GCM 236 | Emotional Resilience


Are you facing difficult situations, and you need a boost of emotional resilience? Rodney Flowers’ guest today is Doug Noll, an award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and a highly experienced mediator whose calling is to serve humanity as a peacemaker. Doug shares with Rodney how emotional resilience boils down to listening to your emotions and that of others.  Don’t resist the pain, grief, and suffering. Let it pass through you, and allow yourself to cry because crying releases and cleanses. When you learn to listen to your emotions, you learn to listen to others as well. Doing so diffuses anger and violence, effectively de-escalating the situation. Tune in and be more emotionally resilient!

Listen to the podcast here:

Emotional Resilience: Learn How To Make Peace With Doug Noll

I have an interesting guest with me. He and I have a lot in common as it relates to resilience and bouncing back. I’m excited that he’s here with us. I know that we are all facing challenges. It’s the one thing that we all have in common, whether you are white, black, you have money or you don’t, and no matter what country you are from. That’s the thing that we have in common. We are going to face challenges and opposition or what I call resistance in life. In this game, that’s something that’s there and there’s nothing we can do about it. Learn how to navigate and overcome it.

I have a master in the studio with me as it relates to overcoming challenges and obstacles in life. I’m happy he’s here. His name is Doug Noll. He left a successful career as a trial lawyer to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity and he executes his calling at many levels. He’s an award-winning author, teacher, trainer and highly experienced mediator. Without further ado, let’s welcome Doug Noll to the show.

Welcome to the show, Doug.

Thanks, Rodney. It’s great to be here.

It’s great to have you here. As we were talking before, you mentioned the commonalities that you and I have, which got me excited. I noticed there are a lot to you now that we have to unpack. Here on the show, we talk a lot about overcoming obstacles, overcoming challenges and changing the game. A lot of times, we get in a game where it feels like we can’t win the game. I have experienced that and I have had to turn things around and come out victorious. That’s what I preach.

The message I have for all of my audience is that it’s possible to go through daunting tasks, challenging situations or face insurmountable adversity and come out victorious. I want to get into your mind about what you think about that idea. Perhaps, some practices that we can execute on a day-to-day basis that equip us with the skillset to be prepared when those things show up in life because they will show up so we can come out victorious. That’s what I want to get into. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on in your life, who you are and a little bit about you.

I’m a lawyer turned peacemaker, a rare breed of person. I practiced law for 22 years. I was a Civil Lawyer. Usually, the clients that hired me had large complex financial cases where people owe people buckets of money and so we would end up in court trying cases. I probably tried over 200 cases over 22 years. Through a series of life circumstances, I decided that being a trial lawyer was not my calling. In my mid-career, in my late 40s, I went back to school and got my Master’s degree in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies.

I was trained by the Mennonites, which are one of the three traditional peace churches. I left the practice of law with one week’s notice. I opened up my peacemaking practice in November of 2000. It was the smartest thing I ever did. It’s scary financially but my whole life has been scary. What’s more fear? It led me ultimately to discovering a skill that has changed my life and the life of tens of thousands of people.

It also led to being a Cofounder with my colleague, Laurel Kaufer, for the Prison of Peace project, which we started in 2010. We go into maximum-security prisons and train murderers how to be peacemakers. We were in fifteen California prisons, a prison in Connecticut, and we have a colleague that we work with who has fifteen prisons in Greece. The pandemic shutdown of our in-prison work. We hope to get back into the prisons when COVID ever comes under control.

I have hundreds of stories. It’s a deep curriculum and it takes about a year to become a mediator certified by us if you are incarcerated in the program and it takes about three years to become a trainer. Over 4,000 of our students have been released on parole in California, not one reported recidivism. It’s pretty cool.

Congratulations on that.

Thanks. I do that. That’s my service work. I don’t make much money at that. I am spending my time teaching people how to listen to each other into existence.

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What does that involve?

That involves ignoring the words, listening to the emotions, and reflecting on the emotions with a simple use statement. It turns out that this is probably the single most powerful skill I have ever developed. It’s grounded in neuroscience. There are about twenty brain scan studies that show why this particular skill works the way that it does. It’s automatic, it’s unconscious, and it never fails, which is why we teach it in prisons.

In a prison environment, as you might imagine, there are a lot of violence. If we are teaching our students how to immediately de-escalate the violence, we can only teach them skills that will work the first time, every time, with zero tolerance for failure because lives are on the line and that’s what we do. That’s why this skill is powerful.

Give me an example of this. Let’s do this now.

Let’s demonstrate it. Tell me a quick little story of something that’s happened to you that has a little bit of emotion. It’s something that could be upsetting. It could be doing anything.

I found out that a close family member had done some things. They are close to me and they ended up in jail.

It’s super sad and disappointing.

More disappointed than anything.

You feel disappointed, maybe a little bit betrayed, you feel a little bit abandoned, and you are also sorry because you wish there was something that you could have done about it to intervene earlier.

GCM 236 | Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience: When you focus on other people’s emotions, you don’t have any room for “you.” It creates a transcendent experience where you become egoless and present at the moment.


They are down on a spiral. I tried to help and I want this person to grab hold of their responsibility in this because until they want to change, they are not going to change.

You are hoping that they will take accountability and responsibility for themselves and you are sad and disappointed that they are not. You are seeing them in a spiral, you know where it’s going, you feel some grief around that, and it has been troubling. Is there anything else?

That sums up everything.

I affect labeled you, a technical term. What I did is instead of responding to the story, which I can repeat back verbatim even though I ignored your words, I listened to your emotions. All I did was reflect on the emotions that you were experiencing. Some of which you probably knew about, some of which you might not have known about.

What the brain scan studies show is that when we do this for each other, the emotional centers of the brain to calm down, and the prefrontal cortex, the executive function of the brain, comes back online. It happens within about 30 to 45 seconds. You can have somebody screaming at you and use this technique as I did with you and it will calm anybody down. From a 2-year-old to a 40-year-old who’s acting like a 2-year-old, it doesn’t matter.

That’s pretty cool. That’s awesome. This is effective in the prison.

It’s our foundational skill that we teach on the first day of training. Our students in prisons learn about 200 different skills but this is foundational when everything is built on the ability to listen and reflect. All active listening stuff that was developed by Thomas Gordon back in the ‘60s and stolen by Marshall Rosenberg in his nonviolent communication stuff, none of that stuff works, never has and never will. This stuff works. I discovered it by happenstance. A couple of years later, science came out to support what I was doing. That has been the trajectory of my life. For probably the last couple of years, I was teaching people these skills because it’s profound.

When we come into that place of presence, one of the most effective elements of this process is getting grounded and present to your emotions and your feelings.

What happens when you do this is that your ego disappears because you don’t have any room for ego. If I’m not focusing on your emotions, Rodney, I don’t have any room for me. I don’t have room for you. That creates a transcendent experience where I become egoless and present at the moment. What did you experience when I listened to you that way?

I’ve got more presence in everything that I was feeling. You started bringing up some things from me that I hadn’t articulated. I was full of emotion that I’m only articulating a small part of what’s happening. You assisted me to the full presence of what I’m feeling. To do that with the consciousness that I have, raises my awareness of where I’m at with that. Even more so than what I was experiencing before we did the exercise but even more so about that. I gained more clarity on my feelings about the situation, which is powerful.

I can imagine what those prisoners are going through. It’s centered around emotional intelligence, especially the overcoming of it. It’s getting your emotions in control. A lot of times, we lash out and our behaviors are based on our emotions because we don’t have control of those emotions that we can’t even control our behavior. We do things and it’s an expression of the emotions that we are feeling.

When you become present in a calm, peaceful way and articulate that, it allows you to be present with it and at peace with it. You then can understand how to deal with that emotion in a more non-violent, maybe more self-serving way. This is useful, not for prisoners but we are talking about how we deal with adverse situations as people as human beings.

Every single human being on this planet can raise their consciousness around emotions by learning how to listen to people into existence. Share on X

I have taught these skills to senior analysts at the Congressional Budget Office so they can de-escalate members of Congress and staff. It’s applicable across the board. Your observations are right. It creates precedence in you. From what I have learned over the years, we are 98% emotional and only 2% rational and yet our culture is biased towards rationality. Emotions are bad, they are evil and irrational.

We live in a culture that privileges rationality over emotions and yet we are emotional beings. Once we can start learning how to master our emotional competency, everything changes. We are no longer fighting these behaviors that you were talking about. We can walk into any room in any situation and know exactly what to say, how to say it when to say it in utter confidence that we are going to be right every time and have the people that we are listening to thank us in deep gratitude for listening to them. That’s a powerful skill to have.

You could tell me if I’m way off base here. I have learned that energy in motions is what our emotions are. It’s a feeling. The feeling is energy. You fill in the energy around grief, anger or whatever. It’s a bodily and emotional experience but the energy that is created because of a thing, whether it’s anger or whatever and that’s what you are feeling. It’s okay but more importantly, it’s having the intelligence or the mentality to deal with that energy. What do I do with that? Anger, for example, I’m a big preponderate that, at times in life, you need to be aggressive. This is probably coming from my football experience.

At times in the game, if you want to win, you’ve got to play aggressively. There’s a time when you are not so aggressive. There’s a time you are aggressive. It’s okay to be angry at times. What are you going to do with that anger? Do you leverage that anger and energy to do something positive or are you going to lash out and allow it to express itself and be out of control? Having the emotional intelligence to deal with that is important.

The distinction is between conscious and reactive anger. If you have reactive anger, you are probably unconscious and you are going to engage in whatever behavior you are programming has trained you to behave in, which for most people is violence. If you are conscious of your anger, then you can make choices about it. You can decide to be violent if that’s appropriate. You can decide not to be violent but to do something else. The difference is being consciously aware of your emotional experience, emotional self-awareness versus being unconscious, reactive and slave to your childhood programming.

What are your recommendations for raising our level of consciousness to operate in this manner?

It’s amazing to me but every single human being on this planet can raise their consciousness around emotions by doing what I did with you and learning how to listen to people into existence by reflecting their emotions. Three steps, ignore the words, listen to the emotions, and reflect the emotions with a simple use statement. If you practice that three times a week for a month, you will have a radically different life than you have now. It is that simple and powerful. I have seen this happen over and over again from people serving life sentences in prisons to business people to teachers and in every walk of life. It takes little time to reprogram.

GCM 236 | Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience: When you listen to other people’s emotions, they feel deeply grateful and validated because many people have never listened to them like this before.


What caused you to want to get into this line of work?

I was sick of the conflict in the law. When you are a trial lawyer, you fight everybody, you fight your client, your partners for money, with the judge, the opposing counsel and parties. It’s a constant battle. For a while, that was okay. I’m a second-degree blackbelt and I understand all that. Eventually, it wore out at my soul and I started studying Tai Chi. In Tai Chi, there are two paradoxes. The softer you are, the stronger you are. The more vulnerable you are, the more powerful you are. Those paradoxes eventually seeped into me and I saw that being that aggressive, arrogant, jerk, trial lawyer thing was not serving me well. That’s what caused me to shift.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. It’s through some self-reflection and circumstance that I ended up enrolling in the Master’s Degree program. That completely shifted me. Those people that trained me showed me a whole new universe around peace and conflict that I had never seen before because I had seen everything through the lens of a lawyer. I began to realize that a lot of the conflict on the planet is unnecessary. What can I do to help reduce that conflict? It’s by teaching and training people.

I’ve got into this listening to the emotion stuff by happenstance but I was looking for ways that were effective and helping super angry people calm down. I learned all that actively in listening stuff. I learned non-violent communication, not a word. I was getting paid big dollars to walk into major conflicts and get people to calm down and make better decisions. That’s how I stumbled onto this. Once I realized what I had, I started refining. It’s simple.

What do you do when you are faced with a difficult situation and a real deep challenge that’s emotional? How do you manage that? What I have learned and observed in people that I have taught is you can label your own emotions. For example, I could say, “I’m pissed off. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I feel sad. I don’t feel appreciated.” You can do that to yourself. It has the same effect on your brain as if somebody was reflecting on your emotions.

One of the ways that you can quickly and easily program yourself is to try to start paying attention to your own emotional experiences. As you feel an emotion, name it and say, “I feel,” and say it to yourself. You are not to say it out loud. Although you can, you don’t have to. This is from the work of neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett out of Northeastern University. If you don’t know what you are feeling, make up a word.

I feel grizapalop. It’s a dumb word or a nonsense word. The mere fact that you are trying to label what it is that you are experiencing gives your brain something to grab a hold of and calms you down. With practice and not long practice, you will start to see some positive transformative changes in how you are emotionally self-aware.

The other thing that you will see, especially if you start labeling the emotions of other people, you will develop some interesting insights. One is we human beings have a limited repertoire of behaviors around emotions. What looks to the untrained eye as being completely chaotic, crazy, insane, and irrational is predictable and manageable.

When you get that insight, what changes is your confidence in yourself because now you know that no matter what anybody says or does to you it’s predictable? You know exactly what to do and how to respond, whether somebody is in deep grief, enraged or frustrated, you know exactly what to say so you say it and it works.

It becomes self-affirming and self-reinforcing. You want to do it more. The other part of this power, one of my superpowers, is that when you do this to other people and you listen to their emotions, they are deeply grateful because many people have never been listened to like this before in their lives and they feel deeply validated.

I feel that. How have you practiced this in your own life if you don’t mind sharing?

Not at all. I have an amazing second marriage. You always hear in the fairy tales how marriages can be amazing. This is one of those. My wife and I never argue and fight. No suppression of anything. If there is any upset that neither one of us experiencing the other one is quick to jump in, “You are feeling frustrated. You are feeling whatever.” The more we affect labeled each other, the deeper we grow together in intimacy. It has been phenomenal.

I teach this stuff. I did my first in-person workshop up in Sacramento, California and we did a follow-up session on Zoom with the attendees, a leadership team in a fairly large company. The stories that touched me the most were the stories of the men who started listening to their five-year-old boy’s emotions. It started reflecting back on those emotions and saw dramatic behavioral changes in less than three weeks. They were proud of themselves, finally, because they can say, “I’m a good parent. I know what I’m doing now that you have taught me these skills.” That’s the stuff I live for.

You have been through some pretty challenging obstacles. You have had to deal with some difficult emotions and stuff around your own life. Could you share a little bit about that?

Sure. That’s what I said when we first met. I said that we have something in common. My story is that I was born deaf, practically blind, with 2,400 vision, two club feet, bad teeth, and left-handed in 1950 when being left-handed was a curse because nobody knew what to do with a left-hander. Nobody knew what to do with somebody like me either.

I grew up in some affluence, which was nice but affluence does you no good when nobody knows how to deal with somebody who was so disabled as I was. The real buzzkill for the girls was I was super smart. I couldn’t walk until I was three years old so that put me way behind. Even then, I couldn’t walk well. I never learned how to skip and couldn’t run well. One leg was smaller than the other, atrophied.

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Growing was emotionally painful. Nobody had the tools that I have now and I certainly didn’t have the tools as a child growing up. I had lots of coping to do. Academically, I was smart so I could do well in school. Athletically, I became a swimmer because I could develop my upper body strength. Slowly over time, with a lot of pain, I learned how to overcome these challenges.

What was interesting was I was held back in the fourth grade. My parents and teachers could see that I scored high on the test but they couldn’t understand why I was not doing well in school until the school nurse had the bright idea to test me for vision. They found out I had 2,400. I was legally blind. I couldn’t see. Once they put on these big thick, 0.5-inch black glasses, I could see. I jumped three grade levels in one summer because I started reading voraciously. That was my life.

The first eighteen years were miserable for me, for the most part. I was socially not adept. I was a swimmer but not a great swimmer. My dad, fortunately, introduced me to the outdoors and scouting, which was probably the bright spot in my life because I love being in the mountains, which is why I live where I live now. I’ve got an affinity for being in the mountains because for me living in the mountains or being in the mountains, it was simple. You had to survive. All the complexities of social existence didn’t exist in the mountains, either you survived or you didn’t and it was pretty binary so I loved that.

I went back East to college. I live in California and went back to Dartmouth. Eventually, I went on to law school and became a lawyer. I would say for the first 50 years of my life, I accomplished a lot. I became a Level 3 certified ski instructor. I was one of the whitewater kayakers, fly airplanes and helicopters, and expert fly fisherman. It’s all this fun cool stuff that I did because I learned how to learn and I would pick up stuff that I’ve got interested in so I never took up golf.

GCM 236 | Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience: Crying releases and cleanses. It’s a way of restarting everything.


I knew that to become a golfer would take me 4,000 or 5,000 hours of intense practice and I don’t have the time for that. I do love playing the Jazz violin so I took up Jazz violin. I played Jazz and blues violin. That’s how my life was. Leaving the practice of law was a good thing for me mentally and emotionally because it forced me to confront my demons and start to work through all of the emotional pain that I suffered. I learned a lot about emotions.

Talk to us about that. What do you mean?

We all grew up with various levels of shame. It depends on when you grew up. I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In those days, the theory was that you shouldn’t cuddle, love, hug children. I had little touch from my parents. They love me and provided well for me but there was no emotional support emitted because they weren’t raised that way but there were a lot of shame.

Shame that I wasn’t able to do stuff, a shame that I couldn’t run. They would say, “You can do this.” They wouldn’t do it in a supportive way. They said, “Why can’t you do this? What’s your problem?” I’m blind. I can’t walk. They were in denial over my disabilities. I wasn’t so disabled that I was completely non-functional and a vegetable. I was disabled to the degree that I had to work 3, 5, 10 times harder than anybody else and I was in physical pain all the time.

I remember as a kid backpacking in the Sierra Nevada. At the end of the day, I was in agony. My ankle was swollen up and stiff. I wasn’t designed to do that stuff. I learned how to deal with physical pain. I learned about emotional pain. I didn’t learn how to deal with that pain until later. It wasn’t until I went through the divorce of my first marriage, which was sad that I started to allow myself to feel and have some pretty interesting experiences.

I remember pulling over on the side of the road driving past where I used to live and having these enormous waves of grief flowing through me rather than push it down, repress it and say, “I’m stronger than this,” which is what I would have used to do, I pull over and I said, “I’m going to let myself fall into the hole.” There’s a part of me that said, “Don’t do that because you will never come out.” It was like you are going into this black hole, this abyss in your body, your soul and your mind. I said, “I don’t care. If I don’t jump through this black hole, it’s always going to be there,” so I did.

I sobbed, cried and allowed myself to fall into the pain. I felt all the shame, grief and everything. It all flowed through me. I’m going to let this happen. That was part of probably my Tai chi training where you learn not to resist and you learn to flow. I said, “I’m going to flow with this. No resistance.” I came out the other side five minutes later completely clear. That was a huge experience for me to recognize the power of emotion that even though it feels like it’s going to overwhelm me, it won’t. If I allow myself to experience strong emotion in its full power, it makes me stronger.

This is profound. Here we are talking about emotions and all that type of stuff. Typically, you don’t have guys talking about that. It is the reason why a lot of men are stuck. A lot of men don’t make it past a lot of things because you won’t allow that to flow through you. You feel like if you feel this way or if you allow it to cleanse you and you are parked beside the road crying, it’s a sissy type of thing.

At three years old, the same thing happened to you that happened to me. You go outside, you run around, you fall and skin your knee, you start to cry because it hurts. What are you told? “Stop crying. Don’t be a sissy. Don’t be a girly girl.” If you are a woman, “Don’t be a drama queen.” We are told from a young age, two years old usually, that emotions are bad. This is called emotional invalidation. It’s the worst thing we can do to a child. At that age, the emotional centers of the brain are starting to mature and they need emotional experiences. They need a parent to coach them through the emotional experience, not deny their emotions and not punish them for having emotions, which is what many parents do.

First of all, it’s prevalent but it’s bad. Science now tells us that emotional abuse that everybody suffers probably cuts our lifespans back by 10 to 15 years. It’s because of what happens to our bodies and our brains. The ACE study is out of San Diego. Adverse Childhood Experiences study is a phenomenal study that shows the physical effects of childhood emotional abuse from emotional invalidation. It’s striking and it’s scary.

I’m no weakling. I’m 6’1”, 220 pounds and blackbelt. I’m no pushover. I am committed to peace. Mostly I’m committed to helping people find peace. I began to realize in the past years the power of emotion. If we want to be peaceful, we have to get out of this rational mindset, this bias against rationality, and start learning how to master emotions. It’s made all the difference in my life. It’s Incredible. I have never been happier.

What’s coming out for me is it’s not so much that people won’t do what’s necessary to gain the mental intelligence that they need. It could be perhaps that they haven’t been taught how to do it.

The parents surely didn’t teach them because the parents didn’t know-how. Schools don’t teach it because they don’t know-how. Where are you going to learn this stuff? You have to go out and figure it out yourself. That’s why I teach this stuff because it works and it’s fast. This isn’t something where you have to become a Zen monk sitting on the top of a mountain for 40 years. Hopefully, you will find enlightenment. This is something that will change your life in 2 to 3 weeks if you practice. You’ve got to do the work. There’s no getting around that. You and I both know that you’ve got to push through the pain but it’s worth it.

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The work is allowing the flow. Going back facing those feelings and letting whatever come up, let it come up and let it flow through you.

It is painful but it’s not devastating. It will not kill you. It feels like it will. It feels like you are going through an annihilation experience but that’s not what’s happening. When it boils right down, it’s simply neurochemicals in your brain. That’s all it is. They are not going to kill you.

Do this for me, Doug. Talk to me about crying.

Crying is the brain’s way of resetting. Remember the old three key reset from old computers?

Yes, control, alt, delete.

We restart the computer. That’s what crying does. At a biochemical level, what crying does is it’s cleaning out neurochemicals that need to be cleaned out. Crying is the way of restarting everything. That’s why babies have to cry. Two-year-olds have tantrums and cry because they’ve got too much and are overloaded. Crying helps protect the brain and reset everything.

For adults, if you are having an emotional experience, crying helps you to clean out the neurochemicals that were released in that emotional experience. If you are crying because you are grieving, that’s even more important. When you are grieving, you are going through a drug withdrawal. Most people don’t know this but when you are attached to a dog, a cat, a spouse or a parent, there are strong neurochemicals that support that attachment.

When that attachment no longer exists, there’s no longer a stimulus for those neurochemicals to be released, so you go through withdrawal. Crying, especially grief crying, is the brain and body’s way of getting rid of that addiction, getting rid of those pathways, more importantly, setting you up for a new attachment down the road.

Not letting yourself cry when you suffer a grievous loss is the worst thing you can do to yourself. You’ve got to let yourself cry because you’ve got to let your brain reset. This is hard for men to get. There are a lot of men who are miserable because they are not able to experience themselves as full human beings. They only get to experience this part of them that society says it’s okay to be. They are miserable as a result. They do all kinds of crazy things because they are miserable.

When they are miserable, they can’t understand why life sucks, “I have done everything right. Why does life suck?” It sucks because you didn’t know any better. You bought into the myth that emotions are bad. You bought into the myth that to be masculine means not to feel anything. That is all BS. It has been foisted on us for over 4,000 years by philosophers and theologians who are trying to control us. It started before the Greeks. It’s wrong. Neuroscience now says we are 98% emotional and 2% rational. The neuroscientists get it but nobody else does.

We have to change our meaning behind crying, not only just crying but expressing our emotions.

It’s not only okay but it’s normal. This is something else that people don’t know. What separates us from other species, everybody says it’s rationality. It’s not rationality, it’s emotions. Humans are the only species on the planet that have emotions. Dogs don’t have emotions. They have something else. They have something called affect, which is the foundation of emotion.

Affect is not emotion. Affect is the bio-physiological process that goes on in any animal that allows it to experience pleasantness or unpleasantness and therefore reacts to its environment either by withdrawing or approaching. We have affect, too. Our emotions are based on affect. Humans aren’t born with emotions. That’s another thing that people don’t understand. We are not born with emotion. We create emotion starting at about eighteen months of age.

GCM 236 | Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience: When we emotionally invalidate children, we stop the creation of emotions. Emotions are 98% of who we are as human beings.


The emotions that we have here in the United States are different than the emotions that are in Finland, Slovakia, and all the different thousands of Asian cultures. Each of which has its own set of emotions that are not similar to anybody else’s emotions. They are culturally created. When we emotionally invalidate children, we are stopping the creation of emotions. We are stunting 98% of who we are as human beings.

Emotions are what led us to think. Emotions are what led us to make decisions. Every decision is based on emotion. We justify and rationalize later but it’s all emotion. Think about it. You’ve got a decision. Let’s say it’s binary. You’ve got a choice A and choice B, which one are you going to pick? Your brain is going to pick the one that’s the most pleasant. It’s going to lead to either the most pleasant outcome or the least unpleasant outcome. That’s emotional. It’s not rational.

We can justify and think about it. At the end of the day, we have made decisions 800 milliseconds before we are even consciously aware that we have made the decision. That gets us into a huge debate over, whether or not there’s such thing as free will. The neuroscientist says, “No, there is no such thing as free will.” We are deterministic beings. This concept of free will is not grounded in science. That’s creating some raised eyebrows in the law, theology and other places. Without free will, the whole edifice of the law collapses. It’s pretty interesting. I don’t know how it’s going to shake out but it’s pretty crazy.

What do you suggest we do from here? Where do we go from here as individuals?

For any individual, it depends upon what they seek in life. There are a lot of people, as you know, who are contentious to bump along, do the 40-year plan, get married, raise kids, have grandkids, retire and die. It’s a 40, 50, 60-year plan, that’s fine. They might have a small amount of happiness and certainly, they will have moments of happiness and will have many moments of not being happy.

For curious people, want to grow and change, develop your emotional mastery. The most powerful way to do that is through this process that I have described, ethical labeling with somebody else’s emotion. Start working on developing your emotional competency, becoming emotionally self-aware and learning how to regulate yourself. That means that you are not acting in concert with your emotions.

There are times when you will be making choices against how you are feeling. That’s emotional self-regulation and then learning empathy. It’s a skill that has to be learned. It’s not something that we do innately. We have to be taught how to use cognitive and affective empathy. That’s what ethical labeling is. It’s that form of empathy where we are reflecting somebody else’s emotions to a simple use statement.

Based on my experience and my observations of tens of thousands of people that have learned these skills, it’s life-changing. I have had psychologists and PhDs say, “Why aren’t we taught this stuff in graduate school?” It’s because your people are all in their heads and not in their hearts. They stay away from emotions because they don’t understand them and they are not willing to take the time to read the neuroscience.

I did all the hard work. I read the 10,000 journal articles to try to understand this stuff. I have distilled it down to some simple concepts. In my opinion, that is the secret. Once you get that foundational skill, life flows from that in a beautiful, incredible and magical way. It’s effortless. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have challenges, of course. It means that when we are challenged, it’s not a train wreck. We’ve got the coping skills and resiliency skills.

We will feel angry, grief or frustrated but it’s the difference between a hot knife going through water where you get a little steam and a hot knife going through a cube of butter where the whole butter cube melts down and is destroyed. Do you want to be the water or be the butter tube? That’s the difference.

I love this because this is the skillset that helps with your performance. It helps with how you approach life. It helps with your relationships. It’s one of those things that every player on the field has to have for us to operate as a unit.

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I could take a football team and if they learned how to do this, this does not weaken them. This strengthens them. Imagine having a team of 50, 51, 52 or whatever it is on a pro football team, they are a team because they are all validating and emotionally supporting each other. Wherever anybody is in the moment, somebody is there to support them and validate where they are emotional. How strongly do you think the links are between those team members are going to be? They are going to be indelible and unbreakable.

This is important work. Women understand this a lot more than men.

You would be surprised. Studies show that they don’t. We think that but there are few gender differences.

That is surprising.

It’s interesting. Women will display emotions differently because they are allowed to display emotions differently but because they are allowed to display emotions differently, it doesn’t mean that they have any more emotional competence than men do. In fact, they don’t. They are ashamed and invalidated as children and as men are. They carry the same shutdown and the same stuckness into adulthood that men do. They just display it in different ways.

Is there more emotional validation among women than men?

No. Women are as shocked about the power of emotional validation as men are. Sometimes, the women have a harder time learning how to emotionally validate other people because their shame training gets in the way of it. They have to have a lot of courage to power through social conditioning. They learned it as young girls that say, “Don’t be selfish. Always be a pleaser. Never show bad emotions. Always be polite. Don’t be rude or impertinent. Don’t interrupt.” They get all this social conditioning that is appropriate in some ways.

The big problem is that once we become adults, those rules you have learned at three years old don’t apply half the time. They were done to control you and coach or teach you the hard way and how to be social. There are a lot of times, when it’s appropriate to be selfish, especially when you are ethnic labeling, where it looks like you are interrupting but you are not. You have to be more active. Their social conditioning gets in the way of them doing that.

I’m thinking of one person, in particular, a woman in her 50s. I worked with her for a year before she finally got it. When she got it, it was great. We had to overcome a lot. She worked in a coaching group that I had. She got it and it was brilliant. She was brilliant. She said, “That took a long time.” I said, “I know. A lot of social conditioning.” She said, “Yep.” Women don’t have it any easier than men nor do they have it any harder. There are plenty of men that have this male social conditioning that gets in their way that they’ve got to power through.

I was with the front desk and we were in my studio hanging out. The TV was on and we were watching the show. On the show, there was a couple of guys that got in some trouble and they were emotionally validating each other. We were talking about, “That’s what we need in real-time. We need more dudes and guys that will support each other.” We don’t do enough of that as men. It’s every man for himself.

You don’t show your emotional side to another man because you feel like it’s a sign of weakness. Another man won’t hold you accountable at times because he may be afraid of backlash. It’s all this made-up stuff and these narratives that we carry around. It’s preventing us from being strong together in numbers and supportive of each other. I was like, “That’s what we need. We need more of that in real-time. This is an example of what that looks like.”

If you want to see this in space, walk into a maximum-security prison where the rules you were talking about are magnified by 1,000. I start teaching men how to listen to emotions and everything changes. The violence goes away. We have gotten letters from the warden saying, “You guys have stopped the violence in this prison from what you are teaching.” Every inmate I ever worked with said, “If I learned these skills 25 years ago, I wouldn’t be in prison now.” Many of our students are getting released even though they have life sentences because they have changed so much as a result of mastering these skills. They said, “Before no recidivism. Nobody is reoffended.”

Good work. Congratulations on that. Keep that up. For the people that are reading, how can they get in contact with you if they want to learn more?

I’m a sole practitioner. I don’t have the big entourage. I’ve got a show page I built for all your audience, it’s DougNoll.co/gamechanger. That will take you to a web page that I have dedicated to Rodney. On that page, you can navigate to other parts of my website. There is a free eBook. If you want to get a free eBook, you can buy my fourth book, De-Escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less. If you want to take my online courses on how to develop emotional competency like we have been talking about, you can do that. If you want to email me, it’s simple, Doug@DougNoll.com. I answer all my emails.

Thank you.

GCM 236 | Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience: When men learn how to listen to emotions, the violence goes away.


Thank you. Great conversation. You are doing awesome work. It warms my heart to have a conversation with people like you and to know that people out there like Rodney are doing this kind of work. You are a deep thinker and you are thinking about how we make this place better and how we break out of the shackles that cultures or society put around us, especially as men. Good job.

Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for coming to the show and sharing with us.

There you have it, another successful episode of the Game Changer Mentality show. You guys have heard me talk about that one of the first elements to changing the game in your life is self-regulation. You can’t control what happens to us. A lot of times, things can hit us on the blindside and knock us out. We are trying to figure out, “How in the world do we get back in this game? Do I even want to get back in this game?” A lot of times, those feelings come from a place of disempowerment.

We have to self-regulate. We have to feel those emotions and allow those emotions to flow through us so we can get back into a place of consciousness, a place of power plays and a place of peace. I challenge you to continue if you are already doing this. If you are not, practice self-regulation. Don’t be afraid of your emotions. If you get hit and knocked out of the game, of course, that’s not going to feel good.

If you are experiencing things with COVID, whether it’s grief, loss, disappointment or uncertainty, allow that stillness to flow through you. That’s okay. That’s a part of being on the team. You are going to feel those things. That’s a part of being alive. It’s part of experiencing life. There are a lot of emotions that come with experiencing in life and we want to feel all of it. Realize that all of these emotions are temporary emotions. They come and they go. They come again and they go.

The common denominator in all of that is you and how you regulate yourself whenever those emotions show up. The good news is it’s a skill that can be learned. I challenge you to go and check out Doug’s site. Check out the skill, learn it and practice it. Practicing self-regulation is one of the most powerful skillsets you can have as a game-changer for yourself and your family.

As you have learned in this conversation, this isn’t something that’s taught in schools. It isn’t something that parents are teaching their kids. A lot of times, parents and adults don’t know how to do this themselves. Don’t cause this perpetual cycle to continue. Let’s break that cycle. Let’s master self-regulation, and then be able to teach it and recognize it when it’s needed so that we don’t practice emotional invalidation to our kids. That’s how we break the cycle. Now that you know, you are responsible. Until next time, peace and love.

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About Doug Noll

Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA left a successful career as a trial lawyer to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts to training life inmates to be peacemakers and mediators in maximum-security prisons.