Emotional Icebergs and Leaky Roofs

by Charles J. Chamberlain, co-founder Chamberlain Leadership Group LLC

We have worked with many clients over the past 10-11 years who have used our tools to overcome emotional issues, or to simply develop better emotional control and awareness in leadership roles. But as people gain more emotional literacy and increased ability to manage their emotions, the same two frustrating phenomena show up time and time again. Perhaps there are better words to describe these phenomena, but two metaphors do a great job in helping us visualize them.

Emotional icebergs

Due to its buoyancy in denser sea water, an iceberg floats with approximately 10% of its mass showing above the water and 90% submerged. When we embark on a plan to understand behaviors and underlying emotions, we see a similar pattern in ourselves and others. Only 10% of our emotional “mass” is visible as conscious behaviors, vocalizations, and consciously controlled non-verbal expressions.

The remaining 90% of our emotional world is “submerged” beneath our consciousness. But just because an emotion is below the surface doesn’t mean it has no impact on us. To the contrary, because it is submerged, it has even more power over us, especially if we continue to be consciously unaware of it. This 90% carries significant weight as we form and maintain our identities, create relationship habits, develop meaningful motivations, and navigate the challenges of our lives.

The extent of our enjoyment of life and relationships is largely determined by how well we understand and manage the entirety of our emotional iceberg. Whether or not we are at ease in our lives or at “disease” can be a function of how well we are managing the submerged portion of our emotional existence. Submerged emotions can interact with our physical bodies in unexpected and unwanted ways. They can come “out of nowhere” and affect our verbal and non-verbal communication. They can cause illness. They can also cause us to do things that don’t make sense to our rational minds. Have you ever said, “I don’t know why I said that?” Or, “I don’t know why I did that?” Our submerged emotions can be particularly sensitive to triggering stimuli, thrusting us into “mysterious” episodes of despair or confusion, leaving us wondering, “Why am I suddenly so upset, worried, or depressed?”

You could think of the self-directed tools we offer as scuba diving gear, allowing us to dive beneath the surface and explore the submerged 90%. And, like a scuba diver’s equipment, the emotional tools allow us to go as deep as we are comfortable going. No one is there to pressure us to go beyond our comfort level. If we want to stay just a few feet beneath the surface, we can do that. If we want to dive deeper, we can do that too. The tools allow us to gain an appreciation for the extent of our emotions, while at the same time working on specific areas of concern.

Emotional Leaky Roofs

Once we have discovered some tools to work on specific emotional areas, we often face another phenomenon we’ll call the “leaky roof” phenomenon. Anyone who has experienced a leak in the roof can relate to this dilemma: After a hard rain, you notice water coming through a small hole in the corner of your dining room. At first, you place a bucket under the hole to collect the water, then when the storm has subsided, you look for the source of the problem. It is unlikely, however, that the hole in the roof is directly above the hole in the ceiling. Water has a tendency to enter from one hole, travel many feet away along trusses and structures in the attic, and create another hole as it follows gravity. An inexperienced homeowner might patch the drywall in their ceiling, thinking they’ve fixed the problem. A later storm comes along and it becomes clear that the source of the problem is not where it appeared to be.

Likewise, in our work with people who come to us having identified a specific issue, more often than not, “the issue” is not the real issue. For instance, we’ve worked with people who have taken our anger management classes in lieu of jail time. It is tempting to say, “I have a problem with anger,” especially when a judge has confirmed that indeed you do have a problem with anger. But in our anger management approach, we recognize the fact that you probably do NOT have a problem with anger, but you most likely have a problem with fear, guilt, confusion, or an array of other possible emotions.

This “leaky roof” dilemma appears everywhere. A man who can’t control his spending is really struggling with depression. A woman who puts on too much weight is really protecting herself from pain. A combative, rebellious teenager is really overcome with grief. The examples are endless.

Using the tools we provide, a person can quickly test the emotional strength of a particular issue and decide if it is simply in the path of gravity, like water flowing to its lowest point, or if the issue itself is the source of the problem.

A clear understanding of both the extent and complexity of who we are emotionally can help us be happier, more productive people.

For more information about the tools offered by Chamberlain Leadership Group LLC, contact us by clicking here.   

China’s 70th Anniversary: A Dinner for Foreign Experts

Before getting on the bus, we paused for a picture outside of our university’s main building. Shown above are our fellow CFAU “foreign teachers” and Lynn, our Chinese university liaison (third from right)
Special Invitation to attend the Foreign Expert’s Dinner. Once at the hall, each invitation was scanned and our pictures were displayed to ensure we were the person’s using the invitations.

Along with some of our university colleagues, we were invited by our university to attend a special dinner for foreign experts who are living and working in China. We arrived in buses and, for our benefit, the entire highway was shut down on the way to the dinner, which was held at The Great Hall of the People adjacent to Tiananmen Square. Some 2,000 foreign experts were in attendance and treated to an amazing dinner and speech from Vice Premier Han Zheng. He praised foreign experts for assisting the country of China in reaching its current strength and status on the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party in China.

Standing on Tiananmen Square, waiting to enter The Great Hall of the People behind us.

At our table was a couple from the Ukraine, a woman from Mexico City, a man from the UK, a man from Russia, another American man, and two Chinese hosts. We had a delightful time getting to know them. Unfortunately, cameras and cell phones were not allowed in the hall. We did get pictures of our group at the university and outside the hall.

Incidentally, after the dinner the entire crowd exited the doors to the front of the hall, while I (Chuck) slipped into a restroom at the rear of the hall, behind some heavy curtains. I was there for just a few moments when an entourage of young men in business suits wearing ear buds entered the restroom with the Vice Premier himself. I was surprised and could only think to say, “Hi” to him. Afterwards I exited, holding open the curtain for him as we walked out together. I remember thinking, “Why are these security men allowing me to be so close to the Vice Premier.” Then I remembered the worried looks on their faces. Obviously, this bathroom break was unplanned and worrisome to those whose job it was to keep him safe. I caught them off-guard.

Leadership Development Sessions with Important Gov’t Agency

Under Chamberlain Leadership Group LLC, we held two leadership development sessions at the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.

Session I dealt with self-awareness and the importance of understanding yourself before leading others. In this session, we did some exercises that allowed participants to understand some things about themselves that they had not considered.

Comments from participants after Session I included, “This is great! We’ve never done anything like this before!”

Session II was focused on re-defining leadership to include those activities that are so small they would not be deemed “world-changing.” If leadership is influence (according to John C. Maxwell), then anything we do to influence someone comes under the banner of leadership. This could include something as simple as complimenting someone or smiling at someone. Also, when we simply manifest our internal values, we are being leaders. We looked at four short video clips of orchestra conductors, each with their unique leading style. We then discussed the participants’ top three values and had them put those values into “I Am” statements. It was a powerful experience.

We look forward to further leadership development sessions with this organization as well as with several other corporations outside of the university. It feels very satisfying to take the leadership development curriculum we have developed for our university students and expand it into the non-academic world.

Recording Gigs

As native English speakers associated with a university, we were asked to record English dialogue (so far about eight hours’ worth). Apparently, the recordings will be used to test candidates who want to work for BMW to make sure their English is “up to snuff.” We had fun doing the recordings, and may do more . . if asked. It is difficult to cold-read a script, especially when the vocabulary gets into scientific terms. However, we did not have to do too much re-recording, as we soon became familiar with the process.

Dear Friends from Hong Kong

For a very short time, our friends Diana and Albert from Tai O Village in Hong Kong came to visit us in Beijing. When you bond with people born on the other side of the world, whose culture of origin is quite different from your own, you recognize the fact that we are all truly brothers and sisters.

Diana and Albert join us at Beijing’s ancient “summer palace”

The Problem With Happiness

In early 2020, we plan to release our book, Threads of Resilience: How to Thrive in a Turbulent World. It will come not a moment too soon. This week alone, there has been another mass shooting in Texas, a threatening hurricane in Florida, and escalating tensions in our beloved Hong Kong. We feel a rising need for the many hopeful messages in our book.

The following is one such message–a short excerpt from the book:

. . Jeremy and his dad spent the evening discussing what they soon realized was a foundational concept in dealing with any challenge in life. They discussed an important characteristic of happiness: it comes and goes. In fact, it comes and goes pretty easily. Joy, on the other hand, goes deeper. Joy is slower moving. Joy is always from within, while happiness can so easily depend on things outside of us. People often say, “I’m happy about” something. They don’t say they are “joyful about” something. People might say, “I’m happy about the weather” or “I’m happy about the promotion I got at work.” But they never say they’re joyful about those things.

There is a very subtle, implied insertion of the word, “about,” nearly every time someone expresses their happiness, thus happiness is more fleeting and dependent on external factors. If the situation after the word “about” is negative, then typically the happiness is not even expressed. But joy is different. Where happiness is about the small moments in time, joy is more focused on the big picture. It’s very possible to live a joyful life even when there are unhappy incidences.

Chuck said to his son, “The longer I live, the more I’m able to look back and see the bigger picture unfold. Looking back on a span of several years will give you a different perspective.” Jeremy realized that looking back on his own life, there were certainly unhappy incidences, but through it all, even he could recognize threads of resilience which brought joy. Happiness comes and goes but the lack of it never has to interrupt one’s joy.

In the middle of deep, emotional, even devastating times, continuous threads of resilience not only allow us to survive the difficult times, but to thrive in true abundance. These threads of resilience can literally pull us through momentary trials or even years of unhappy circumstances.

Bring on Bangkok

To top off our 17-day trip, we landed in Bangkok for a few days before coming back to Beijing. We stayed at Legacy Suites Hotel in the financial district of Bangkok at the recommendation of some friends who had stayed one night there. It was a beautiful, spacious hotel, but we discovered it was in the middle of a “red light district.” We did go away from the area for some fun experiences. We went to a cultural show one evening that was astounding in the way it was performed. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed. We also toured the river and canals via long-boat.

Exploring Singapore

Prior to our cruising adventure, we spent a few days in Singapore. What a delightful place! We lucked out in our choice of hotels when we stayed at the Nostalgia Hotel, which was located on the edge of a residential area. Consequently, we had quick access to a community eatery that served delicious local cuisine. And the best part–it was only a few dollars per meal. Needless to say, we wandered over to the eatery several times per day.

Singapore has a very diverse population, very livable weather year-round, and very few natural disasters. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the local citizens we came across (at least in the area of our hotel) spoke a mixture of English, Cantonese, and Mandarin . . which happens to coincide exactly with my own current linguistic state. It felt like heaven.

Aboard the Star Clipper

The following are excerpts from an email we sent to fellow China teachers, Brigg and Janet Steele. They are considering a sailing cruise and wanted to know what we thought. Check out the pics below too.

Snorkeling at Pink Sand Beach in Indonesia. The Star Clipper is in the background.

Hi Brigg and Janet,

As promised, I’m going to give a little de-brief of our cruise. I’m doing this also for my own benefit to gather my thoughts about the experience.

The first day, our cruise officer told us to take everything we know about cruising and throw it out the window. He said, “think of this as a sailing adventure, not a cruise.” And he was correct. There were no casinos, professional entertainers, on-board high-end shops, etc. We’ve been on cruises that felt like we were simply riding in a floating shopping mall. This was quite different.

The Ship: Our ship was the Star Clipper, built in 1992. It was approx.. 366 feet long, weighing almost 2,300 tons. It is a four-masted, six-sailed ship. The passenger list was only 152 people, with 78 crew members. On board was a good-sized dining hall, small shop for incidentals, library, tropical bar, piano bar, three small “cooling off” pools, and plenty of deck space. The cabins were similar to what we’ve experienced on other cruise ships—smallish yet comfortable and well-maintained. Our cabin’s port-hole was at water level, which was a bit freaky at first, but we discovered we loved being so close to the water. In fact, the whole experience was one in which you feel closer to the ocean than you would on a large cruise ship. We fell in love with that. Yes, with a smaller vessel you feel the constant rocking  of the waves, but we didn’t have any trouble. We did notice other passengers with motion sickness patches behind their ears. To us, the constant motion felt more like a soothing, “rock you to sleep” experience. We had some great food in the dining hall, and it was nutritious and healthy besides. We didn’t feel “yucky” at all after 7 days. It was wonderful. One very telling thing: of the 152 passengers, 54 were repeat customers!

The Crew: The relationship with captain and crew was significantly different as a passenger on the Star Clipper vs. large cruise ships. We were encouraged to come to the bridge any time and see how to navigate, help crew members hoist sails, and ask questions of the officers. One officer did a daily briefing with very interesting stories about sailing and information about the area we were sailing. We felt we were participating in an ancient form of transportation, and gained an appreciation for their skill.

The Voyage: Our 7 nights included just one full day at sea. The other days involved time on various small islands, most often un-inhabited islands. We started at Benoa Port in Bali, sailed east around the big islands of Lombok, Sumbawa in the archipelago and included Komodo Island as our most easterly island. Most of the excursions on this easterly route were simply hiking, sightseeing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, small sail-boating, etc. as the ship would pull up near a small island and we would be tendered out to the beach, requiring a “wet landing” from off the tender. We saw some of the most beautiful sites and had a wonderful time on our excursions. We were able to see Komodo Dragons while being protected by armed rangers (they are deadly). We parked in the waters a mile from a belching volcano and witnessed the most active volcanic zone in the world. When the cruise goes West, the excursions are more the type you see from other cruise ships, where you pay local companies for tours. But on the route we took, it was less about the paid excursions and more about simply enjoying yourself on the islands on your own. The ship provided all the equipment for some fun activities.

The Experience: Our eyes were certainly opened to this kind of cruising, and we feel like most the other passengers onboard—we want to do it again. In fact, we’re going to keep our eyes open for this same ship or same cruise line sailing around the islands of Thailand. A ship this size meant much less dealing with large numbers of fellow passengers and other cruise ship passengers. We saw sights that would have been impossible to see from a large cruise ship. The ship was small enough to provide these opportunities while large enough to make the experience fun while onboard as well. This kind of cruising is more about experiencing the sea and less about having all of life’s distractions at your finger-tips. We highly recommend it!

What questions do you have? We will see you soon!

Here’s there official website: https://www.starclippers.com/us-dom