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The Truth about Lying & Deception: How to handle it


You’re a LIAR!! Yes, you and don’t freak out when as accused; we are all liars to varying degrees. It’s hardly my style to address such a negative aspect of the human condition, but we can’t ignore that “lies” constitute a rampant state prevailing in politics, the business world, and even in our daily exchanges as minor fibs. Studies do show that the average person lies several times a day either concealing or fabricating the truth for silly reasons sometimes. We dismiss many as “white lies” being socially conditioned to be respectful and polite (e.g. you’d respond when asked how you’re doing by saying: “I am doing great!” when deep inside your world is gloomy and chaotic). We deceive, also, without intention mainly in social conversations (e.g. like nodding when listening to someone talk while our mind is wandering elsewhere). You do it; everyone else does it! Unless you’re living in complete harmony with yourself and others, you’re “lie-free”. And when you do knowingly lie, you give yourself so many excuses and rationalize every time. It could be to protect from bigger harm, safeguard the other person’s feelings, avoid unnecessary conflict, preserve a good self-image, handle high stake situation, and the list goes on and on…. I am not suggesting that because deception is very common, you remain at ease with it. An inner state of dissonance and stress emerges for those who are conscientious enough, or good meaning (not the cunning malicious type). When you’re at the receiving end, the feeling is even worse. It’s not these small innocent lies that get to you. It’s the deliberate biggies (e.g. being betrayed) or when it’s too frequent or manipulative to serve the liar’s hidden agenda. To explore lying and deception, is to understand it, as to better deal with it. Let’s dissect it here.

Why can’t you tolerate being lied to when you yourself lie from time to time?  Mainly, and when you first react, you may forget to justify for others as you do for yourself. You’re not in the liar’s shoes to know their drives. It certainly is not easy to swallow those biggies, tolerate habitual chronic liars who adopt lying as their natural style, or accept the Machiavellian type who manipulate you to serve their needs. Big lies that relate to specific situations can become traumatic especially from those you least expect to deceive you. The frequency of smaller lies – no matter how trivial these are – can similarly, drain you. You’re always left scratching your head (asking yourself “shall I believe this now or not”). You may try hard to let these slip by, but their recurrence can become impossible to ignore. Manipulative deception has a far greater toll. They shake you to the bone. With children, you can understand lies as a sign of immaturity, but with adults, you can’t help but consider them as having an evil tongue frustrating enough for you to reassess your whole life philosophy and strategy. Eventually, you may become more cynical, suspicious, and completely pissed off. Until you understand the liar’s reasons, you keep boiling inside. For sure, you first take lies personally as a threat to your own self-image.

What does it mean to be lied to? Lies – big or small – hurt your ego and are translated in the most degrading terms: you’re unworthy of the truth, your intelligence is insulted, you’re considered gullible, your bright expectations are violated, you’re naïve for believing, or simply that your good faith in others led you to being taken advantage of. You doubt yourself; and your trust hub in others gets destroyed. It then becomes extremely difficult to mend the fences. A big lie can leave you vulnerable, forever suspicious, uncertain, out of control, or experiencing great suffering and pain for a while. It happens, right? The truth is: lies really tell more about the deceiver than it tells about you. For big lies, always consider the ramification for telling the truth in context. It could just be that the other person is so scared of facing reality. You could have done the same if your roles were reversed. With habitual liars, many are not even aware of their behavior since it becomes more like routine so well ingrained and automatic. Their excessive lying may have routes in their having an inferiority/superiority complex. These usually have an instable sense of identity with conflicting parts struggling within. If they were clearer on how they defined themselves, or knew what they really wanted, there would be no reason for them to lie. It could, also, be that they were raised in an environment in which lying was necessary for survival. They become addicted to lying as it feels right and safe; thus, twisting all truths as a way of living. Manipulative liars obviously adopt lying to get what they want in a sneaky way. They have little empathy for your feelings. It’s like they coerce you into doing something you wouldn’t want to do in the first place; hence, you feel utterly disgusted when you find out their true motives.

How easy is it to detect deception?  Many lies are discovered by contradictory statements or by piecing together information to make sense of things that don’t seem right. This is often fuelled by an internal lie detector we call “gut instinct” that picks up on so many unconscious cues. The literature is bound with guidelines on detecting lies through observing non-verbal behavior. These include: more blinking or fidgeting, speech hesitation, shorter responses or even too much detail, changes in vocal pitch or speed, language patterns (e.g. frequently dropping the “I” from a sentence), breaking eye contact, or even its opposite of being looked at too insistently to make a point. However, and to date, there is enough evidence that even trained professionals cannot detect deception with precision. You may assume that because you know the other person too well, you can easily spot lies, but that’s not straight forward.  With enough determination, a liar can cover the truth well especially the manipulative type. It’s even more difficult to know with chronic liars, as it’s all too natural and reflexive. They themselves believe their lies. In the end, there’s no foolproof way to know when a person is lying for sure by mere observation. Many lies would eventually be discovered somehow. Knowing the truth sets you in turmoil, so ideally, what are you to do?

How can you deal with being lied to? Understand again, it’s a sad human condition. Nail it down to being situational or chronic. Is it justified or is it that the other person is being a pathological jerk?

a)      With situational liars and big lies: Be cautious of someone who gives you a one-time BAMM!! They lie once, they can lie again. If you care about salvaging your relationship with that person, it’s best to address the issue in a more conversational manner (as opposed to a confrontational style); and only when you have calmed down. Think of the reasons for why you were lied to and the consequences of telling the truth in time. They maybe too scared to face the problem or cannot handle the truth, but you can show them that you can (with some extra effort in certain respects of course). They simply may be asking for attention indirectly. If you do confront, refrain from throwing accusations. It’s counterproductive, as it breads their defensiveness (e.g. withdrawing, counterattacks, denial, or hostility). Focus in your discussion on how it makes you feel to be deceived. Give them a sense of understanding and willingness to deal with the problem and the underlying motives for lying. Always reciprocate by telling the gentle truth as you remain in control of your emotional reactions (that’s the toughest to handle in such situations). Your discussion can eventually lead to a clearer understanding of the whole issue at hand. If things make sense, then be sure to forgive. This way you’ll be the “bigger” person who accommodates for human faults. Holding a grudge occupies unnecessary space in your heart and leaves no room for working things out. Besides, we all deserve a second chance, so allow it. But what if lies are repeated over and over again? You’re on alert mode already if you’re lied to once. It takes time and repeated evidence of sincerity to regain that lost trust – if ever.

 b)      With habitual and manipulative liars: Those who lie chronically for no apparent gain are to be pitied. Remember that it’s about them (i.e. their personality and life experiences). Even if they were not lying to you directly but to others, you’d reason they could easily lie to you too. You can try to let things slide if they are not important, hint at inconsistencies, or use sarcastic remarks paralleled with surprised facial expressions. If lies stretch too far, you can handle it using some humor to point it out (e.g. say something like: “Come on Pinocchio, your nose is growing!”). It is very difficult to change habitual liars as most of the time they lack insight. They are better referred to a professional in counseling; and it’s very common that they’d resist doing until they hit bottom. Others, who are manipulative and adopt lying for strategic purposes, are to be avoided as soon as they are discovered. Withdraw from further dealings with them if you can. If you’re stuck with these because the situation dictates (e.g. they are colleagues at work or are family), you cannot but resort to standing up for yourself and setting clear boundaries. Asking more questions for clarification would be like inviting in more lies. One lie may just have been leading to another to make the picture more complete in the first place.

In all cases, you really need to set yourself emotion free from the frustration of feeling like an idiot. Deeply reflecting and assessing the situation objectively can alleviate your first outraged reaction when you discover the truth. People have different reasons for deceiving; and if they are good meaning, then work on substituting resentment with empathy and understanding. As hard as it is to be lied to, you need to remember the times you were cornered into lying and had all proper justifications. And don’t forget that sometimes you even deceive yourself just to be happy by denying or ignoring the truth. These are only adaptive defense mechanisms we resort to without conscious attention. When liars deceive, their intentions are good to, at least, themselves. You can only remain alert, empathetic, and self-protecting too. Despite lying being a violation of all ethical and legal principles, we can only tolerate and accept such a – not so pleasing – human condition. Don’t fret about it too much. It’s not easy to live in complete harmony without concealing some truth until one day you’re there.

 

Snap Out Of It: Dissociate. Here Is The “How”


Disappointment, discouragement, hopelessness, helplessness, or sadness are but few of the negative states that can put us in a depressed mood. The reasons vary; and when horrific things happen, negative emotions become paralleled with foggy thinking. We may become imprisoned by a chain of negative thinking until our emotions change to the better. Great…., but how do our feelings change? Would you wait for them to change on their own, or rely on external factors to make it happen? What if that doesn’t take place soon enough? How about you play a more active role instead of waiting? Consider the options you have when you find yourself in a depressed mood. You have at least 3:

  1. Stay in your negative state, beat yourself up with further distressing thoughts, and worsen your mood further.
  2. Kick away those negative feelings directly and bounce back to an opposite state as if nothing happened (more like denying yourself any experience of negative feelings).
  3. Allow yourself to stay there a bit just to process what triggered your bad mood; then, change state and focus on finding solutions.

 

It goes without saying that the nature and the magnitude of the trigger can place you somewhere on that continuum at first; nonetheless, you have a choice to move out, away, or into healthier responding. But which of the above three options do you think is considered “healthier responding”? You deserve to live your life fully, so why restrict yourself to negative states? Hence, the first option is by no means the best choice. One of the beauties of being human is that you have feelings; and to deny yourself getting in touch with your feelings only deprives you of your humanity and gets you in more complicated emotional problems. Hence, denying yourself the variety of emotional experiences is, similarly, unwise. The second option, therefore, is ruled out. This leaves you with option three. Do I hear you say: “Easier said than done!” or “you don’t know what you’re talking about; it’s too difficult to snap out of it”? Let me suggest a tool I often use in therapy and coaching. It’s called “Dissociation”. Many use it intuitively, and it has widespread other uses besides changing states.

 

Sit in a quiet comfortable place in solitary. Start a mental scan of the events that precipitated your bad mood. If you’re unable to identify a specific event for your low mood, just examine how the previous hours went by. You’ll be surprised as to how easily the main cause emerges.

 

Assess: Start processing your feelings (processing here means identifying and labeling your feelings). Delve behind the feelings for reasons; analyze and dissect the situation into its main components. Your thoughts about it will feed into your feeling further down, so just allow yourself, then, to be fully associated with your negative state (i.e. feel, visualize, and hear the external and internal dialogues).

 

Dissociate: When you’re through this examination, physically stand up and face the place you were sitting in. It may seem bizarre the first time, but you’re alone (hopefully) and no one will wonder what in the world you’re doing (keep playing the game of dissociation). Visualize yourself sitting in that seat (make a mental picture of how you were sitting exactly – the other you). Imagine that the one standing, now, is your best friend (i.e. the best friend of the one sitting). Being your best friend now, what would you objectively advise the person in front of you to think feel, and do? Narrate the counter arguments of the situation, draw attention to the bigger picture, list the empowering possibilities, and reignite that person into a better mood.

 

Associate: Bring in several memories of times that you felt totally happy, confident, motivated, or any other positive state. Associate yourself with those good feelings every time by mentally visualizing each of those incidents, seeing all the details, hearing all the sounds, and re-living those feelings that dominated then. Let the picture become brighter, the sounds become louder, and allow those feelings to grow each time. Finally, get back into the body of the person sitting in that place (both mentally and physically). You still carry those positive vibes, so just permit them some time to take over that prior state as if you were receiving the new empowering vibes now.

 

When you do this, you will realize how much our thoughts affect our internal states. It is very easy to give in to negative thinking, but these exacerbate our negative emotions. If you want to snap out of it, just allow yourself some time to process what happened then change your thoughts. Changing your thoughts guarantees a change of state. Now you know how you can do that. Dissociate, but follow that with associating into good memories. Says who you cannot be the nautical wheeler of navigating your own ship of emotions?..….

The Good News of Being Over-Sensitive


Being a sensitive person is what makes us most human and reflects a high degree of intelligence and awareness. Some people, however, are overly sensitive (or hypersensitive) because it’s just one of their personality traits (i.e. they are biologically pre-wired to be so), or because of repeated negative experiences (or a combination of both). This extreme can put the beholder at a disadvantage and it becomes double edged. With more susceptibility to external influences compared to the average person, the hypersensitive feel experiences with an exaggerated negative force. This leads to some bad news and some good news to it.

First, here’s the downside of being hypersensitive?

Hypersensitive people are usually affected by criticism easily. They either may not know how to be assertive, or are fiercely reactive. Many times, they can plunge repeatedly in emotional tailspins. In some instances, over-sensitivity can manifest as paranoia and misunderstanding of others’ intentions as being hurtful or taking advantage. If left uncontrolled, oversensitivity can lead the person to social isolation. On one hand, and to avoid any possible hurt, the person may willingly choose to minimize interactions and even restrict forming new relationships. On the other hand, other people find themselves driven away to avoid tolerating the excessive and repeated displayed emotionality. This isolation can constitute a risk factor for compounding any existing initial anxiety or depression further. It is well known that hypersensitivity usually intensifies during times of stress, depression, and physical illness. So, does this mean that those hypersensitive are doomed to emotional distress? Not necessarily. There’s an upside to being hypersensitive. And if you’re one of those, then here’s the good news in case the above description put you in a panic mode.

Oversensitive people are not as weak as often is assumed. On the contrary: many just allow themselves to feel naturally; hence, are more in touch with their negative emotions (e.g. pain, anger, hurt, etc….). When well directed, this leads them to becoming more psychologically healthy than those who block their emotions. Another advantage of hypersensitive people over others is their high degree of empathy. They are the first to notice other people’s feelings and emotions. This renders them highly likeable, as they are kind, understanding, and least problematic. Furthermore, they are very caring, intuitive, and creative. The constellation of such traits makes them very deep, perceptive, and with a strong urge to be of service to others.

So how can you channel this sensitivity to your advantage?

–       First of all deal with your history (if any) of negative experiences. Talk to a specialist, vent it out, and, above all, truly forgive anyone who has hurt you before. Only then you can start afresh. And if it was your biological make up, then just accept it and make the best use of it. Keep reading.

–       Change your negative self-talk. All the disempowering noise roaming in your mind can have no bases at all. Monitor the way you’re thinking all the time. Exchange your thoughts with more empowering statements about your positive capabilities and strengths. It’s a matter of what you’re focusing on.

–       Be cautious in becoming an emotional sponge in absorbing other peoples’ low moods. Don’t confuse their negative mood with yours. Use your empathetic insight and communication skills to change any perceived negative mood in others.  

–       Learn to be assertive by being emotionally honest (if you’re not usually) with anyone who crosses your boundaries. If you keep swallowing up your frustrations, your sensitivity builds up at other minor incidents. Remove that block between your tongue and your heart in the pleasant manner you’re used to. Overcome that fear of being potentially disliked (you can’t be loved by everyone anyway).

–       Minimize your negative feelings when you sense these are spiraling out of proportion. You have a tendency to over-feel and you’re not bluffing. You’ll handle things better only when you remain in control of your feelings and thoughts.

–       Build your self-confidence. It helps to jot down your good attributes and strengths and resort to this list whenever you receive any criticism or negative feedback. Remarks from others definitely don’t define you. You’re the best judge of that.

–       Resist the urge to dig for what’s not working right. Do instead look for the good things around. And whenever you feel happy, stay there as long as you can. Be over-sensitive in that happy spot and capitalize on these feelings.

Doesn’t this make you feel better now? Just be reminded that over-sensitive people are often accused of being “soft skinned”. They are even labeled as “handle with care” by those closest to them. But those labels do not carry weak connotations at all. At least, and in moderation, as an over-sensitive person you can be other’s best company. You make others feel heard; and you can probably be the only one truly feeling the hurt of others in their dark moments. The above guidelines can turn things around for you when well practiced. Why not consider joining the helping profession and channel this oversensitivity the right way? You’d surely be a wonderful asset and amazingly succeed there. Give it a thought…..

 

The #1 Stress Buster: Deep Breathing


In my last post, I listed the top 10 “Stress Busters” used usually to cope with experienced stress. They can, also, be utilized to prevent stress escalation. To me, the number one “Stress Buster” is the “Deep Breathing” technique. I advocate it, all the time, because it is easy to implement and quick to take effect. Not only do we use it to alleviate stress, we use it to control anger and anxieties when these kick in. It is very effective if used in anticipation of fear-provoking situations (e.g. public speaking, fear of flying, etc…). Deep Breathing is usually used in meditation; and as the first stage to get into trance in hypnosis. There is no doubt about the relaxing effects it has on both body and mind. Fretting, fuming, and impulsive reactions are rendered, simply, impossible.

 To be effective, however, it requires some “know how”; and just a little time to master it. You need to forget the chest breathing you’re used to and be focused on more abdominal breathing. Here is how the process goes:

 1. Sit in a comfortable position and have the intention to relax yourself.

2. Start by taking a very deep slow breath. Inhale through your nose to the count of 4 until your abdomen rises.

 3. Hold that breath inside to the count of 2. Tell yourself: “I’m relaxing. I feel relaxed.”

 4. Exhale through open lips to the count of 8 feeling your abdomen go back to its normal position.

 5. Hold for a count of 4.

 6. Notice your body relaxing.

7. Repeat steps 2 to 6 at least 10 times.

You can do this simple exercise many times during the day, or whenever you face a stressful situation. It works wonders in speedily calming you down. I was suggesting this technique to a client of mine who had to deal with a lot of anxieties. As soon as I was done explaining the process, she protested by telling me: “You mean I have to breathe every time I feel anxious?” I was surprised and told her: “You’re breathing anyway and all the time to just survive. The difference, now, is you’ll be doing it more slowly and consciously….”  🙂

The Top 10 “Stress Busters”!


Stress….. Who hasn’t experienced it?  It’s the underlying fire-engine of much of our anxieties, depressed mood, and many physical ailments. We commonly use the term to imply negative psychological feelings or physical sensations. You’d say: “I am all stressed out!” to mean being off-balance or feeling unable to accommodate or cope well to your life circumstances. And you don’t have to get overwhelmed over one specific incident (e.g. loss of job, or a loved one) to feel the strain. The accumulation of daily stressors exerts its toll on our threshold of tolerance in general. This leads sometimes to “burn-out”. Stressors come in many forms like a hectic workload, difficulty in relationships, traffic jams, or endless multi-tasking of chores, to name a few. They compound to have negative effects on your health and performance with a drip, drip, drip effect that can push the best of us over the edge.

 No wonder we are advised repeatedly to blow off steam and engage in stress reduction activities. There are many ways to release all the stress pent up inside. Here are the top ten “stress busters” I often share with my clients. They’re more like armory techniques that you can use in combination, alternation, or adopt just few favorites. Stop and take stock as many as you can daily or over short time intervals:

  1. Deep breathing: One of the surest ways to decrease excessive physical and mental tension. Have a few minutes of focused attention on breathing slowly and deeply in and out (i.e. how you inhale and exhale). Breathe deeply at least 10 times while affirming to yourself that you are relaxing each time. One very deep breath can specifically help in situations that push you to a screaming-fit reactively. The old adage of counting to 10 as you deeply breathe relaxes you and can save you regrettable spontaneous reactions.
  2. Pray: If you’re the religious type, just pray. Praying is equivalent to drilling your psyche with hope. It shifts your attention to things getting better and away from feeling helpless. You can always decorate your thoughts with faith; it never goes out of fashion. Prayer is another form of positive affirmations that recruits the beyond immediate human power potentials.
  3. Listen to music, sing, & dance: Music is therapy, so it’s been said. Choose the type you like and indulge in listening for some time. In your mind dance your worries away. It really helps if you actually danced in front of the mirror especially if you chose to sing along as loud as you can. You’ll be laughing at how crazy you can get; and that’s far better than others judging you display any uncontrolled burst-outs.
  4. Exercise: Kick it off as a habit well ingrained in your system; and don’t give the often shared excuse that you need some company to do that. You can be the best company there is. You’ll get to resolve many mental issues during an hour of sustained physical activity. Moreover, your body releases the stress hormones necessary for your physical health topped by the “happy mood” neurotransmitters. That one hour could just be your “happiness” alternative medication.
  5. Connect with others: Resort to your social support system. Connect with friends, family, or anyone who is both a positive person and a good listener. It’s been said: “A problem shared is a problem halved”. Be careful not to drive close ones away by whining too much. Hire a life coach, or seek a psychotherapist if you have too much to say. At least they’re paid to support you until you clear things out in your mind.
  6. Manage your time: Much stress can be self-induced because of time mismanagement. Feelings of overwhelm can ensue when you’re in a race against time to have things done. Prioritize what you do. List your activities in terms of urgent and important (or valuable). Time wasted doing trivial things is time taken away from your life, so chose wisely. Work smarter, not harder. And if you write a “to do list”, use a pencil (not a pen) to remain flexible as you re-assess while you’re proceeding on it.
  7. Humor can heal: You know that smiling is good, but laughter is even better. Seek someone (a friend) who makes you laugh. He or she not available????  Get a funny movie and watch it. Want a quicker fix???? Stretch your lips in a wide smile and bite on a pencil for a while. This maneuver sends signals to your brain that you’re happy. Eventually you will be :).
  8. Back to nature: Going out in the sunshine or connecting with nature are enjoyable activities that provide you with energy, fresh air, and a global outlook at the world. It expands your focus to greater things in life. Just what you need to dissociate and look at the bigger picture. 
  9. Accept what you can’t change: you can get aggravated at your inability to change some things or people around you. Accept these, let go, and focus on what you have control over instead. Save your energy to what you can do for yourself and examine your alternatives. Fighting, resisting, and forcing things are energy zapping reactions.
  10. Day dream or plan a holiday: In your mind’s eye, day dream of what seems to be impossible. Guide yourself into a pleasant mental journey elsewhere. Think of the things you’d want to do, have, or be. This distraction can direct your attention on finding solutions instead of ruminating over suffering. It helps if you actually plan a vacation and be serious about its execution. The vacation can be a temporary escape to clear your body and mind, or to reward your self for milestones well accomplished.

The above are strategies to help you combat stressors, but listed on this page will do you no good if you don’t decide whole heartedly to adopt and commit to practicing your choice. There are more stress busters you can resort to, like: owning a pet, taking an aromatherapy bath, playing like a child (or with a child), learning to say “no”, etc…. The list of things that can work out well for you continues, so make sure to get some “ME” time every now and then. We need to keep those stress levels in check before they spiral out of proportion and necessitate more costly rectifications on all levels….

Let’s Make Change Easy: 8 Simple Ways


To effect positive change is not as easy as we’d like to think it is. Most people (as not to say all) think of changing to the better one way or another. We think of changing our life style, overcome bad habits or kick in new ones, acquire new skills, or change the way we think, the way we look, react, or behave. We even consider changing our situations and dream of things to happen, but dreams remain mere fantasies. Many times we rightfully postpone the decision until we resolve some other battles first, but we never cross that bridge. At other times, the need becomes beefier and, finally, a shift to action from complaining takes over. We take the first step towards that bridge.

The impetus to change can be triggered by external or internal forces. External forces can be enticing; pushing us or pulling us to seek change. It could be someone else inspiring (or even threatening), or it could simply be an attractive other situation. The more powerful motivator stems from within. No doubt extreme dissatisfaction (and many times pain) can push us more forcefully towards change. And how many times do we wait to hit bottom before deciding that something should be done?

In all cases, change is not simple despite our highest motivation. It means we have to put in some effort; to give up an easier old pattern of living. Leaving the familiar and changing the status quo could be terrifying; so is stretching beyond our comfort of zone. What we need to keep in mind is that the catalyst of change is a moment of decision followed by commitment to effect that change. The “stretching” further can be facilitated through the following 8 simple steps:

  1. Identify what you want to change in a positive manner (your ultimate goal as opposed to what you don’t want). Make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Timed). Work backwards in creating the baby steps (mini goals) to simplify it and keep track.
  2. In writing, list the benefits and reasons for change. This wraps change in a sense of urgency. You need plenty of arguments to outnumber any resistance in expending the effort. Get clear on the advantages and how your life will be transformed. You need to appeal to your cognitive mind. And when that takes place, it starts to “feel right”. Eventually, it will similarly appeal to your emotions.
  3. Observe a role model who has already gone through the process of change. This enables perceiving that what you aim for is doable not impossible. Model what that person did and save yourself some “trial and error” attempts.
  4. Build on your own achievements. You surely have had a success (most likely many) of some sort in the past. Remember those times. Self-coach and self-motivate as hard as you can (see step 8 if you can’t do it on your own).
  5. Visualize yourself “as if” already having changed (how you behave, look like, the whole situation, etc…). The brain doesn’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s imagined. This is a process of instilling a new pattern and it takes time to replace the old one. Fake it till you make it.
  6. Pay conscious attention to your self-talk; to how you’re behaving or feeling. It’s easy to be guided by that same old autopilot and this is where most of the effort resides. You are now on a new mission.  Keep reminding yourself of your new purpose.
  7. Reward yourself on achievements periodically. We do have a tendency to forget to celebrate. “Little wins” and those baby steps have to be acknowledged. These are great motivators. Capitalize on such positive emotions.
  8. Hire someone who can give you an extra push to make it happen. Yes, pay for the service of a coach or therapist (I’m not advertising my services here J Naaah J ). The idea that you’re investing some money in the change process psychologically makes you feel obliged. You also have multiple other benefits beyond discussion here (a change in perspective, a listener, a cheerleader to name a few)

And once change is implemented in one area, other things appear simpler to control. The process kicks in and the momentum snowballs. Gradually, the sense that you are able to turn things round to your advantage makes you more empowered. Change begets change and life fulfillment is but an escapade. The process continues; it’s not another blue- print. You may also need to consider maintaining the change by surmounting the inevitable obstacles you face. These need to be considered mere challenges that are part of your dynamic journey towards change. To those who didn’t know these steps, of course change wouldn’t seem easy. But now you know. Let’s make it easy….

When You Can’t “Undo” It, “Re-do” it!


Wouldn’t it be great if we had the ability to press “undo” for some past events we don’t fully approve of just as we do on a “word document”? Unfortunately, in real life, the potential for unhappy life experiences is loaded; and we are not equipped with a similar opportunity when things go wrong. We often say things we regret. We find ourselves in embarrassing or painful situations. We even acquire many fears and phobias following just one ill-fated accident. And then, we beat ourselves up repeatedly with the memory until the negative feelings compound and restrict our ability to move forward. We get cornered in between self created confining walls and feel stuck because we carry a heavy baggage of all sorts of guilt, shame, or fear that keep one in place. So, then what do we do?

Well…. Maybe you cannot totally “undo” a previous incident, but there is a smart way to go about it if you have exhausted all other resources to rectify. You can learn your lesson, forgive yourself, minimize the importance of the whole event, and water down the intensity of any corresponding negative feelings. Time can surely heal, but things may drag. It’s more empowering to speed up the process, assume control and lift up your own spirits. Here is one sure way derived from NLP techniques to help you “re-do” what can’t be undone. It makes use of humor and visual minimization. We all know that humor can be a good coping mechanism to deal with difficulty. And we unknowingly and un-deliberately use both minimization and humor to deal with many tough realities. The following exercise combines both in a much more concentrated effort when the need arises.

Imagine yourself sitting all alone in a cinema holding in your hand a remote control that starts a movie on a big screen in front of you. You can control when the movie starts, stops, and play some scenes forward or backward. You can similarly control the sound, color, how fast the scenes go, and even the size of the image. This cinema is the “change workplace”. As you sit there, start playing the episode of that phobic or distressing situation. Watch it all happen slowly. You may experience some discomfort, but that’s Okay. Let it wash over you for the last time. If the anguish is too intense (in cases of phobias), stop the scene, rewind and play it again until you’re able to watch it all through. Tell yourself: “I need to face this for the last time”. When you succeed, stop and re-play the scene backward to the start. Watch it all in reverse (you or others talking or walking backward, etc…).

Next, run the movie from start really fast this time up to the critical moment (taking only a second or two); then run it backward as fast again. Do it a couple of times (i.e. fast forward and backward). The final stage is that of intervention and “re-doing”. Play the scene forward shrinking the image in size till it becomes the size of a postage stamp towards the end. Do this a second time playing forward adding some humor. You can insert the sound of some circus music in the scene and/or make the voices of you or others talking really funny. Add the voices of other spectators laughing as if watching a comedy sitcom while clowns jump around in funny maneuvers. Shrink the scene again as you play it forward. Repeat the same process playing it backward then forward as fast as you can until you feel that your worries greatly diminished and faded away.

When you think about the situation now, you won’t find it as disturbing or fearful as it was earlier. And if there are still any major residues, smooth it over by playing around that movie some more each time adding funny things and fading the colors and the size of the scene. The shift in your new experienced feelings will simply be magical. “Redoing” the episode this way will make you feel lighter and alters your state from that of bemoaning to owning a change in course. Why not save your time, attention, and energy to focus away from that experience and build new positive bridges. Whatever you nurture grows much bigger in size just as a shadow is of any respective object. And you need to accept that some “stains” are difficult to “undo”, and it is much easier to throw a garment than to dispose of our self-image. And unless you decide to let go, and actively shrink that memory, you will remain disempowered and stagnate. Active self-healing may be necessary to speed up the process of discounting the perils of a gloomy past episode, so better not rely only on time to do the work.

 

Contain Your Anger (for a while)


Life can throw us in the gutter sometimes when we least deserve it. It makes us prone to lose our temper specifically when we face injustice, shocking news, spitefulness, grave disappointments, or acts of malice by others. We may differ in reacting to such predicaments. Some of us just shake our heads in disbelief and turn our negative emotions inward; some others display their anger openly demanding corrective action on the spot. It might be helpful sometimes to dramatize our reaction to an extent. This is how we set your boundaries so others wouldn’t cross them (e.g. reacting directly to an insult in a mild way). At other times, there’s more to gain than to lose if we suppressed our anger for a while before reacting. I am not suggesting we bottle up our anger (a lot of harm can ensue in doing that). Just contain it a little and channel it properly.

Usually, our first spontaneous reaction in fury is most regrettable. Our problem may compound exponentially. This is because we have a clouded vision and blurry reasoning. The “count to ten” before reacting rule is set specifically for such reasons. You may be tempted to say “hell! I can’t help it. I don’t want to suppress the anger! It would seep in other covert ways!” But consider the alternative. If your anger was towards a person, you can lose the battle if you give your anger free reign especially if that other person has more power over you (e.g. an authority figure like your boss or your parent). The prospects of unpleasant consequences can be inevitable. You can boil inside, but it’s best to control yourself and consider how to best respond. Give your opponent a blank stare with a mild expression of your in-appreciation of what’s going on, ask to discuss the situation at another time (come up with an excuse for why not now), and then off you go to a place where you can unleash your anger as you give the situation some thoughtful consideration.

In your quiet place, start off by dissecting the conditions. You need to carefully plan, carefully phrase what you will say next, and carefully reflect on your options. Ask yourself: “what advice can I give my best friend if s/he were in a similar situation?” As you do, you may find that you are still fuming in anger and need to discharge it somehow. You’ve probably heard of venting out pent up anger through sports, screaming in a remote place, or simply engaging in a relaxation technique. Here’s yet another tool you can use if you want to be in more control of your situation and win over whoever made you angry.

Still, in your quiet place, take deep breaths and engage in mental combat with your rival. Imagine that you are in a boxing ring punching your adversary in the face. Clench your fists and move them with each blow as you live the fight in your mind’s eye. Keep breathing forcefully in and out. Beat your rival repeatedly in the face while s/he becomes too weak to fight back. Tell yourself “The more I hit, the more I take my revenge; and the more I discharge my anger”. There ….. you get more and more relaxed as your opponent finally totter and crumple to the ground. You feel all too exhausted from this anger display and release. Down your opponent goes, but up goes your sense of victory. Tell yourself: “I win! I win you #@#*! And I am very satisfied and relaxed now” Relive the moments of triumph. Change scene and contemplate further solutions to handling your situation. You’ll find plenty now that you are more empowered. Repeat the punching and winning with every option you consider. This will further release any residue frustration.

Some final tips: In considering the scenario of your confrontation, you need to have a bird’s eye view of the whole picture. Now that you got your revenge, attempt to see the situation from your opponent’s perspective, attack the problem not the person, talk about how “you feel” and what it means to you, address multiple solutions, and find middle grounds of agreement (i.e. negotiate to make it a win-win situation). Careful planning of how you handle the situation can make all the difference. Just like you won that imaginary boxing fight in that ring, you can win gracefully in reality. You have equipped yourself with a clearer vision. You would have contained your anger for a while, found a healthier way to vent it out, and planned well your battle. And it’s not whether you can contain your anger or not. It’s whether you want to. And you’d want to remain in control until you mobilize your inner resources, right? You need to turn things round for your own benefit, don’t you?

 

How Can NLP Improve Your Life?


      Many still don’t know what Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is, or for what purposes it is used. NLP is a very broad field and tends to be linked to many concepts and various settings. Despite the numerous long definitions, I like to think of it as a “pool of tools” to bring more life fulfillment. NLP stipulates that our habitual patterns (mental or behavioral) are highly linked to our neurology; hence, create our habits and programmed responses. Its techniques instill new neurological patterns to replace unhelpful thought or behavioral process; thus, reprogram “the willing to change person” to be more empowered and efficient. It, also, relies heavily on the use of language and this is when it becomes all too therapeutic. Language can trigger a shift in thinking; hence, behavioral change. The proper use of language, also, facilitates more effective communication with people we want to have a positive influence on.

      As an NLP practitioner, how can I possibly help you implement positive changes? And in which life areas can we apply NLP techniques? The use of NLP spreads to effectively dealing with dissatisfaction in many areas of day to day living. The procedures work only if one is really motivated to make the changes and expends the proper and required effort. Most techniques involve visualization giving this free reign at times, and controlling it at others. The following are only a few examples targeting specific areas of concern you may encounter:

–       Like to dislike: Change something you like or desire to something you don’t like (or vice versa). For instance, you have the continuous urge to eating chocolate, but you know it negatively affects your health (e.g. being over-weight or having high cholesterol levels). Broccoli is one vegetable that is very healthy, but many dislike it. Both patterns can be changed in few minutes through a simple exercise of visualization.

–       Change a limiting belief: If you have a limiting belief (e.g. I’m not good enough) that cripples your actions or decision making abilities, a similar exercise can be undertaken. A more empowering belief can be substituted in no time. The technique can help you deal with issues of low self-esteem, hesitation, lack of control, etc….

–       Eliminate contextualized habits through the swish pattern: create a substitute action for a habit you want to get rid of (e.g. nail biting, grabbing a chocolate bar after dinner,….). Only habits that are relevant to specific contexts can be eliminated through the swish pattern, not more general ones (e.g. smoking may require a different tool). It also makes use of visualization and an alternative action needs to be well thought of.

–       Putting yourself in a resourceful state: This could be used for particular situations when someone needs to feel more empowered, relaxed, happy, or confident – to name a few (e.g. presenting to a large audience). We work on creating an anchor (e.g. an action like pressing your own knuckle) that fires up the desired state when needed.

–       Dealing with major negative emotional events: Past traumas and acquired phobias can be overcome through Time Line Therapy. It’s based on the idea that people have a Time Line in which life events (past and future) are organized. You are taken on an amazing mental trip during which memories just pop out there while you’re in a conscious state. Distressing memories are dealt with through letting go of the relevant emotional baggage, reflecting on the lessons learned, and detaching from the distressing event(s). Time Line Therapy can also be used to remove distressing memories all together, change memories, or even create future memories.

–       Conflicting parts integration: It’s used whenever you have a conflict towards a specific issue. It could be inconsistencies in emotions towards something/someone, or a conflict in making a decision. The process is based on the idea that we have different parts within us and they all serve our best interest in becoming whole. This technique reduces the conflict among two opposing parts, integrates them into one, and a new state of “ease” is created.

      NLP is used in psychotherapy and life coaching. These two areas capitalize on the proper use of language (with self and others) and use many techniques to help people overcome obstacles and limitations. Mastery in effective communication extends, also, to better outcomes in interrelationships and even the business setting. Hypnotherapy is another area that extensively utilizes NLP. Hypnosis deals with problematic behavior (i.e. phobias, anxieties, smoking cessation, insomnia, etc…) or to change negative mental patterns (i.e. low self-esteem, concentration, procrastination, etc….). It branches out as a leading “change” tool and relies heavily on the use of language that is most comprehensive to the unconscious mind.

       Any certified NLP Practitioner can guide you through the processes of positive change. The practitioner acts as a facilitator of reprogramming the mind and behavior; the motivation to change and the effort rely on you. If you follow the steps proposed by the practitioner wholeheartedly, you will enjoy the transformation. The techniques are said to work like magic because they take very little time and the results are amazing. And best of all, it doesn’t have to be called therapy (if that makes you a bit reluctant). You won’t be labeled a patient. I’d like to think of it as “empowerment” to move forward. So go on, have a taste of NLP. You do want to improve your life in more than one area, don’t you?

I Have Grown Antennae: Trusting That Gut Feeling


It’s weird, but lately I did observe my antennae growing. They are not visible to any eye (not even mine), but I can feel them. You have these too; only they do not resemble what you might first picture. I am referring here to those “gut feelings” or “implicit knowledge” about things that bubble up inside us. Many times we just don’t trust these and, instead, choose to disregard. We start giving reasons, analyzing logically, and sometimes hoping that things will be what we expect, or want. Our judgments rely so much on the apparent and we get so engrossed with conscious scrutiny that we block the “little voice” inside our head saying “Hey…wait….!!!”Happens all the time, doesn’t it? Well…. I am learning to listen to that “little voice” and give it the consideration it deserves.

 To demonstrate: Recall a time when you were having a conversation with someone and then you split, and went in different directions. You may then find yourself in a bad mood (or a good mood). What happens here is that if you think hard about it you can’t pinpoint the real reasons for the mood change. You just have a bad/good feeling about the whole meeting with that person. Actually your antennae picked up how that conversation went; and it’s all stored there at the back of your mind (your unconscious mind). It knows the reasons. It could be one remark or other subtleties in behavior, posture, facial expressions, or tone of voice. You just didn’t pay attention, but that radar in you did detect it. That is why it precipitated into having that bad/good feeling.

 Take another example: you’re facing a quandary and need to make a decision. You contemplate the facts to the nth degree, mill about it, exhaust the statistics, and list down the cons and pros of the whole situation. Okay done, I’ll do “this”, you reason. But when you do decide, you find that something inside you isn’t quite approving. Despite the well-formulated assessment, that “little voice” says take “that” other option. This happens because your antennae know more than you consciously are aware of. You did miss some important information to base your decision on, but that gut feeling knows better.

 And… another example: you know someone – a friend let’s say (could be a potential lover). You spend good times together and enjoy yourselves to the max. You bond and your chemistries combine into a fine relationship. Your new friend may appear very loving telling you things you’re thirsty to hear. Still sometimes you sense things in your friend’s behavior that contradict what s/he declares openly. Something makes you feel disgruntled, but you can’t pin point why. You deny and refuse to believe your analyses because you’d want to maintain good faith in how your relationship is going. You resist that “gut feeling” despite knowing it has the big picture. You don’t want to lose your new friend. And then your friend clearly messes things up and this is when you say “I knew it all along, but I just ignored it at the time”; and then you start whipping yourself.

 I am sure you can think of many more examples. Sometimes we look too closely at things when all we need to do is just “feel”. It’s been repeatedly documented that our attention is very limited and we cannot pick up consciously on all the sensory information we’re bombarded with. We notice only a few, but the rest is perceived by those antennae (at the back of our mind). All the surplus information that we cannot register is kept there in store. That information builds up inside and create that “gut feeling” in your stomach, the unease, or the “having a good feeling about it” phenomena you always experience. So learn to grow your antennae further and resist sliding into oblivion. Trust and embrace that “little voice” when you hear it. It has more information than you can think of…..

  

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