional success, hidden from those around us, was a life of recurring torment. We were hostage to a powerful but little-understood force: our own emotions. In our first attempts to struggle free of the grip of our emotions, we learned to appreciate the seriousness of our plight. We also discovered the we were not alone.
All of us are hostage to our emotions in one way or another. Some people are confined and constrained by their fear of the intensity of such emotions as inadequacy, sadness, hurt, and rejection. For these people, emotions are like land mines; they tiptoe through life trying to avoid dangerous feelings. At the first hint that a strong emotional response is underfoot, they withdraw. They avoid situations that appear to be emotionally highly-charged, such as a heated argument with a loved one, visiting an acquaintance who is suffering from cancer, or spending time with a friend who is depressed. In order to spare themselves the sting of hurt and rejection, they refrain from reaching out to others. They also steer clear of professional challenges. This way they can avoid tripping over unpleasant surprises, such as feelings of inadequacy. As a ransom, these people avoid huge areas of life in the way that some people avoid seeing scary movies. In the process, they are usually successful at keeping themselves from experiencing much of what is worthwhile in life.
A World of Emotional Choice
Imagine for a moment that you live in a world in which you have available to you the full range of human emotions, as well as choices about which of those emotions to experience and how to express them at any given moment. In this world you have access to the sobering unpleasantness of disappointment, anger, and frustration, as well as the exaltation of pride, confidence, and joy. You might wince under the pangs of jealousy, regret, fear, grief, and hopelessness, but only for as long as it takes to extract whatever information these wounds might hold for you. Then you quickly heal and move on. In this world you do not need to mask the feelings that are the expressions of yourself just because you do not know how to satisfyingly express them. Instead, you have access to all of the emotions and behaviors that are the authentic manifestation of who you are and who you want to be. The standard for interactions In this world is a mutually-fulfilling dance of emotions and behavior, while stepping on the emotional toes of those around you is a rare mistake.
How close are most of us to living in such a world? What would such a world really be like? As it is now, it’s not uncommon for a person who is facing a job interview or sales presentation to feel anxious, his palms breaking out in sweat. He may squirm around, his voice cracking and his attention and concentration ricocheting from one worry to another. No matter how worthy a potential employee he is or how substantive his sales pitch, his presentation will be sabotaged by his anxious feelings, behavior, and appearance. In a world in which emotional choice is a skill that all enjoy, however, this person could choose to present himself with a deep feeling of personal confidence and competence, manifested in his calm demeanor and alert and attentive responses.
Personal lives would be significantly different as well. We all know couples who, as a result of the years of emotional deprivation they have experienced together, seize the opportunity of social situations to sling snide put-downs at one another. Even cloaked as humor, as they often are, such barbs bite deeply, continually adding to the resentment that already scars their relationship. But in a world of emotional choice, it would be difficult to build resentment. Instead, these two people would recognize and respond to their own emotional needs and wants, as well as those of their mate. Over the years, they would experience an increasing sense of trust and security because each day they would have fresh examples of their ability to notice and respond well to the fluctuations of emotional atmosphere that naturally accompany the weather of relationships.
AUTHOR BIOS: The authors are co-developers of NLP and creators of Mental Aptitude Patterning. They have written several highly-acclaimed books on personal development, including Solutions, Know How, and The EMPRINT Method. The authors continue to bring the benefits of emotional choice to their work and to their marriage.