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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….

The Power of Positive Expectations: Questioned!


I am a big fan of positive expectations being a healthy powerful mindset that helps us plan and achieve so many aspirations. Many leaders, theorists, and researchers advocate and assert the idea (e.g. Churchill, Spalding, Goethe and Rosenthal to name a few). There is even a rule about it (The law of expectations) that dictates that whatever we expect, be it positive or negative, becomes a reality. If we are totally confident and believe whole-heartedly that things will happen, they will. To us, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy; and with other people, it’s like drawing them directly or indirectly (through our language, voice, or even body language) to behave in a way to confirm our expectations. The “law of expectations” compliments the “law of attraction” which advocates that we attract what we constantly think about. Together, the two laws ensure that both our minds and the universe conspire to serve our deepest wishes. Our beliefs, assumptions, presuppositions, suggestions, elicited multiple cues, and cosmic energy all work together to have an impact on the course of whatever happens.

Very appealing laws for someone with a positive psychology orientation like mine. I do believe the law of positive expectations works and even preach about it all the time with my students and clients alike. The counter argument was always: “what if we expect something good to happen, but it doesn’t” (Like not scoring well on an exam, or not getting that dream job one had hoped for?) My reply was too often the same: setting high expectations makes one work harder and if things don’t work out as well as we wished, the outcomes may have been worse. It’s just feedback that we need to change the strategy we adopted the first time and keep trying harder. That second trial can make all the difference. I constantly had faith that things will inevitably change to the better if we kept our positive expectations. I am having second thoughts now. Seriously, what if these repeatedly don’t….

I’m revisiting the power of positive expectations lately due to experiencing a series of unmet expectations. Could it be that I was not confident enough that the expected would happen? That’s possible. After all, I couldn’t ignore my internal sensors. It felt like it is one disappointment after another; and everybody knows that repeated disappointment exerts a heavy toll on our feelings. It can knock us down so hard that we lose faith in ourselves or others – even for a short while. I am having my moments of doubt now. It is easy to talk myself out of it when matters rotate around myself. We can always do that: capitalize on our strengths and remember our successes. It becomes much more difficult if things involve maintaining faith in other people. We can never have control over the unpredictability of others’ responses. So many times we expect others to treat us in a good way, help us when we ask, and rely on them to carry out their promises. And then it’s an “epic fail”….. The law of positive expectations doesn’t always hold.

 How can we maintain a positive attitude when reality tells us otherwise? This is when a healthy dose of skepticism may be a good idea. Let me get clearer about the concept of “expectations” and redefine that “law” in general and in more specific terms just a bit further. I am seeking a buffer for future disappointments.

  1. Set realistic expectations: Extremely high expectations can lead to graver disappointments; and these are harder to deal with. One way we learn is through experience; and one intense event that stirs us up emotionally can suffice to hold us back for a long time. Get a reality check of probable outcomes every time. You can’t expect sincerely to fly like a bird, can you? That’s biologically impossible. You may think of an alternative that takes you high up in the sky akin to that flying bird.  
  2. Be clear that expectations don’t have to mirror reality later: We can get very close to what we expect, but it doesn’t always have to measure exactly to what we envisioned. Expectations work like a framework or general guidelines that clarify our destination. Be open to accepting “less than a perfect” match. It could be your dream house, soul-mate, or child for example.
  3. Have no expectations when it comes to others: Alexander Pope said it beautifully: “Blessed is he who expects nothing as he shall never be disappointed”. I wouldn’t want to generalize his statement to all sorts of expectations. It would be like depriving ourselves of fuel to strive and achieve. But since we can’t control others, nor their circumstances or whims, we’re better off lowering just that threshold to its minimum. I find this dictum only applicable to our relationship with others. Low or no expectations of what others can do to you is the best strategy. They are all fighting their own battles. Rely on yourself. You can still, however, impact them directly or indirectly in their being masters in their own territories. That’s when the law would still hold.
  4. Spread your focus and diversify: We sometimes confine ourselves to one primary source to get life-satisfaction; hence, have the same one expectation (e.g. expecting a higher pay-check). We may, also, rely so heavily on one source to get things done (e.g. expecting that exercise alone will help you reduce your weight). Both don’t work. The common adage is true: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. This way if one thing doesn’t work, there’s still probability in other things meeting your expectations. Who in his/her sane mind would want to build walls of confinement around “more”? That’s very limiting.
  5. Reframe any disappointed expectation: Ultimate expectations will be served. Let’s remember that. The baby steps to be there can be thwarted for a variety of reasons. Examine alternative explanations or justifications for why a prospect failed (e.g. there may be many hidden reasons that you don’t know). Shift your focus, then, to the brighter side of unmet expectations. Dig it out (e.g. what doesn’t break me makes me stronger; or everything happens for a reason; here’s my chance to exercise my persistence; something like that).
  6. Consider unmet expectations as chances to grow: It’s fascinating to aspire high. It keeps us going. Still, more emphasis ought to rotate around the learning experience and enjoying the ride as you wade your way through (e.g. we really get tempted by quick results when it is the trials that keep us mostly healthy). Furthermore, many times, it is small consecutive disappointments that lead us to much bigger results. Unmet expectations can be used as a catalyst for change, or a shift in direction. Find out where you can go next.
  7. Keep a bird’s eye view: Every now and then, take your distance and dissociate. We have the tendency to become too myopic when we get excessively involved. Reconsider, re-examine, and re-asses your expectations. Things evolve and change as you go about inventing your life. Keep alert to pointers down on earth. Change your expectations if need be. Opportunities may come in disguise. Fish these out.

 

The power of positive expectations? ….hmmmm…. How many times do you actually equip yourself with, but get disappointed. That’s why you hear so many arguing that you’re better off lowering your expectations (and save yourself the frustration). By no means am I totally debunking the law herein; rather, just fine-tuning it a bit. I find it somewhat unrealistic to completely accept that our expectations will be met at all times. Setbacks and disappointments are to be expected along the way as well. To view life in rosy glasses is certainly a desirable empowering attitude that serves us well many times. To overstretch it and claim that things will turn out as we please always is a bit over-rated, don’t you think? The above were a few laws for the “Law of expectations” 🙂  I am sure you can think of more….

 PS. I expect only a few to read this post upon publishing it (no more than 5 readers) and I guess this will be what I get. Please leave a comment if you’ve read so far. I’m putting that law of expectations to the test now 🙂

An Interview with Maya Angelou


In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older. And, there on television, she said it was ‘exciting…’
‘I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.’

Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every day…..like her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first.

The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words!

Maya Angelou said this:

‘I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.’

‘I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.’

‘I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a life.’

‘I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.’

‘I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back…’

‘I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision..’

‘I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one..’

‘I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back…’

‘I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn..’

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Powerfull!!! Really makes you think…..

  

  

 

Categories: Growth, Life in general Tags:

Life Lessons I’ve learned…


I received a very inspiring email whose original author is unknown, but I believe it’s a compilation of statements reflecting some life lessons from multiple sources. They are words of wisdom and resonate so much with what I have learned over the years. I am sharing these here in to save others some time in learning things “the hard way”…. :

 

I’ve learned that in college, we learn lessons and then sit for exams. In life, we sit for exams then learn the lessons.

I’ve learned that a short conversation or dialogue with a wise person is equivalent to a whole month of education.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter where you are now. What’s more important is where you’re going.

I’ve learned that it’s better to be considered a turtle heading in the right direction than a deer galloping in the wrong path.

I’ve learned that the key to failure is the attempt to please every person one knows.

I’ve learned that it’s better to regret doing certain things than live in regret for not doing others.

I’ve learned that people forget how fast you accomplished your work, but will always remember the quality of what you do.

I’ve learned that a good height-hiker focuses on the destination and doesn’t look down at the distracting threats.

I’ve learned that some people swim towards the ship while others waste their time waiting for the ship to come near.

I’ve learned that it’s not over when one is defeated. It’s only over when one withdraws.

I’ve learned that the one who wins in the end is the one who has the ability to tolerate and endure.

I’ve learned that when you laugh, the world laughs back; and when you cry, you cry alone.

I’ve learned that there’s a difference between retreating and running away.

I’ve learned that it is the fruitful tree that people usually attack.

I’ve learned that the best feeling you can ever have is the sense of having done the right thing even if the whole world turned against you.

I’ve learned that all life’s great achievements started out as mere ideas with very modest beginnings.  

I’ve learned that a smile doesn’t cost anything, but the meaning it carries is priceless.

 

 

Categories: Life in general Tags:

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?

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