Vulnerability. The emotion we experience when we expose ourselves to risk, uncertainty, and risk. As a lifelong perfectionist, I’ve struggled with vulnerability. So has another Madison-area coach and healer: the talented Josh Billings. Back when he lived in Waukesha, Josh led a Law of Attraction group for 7 years, and he regularly reflects on and posts about spiritual growth and development. And vulnerability and self-acceptance have been topics of recent interest for him. Just before St. Patrick’s Day, Josh and I sat down to discuss vulnerability (both personally and in the workplace), perfectionism, resiliency, and the emotional guidance scale.
Like all of the interviews so far, I learned some new things, and I really enjoyed chatting with Josh. You can listen to the audio of our conversation below. I’ve also included the full written transcript.
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The Interview: Josh Billings and Kelly Noel Rasmussen
Kelly Noel Rasmussen: Well, Josh, thank you for joining me today.
Josh Billings: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
Happy early St. Patrick’s Day.
Josh Billings on playing small
So, I wanted to interview you and talk about vulnerability. I know that’s been a topic of interest for you the last several weeks. And you’ve been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. So what inspired you to start really diving into vulnerability?
It was really a matter of necessity. I think for me, I will find ways to be okay where I am and try to justify or romanticize holding myself back, playing small, accepting less than maybe I would desire if I were to allow myself to desire fully. And as an awareness sort of builds up in my mind, I, it’s sort of like a bill you’re ignoring. Eventually it’s going to come to you in a way that you care about and you may want to address it. And so there was this sort of emotional buildup that led to a desire to really shift that. And it started with a desire to be more outwardly productive. But as I ventured down that road, I realized that I was not prepared to take who I was practiced at being and amplify that. That would not be a healthy unfolding for me because on levels that probably weren’t as obvious because I wasn’t, they weren’t being stress tested, I was not happy with where I was at with who I was being.
And as I became aware of that, then it became necessary to do the inner work to create that shift. And that basically led to a series of things which led to the book, which brought about this mantra that has really helped shift things for me of, “I accept everything I see.” And through self-acceptance, through acceptance of everything, it then empowers me to see that nothing has a value or meaning outside of what I assign it.
Okay, so a couple of things.
There were some events that happened in your life that it got to this point where vulnerability was the next step for you and it’s really tied to acceptance and you said, “You accept everything you see.” That’s become your new mantra. So self-acceptance, acceptance of others… How else has that really manifested in your life?
So, the main thing that I think I interact with every day is my own stories.
I’m looking at the world through my worldview. Anything else I touch, come in contact with is filtered through that first. So in becoming aware that, that some of those stories weren’t serving me and wanting to create a space to choose stories more intentionally, it, I guess became necessary for me to decide, like, do I want to hold myself to certain standards or certain ways of looking at things that aren’t causing you to be happy? Like, do I want, do I want to look at the world through the lens of an elitist and think that if I can’t do something at a super high level, I shouldn’t do it at all? Or do I want to look at the world as an opportunity for experience, ripe for new things, for the plucking. And if I can see it through a beginner’s eyes, it will give me so much more than the time it consumes to, to embark on it, to engage with it.
Josh Billings on perfectionism
Okay. One of the things that you mentioned sparked… so Brene Brown also focuses on perfectionism in her book and talks about how that is a form of armor. And you mentioned this question you’ve been asking yourself, do you want to be an elitist? Do you want to perform something at a high level, or can you take a beginner’s mind and curiosity? It sounds like part of this shift for you has been letting go of the concept of perfection.
Yeah, I’ve noticed there have been a few things in life where I really excelled at them and I’ve always upon finding that success not enjoyed where it’s gotten me, it becomes like a prison because you hit a super high level and then like something that is one notch below super high level, which is still like incredibly incredible, is no longer good enough. And it’s just like, what, what have I bought into? What sort of agreements have I made with myself that I think that I have to be this in order to be lovable? That I have to perform at this insanely high level that I have to be something that makes up for all the things that I’m not.
And, and that sort of a realization that what is, that I was buying into perfectionism, that I was practicing very strict forms of conditional love with myself, that I was… Essentially I was buying into this high school, cool kid paradigm and said, like, this is the way to be and if I can’t be it, then I’ll just check out and not participate in that world. That would be very deliberate about what I do focus on. And if I’m not super good at it, then it’s not even worth my time and it, and it just created this, this space where I just did not feel free to express myself and did not feel free to get better at things.
And so there was this vast disparity between the areas where I excelled at and where I got practice and got better. And the areas where I just completely abandoned and it created this sort of a thing where it’s like I can shine so brightly in certain moments, but I don’t have the structure to support continual shining because I’ve essentially shunned away so many mundane tasks that are absolutely necessary for sustained success.
Can you give an example of some of those mundane tasks that you were shunning out of your life?
So just that idea of just that mantra of, “I accept everything I see.” When I was looking at the world through the lens of, “I got to find something I can be really great at so that I’m good enough,” I would say I would not accept those things. I would say not good enough, not good enough, not good enough and then all of a sudden there’s nothing for me to give my attention to. So I might as well just distract myself or I might as well just stick with the things that I enjoy that I’m good at, but that may not really be enough to invigorate the full me. Where I am on this journey is in this place of recognizing that essentially the big-level things that might be enough to excite me are impossible if my small-level habits are in contradiction to them. You know, like saving for a big goal but then making small little purchases for things you don’t really need that distract you. But all throughout the day, those are contradictory forces. And if you, and if you apply your energy to both simultaneously, you have this mixed thing where you go a little to the left, you go a little to the right, and you just stay where you are.
And you don’t make significant progress in any direction.
Right, right. Because there essentially was a lack of boundaries in my life. Like these things that maybe giving me temporary pleasure or distraction or, or that may make me feel good about myself in a way where I’m just dismissive and saying I don’t need to do that. And that sort of thing then creates a space where… it’s like you’re painting with very few colors and the fullness of you is much brighter and more diverse than you’re allowing. And so, the real, I guess, shift that has been facilitating the actual tangible change for me is that shift of accepting where I suck at something or where I fall short and saying like, it is worth sucking at this because my future me will thank me if I suck a little bit less and a little bit less and a little bit less and actually grow to a place where whatever’s handicapping me or sabotaging me is no longer that because I’ve worked through whatever keeps me back.
Josh Billings and Kelly Noel on vulnerability, resiliency
Yeah. An example I guess that I might give just to kind of concretize this a bit.
I love working in the abstracts. Because really, I’m really just so inside my comfort zone there.
We discussed that you’re a bit theoretical and I’m a bit more experimental. So, to concretize it, about a year ago, I didn’t have any experience with sales. A little more than a year ago. And we were lacking a dedicated salesperson on the team. My boss had been doing sales, but she was at bandwidth and there were new leads. So she asked me if I could step in, and I had so much resistance to that. I was not a salesperson. I didn’t know how to sell. I felt really nervous about it and I sucked at it. I sucked at it, and I was so nervous and I was very armored about it. You’re talking about vulnerability and armor. Vulnerability is accepting that we suck at it, right? And being transparent with somebody, like if we are sucking at it and just really embracing the suck.
Right, right. Because perfectionism says you have to present yourself as a professional. Like you’ve got it all together and this is why you should buy from us.
And that’s exactly what I was doing. So for me, I noticed this transition that actually as I practiced more and as I got better, it was okay for me to be more vulnerable or I felt more comfortable being vulnerable. I think part of it too was with health coaching, learning that sales and consultation is really more just about asking questions than anything. And so it took this need to perform out of the out of the mix as much because it was just about active listening and helping. So embracing the suck of that, right? And now my present self, looking back at my past self is saying, “I am so glad that you went through that experience. Because now I can be a more effective salesperson.” Is it a zone of genius? I don’t know? But at least I’m halfway decent at it now. So that was, that was an example that I thought about in response to what you were sharing.
Right. And that is something I guess I’ve experienced that more on a relationship level.
Where the very act of being vulnerable is, “I have something that you could potentially use to hurt me and if I don’t share it, I’ll be safe. But if I don’t share it, then you won’t actually get to know me.” Then whatever desire is tied with that might never get fulfilled. And so there’s that sort of double-edged sword of where I want to protect myself, I want to feel safe in the world, but at the same time I want to be seen, I want to connect with people. I want to say that my desires matter rather than say that the thing that’s most important to me is just that I don’t get hurt in life. That I don’t do anything that’s outside of that comfort zone and puts real and essentially kind of live in this bubble where you can avoid risk because you’ve reached a certain level of competence when it comes to making yourself happy that you don’t need to, you don’t need to chase after happiness, but sort of in that you kind of settle for contentedness.
Yeah. I just want to bring in a quick definition to vulnerability because we haven’t discussed that.
This is true.
So for anybody who’s reading, vulnerability is that emotion we experience during times of emotional exposure, risk, or uncertainty. And so risk, uncertainty, potentially getting hurt, exposing ourselves emotionally, those are all really tied to being vulnerable. In your example here with being seen and having somebody understand you, if you’re not articulating your needs and desires, your fears, your emotions, then your partner isn’t going to get to know you as well, but you’re also able to protect yourself. Or I guess I want to use air quotes here, right? Because in some ways vulnerability… or this has been my experience at least… vulnerability is actually how we protect ourselves, like it guarantees a much better outcome. Every time I’ve been vulnerable, people have responded so compassionately. It’s when I’ve been armored that shit goes crazy.
That’s totally been my experience. When I put up a wall, people begin to know me as that wall and then if conflict arises, then how do they deal with a wall? With a wrecking ball. And so you can use that to say, “Oh, I need to protect myself from the dangers of the world because look, wrecking balls exist.” When really what you’re doing is creating a problem that requires a wrecking ball to crack and then because deep down you want to be open, you want to allow your desires out to play in the world.
A lot of the times I get the sense that it’s like my desires are housed by my inner child and I’m here protecting my inner child and essentially stunting his growth and the recognition that maybe what I’m doing through that is actually less healthy in the long run than allowing, you know, allowing your kid to go out there and play and get scratched and stumble into poison ivy, you know, get called a name by some neighbor kid in the environment you can’t control. Like, all of those things appear to be unwanted. But those are the very things that allow us to develop resiliency and to learn that fears are not something to be avoided. Fears are something to be reframed or understood in a way where you can understand like, “Oh, I’m afraid of this. You know, I’m afraid of my kid getting run over by a car because I want to continue fostering this relationship. I care deeply and so forth. This person I want, I want them to do things with their life that make them fulfilled. It would be tragic for that to be cut off.”
And when you flip that, then it’s not really about fear. It’s about that desire to see something common to full bloom and when you look at it through that lens then the fear actions don’t necessarily equate anymore because like the things that keep you, keep your kids away from fear aren’t necessarily the same things that, that get him into full bloom. You know, if you shelter them. And so they never get rainwater…
They’re going to die.
Josh Billings and Kelly Noel on ‘safe-to-fail’ and self-worth
A couple things that you said. Resiliency. I was speaking with someone a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about how resiliency is the idea that it’s safe to fail.
And going back to perfectionism…
Oh, wow, that’s good.
I think that really interesting, right? That perfectionism basically says it’s not safe to fail.
Yes, that’s exactly what it says!
And so resiliency is, is the, is the exact opposite of perfectionism and perfectionism is that bubble.
Yeah. And it’s fragile. It needs to be wrapped in that bubble.
It does! Because if you’re a perfectionist, you have a very… so I have been a perfectionist as well. High achiever throughout school, still have perfectionist tendencies to some degree. And any bit of criticism or any perceived… any area where I perceive I’m less than perfect or less than, less than, less than, right? I try to make it better. I try to anticipate somebody’s response to me so that they don’t have a chance to judge my less than perfection. So it is this very fragile thing.
But the moment that we embrace the safe to fail. So fail-safe is the idea of sustainability. And sustainability means nothing’s going to change. So that means no growth. So I’m just really, really fascinated by that. So I just wanted to mention that in response to what you brought up about resiliency and then…
You and I have had a conversation recently about the inner child and the relationship between the head and the heart and the inner child. So I was wondering if you could go into that a little bit and talk about what you’ve noticed both prior to starting this book by Brene Brown and what you’re noticing now.
Yeah, I would say the key thing that I’ve noticed is that I before was not in touch with my inner child. And I don’t mean that in an abstract. I mean in a way where like right now I feel energy there. Like I feel something in my gut that’s alive and that’s active and that’s participating in this conversation. Prior, that was numbed. It was protected. It was not, it did not have a seat at the table. And it sort of got the Harry Potter treatment.
Cupboard under the stairs.
Yes. And essentially through this realization, my new mantra relative to this is “strong inner child” and something that I have developed in yoga, which I, I know that I have an underdeveloped core and that’s basically because I’ve allowed other muscles to do for my core what my core…
Is meant to do.
Yes. And that’s like a total parallel to what I’ve done with my creativity and my inner child, which is essentially like protect, do not expose to criticism, do not take a chance that what you put out there maybe told is not good enough because then I’ll believe I’m not good enough.
And so it was a very quarantined existence when it comes to exposing myself to the potential for criticism, which also exposes me to the potential to make a difference in people’s lives. To allow other people to make a difference in my life. That realization then just makes it clear that the policies that I had in place that seemed like sound policies for living a healthy life were actually sound policies for keeping me right where I was.
Sustainability, rather than resiliency.
Yeah. Yeah. Which that resiliency thing… like totally. That was a light bulb moment for me.
One other thing I wanted to round back to… you were talking about this desire to be more productive, but you realized that if you amplified what you were previously, it wasn’t going to really foster growth or change, that you were in this place of sustainability. And that reminded me of another thing that Brene Brown mentions in her book Dare to Lead, which is tying our worth to performance, to something external… To productivity, maybe. Rather than acknowledging our inherent worth, regardless what we do, who we are, what our mental state is, what our output is. That we love ourselves, that we have value, that we have worth. And it seems like that’s also a mindset shift you’ve been going through as part of this journey that you’re on as you’re becoming more vulnerable.
Yeah, I think that’s one of the insidious ways that perfectionism manifests is this idea that if I create something and then I know there’s a way I could do it better or I know that somebody else could do it better, then it’s not good enough. And if you look at Brene Brown’s TED talk that she gave that has upwards of 30 million views now and launched her into the public eye, was not something that was an act of performance. She talks very openly about that she was going in and just trying. She was like, what if I were, if I gave my talk about vulnerability and decided I would be vulnerable? And wasn’t even aware that they were recording it, was not even aware that it was something that was going to possibly reach so many people.
But when she gives talks now, she deliberately does not prepare in the sense that she wants to put things together and give a performance. She is there to connect with people, and to connect with people you need the house lights on so that you can see people and how they respond to stuff. And you need to be present enough with like what’s going on in the moment that you’re not sitting there thinking, “Okay, I pause here, I do this here.”
So, what I extrapolate from that is that I can look at her talk and I can say, I can do that better, but better in what context? Because part of the reason you reached so many people was because she was that present and that vulnerable and that raw and real. And so this idea of, of better or not good enough… it really just circles back to saying, “I’m not willing to accept and love myself as I am. So then this needs to make up for where I’m not.”
Josh Billings and Kelly Noel on vulnerability in the workplace
So, another kind of binary emerged as you were talking that I became aware of. We already talked about the binary of perfectionism and resilience.
Or sustainability and resilience, attaching perfectionism to sustainability, resilience to essentially failure, right? And another binary that kind of came to me as you were talking is this difference between presence and performance. You know, performance linked to that perfectionist tendency, presence linked to vulnerability, strength, resiliency. And that rather than valuing performance, what if in our lives, in our workplaces we valued presence? Actually what if in the workplace, rather than evaluating performance, we evaluated growth? We evaluated presence and mindfulness and attention and vulnerability and that determined the merit of a potential employee. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, it seems like this giant can of worms.
That if unleashed on corporate culture could be more chaotic in the short run. So I guess I can do this two ways. I could look at what happens if we moderate that more or I can give you my extrapolated version of how it might unfold if we actually made the radical change.
Sure. Let’s look at the radical change first and then maybe talk about a moderated view.
Yeah. So the radical change is actually, I guess in retrospect isn’t necessarily that radical.Because it would, it would need to occur for, for it to be successful, for something that was stuck with. What do we need to occur from the top down, so I’m sure it wouldn’t just be something where it’s like employees are going to rebel and then start being more vulnerable. An uncompassionate leader slams him down for, they’re like, well, “I’m going to keep on doing it.” Like that could happen, but I guess the way that I’m foreseeing it is that you have leaders that are saying like things are changing so fast business is no longer about developing a strategy that works and then just maximizing it. It is about understanding the way the world’s changing and being able to connect with that changing world, which requires not so much of a strategic response that says, yes, this works because what works now…
Could change in a year.
Yeah, it changes quicker and quicker.
It requires adaptability.
That’s also another thing that as we were talking about resiliency and presence. I think adaptability fits in there quite nicely because if you’re present, you can anticipate changes that are needed a bit more readily because you’re paying attention, you’re not stuck in this idea of performance and perfection. I guess it’s been my experience that in seeking perfection we maybe sometimes get stuck to a particular modus operandi and again, if that’s an area where we are sustaining, that sustainability is most important, then we’re going to be resistant if we need to change, if we need to grow, if we need to adapt.
There’s something called the Kolbe Index, and one of the measurements on there is… On one end of the spectrum, you have follow-through, people who are really good at that’s their thing. You give them a task, they follow through, boom, it’s done, and then the other end of the spectrum, people who are really adaptable.
YUP, so I can definitely relate to that, Josh. I struggle with follow-through but tend to be fairly adaptable.
Yeah. And so the key of the Kolbe Index is recognizing that each end of the spectrum has strengths. And when you can leverage that strength and then set yourself up for success for the way that you instinctively operate, then you no longer try to like wedge your square peg in a round hole. You become accepting of who you are and then you also become accepting of where those limitations lie, what might be able to, what you might be able to partner with or work with or put a system in place that allows for you to…
Kind of work within your zone of genius rather than focusing on your weaknesses.
Right, right. Cause it doesn’t really help to retrain yourself against your own instincts.
And going with that particular flow. As long as you’re not using your instincts in a limiting way because it’s a spectrum where each every rung on that ladder, every seat at that circular table has equal value, which just has a slightly different perspective on the same problems and the seat next to it. Or the seat across from it.
And so if, if you celebrate the strength of where you lie on that spectrum, then you can use adaptability to say, “Well, okay, I’m going to outsource this and I’ll find someone online who can do this or that. And if things don’t work out, then I’ll find someone else.” And you’ll be able to like experiment with that until you find somebody who really scratches the itch the way you want it. And then you just fostered that relationship. And if things go side-view, at least you know how to seek for more. You don’t need to cling to this one person who can, who can do the job well.
So, it sounds like, coming back to where we started this circle of conversation, if we were to implement this into the workplace, it would really start with leadership. That you would need to have a leader at the top, or at the bottom, I guess depending if you’re having a service-based model, your owner, founder, CEO, whomever, really being vulnerable and setting that as the tone for the culture within the organization. Being transparent but also really being present. Being present with their team, being aware of their own limitations, and probably being really intentional with things like the, you said that was the Kolbe assessment?
That would be the Kolbe A Index.
Kolbe A Index. Okay. And really working with the strengths of the team to foster a continued culture of vulnerability. What do you think the world would look like if we had more organizations really practicing that?
In the short run, I see things sort of breaking down. I perceive there are a lot of things that are justifiable because of the lens that we look through them. And if you, if people start being honest about the things that they like and don’t like about their job, and things stop getting done… Between two different states of harmony is a state of disharmony and that can be that transition period.
I think that what you can do to promote more of that culture is to recognize that the price for armor is a staggering price because when you are interacting with the armor, when people aren’t able to be creative, innovative… then they have to be… if you can’t allow them to be vulnerable, they’re going to be hindered in those departments and they will choose instead things that go along with the status quo, things that they believe will get praise, and you create this culture of “yes man.”
Which in the long run is going to really handicap your organization because if you started out as a leader, you’re suddenly going to be well behind the curve. Again, we had talked about or suggested that adaptability is really tied to vulnerability. If things are changing very quickly those organizations that value performance, the yes man culture, and output are really gonna fall behind.
Yeah, yeah. I think one of the key things that you can do to help promote this is in corporate culture, there’s a way that they’re making their bread and butter, and things that are outside of that may seem like a threat to it. And so if you can find a way to take those things that appear to be a threat and look for ways that they can serve you, then you can essentially be ahead of the curve. Kodak went out of business 30 years after inventing the digital camera because they didn’t pursue the digital camera. They saw as a threat to all the film they were selling.
And that very thing is happening to basically every company all the time now, especially as change accelerates, accelerates, accelerates. And to ask the person in charge to think about the thing that’s going to like consume them might take their eye off the ball of where they are. So you kind of need other people in the organization that can pursue those things that might be a threat, might be scary to the person who is currently in charge of the status quo. But if you can promote that and promote the open dialogue of ways that this train might be derailed, then you can more consciously choose… Probably a bad analogy because trains don’t really choose their path… But you can consciously choose to begin building new tracks that might take years before they’re profitable and they’re running, but you can then that’s how you adapt to a changing landscape.
Josh Billings on vulnerability and communication
This has been such a wonderful conversation and especially bringing it to kind of this corporate organizational level has been something I’ve appreciated in this conversation. But bringing it back more to the personal… You mentioned that this has really affected your relationships. And relationships whether they be in the workplace or intimate, romantic, friendships… really thrive on communication, you know, communication is this cornerstone. So now that you are more vulnerable, what have you noticed about your communication with others? How has that changed? For better or for worse?
Yeah, I would say the key differences… You can delude yourself into thinking that you’re communicating when really what you’re presenting is armored communication. You know, you are arguing about what appears to matter to you, but the reason that you’re arguing about that thing is because it protects you from having to be vulnerable about what you really want. So you can be mad and it’s so easy if you’re in that loop where it’s like you’re mad at someone because they’re not satisfying the needs you never shared with them. But you’re communicating that, right?
So it can’t be communication in a sense. It’s not really in the realm of communication. It’s in the realm of that willingness to be seen for who you are and to accept… that essentially it’s kind of like a deal with yourself that I’m going to be able to love myself and support myself even if I get a negative reaction from somebody else. And that’s what creates the space to be more vulnerable in the beginning. After you start practicing it, you get the rewards of being vulnerable. My friend and I, we started this catchphrase “vulnerability pays” because we recognize that when we share our vulnerability it leads to opportunities that pay. Whether that’s getting what you want in a relationship or finding a paying gig for something you’ve been wanting to do more of. Or simply recognizing that what you were thinking about something was completely wrong and giving yourself the space to share what you were thinking, which then clears that up.
And then all that effort you would have put into something that was built on this model of false assumption then gets returned to you. It’s like getting a refund on something before you go pouring all of these resources in it, and that’s simply because you were willing to engage in that dialogue where you wanted to share what you felt even if it might ruffle some feathers or cause hurt or cause someone to look at you differently.
So rather than bottling things up and staying in that place of fear, being vulnerable and taking the kind action. Another binary that I’ve noticed is the difference between nice and being kind. Being nice not ruffling feathers, not breaking the status quo. Again, going back to that idea of sustainability. And kindness, which is, what’s the long-term of this thinking about? Is this, what’s the appropriate, loving action here?
So an example, right? Let’s say you hurt my feelings. Or let’s say you did something and my feelings were hurt. That’s a more compassionate way to communicate that, right? So if I were being nice, I wouldn’t say anything. Especially, you know, in a workplace environment, if I disagreed with someone, I might not say anything. Right? Because if I’m being nice, I’m not ruffling the status quo, I’m not changing the status quo. I’m not ruffling feathers. Mixing my metaphors. If I’m being kind, I’m thinking about is this coming from a place of love rather than fear. So I will share if my feelings are hurt because of something that’s happened or if I disagree with someone or if I see a way that things could be improved or maybe from my perspective need to be improved.
And you mentioned this concept of communication that often we think we’re communicating and we’re not, that we have these needs that we haven’t expressed. We maybe even have these feelings we haven’t expressed. That really makes me think of Marshall Rosenberg’s compassionate communication. So, as you’ve been stepping into vulnerability more, has it been easier to step into compassionate communication as well?
I would say that when it comes to compassionate communication, there’s a process to it that I have not integrated into my daily practice. There are definitely some things I’ve gotten from starting the work and from reading the book that have helped me be more conscious about… I think when you really get down to it, like you can know whether or not you’re compassionately communicating just by understanding like if what you’re saying is empowered, you know? Is it building someone up, is it building you up? Is it trusting that the person that you’re communicating with is whole and complete and that they don’t need anything from you? Or are you coming from a place that says this needs to be fixed or this person’s not getting it, or I really want this to succeed, but I don’t think that it is. You just struggle almost to make something better when you’re in that state of, “I need it to be better, but I don’t know how.”
Josh Billings on the emotional guidance scale
Yeah. One other thing that you’re very interested in, aside from vulnerability is the work of Abraham Hicks.
And one of the concepts that you integrated into your life is the emotional guidance scale. How does that play with this work you’ve been doing on vulnerability? What was your relationship to the emotional guidance scale before you began your journey of vulnerability and what does that relationship look like now?
I would say currently the two are separate entities for me, I haven’t really played with them both simultaneously. But what the emotional guidance scale to me is so helpful for is when you can identify where you are on that scale… you’re probably there because you have a resistance to grabbing the next rung on the ladder. You know, if I’m climbing a ladder to do some roofing and there’s a tarantula on the rung above me, I’m not going to grab for that and I’m not going to grab for anything higher either. Cause they all involve going past the tarantula.
And you know, that’s a bulky metaphor, but essentially what that’s saying is that when we resist certain things, usually a negative emotion, when we don’t allow ourselves to, for instance, when I don’t allow myself to be pessimistic about something, I will often get caught up in impatience, irritation, frustration. And the reason that that is, is because pessimism is, saying, “I’m going to stop needing this to work. I’m going to accept that this isn’t going to flow the way I want it to flow.” And in so doing, then what are you impatient about? It’s not going to happen. What are you irritated about? Just accept it. Like that’s the way it is. Being irritated isn’t going to change anything. And so all that frustration then has an avenue to disperse because you are recognizing that being pessimistic about something, believing that it’s not going to happen, is actually more empowering than being frustrated with the fact that it’s not happening.
Because pessimism is acceptance, to some degree.
To me, pessimism is making peace. You make peace. If you look at the emotional scale, you have, contentedness or satisfaction, it’s number seven and then you’d have boredom and then you have pessimism is number nine. And then frustration, irritation, impatience. So that the journey from 10 to seven is pessimism is essentially saying I’m going to make peace with things not being the way I want them because I want to discharge this negative energy.
It creates the space for you to say, “Okay, things aren’t the way I want them. When I try to make them the way I want them, I get more frustrated.” I possibly even get overwhelmed, which is the rung right below it. And then if I keep going, I get disappointed. That’s the rung below that.
And it can build.
Right, right. And so before you start building, take the time to like dig out the foundation and to let go of the things that you don’t want, that aren’t serving you. And if you can accept that, yes, a hole in the ground is not the house you’re going to live in. But it’s a precursor. Then can accept like, okay, this thing that I want to happen isn’t happening. That’s okay. You know, maybe that’s the hole in the ground. Maybe that’s the thing that says, “We dug the hole and we found a bunch of roots, or something, and they’re going to be super expensive to remove, so we’ll build the house somewhere else.”
But ability to make peace with a negative emotion then sort of cleanses your palate so that you can then move into a place of boredom, which is sort of this place of like, there’s not a strong negative energy. There’s not a strong positive energy. And that’s when you know that you’re ready to move on to something more because you’re no longer caught up in the drama of negative emotion and you’re not get pulled into the allure of positive emotion.
When you have that clean palate, then you can move forward without dragging any of that negative baggage with you, which can lead to like you’ll get up to this place of hope, which is number five on the scale and then you’ll drop down to 12, disappointment, because you were bringing with you baggage and attachment towards things being a certain way cause you didn’t release them in the pessimism stage. And then that leads to, that leads to that dramatic dump from like hope.
To disappointment. It sounds like you’re advocating more for going up rung by rung by rung so you can avoid, mitigate these larger jumps downward, potentially.
One of the analogies I use is like if, if you look at the emotional guidance scale is your commute and you need to, um… if each one was a state and you were going across state lines with each one, you could essentially break down in any one of these emotions and, and sort of be stuck there. And so if you don’t have any friends, if you don’t have any contacts, if you’re openly hostile to this emotion, then when the police force, you know, pulls over to sensibly make sure you’re alright and put some lights on so that you know nothing happens to you and you are openly hostile to them, you’re going to be met with hostility. Your experience of that emotion will be a hostile one.
And if you can shift that and recognize how each emotion is serving, if you can have friends there so that when you break down in a certain emotion, you can feel supported. You can feel like, oh, this is no big deal. I’ll call Tony. I haven’t seen him in a long while. And then boom, problem solved, you get to have dinner with Tony and the kids. Like what is so bad about that?
So this analogy went in quite a creative direction. So to summarize that, if we’re able to make peace with each emotion on the guidance scale, we’ll be able to flow through our emotions and achieve higher vibrational positive emotions more easily because we won’t get stuck because we won’t have a hostile experience when we’re at a particular rung of the ladder.
Not only will you not get stuck, but the journey, that desire, that experience goes through is enriched by each emotion along the way. It’s almost like somewhat, we’d like you go on a tour and each place gives gifts you something like you’re a diplomat and, and, and, and the king of Hawtato gives you some sort of a thing like, like you can’t get that from anywhere else but Hawtato.
Wrapping things up…
All right. Well, Josh, we’ve been chatting for a while. You have been posting pretty regularly on Facebook with your journey and you’ve also had a number of posts on Simbi and on your own website. So if people want to learn more about your journey, the work that you’re doing, where can we send them?
That’s a good question. I guess the easiest way would be to go to joshuabillings.com and you’ll be able to find some outdated information on me, old blog posts. If we’re being vulnerable here, I’m still in a place where I’m transitioning from this practice of hiding myself, keeping my message hidden, keeping myself hidden to a place of celebrating myself where it’s like I’ve discovered who I want to be and what I can share with the world and I’m damn proud of it and I’m going to get it out there. And so I’m kind of in that in-between phase. If we’re talking about like optimal connection, given current habits, you can go to facebook.com/joshbillings and add me as a personal friend.
Josh, thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and what you’ve learned. It’s been a pleasure talking with you and diving into the topics of vulnerability and the emotional guidance scale with you.
Yes, and this experience for me has been one of looking in the mirror and recognizing that I am kind of all over the place and that’s okay. I can accept that.
And I can also launch the desire to find greater focus within that vast array of whatever I’m just laying out there.
Well, yeah, you accept everything you see.
I think it will be interesting, since you’ve launched this desire for greater focus. You’ve also launched desires for greater clarity and, eventually, to build upon that productivity. The next time, hopefully I’ll have another chance to interview you. It’ll be interesting to compare this interview and this blog post to the next interview, blog post, podcast episode if I’ve launched it by that point. So.
Well, thanks for having me on. I really enjoy opportunities for growth and connection and I perceive that you facilitate those very well.