Monday, July 25, 2016

Understanding the 3 Dimensions of Emotions by Sam Alibrando

          Just as there are three dimensions of the physical world (height, width and depth), there are three dimensions of the interpersonal world–power, love and mindfulness. How well we learn to navigate them directly corresponds with how well we live our lives, how happy and fulfilled we feel.

Human reactivity is the source of most of our interpersonal problems and pain. The 3 Dimensions of Emotions introduces working the triangle, a unique practice that provides a compelling yet practical road map that can help you move from painful reactivity to productive proactivity in your relationships. And it works just as successfully for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company as it does for a parent struggling to communicate with a teenager.

It’s impossible to talk about Red(Power), Blue(Heart), and Yellow(Mind) independently of one another. They can only be truly understood in context. And positive change can only happen with the constructive balance in each dimension. You can no more consider Heart from Power from Mind than you can take the literal human heart, the skeletal-muscular system, from the brain. They exist together. They either work together or they work against each other but they in real life they cannot be separated.

Here we take a look at an excerpt of Chapter 7 Synergy and Finding Balance in All Our Relationships


In Chapter 4, I invited the reader to imagine a world without Red(Power). At first it sounds great: A world where there is no fighting or hatred. Where people do not attack, malign, envy, or hate. But imagination can take us only so far until we realize this world without Red(Power) would be a world lacking any distinctiveness and diversity. A world full of only Green(Peace) (Yellow + Blue) would also be a world of passivity. There would be no progress, no assertiveness, no effort, no fighting for justice. The fact is that we have no choice; there is no world without Red(Power). The only choice that we have is to incorporate +Blue and +Yellow to make the Red(Power) of high quality.

And there is no world without Blue(Heart). Can you imagine a heartless world, a world without love or care or regard for others? Can you picture a world without cooperation or collaboration and teamwork? It would be a world full of sociopaths. Sociopaths have a relative incapacity for empathy and true care for others. For the most part, they do things out of selfish expediency. What would a world full of sociopaths look like? It would be a world of exploitation and mutual deprivation and destruction.

And there can be no world, as we know it, without Yellow(Mind). There would be only animalistic urges without regard for rule of law and “truth.” It would be a society dominated by immediate impulses. There would be no self-control. Sigmund Freud introduced us to the idea of the “id.” The id is the part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifest. Without Yellow(Mind) these primary processes would be the only process and would generate a world of utter mayhem.

The integrity to our emotional life lies in the fact that we exist in a world made up of three relational dimensions. And we cannot understand our emotional or relational life apart from the three dimensions taken together. (It is for this reason that I use a triangle to indicate the interconnectedness of the three dimensions.) Take, for example, the important issue discussed in the previous three chapters of convergence, divergence, and observance. All human beings are connected to each other (biologically and energetically) and yet at the same time we are distinct from one another based on numerous variables (intelligence, personality, race, gender, political affiliation, religion, and culture). And last, but not least, we observe the tension between convergence and divergence. The Yellow(Mind) dimension allows us to tolerate the apparent contradiction between convergence and divergence so we can respect each other’s differences without prejudice, while at the same time recognizing all that makes us “one” without losing our uniqueness.




As we noted in Chapter 2, if even one of the dimensions is avoided out of fear, Ego, or habit, the other dimensions will go out of balance and manifest negative (below-the-line) low-quality attitudes and relational behaviors. This is what happens when we become reactive. We are thrown out of balance. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: When we integrate the positive aspects of all three dimensions in our responses to others and the world, we function in that moment at a transcendent level.

Fully human, fully alive people are fully engaged in all the three dimensions in a positive, dynamic, and integrated (synergistic) way. Each positive aspect of one dimension augments the other two aspects until we can relate at the pinnacle of the Interpersonal Triangle. We manifest and experience fullness and flow in the optimal energy field. This is peak human functioning—whether it is a spouse with his partner, a parent with a child, a leader with her executive team, an organizational culture with its employees, or a government with its people. The goal of this book is to help people and organizations grow in the direction of this lofty human ideal—finding the balance of power, heart, and mindfulness in all our relationships.

This describes what we have called in this book the human sweet spot: The psychological place where we live most dynamically with the least amount of energy expended and the most positive energy generated. We discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 the idea that we are all made up of energy. The energy that is emitted from the balanced integrated human being (or group or organization) operating from the sweet is positive and contagious. Generally balanced people make other people around them relax and feel positive. Inadvertently they bring out the best in everyone they encounter. This is true for organizations as well. There are endless studies demonstrating that psychologically healthy workplaces produce an environment or “culture” that naturally brings out the best in its people.

One implication of reaching for this sweet spot has to do with changing our inner, family, and corporate narratives. Most of our inner personal narratives about the self and the world we live in are informed, if not distorted, by our pain-body and Ego, conditioned and artificially reinforced over years of faulty learning. How do we change our inner narratives in a way that reflects the positive aspects of all three dimensions? So, for example, how would we change our narrative of “strength” or power to include heart and mindfulness (+Green)? Or how would we embrace a caring for others that includes keeping good boundaries (+Orange)?

This idea of rewriting our narrative applies to groups as well. Any group of any size that exists for any given length of time eventually creates its own narratives. We call this “organizational culture.” So can a hard-driving corporate culture include some regard for employee work–life balance? Or could Congress include in its narrative about ideological purity also appropriate negotiation and compromise in order to actually get something done?

There are no individuals, families, or organizations that I know of who live in their sweet spot on a consistent basis. I certainly don’t maintain this optimal level of functioning. I’d like to think that maybe there are some people who can fully and constantly live in the high-energy field of the dynamic balance of power, heart, and mindfulness. I just don’t know anyone personally like that. Life is too complicated and challenging for most people to hold up and stay engaged in all three (above-the-line) dimensions. But the times that I do operate from the sweet spot are times of great joy and personal fulfillment. Likewise, I do not know of anyone who has approximated this emotional intelligence without conscious effort. Regardless of how healthy their parents were and how good their genetics they still have some sort of pain-body that will derail them to some degree.

All of us either by current anxiety, ego-defensiveness and/or long-term habit get thrown out of balance when one or more the dimensions are avoided. I call this avoided dimension our least-preferred movement (LPM). Even though our LPM often changes depending on the current challenge or situation, many of us will find that we have a particular movement that we avoid. And what we don’t realize is that when we avoid our least-preferred movement or dimension, we avoid our chance to transcend to our next level of personal capacity.


This is the very basis of Working the Triangle, which we introduced in Chapter 3. As you recall, Working the Triangle is based on the idea that the critical issue to focus on is not what we are doing that is wrong, but what we are not doing that is right. Working the Triangle is a tool that we can use anytime we are thrown out of balance in a relationship. But it is also something that we can practice on an ongoing basis as individuals, groups, and nations to mature and grow. It is a way to become more emotionally intelligent. It is a way to become a better person, spouse, parent, sibling, friend, leader, organization, or government. 


Sam Alibrando, PhD, is an organizational consultant, psychotherapist, author, teacher, workshop facilitator, collaborative mediator, and executive coach. He has worked on the three-dimensional model for nearly 35 years and taught it to thousands of people and counseled numerous executives, clinical clients, and couples. Dr. Alibrando is president of APC, Inc., a psychological consulting firm. He is also a principle consultant at CulturLogix, a company specializing in organizational culture. He is currently an assistant professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, teaching executive coaching. He resides in Pasadena, California.

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