Word Count: 550  |  Time to Read: 2+ minutes  |  FEBRUARY 2013
Practicing for Everyday Emergencies
My January Blog used the history of Pearl Harbor as a cautionary tale about our natural tendency in a disaster to fixate on the loss we have suffered.  As a result, we literally do not see the resources that we have out our disposal.  If you did not get the opportunity
to read January's issue, click here.

I received a number of interesting responses to this blog. Here are two that I want to share with you:  

"In my life as a pilot flying a big plane, we learn to approach any "abnormal" situation methodically.  I always go through the thought process you talk about: "What have I lost?"  "What do I have left?"   "What must I do?"  "What CAN I do?"  And we often add, "How much time do I have?  This process works in my professional life, but it is more difficult in my personal life, where emotions enter. Then, decisions are less clear. For all the obvious reasons..."

"Your note reminds me of a drill I learned as a hospice volunteer when working with the grief of a death:  What have you lost?  What have you gained?  What remains the same?  Every time I exercise this drill I'm astonished with the power of what's remained the same. Also embarrassed by what's gained."  


When I reflected on my friends' comments, I saw a deeper truth: With practice, we can develop the skill to work with the most difficult, emotionally charged situations - even that of our own. 

I have to smile when my airline pilot friend writes about the challenges of personal life as "where emotions enter."  As if there is a lack of emotion, managing an emergency, at 35,000 feet!  Actually, I think the difference is more about how airline pilots practice specifically for emergencies and draw on that practice in realtime, emergency situations.  We are nowhere near as adept as trained pilots at practicing for the difficult, emotionally challenging situations, those that arise every day in both our personal and professional lives.

This is where my friend's experience as a hospice volunteer points a way.  In a very real sense, working with the grief of a death is an emotional "emergency," every bit as challenging as a physical emergency.  Working with a three-question "drill" in the face of deep grief must function in much the same way that a pilot's well rehearsed thought process functions.

Here is a "drill" to practice for being skillful in working with the many difficult emotional situations we may face each and every day across personal and professional life:
  1. When you know you are getting hooked emotionally, it is time to be quiet and refrain from doing or saying anything.   
  2. Take three deep breaths (or more].  In other words, make sure you are breathing.  Yes, this actually does help to calm the emotions.    
  3. Refrain from doing or saying anything until your emotions diminish and you can let go of your story about what is happening "to" you.  You will know that you are seeing the situation clearly when you can see your own part in creating the difficult situation.  Until you can see this, it is best to sit still and stay quiet. 
This three-step process helps us avoid doing damage in difficult situations and helps us see more clearly through the fog of an emotional emergency.  


Give it a go.