Do you surround yourself with “drains” or “radiators”? Positive people who give you energy or negative people who bring you down? Here’s why it’s time to do a “friend inventory”.
The Framingham Heart Study wasn’t set up specifically to study emotions. But with over 5000 inhabitants of Framingham, Massachusetts signed up for the on-going study, scientists have been amassing a wealth of continuous social and medical data since 1948.
It came up with fascinating findings in 2010 that suggest emotions are as infectious as diseases, and (more importantly) that sadness is more infectious than happiness.
They found that having a happy friend increased an individual’s chances of personal happiness by 11 percent, while just one sad friend was needed to double an individual’s chance of becoming unhappy.
Have you ever missed your train, your stop, your appointment? Do you find time passes and you don’t know where it went? Are you spacing out?
Where and when did you learn to do that?
By the sheer nature of the fact that as children we spend a lot of time being told what to do – and when and how – we have internalised that ‘parent’ part that even today may nag, criticise or even bully us to do certain things. But it also may be that as a child you were left to your own devices for hours on end with very few boundaries or guidelines. In that case, your parent part might be vacant or spaced out with little input.
To know and understand your parent part you will need to spend some time remembering analysing and recalling your early messages. I explore this in more depth in my book, I Just Want To be Happy.
Zoning out can be a way of coping
Your inner child part is very much determined by your parent part. For example, if you were nagged, told off a lot or – worse – bullied or abused, how did you deal with that? One way that children ‘cope’ is to dissociate, disappear, take off and ‘space out’. I remember doing this as a child in a maths lesson, I was bored and disinterested and spent most of my time in the clouds floating about. Needless to say this in turn got me into more trouble!
So what is spacing out? Clients have often described it as that lovely timeless feeling: you’re there but not there. You have that sensation of drifting in thoughts, like bubbles, smoke, or like feathers or leaves floating away.
But now it’s time to zone back in
Now this is all very nice and perhaps a great way for us to cope as children, but is it useful as an adult? Probably not. When yet another day has passed and you haven’t delivered the goods, met the deadline, painted the bedroom. When you’ve missed the stop for the fourth time this week, or been late to pick the kids up. Well, it’s just not serving you any longer is it.
It’s a bit like an out-of-date program left running on a computer: it’s just taking up unnecessary space that could be used for something better.
So how do you stop spacing out?
Grounding. Grounding. Grounding. Stop taking off and get back into your body. Feel the sensation of your feet in your shoes. If possible be barefooted so you can really “earth”. Instead of getting out of your head, get into your body. You won’t become enlightened if you’re not embodied!
Then start the reprogramming.
The inner dialogue could go something like this, “I am X years old. I can do this!” Be conscious and awake. It will help if you address your inner child directly, giving them some attention by saying something simple like, “I’m just off to a meeting and I don’t need you to come along. Why don’t you stay at home playing and I’ll go off and do the grown up things and see you later.”
It may sound twee (and a bit odd!), but don’t take my word for it – try it yourself. I know it works! You can also address the inner parent by saying to that part, “You know what? Thank you for all the nagging, but STOP IT NOW! I’m X years old and adult and I don’t need your incessant rules. I can do this, so GO AWAY!”
Richard Bandler, originator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) would say tell that part to “Shut the f*@$ up!”. And it works – that nagging, parental part of you or that childish part of you will quieten down for a while.
We have to expose these parts and make this conscious. You’ll have plenty of time to practise since these parts pipe up time after time.
What’s the definition of stupidity? Doing the same thing over and over thinking we’ll get a different result. Yet how often do we do this?
If something happens once, well there you go, when it happens twice it could be a co-incidence, but when it happens three times? That’s a pattern. So you might want to change something. Just tweaking it a bit may well give you a more pleasing outcome. A scientist wouldn’t dream of repeating an ineffective process over and over, just to see if it works the 20th time around!
If what you’re doing isn’t working, do anything else at all!
It never ceases to amaze me how people do the same thing over and over in relationships – whether they are new dates, or long term relationships. It’s like running the same route in a maze over and over, hoping the outcome will be different. The same is true of any area of life – work, play and study.
So here’s our challenge
What one thing could you do differently today – right here now – that would make a positive shift in the way you relate to your partner, (child, mother, sister, brother, or whoever)?
We want you to try something really simple to interrupt the pattern. For example, you could change the tone of your voice when you’re next asking them for something. If he always walks the dog, you do it. If you always meet in the same bar or restaurant, change the venue. If one of you always pays, let the other one do it. Try approaching your next interaction with that person from a position of wondering what you can do for them rather than what they can do for you.
Just tweak something – do it differently. Change is liberating.
Give it a go and then leave me a comment to let me know how you get on! I’d be really interested to hear the results. Did anything change?
Don’t you just hate it when people let you down? When they’re flaky and don’t do what they say they will do? Don’t let that be your reputation!
Integrity is a key factor in helping you get the self-confidence you need to achieve what you want.
You may not be the best in your field (yet) or the most creative, but if people get to know that when you say you will do something or be somewhere, you honour it. This enhances your reputation. It makes you feel good and the people you work with feel good, because they come to learn that they can trust you: you are dependable and reliable.
OK take a moment now, sit down and close your eyes. Just imagine for a moment that you have a deadline you’re struggling to meet. Now imagine that you lack the will power, faith and self-discipline to hit that deadline.
That’s right, you missed the window.
Doesn’t feel good, does it.
Now close your eyes again and take yourself out into the future to that ‘post deadline’ time. Yes, you’re celebrating! Even if it’s only in a minor way: you’re languishing in the bath, or out doing something nice. Maybe you’re just sitting reading a book and relaxing, enjoying the fruits of your labour. What does the scene look like – knowing you hit that deadline? How great does it feel?
So, Carrot or Stick?
So which one made you feel more motivated? The fear of failure or the promise of success? Be honest with yourself. Pick the one that felt more motivating and work on it.
Motivated by the Stick?
What does it feel like to know that you failed? Literally – be aware of the physical sensations in your body as you imagine this failure. Does it feel heavy, or tight and restricting? What’s happening with your breathing? What does it look like? I imagine it’s quite dark – a gloomy, dull lifeless picture. What does it sound like? Is someone yelling at you? Is it you yelling at you? What are the consequences? How does it affect you financially. What is the cost to your self-esteem? Your future prospects?
Motivated by the Carrot?
Now look again at those images of you celebrating – are they bright, light and buoyant? Brighten them up even more make them bigger and bolder. What do you hear when you have hit the deadline? Is there external praise? Can you hear yourself saying ‘well done now you can do X!’ Maybe you can even hear applause! Perhaps you can breathe more easily and more deeply because you can relax now. You’ve done it!
Choose Your Driver and Get Motivated
Now you know what motivates you, you can keep working on those mental exercises that will keep driving you forward. Combined with a clear understanding of your goals, time management skills and a bit of work on making sure your “inner adult” is in charge, you’ll find getting things done a lot easier.