From Chaos to Coherence

The Y2K problem is clearly unprecedented, requiring creativity,
ingenuity, and above all, emotional balance. It arrives at a time
when uncertainty and the pace of change are already increasing at
breakneck speed. Much like trying to predict the path and
devastation of an approaching hurricane, little can be known
beforehand as to how widespread the impending destruction will be,
how extensive the infrastructure breakdowns, or how long-lasting
the effects. But the silver lining in this otherwise gloomy
scenario is the potential we each have to prepare ourselves, our
families and our communities, internally–emotionally–for what is
to come. Begin thinking now that the Y2K challenge revolves not
just around preparing to survive and avoiding inconvenience, but
around a set of opportunities for personal growth and community

This Action Guide has done much to educate you about the
potential impact of Y2K on your business and personal life. It is
now up to you to choose how you’ll respond and how your emotions
and behavior will affect your spheres of influence: family,
friends, organization, community. Some will prepare in rational,
measured ways. Others, especially those who hear only brief
fear-based snippets in the media, will make decisions out of worry
and paranoia. Readers on the other side of the millenium will look
back at how we as a global community have dealt with the first
truly global, man-made disaster. Did we prepare well? Did we pull
together in a sense of community to address the issues maturely and
with balance? Or did we overreact and allow selfish interests to
distort more balanced perspectives? Did the tendency to assign
blame result in a frenzy of litigation? Or did it give us a new
perspective on how technology dependent we had become? Did we look
for and find hope in the midst of gloom?

The Institute of HeartMath has worked with teachers, nurses,
business executives, police chiefs and many other people and
organizations from all walks of life over the last 10 years. We
have learned that even in the midst of the most frustrating chaos,
a new level of coherence can emerge. Our view is that new levels of
personal, family and organizational efficiency, synchronization,
and effectiveness are possible. In the face of Y2K, a situation
fraught with a variety of emotional traps such as denial,
paralysis, shock and panic, discovering how to unlock new levels of
human intelligence and cooperation is our best and perhaps only

One of the most effective things individuals can do is to maintain
personal responsibility for their emotions and not add to the
stress and chaos of the situation. HeartMath offers tools that you
can use to manage your emotions and gain mental and intuitive
clarity about what to do.

Institute of HeartMath research shows that aligning the mind with
the heart increases intelligence, enhances intuition and helps you
find creative solutions in balance with the needs of other people.
We call it ‘intui-technology’–the unfolding of intuition and the
mind’s fuller capacities. Core heart values, such as care, respect,
appreciation and love, are what create the alignment between heart
and mind. Without these core heart feelings, the mind cannot
achieve its potential. It short circuits. As people engage their
core heart values, an awareness emerges that brings new
intelligence and practical solutions.

Freeze Frame

The principal tool we use in all our workshops and trainings to
achieve heart/mind alignment or synchronization is called
Freeze-Frame. Its effectiveness has been scientifically proven in a
variety of research studies. This research demonstrates what many
of us already know intuitively–that our mental and emotional
attitudes, our immune system and our happiness are directly related
to the health of our heart.

Freeze-Frame means telling yourself to stop and freeze whatever
internal program you are experiencing so that you can evaluate any
situation with more clarity. You know what your TV looks like when
you press the pause button on the VCR. The picture freezes. When
you practice Freeze-Frame, you simply become still inside and frame
the moment. Then by activating the heart you gain more objectivity
and clarity needed for improved decision-making. We have all heard
the saying, ‘Be still and know.’ Freeze-Frame shows you how.

Here are the steps:

1. Recognize the stressful feeling and Freeze-Frame it. Take a
time out.

2. Make a sincere effort to shift your focus to the area around
your heart. Pretend you are breathing through the heart to help you
focus your energy in this area. Keep your focus there for 10
seconds or more.

3. Recall a fun, positive feeling or time you’ve had in your life
and attempt to re-experience it.

4. Now, using your intuition, common sense, and sincerity, ask
your heart what would be a more efficient response to the
situation, one that would minimize future stress?

5. Listen to what your heart says in answer to your

It’s good to close your eyes while learning how to Freeze-Frame.
It can also be helpful to put your hand on your heart in step two
to help focus your attention there. Sometimes you may not get an
answer right away or the answer you get may be simple common sense,
or something you already knew. Other times you may experience a
major shift in perspective. With sincere practice, Freeze-Frame can
produce these kinds of shifts with consistency. The book
Freeze-Frame: One Minute Stress Management (Planetary LLC,
1998) offers a more detailed explanation, the research behind this
technique, and its many applications.

Building Coherence

Our model for building coherence out of chaos is composed of

1. Internal self-management

2. Coherent communication

3. Boosting organizational climates

4. Strategic processes and renewal

This model shows that internal self-management–reducing
our emotional overreactions to achieve balance and equanimity–is
the bottom line of individual and social effectiveness. It
recognizes the negative impact stress has on people while providing
the science and tools for neutralizing the negative effects. We
must remember that even without the strain of Y2K, many people are
already feeling overstressed and on the edge of personal chaos.
Achieving coherent communication in an increasingly noisy
world is particularly important when we consider the emotional
charge of much of the Y2K-related information. Next, a growing body
of research reveals that the emotional climate people live
and work in is critically important to their long-term health and
well-being. Y2K challenges our social and organizational systems to
become even more adaptable and resilient at a time when a ‘bunker
mentality’ could seem quite reasonable. And finally, we all have an
ongoing need for renewal at every step of the way,
especially when the potential for emotional drain is so

Internal Self-Management

Consider that families and organizations are living systems
composed of people who think and feel. Each system is a
large complex organism whose health and resilience depend on many
of the same factors that determine an individual’s health and
balance. Y2K is like a virus not only attacking computer systems
and microprocessors, but also threatening the security and
stability of millions of people globally. The very technology we
have grown so dependent upon has suddenly become a threat: what
will it do to our lifestyle, our children, our conveniences, our
sense of hope for the future? The mature and wise among us will
prepare carefully for inconveniences while remaining keenly aware
there will be life after Y2K. We can grow in intelligence
through this crisis or let it take us down.

A few things are clear:

· The pressure on the individual will increase dramatically over
the next few years, heightened by, but not solely because of, Y2K.
Individuals and groups need to increase flexibility,
adaptability and resilience in the face of this
increasing pressure.

· Reducing and neutralizing stress in other areas of one’s life
saves energy for Y2K-related issues. Start by identifying and
plugging leaks in your own personal system. Use the Freeze-Frame

· Any system–human, biological or mechanical–needs time to be
renewed, lubricated, aligned and recharged. Intelligent capacity
will then increase.

Research conducted at the Institute of HeartMath over the past 10
years has revealed new understandings about the intelligence of the
human system and how to maximize intelligent adaptations to change.
The human body is an incredible system–roughly seven trillion
cells with a mind-boggling level of physical and biochemical
coordination necessary just to turn a page, scratch an itch, or
drive a car. When you consider how little of it you have to think
about, it becomes even more amazing. When was the last time you
reminded your heart to beat, your lungs to expand and contract, or
your digestive organs to secrete just the right chemicals at just
the right time? These and a myriad of other processes are handled
unconsciously for us every moment we live. Intelligence–much of it
unconscious–manages the whole system.

But what is also becoming increasingly apparent is that these same
processes are profoundly affected by what we consciously do:
what we think, what we feel, how we react.
Research is now clear that the inability to manage oneself
emotionally in an efficient manner leads to premature aging,
diminished mental clarity, and blocked access to our innate
intelligence. Emotional reactiveness, fear and internal emotional
noise all inhibit the processing capability in the cortex, the seat
of our higher brain functions. Unresolved emotional turmoil also
taints our social interactions, making collaboration and
cooperation strained at best. This is why smart people can do
stupid things. The converse is also true: Increasing internal
coherence leads to more efficiency in all physiological systems and
greater creativity, adaptability, and flexibility. The greater
degree of emotional balance we are able to achieve and sustain, the
greater access we have to creative, innovative solutions to
problems such as Y2K.

Consciously shifting to more positive emotional states turns out
to offer high-speed access to greater intelligence, intuition and
creativity. Beyond just achieving a ‘feel-good’ state, the
increased internal coherence we experience when we feel positive
emotionally allows all internal systems to synchronize, thereby
maximizing intelligent access. Whether the problem is a
relationship with a child or partner or the degree of preparedness
that will bring you security and relief, finding a positive
emotional experience–a silver lining–to focus on can jumpstart a
new creative process. Even reminding oneself that ‘the situation
truly could be worse,’ can help neutralize runaway emotional

The heart and brain are connected in every human being through
elaborate nerve pathways allowing two-way communication of vital
information. This inner information highway is often
congested due to unrecognized emotional stress, anxiety or fear.
But synchronization between heart and brain–between the intuition
of the heart and the intellect of the brain–results in greater
fulfillment and far more balanced decision making. The positive
emotional states of care, appreciation, or love, which are often
associated at least metaphorically with the heart, have a dramatic
positive impact on this information highway. Our research, and that
of others, shows that when people are feeling positive emotionally,
their brain function is enhanced while their cardiovascular
function is also made more efficient.

It’s easy to see how the opposite of this is also true: when we
are frustrated, anxious, or fear driven, decisions are often
shortsighted and narrow. Biologically speaking, our intelligent
capacity is impaired by the volume of this internal emotional
noise. We say things we regret, we overreact over ‘little things,’
and we strain our own system needlessly. Finding a positive
emotional experience to focus on, particularly when stress is high,
can be challenging to say the least. But the effort can pay
surprising dividends. Even achieving a ‘neutral’ emotional state
can lead to saved energy, better decisions and more balanced
relationships. In all Y2K discussions and reflections, ask your
heart what are the balanced approaches to take. Listening only to a
frantic mind can make matters worse. The emotional energy you
save as you prepare yields greater energy when you need it

In any planning sessions surrounding your personal or
organizational response to Y2K, keep the emotional volume to a
minimum. This principle is particularly essential in the area of

Coherent Communication

The communication challenges surrounding Y2K are considerable.
What to believe? Which information is truly balanced and carefully
considered versus alarmist and extreme? As the typical media frenzy
to uncover the next stimulating story really catches on to Y2K, we
could be in for a wild ride. Here are some essential points to
reflect on:

· Reduce emotionalism in all Y2K-related communication.

· Avoid feeding paranoia, fear and anxiety while keeping
realistic, balanced perspectives.

· Be authentic in telling the story, as best you know it.

When the quality of communication is low, when the importance of
it is ignored, or when we simply tell ourselves ‘other things are
more pressing,’ organizational and personal efficiency suffer. Y2K
makes these patterns worse. Coherent communication is based on four
key principles:

1. Achieve understanding first.

2. Listen nonjudgmentally.

3. Listen for the essence.

4. Be authentic.

Underlying these principles is the belief that compassion, mature
understanding, and intuitive sensitivity are needed to weather the
Y2K storm. These qualities often emerge after disasters as
neighbors help neighbors, and whole communities reach out to other
communities devastated by a flood, earthquake or tornado. We can
engage them beforehand, to the benefit of all.

Boosting Family, Social and Organizational Climates

In the social interactions of people, certain key elements can
keep attitudes and energy high. The lack of these prepare the
environment for an outbreak of what we have called the emotional
virus. Many researchers have looked at what makes social climates
strong and resilient. Invariably the common factors involve the

· Contribution–the sense that the contribution one makes is

· Recognition–the feeling that one’s contribution is
and appreciated

· Clarity–the degree of clarity about what is expected of
an individual

· Selfexpression–feeling free to question the way
things are done

· Challenge–feeling that one’s work is challenging

· Supportive management–the extent to which people feel
supported by their immediate manager

How could these same factors be applied to your Y2K efforts?
Whether your primary social unit is your family, your community, or
the organization that employs you, these same human qualities
underlie effectiveness in all Y2K activities. Explore how you’re
doing in these areas, and which ones need bolstering. Openly ask
each other where the climate–the morale and well-being of the
group–is suffering.

In many Y2K efforts, a quiet emotional virus has started to take
hold, feeding off the fear and strain of the individuals struggling
to make headway and stay balanced with time running out. An
emotional virus is the net effect of emotional mismanagement within
a person or social unit. As with other viruses, an emotional virus
is highly infectious. People think it is okay to complain, whine,
and sarcastically laugh–about the worried coworker, the
stressed-out boss who ignores voice mail or e-mail, the department
that just cannot get its act together–not realizing they have
caught the emotional virus bug. Each casual complaint and
unconscious judgment is like coughing in a colleague’s face, thus
spreading the germs of negative emotions and creating a caustic,
unfulfilling environment.

The emotional virus is extremely draining to all involved, making
true collaboration difficult at best, and forcing creativity into
the background. The group’s internal dynamics become the issue,
gloom and doom abound, and balanced responses are nowhere to be
found. Hope is absent. Paying attention to the principles of
internal self-management, coherent communication, and a healthy
climate can do much to mitigate the virus’s effect in work teams
and families.

Having lived 10 miles from the epicenter of the 1989 Bay Area
earthquake, it was fascinating to watch our neighbors’ reactions to
the disaster. Some panicked and fled the state. Others were
traumatized but struggled to get through. Still others saw an
outpouring of a ‘family feeling,’ of people carpooling, helping
each other clear away debris and reaching out to friends and
strangers alike to address immediate needs and rebuild our
community. Events such as natural or man-made disasters are like a
giant forced Freeze-Frame: life stands still as we are compelled to
look at everything through new eyes.

Disasters can bring people of various religions, races, ethnic
groups and socioeconomic levels together. Some experience deep
bonding with people they wouldn’t have even talked to before. This
is because in times of crisis, people naturally tend to go to their
hearts and pull together. In preparing for Y2K there needs to be a
focus on bonding because that strengthens emotional and social

Extraordinary numbers of people have over the past few years
been forming support groups, both formal or informal, in churches
and synagogues, healing and recovery groups, book clubs and study
circles, and a variety of other settings. These gatherings amount
to a grassroots movement, and may form the basis for the paradigm
shift that people and businesses have talked about for years. In
these groups people are learning to increase their love, care and

If you happen to be in a support group, remember to actually
support each other. Don’t turn it into a gripe session, spending
most of your time together complaining or sharing anxieties,
because that adds to emotional stress. Instead, find ways to help
and care for each other, for your family, your workplace, and your
neighborhood. Respect and honor each other’s different beliefs and
love each other more sincerely. At the very least, learn to back
off on the judgments. Allow people to come into their own
understanding of what’s best for them and the whole.

Children are emotionally sensitive. Children of all ages are
feeling more anxiety, fear and symptoms of uneasiness these days.
They don’t know why they are feeling that way, but they pick up on
the emotional virus levels throughout society, in the home and at
school. While we pressure kids to learn computer skills and math to
stay abreast of technological advances, it’s emotional balance that
children need most to deal with the chaos and stress of Y2K.

It’s time to teach ourselves and our children how to care deeply
about something, and to have strongly held beliefs and opinions,
without judging others. Judgments only end up hurting the one who
judges. We recommend that you learn and teach them to Freeze-Frame.
Your best course of action invariably comes from the core values of
your heart.

Strategic Processes and Renewal

We have emphasized the importance of emotional balance in all
preparedness efforts. In this way you have an opportunity to keep
yourself and your group renewed instead of drained. As with any
team process, the team itself needs to be renewed, to do things to
recharge its batteries, to have fun. Thinking strategically about
your personal or organizational future will be enhanced when your
emotional state is positive and balanced.

Teams of people who function at high levels of creativity and
collaboration are entrained. Entrainment is a term used in
physics to describe the tendency of systems to synchronize to allow
maximum efficiency. When a team is entrained, much more energy and
innovation is unleashed than when a team is incoherent, its goals
and values fuzzy, and its communication frustrated or mired in
bickering. Entrained teams result when the individual members have
a high degree of internal self-management and when communication is
coherent and sincere.

The planning you do for Y2K can be done from the heart, with the
goal of achieving the highest level of personal security and group
cooperation, or you can succumb to selfish survivalism. With stress
continuing to increase throughout the world, petty annoyances and
antagonism can easily deflate collaborative efforts. Be on the
lookout for strain in each other, and with compassion and
understanding, lend a helping hand and a mature heart. Helping each
other manage the emotional strain of Y2K can yield creative
alternatives and build a new foundation for heart-based human
communication and hope.

Adapted from From Chaos to Coherence:
Advancing Emotional and Organizational Intelligence through Inner
Quality Management, by Doc Childre and Bruce Cryer. Published
November 1998 by Butterworth-Heinemann. More information available

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