Watch out for “How Dare You” energy

Anyone on a spiritual path of self-discovery knows that as you achieve certain realizations about yourself and your behaviors, thought-patterns and such, you also develop a keen ability to spot the same behavior or thought-process in others. One of the challenges as we progress along our path is to avoid pointing out to others where they need to improve as we recognize these things. I’ve come to believe that this seemingly-improved vision for the trait in others is Spirit’s way of putting up a mirror for us to see ourselves – not as a clarion call to correct everyone else’s behavior. Of course if you’re engaged in a relationship that allows coaching or counseling to occur, this conversation may be appropriate, but even then I encourage caution – this is YOUR lesson most of the time.

Lately I’ve been recognizing what I’m calling “how dare you!” energy. In looking back over my own life and especially at situations where things just didn’t work out, I noticed a pattern: the energy of how dare you! was always involved at some level.

Angry Man

Taking the position of how dare you! casts us as the victim. Avoiding the victim stance is elementary-school-learning in self-help curricula, success-coaching programs and most spiritual pathways to higher consciousness. The energy of how dare you! also allows us to assume a perspective as if we are on a higher level – like royalty; “how dare you walk upright in the presence of the Queen!?“, for example.

In my own experience, I’ve noticed that when that how dare you! energy springs forth it is a signal that I am not OK with what I’m bringing to the situation or circumstance. I may be feeling unprepared for a task at work, or that I’m being judged as inferior for my clothing, looks, or zip code. I have especially been indignant in work situations of the past when I felt that my background, experience and knowledge were superior and others were erroneously placed in roles above me. I eventually realized that the longer I maintained the how dare you! energy field, the harder my life got in that circumstance.

Stepping away from the how dare you! perspective was hardest for me in the professional arena. All the data points bolstered my claims that I had a right be indignant, as did the outcomes, but as I have found – the Universe doesn’t keep score using the same rules book that we do. I credit several resources for aiding my transition away from how dare you! reactions, including Dr. Wayne Dyer and Dr. Deepak Chopra in their early years as partners in this teaching: (“How to Get What You Really, Really, Really, Really Want”), Dr. Dyer’s book, “The Power of Intention” and Dr. Chopra’s book, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”. I’ve read many more books and viewed multiple presentations by each author but these 3 stand out for me as key learning resources.

I am also grateful for all the classes I have taken at my Center which have greatly supported my growth in this area, especially studies on Thomas Troward’s Edinburgh Lectures and the great, timeless wisdom contained in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Now, as to what to do when you come across this behavior in others: nothing. The best way to help is to do what Leadership gurus Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner teach in their best-selling books on the process they call “The Leadership Challenge“, and specifically, steps 1 and 5 in their Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

Step 1: Model the Way

Kouzes and Posner’s 5 Exemplary Practices begin with the step they call “Model the Way” which means walk it, rather than talk it.

Don’t correct, cajole and catch people in the act. Instead, take every opportunity to SHOW how this is done when it appears in your own life. When someone comes to you with an opportunity for your how dare you! energy to bubble up, react in love and kindness; don’t feed into the need for drama that seems to permeate so much of our lives if we’re not careful. Refuse to be indignant, but do so quietly and with a smile.

“Yes, I know that it was my project and that Susan presented it to the executive team without mentioning me; but I know that sometimes people get caught up in the moment and forget the best made plans. I’m sure it was a harmless oversight – and it doesn’t diminish my skills; I still have them and they’ll come in handy again and again! It’s a win-win for all of us.”

Step 5: Encourage the Heart (I recommend that you also check out steps 2, 3 and 4)

Kouzes and Posner’s 5 Exemplary Practices end with the step they call “Encourage the Heart” which resonated with me from the time I was introduced to it in graduate school (thank you Professor Karen Myrick).  I now see that this model, and especially Step 5, is in alignment with the Truth teachings I have been studying far from the hallowed halls of academia. As a leader in a healthcare organization, I often reach back to this model and strive to highlight and praise the good and downplay the negative. Using the same example above,…later at an all-staff meeting (that includes the person who “tattled” on Susan).

“Susan – your presentation to the executive team was terrific! Thank you for representing our department so professionally – I knew you were the perfect person to present this material, and I could tell from the look on everyone’s face that they understood your material as well as the next steps everyone needs to take. Thank you again!”

Notice I did not mention that she forgot me, nor did I slide in a slur about “my data” – this was all about Susan, who will walk away from this interaction knowing that she has been encouraged and supported, which means she’ll work even harder next time to represent our department well. As a leader, that benefits me more than any insertion of a name or credit on a report. Perhaps more importantly, it shows (or models) the behavior I want others to integrate into their lives but in a way that does not scold, or condemn.

The paths we travel are for our learning and growth, primarily. This does not mean we can’t help others along the way, but as I have learned most poignantly in the recognition of my own how dare you! energy, we teach with greater impact when we light the candle (or in other parlance, become the change), instead of spending our time cursing the darkness (pointing out the problem).

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi

And So It Is.

Be the Change


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