My colleague and friend Dene Witten-baker is an expert addictions counsellor, who spends much of her time making people aware of their boundaries. One of her favourite expressions is “What’s mine and what’s somebody else’s” In other words are you minding your business or busying yourself with someone else’s?
Where do I stop and you begin, might be a question worthy of pondering.
How many times during a day do you get busy with something that is really none of your business?
Getting busy with others can be a way of avoiding looking at our own ‘stuff’. It saves us having to examine our own conflicts with self and others, it’s also a way of ‘projecting’ our less than perfect aspects out onto others.
In preparation for a talk I’m giving in the Autumn at Breeze yoga I’ve been revisiting the wisdom of my favourite ancient sage, Patanjali, who laid down a series of guidelines for one to live one’s life by. A set of precepts, that, if we could adhere to, would mean we would be living in a pretty cool society because we would be respectful and honest in our communications with others at all times.
One of Patanjali’s top tips is Satya, which roughly translated means, truth. Where possible, if we can stick to what we know to be the truth, we might feel more peace in our hearts and minds. So this rules out rumours, lies, deceit and exaggerations, because they HURT others.
I think if you asked most people, honestly, if they wanted to hurt anyone else the answer would be a resounding ‘NO’!
Many years ago Petra came to see me to learn to ‘cope’ with her fear of flying and panic attacks. When I asked why now, she told me she’d recently been on a plane journey back to England where she thought she was dying!
So certain were cabin crew that she’d suffered a heart attack, that an ambulance was waiting at the airport to take her to hospital.
Petra told me she was discharged later that day and the Dr’s were extremely angry that it was just a panic attack and not a heart-attack! They felt their time had been wasted. She said she felt embarrassed and knew that it was time to do something about the anxiety that had been steadily getting worse.
That’s an example of how powerful anxiety can be. Anyone can suffer from anxiety for all kinds of reasons and at any stage of life.
In my experience there is no, oneunderlying reason and therefore no, one specific cure that fits all.
What I will say with total confidence is that panic and anxiety tend to be feelings, emotions, rather than thoughts and those feelings invariably live in the body not the mind.
Talking therapies are great for helping people to understand why they feel the way they do, but more often than not, the feelings remain to be ‘managed’ or ‘coped’ with.
It is my belief and professional experience that you do not have to live with such feelings. Feeling panic and anxiety is not a ‘natural’ way to be.
In treatment Petra discovered the root of her flying anxiety, stemmed from a childhood experience. Caught up on the top of a ‘Big Wheel’ at the funfair, her older brother thought it was great fun to rock the chair, which terrified 5 year old Petra, who thought she was going to die!
Obviously they got off of the ride and time moved on…
Thirty years later Petra, sitting in my therapy room, had consciously forgotten this one-off memory, her body hadn’t though. The paralysing fear was stored in some of the systems in her body: her nervous system, digestive, cardio-vascular and respiratory systems had registered these feelings. This somatic memory was also in Petra’s organ body, her heart, lungs and stomach had recorded the emotional memory. Much like a scratched record that keeps jumping and replaying the same bit over and over, Petra’s body was effectively doing the same at an emotional level.
On the flight home, her inner child was terrified. Her ‘tummy’ in fight or flight mode was clenched and she was holding her breath.
Allowing 5 year old Petra to release the pent up emotions of fear, anger and tears via her Adult-self left her free from anxiety, free of her past and free to travel by plane anywhere in the world! Oh and boy did she! I received post cards from her flying in a single engine aircraft, a helicopter and over Niagara Falls!
Emotions work in conjunction with thought patterns.
Whilst we grow up intellectually and chronologically, we do notgrow up emotionally. Emotions from something that happened 2 weeks ago or 20 years ago can stand still in time (in the back of the mind) and be correspondingly logged in a physiological holding pattern within the body.
The short cut is to change the way you feel, when you release the negative feelings from old memories, very quickly the negative thoughts that belonged to that memory, become redundant, because they have no purpose.
So there you are, you know what needs to be done to free up more energy in the here and now!
Following on from the theme of Parent Adult Child in last week’s blog, you might consider the above question and wonder, ‘where does your anger come from’?
I’m not talking about the every day irritability that people might feel with the small things in life, more the red mist, and uncontrollable rage that so many people report in therapy rooms across the globe.
When you go from zero to a hundred in a split second, or snap without warning at your child, where are you coming from?
Is it your parent part or your child part, or maybe both!
As I’ve stated before, these parts are like automatons. They hold the codes –theearly messages from your childhood – in your mind and more importantly your body.
In my experience people feel anger and then react to that feeling. As a loose guideline, your inner child may hold the feelings in the stomach, chest, throat, jaw and fists. The feelings generate thought patterns and thoughts generate behaviours.
It goes without saying that this doesn’t apply to every one and depends very much on your own personal history and upbringing. Explore your own programing to determine where the messages in the back of your mind come from.
I’m not suggesting that the ‘adult’ doesn’t get a little angry from time to time, but we might like to think that the ‘adult’ is the part of us that feels in control, balanced, relaxed, calm and confident – this is way that most clients say they want to feel.
As I said in the last blog, if the programs of the parent and child are pretty much set in stone, then the adult is the only place where we can set goals and make changes. That’s because your subconscious mind is willing to store all information regardless of whether it’s true or false.
If our aspiration is to be relaxed, confident and in control then our adult will learn to be assertive, because that assertiveness is that balance between passive and aggressive.
It is less likely that the ‘adult’ part has uncontrollable out-bursts, a seething rage, or smouldering, inverted anger. These little joys are more likely to belong to our inner child or the parent part and often this anger can be attributed to both child and parent.
By way of example, picture the scene. Sophia has not learned assertive skills so instead of communicating well with her husband Bob, she keeps it all bottled up inside. She often shoots dirty looks at Bob and stamps about banging doors and sighing loudly. All the while their daughter Sally, witnesses this non-verbal communication.
Bob also lacking assertive skills picks finally snaps and explodes in rage that is terrifying for all.
This becomes the map for Sally to follow, she begins to sigh loudly, to bang and thump around, she may shoot filthy looks at her mother when she can’t get her own way.
Sally will also draw on her father’s map and may react passively around her parents’ anger, fearfully withdrawn until finally exploding in a tantrum.
Later as an adult this is the baggage Sally eventually unpacks in her own relationships. That’s just her half! His map bringing his own baggage will guide her partner.
Naturally there are many variations on this scene.
Wherever you’re coming from maybe it’s time to bring more peace into your world by developing your adult part learning some assertive skills to improve your communication within yourself and with others.
Is your inner parent part too strict and demanding? Then it might be time to ‘big up’ your adult part!
Transactional Analysis is a model of psychotherapy loosely based around the idea that we have three parts within the psyche, Parent, Adult and Child.
For the purpose of this blog, we’re not going to look at all the wonderful aspects of the parent and child parts, just the negatives (‘cos if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it).
Because the long-term memory hasn’t fully formed in childhood, we need constant training and reminding to clean our teeth, remember our football kit, pick up our clothes from the bedroom floor etc. This means that our inner parent recordings might translate as a nagging and demanding part of us that has expectations, or criticises our efforts.
This can have varying effects on the inner child that in response, may rebel, sulk, whine, or even give up trying altogether.
Obviously you need to examine your own upbringing to determine what sort of messages are running in the background of your mind.
If you have an inner dialogue that goes something like this….
“You’ll never amount to anything” (parent) “ Why bother, I may as well not even try, and whatever I do is never good enough anyway.” (child). “No you can’t have another biscuit you’re just being greedy” (parent) “ I’ll just eat more when you’re not looking then”(child)
…then you’ll know that you’re being dominated by old programming from the past.
The good news is that you can upgrade and integrate new positive programs!
By observing your inner dialogue you can learn to identify what isn’t working and incorporate new ‘adult’ dialogue. So the above might change to something like…“Come on, give it another go, even scientists fail over and over, you know it’s part of the process of learning.” or “You can have the whole packet of biscuits if you like, but how will you feel after you’ve eaten them? You know it will make your workout harder as well, why not just have one now and maybe one later’ (adult).
This works simply because the subconscious mind believes whatever it’s told. I can’t say this often enough. This part of the mind can be easily re-programmed because it believes whatever it’s told! Its main job is to store information regardless of whether it’s true or false. So affirmations work!
By developing the adult part, it gives us somewhere else to go to get away from the negative thoughts and bad feelings that can arise from this internal battle. We change our state; by stepping into the ‘adult’ it’s a place of power and control. We begin to have more rational, kinder thoughts that start to bring out the best in ourselves.
So observe your inner dialogue and write down a more adult approach to that particular issue or problem that you’re having and stop giving yourself such a hard time.
Are you sick of putting things off! Do you go to ridiculous lengths to avoid doing things? Yes, me too. I’ve given myself a pedicure and cleaned a bit of brickwork in the garden before now, rather than just get on with it!
Why do we procrastinate?
Putting things off, delaying tactics and avoidance could of course be pure laziness but in my experience it usually goes much deeper than that. Procrastination is hesitation and at a fundamental level, that hesitation equals fear. Mostly fear of failure. If we fail then we’re not good enough and if we’re not good enough… what does that mean? Not good enough for who though?
Who is the person judging you so harshly?
That inner critic could be a recording of a parent trying to get you to do your homework, a teacher nudging you to try harder, or a younger you, trying to live up to a self-imposed, unrealistic, expectation. These recordings whirring away in the background of the mind, convert to ‘drivers’ of our everyday thoughts and actions.
So what to do? How do we stop the self-sabotage?
If it’s something REALLY big deal that you’re constantly putting off, try answering the following questions. Don’t think about them too hard just write the first few answers that come to mind … oh and you know my rule, pen to paper! Don’t just think them, or type them, write them down.
1. What will happen if I do …….?
2. What will happen if I don’t do …….?
See what emerges, can you live with those outcomes? If not you’d better take some action now! Try the following ideas.
I found a way around my own avoidance by setting the alarm on my phone for 25 minutes (I set it to bark!) then I have a race with myself to see how much I can get done in this time. When the phone barks, I either change the activity (to avoid boredom) or continue if I’m on a roll and doing really well. I’ve completed some really big tasks such as writing several books and launching a jazz album by approaching things in this way.
If it’s a small task you’re avoiding try the “I have 5 whole minutes” approach. Can you do it in 5 minutes? Can you make a start on it in 5 minutes? Have a go, because I know once you’re up and doing, the chances are, you’ll probably keep going.
The final tip might surprise you. If you’re really struggling with something, go to a mirror, look into your eyes and say (out loud if possible) I LOVE YOU (your name) YOU ARE LOVED. Then try the, “I have 5 whole minutes” approach. This helps overcome the bottomline fear, which is fear of not being good enough, fear of not being loved!
Once again, don’t take my word for this, try it yourself and see the results.
Thanks for taking the time to read and please pass onto your friends.