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Overcoming intercultural differences through the power of emotional awareness.
By Isabel Hundt
Ever since I can remember I have wanted to work for the United Nations or at least talk in front of the UN. Now, some of you may or may not agree with the execution of their work, however, what had drawn me to this organization is its name “UNITED NATIONS”. When we are united, we can create a peaceful world. Think about it: What would really be possible if nations were to come together in unity to promote agendas that are for a greater good? What would be possible if we could look beyond border lines and connect with each other beyond cultural difference?
I have been fortunate to travel to many different countries and connect with many people from all kind of cultural backgrounds. I have always been fascinated with diversity and how people are capable of establishing intimate friendships even when they don’t speak the same language.
When I moved to the US from Germany, I had those experiences first hand. My degree in sociology and my training as a life coach helped me greatly. It even supported a deeper understanding of how people connect with each other even when language barriers are present.
When I first came to the United States I worked as a nanny for a lovely family. Their daughters were 4 and 6 years old at that time. I barely spoke a word of English which made the communication between me and the girls rather complicated. However, looking back, after having gained much more knowledge, wisdom and experience, I realize now that children have an incredible way of communicating. They don’t depend on language, they depend on feeling. They are not yet trapped in the busyness of this world and therefore take the time to assess other’s emotions and intentions. Whenever I was frustrated about something or angry, they responded with anger and often tantrums. When I sat with them in an understanding and loving way, they responded with love through body language and actions.
I believe that language has become our barrier to connecting with each other on an emotional level. It is almost like talking to and at each other has replaced feeling and being with each other. Words fit much better into our busy lifestyle because you can just blur them out in spoken and written form. When you have to feel into a situation or feel with someone, it takes time (and you might change your mind about what you would have said first). Some may say not using words it is a waste of time because things need to get done and there are places to go. But, this speed is costing us. The cost we are paying is to lose true and deep connections with others. It is also costing us in the way we relate to ourselves, to immediate family, friends and business relationships.
Imagine your emotional world was a little light in the center of your heart sending out pulses on different frequencies according to the emotion you experience. It was also only through this light that you could communicate and connect with other sparkly lights, aka people. But today we ignore this light so much so that it no longer has the strength to find other lights to exchange information with. It is like a muscle. If muscles aren’t being used and trained, our bodies weaken. In the case of the little light, the signal is getting weaker and the reception is rather sporadic until we don’t receive any information anymore. Many of us are not even aware of our own light, aka emotional world, anymore. We become disconnected on every single level of being. Emotions turn into reactions instead of reflections. Often, we are not responding to other people’s experience, even if we’d like to believe that, but we instead respond from our own level of emotional awareness. This is unfortunately, because often our emotional awareness is hardly present. We connect from the head which is mostly driven by our ego but no longer from the heart.
The “head-connection” allows us to experience ourselves as individuals who have to defend themselves to stay safe (we are really just justifying our individuality). The “heart-connections” allows us to fully become aware of our connectedness in unity.
During workshops, I often ask people to turn to their neighbor and take two minutes to connect with them by staring into each other’s eyes and adjusting their breathing to the other persons breathing. It is the most uncomfortable situation you can put someone in when sitting next to strangers. I am sure people would rather run away. However, when they do follow along, it is the most amazing, mesmerizing and enlightening experience ever. It is said that through the eyes we are connecting with the Soul. When that happens, you recognize yourself in them and they see themselves in you. All that is left is connection. It is not rare to see people tear up during this exercise. It reveals what we are missing out on almost daily because we don’t take the time.
By simply being with each other, we can connect on an emotional level. By increasing our emotional awareness, we react less to what we are feeling ourselves but also what the person in front of us is feeling. Instead, we take the time to reflect and then respond accordingly with the purpose of connection, not defense.
Emotional self-awareness is the key to deeper and healthier relationships no matter where we are from, our cultural background or what language we speak. Emotional awareness allows us to reflect on our own behavior, perceptions, beliefs, morals and values before we react to any outside triggers that can escalate situations to the point of major disagreements and fights.
Emotional awareness allows us to step outside of our cultural boxes within we often believe that our “group” that we belong to is always right and superior morally and rationally.
Emotional awareness provides a fundamental skill set required to support intercultural engagement through compassion and empathy. It gives us the ability to recognize, use and regulate our emotions in a healthy way.
Emotional awareness promotes curiosity and acceptance without detachment to expectations and belief systems. It also supports open-mindedness and it boosts our self-esteem and confidence due to understanding more clearly who we are at our core. Further, it creates a more resilient mindset by being able to handle outside influences in a more mature way.
The reason why I am so passionate about this specific topic leads back to a special gift I have. Over the last years, I have become quite clear on the meaning of it and how to be able to use it for a greater good.
I’ve identified objects, numbers, letters, places, and people in color my whole life. From a more medical perspective, this phenomenon is called “synesthesia” and is a neurological condition in which two different senses are paired in the brain. For instance, you see colors when you hear a piece of music or you taste words. In my case, my brain “pairs up” the received vibration with a color that is on a similar frequency.
Whenever I focus on someone or something, I see a specific color in my head. The color that I see is a received message from the soul/ essence that changes with their emotional state. The color is visible almost like another piece of clothing that one wears. Particularly with people, the deeper meaning behind it though is not being revealed to me unless I take the time to tune in. However, I never go that far without permission.
The gift itself isn’t even of such importance, but the message behind it is. It calls me forth to see the individual on a heart-and-soul level instead of the general focus on appearance, race, and education. It also forces me to create a high level of emotional awareness for myself. It also encourages me to understand each and every emotion for what they are, our guides. Otherwise, I’d confuse everyone else’s experience of life for my own and confusion creates conflict within ourselves and with those around us.
I admit, it is a practice every single day due to my own bias, but I swore to myself to do whatever it takes to evolve and to expand this gift. I want to create a strong message around my experience and help shift our world perception from separation towards connection and unity.
Imagine a world where we don’t appear in physical body but vibrate as that little light that radiates messages in terms of emotions into the world. It’s like a Morse code. All we’d have to do to understand the code is to slow down a bit and listen deeply within practicing a high level of awareness.
One light connecting with another becomes an even brighter light in this world and suddenly all differences become our strength in unity.